Upgrading my iMac setup - could use some suggestions and feedback
Bear with me here, as I've got a somewhat involved scenario that I'm dealing with. Currently I'm running a 2013 iMac which has a built in GTX 780m as well as an Akitio Node with a GTX 980Ti. It's a pretty nice setup, and for some time I've been considering through a 2nd eGPU into the mix to really crank things up. I am a designer who works in a range of software, everything from motion graphics to 3D rendering to video editing. My current setup works well with After Effects, and I use Octane Render with Cinema 4D and have had great results—for those of you who are not familiar with Octane, it is a CUDA-only render engine, so the more Nvidia cards you throw at it, the faster your renders, hence my idea to get a 2nd eGPU.
So here is my main issue. The CPU. Video editing in Adobe Premiere runs mainly off the CPU. I am moving more and more towards 4K video editing, and the older CPU in my 2013 iMac just can't keep up. No matter how many graphics cards I throw at it, video editing and rendering doesn't see much of a spike in speed. I've been doing a lot of research, and have come to the conclusion that if I want to be able to handle 4k video like a breeze, I need to go with an 8-core+ processor. I also LOVE macOS and don't want to give that up, but there are currently no 8-core Macs which are that affordable and have Thunderbolt 3 built for my Nvidia eGPU. The 2017 iMac maxes out at a quad-core processor, and the upcoming iMac Pro is just ridiculously unaffordable and non-upgradeable. I don't want to pay $5k for a machine that won't let me add more RAM down the road, and if I went with purchasing Apple's ridiculously over-priced RAM from the get-go, I'd be looking at probably ~$6-7k for an iMac Pro with 64-128gb of RAM (my current iMac is maxed out at 32).
In lieu of all this, I've started looking at custom PC builds. I can get a custom mid-sized tower PC with dual Nvidia GPUs via SLI, 8-core+ processor, and Thunderbolt 3 for around $3500 from Cybertron PC: www.cybertronpc.com. Throw in a 4k monitor and I'm looking at a final upgrade of around $4k. However, while I hate how expensive and un-customizable Apple machines are, I'm obsessed with macOS. As a designer, it is just the best, most fluid operating system out there. I have to have it. Windows just pails in comparison. So if I were to go with this setup, I'd have to go down the hackintosh route, which I've heard can get pretty dicey.
The other idea that I had was to keep my current iMac and get another eGPU, and use this machine just for 3D rendering and GPU related tasks. Then by a 2nd cheaper PC with an 8-core processor and use that machine strictly for video editing and rendering. I've been looking at the Dell 27 7775: http://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/dell-desktop-computers/new-inspiron-27-7000-all-in-one/spd/inspiron-27-7775-aio. It's basically a less cool looking but more powerful and cheaper version of the 2017 iMac that comes with an 8-core Ryzen processor. The nicest thing about it is that you can easily pop off the back covering and upgrade the RAM, CPU, and harddrives. You can't upgrade the GPU unfortunately, but it comes with an AMD RX 580, same card as the maxed out 2017 iMac. The most powerful version of this machine retails for $1800 (really cheap, right?!). If I couple that with adding a 2nd eGPU to my iMac for around $800 ($300 for another Akitio Node and ~$500 for a GTX 1080), then the cost of this setup is about $2600. That's around $1400 less then the aforementioned upgrade, but then I'm working back and forth between 2 machines constantly.
So what do you guys think? Should I go with the more expensive setup which provides me with one machine to replace my iMac and do EVERYTHING I need it to do, but also having to go down the road of installing macOS on a PC? Or do I go with the 2nd setup where I keep the iMac for 3D rendering, and get a 2nd PC focused on video editing for cheaper, but then have to deal with Windows and going back and forth between 2 machines? Or maybe you've got some suggestions as to other setups that I should look into?
Here's another suggestion... Go with the quad core i7 of the 2017 27-inch iMac and switch to using Final Cut Pro X. I believe the CPU is socket mounted, so it is possible to upgrade it, if you're prepared to crack open the screen with a pizza cutter and do it yourself. Who knows whether an 8 core CPU will run in there? Just a suggestion - but worth checking out Snazzy Labs DIY iMac upgrade YouTube video, if you've not seen it before.
Have you considered Hackintosh? Missed the line saying you had.... I would recommend it in your situation. A friend of mine owns a business in the same field as you work in and his whole studio is fitted out with Hackintoshs. They are pretty straight forward to build these days too, I'm not very tech savvy and have managed to whip a few up... and used them at work with no issues...
That or wait for the new Mac Pro in 2018.
You're not alone and the very customer Apple disappointed with the introduction of the 2013 Mac Pro. My suggestion is to go backward and get the Mac Pro 5,1. I've helped many upgrade their Mac Pro towers with CPU, RAM, SSD, and GPU to speed up their workflow. The 5,1 can handle a pair of 6-core Xeon processors but depending on your needs, higher clocked quad-core CPUs may be better.
I'm passionate about Mac for my design work too, and have been since I was a young man 🙂 when Macs were beige. However, moving into 3D cemented my need to introduce PCs into my office too. Although I'm reasonably happy with my iMac 5k performance with C4D and Octane / Redshift using eGPU, my old-ish i7 PC with dual GTX 1070 is just so much better at it - which deep down frustrates me, but it is what it is. The iMac Pro would be a waste of time and cash for me due to its AMD-ness so the only option would be the upcoming Mac Pro, but as its an unknown entity, and to get the work done today, and pay the mortgage, I find myself doing my 2D work on the iMac and swivelling around on my chair for the 3D stuff...just mentally blocking out my frustrations about it 🙂
Go hackintosh. I have configured a few for fellow graphic designers and they are rock solid and easy to set up. Just get the right components from the get go. Check tonymacos or insanelymac forums for guides. With clover the installation is a breeze. You can upgrade a hackintosh, as you want, and the performance is awesome.