In the old days, when I was young and foolish, I’d upgrade my desktop Mac every two years. Foolish? Well, it’s a sure thing that there was probably a healthy performance boost, not to mention a larger hard drive. Since I could get a decent return on selling my old Mac, the net cost wasn’t so high.
I fared even better back in 2009, though, when I acquired a 27-inch iMac, souped up with a few items selected on Apple’s Customize list. I bought the entire package, with an extra FireWire 800 backup drive, for less than $2,500, delivered. This was a fast decision; I had purchased a 2008 Mac Pro, with just a few options, when it first came out, and I was able to sell that huge box, along with a 30-inch Dell display, for $3,000. So I actually ended up ahead for once.
Segue to the summer of 2013. I still have that iMac, and it’s fast enough I suppose, though I have halfheartedly considered replacing the internal 1TB drive with a solid state version. Even if I wanted to go through the drudgery of opening the case for that exercise, the drive and upgrading from 8GB to 16GB RAM, would still cost upwards of $1,000. Would that be worth it for what would clearly be a noticeable performance boost? Maybe.
Another oh-so-obvious solution would be to await the arrival of a 2013 iMac, which will probably happen in October or thereabouts. I assume it’ll be faster than the 2012 model by 10-15% or so, and maybe Apple will find a way to reduce the upfront cost of going all solid state. If not, a Fusion drive (combining solid state and mechanical drives) seems just the ticket, and perhaps what I get for the older computer will cover half of the purchase price, or maybe a little less.
Other than the financial considerations, I am not as eager to upgrade a Mac as often as in the past. For one thing, the performance boosts year-over-year are no longer as substantial. There’s more of an emphasis on power efficiency, which doesn’t mean a whole lot on a desktop computer. Maybe Intel is hitting a wall, although their integrated graphics have improved considerably, making discrete graphics a less compelling option.
Overall, it does appear that people are upgrading less often, and when they do, they are apt to buy tablets rather than traditional personal computers. Certainly PC makers have seen falling sales. Mac sales aren’t immune, not that Apple has made huge strides in Mac refreshes in recent years. Yes, the MacBook Air has the “all day battery,” and the looks of the iMac were spruced up last winter, although you have to look at the thing from the side to notice much difference. The forthcoming 2013 Mac Pro is a huge sea change, but one that will only impact a small number of potential customers.
What this means is that the incentive to buy a new Mac is no longer as compelling. If published reports about the developer releases of OS X Mavericks hold true, and I see no reason for things to suddenly change, pretty much every Mac than can run OS 10.8 Mountain Lion will be upgradeable. That covers Macs from four to six years old, and if they are still working productively and efficiently, why replace the old box?
The days where a new Mac was a must have are gone. It is surely the twilight of the PC era, and if you think Mac advancement has slowed, take a gander at the Windows platform. The only real differences are tablets that very few want to buy. Windows 8 has done nothing to convince customers to upgrade; in fact, it may have convinced customers that they can survive quite nicely, thank you, with their current PC and Windows 7.
Sure, if Macs sales are no longer increasing by huge degrees, it doesn’t matter so much. Apple continues to invest in the platform, and OS X Mavericks, though it doesn’t appear so different, has loads of improvements that actually make Macs run better, and Finder tabs and other enhancements should make you more productive. If installing the OS is as smooth as usual, the incentive for you to buy a new Mac is lessened. Your existing machine will continue to work, and may even be a tad faster and, if a note-book, more efficient at using battery life after Mavericks is installed. How can you miss?
So when OS X Mavericks is released, I fully expect to download a copy the first day. Assuming no deal breakers, I’ll install it right away as well. The chatter from those with prerelease versions is that OS 10.9 is running remarkably well even ahead of the final release.
When the next iMac comes out, I’ll look at my checkbook and credit card balances and see whether upgrading makes sense. But if my current iMac continues to do what I need it to do, maybe I’ll just save my money.
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