Mac upgrade advice wanted

I’m currently using a 2017 27" iMac 4.2Ghz Quad Core i7, Radeon Pro 580 8Gb graphics card and 64GB RAM, running OS Ventura, which is the last OS it will upgrade to.

In a position where I can, if I want to, upgrade my computer before my company financial year end at the end of the month.

If I buy new, it doesn’t seem to make sense to buy anything other than a new M2 Max Mac Studio, 12‑core CPU, 30‑core GPU, 16‑core Neural Engine, 32GB unified memory, 512GB SSD storage for £2100

Can I bring myself to drop £2k on a new machine when I may not particularly need to is the question.

Will I ever see the maximum benefit of that machine for SketchUp and Layout is another?

Or if I want to spend less, will I still see significant upside compared to present from spending £1400 on a refurbished 2022 Apple M1 Max chipped Mac Studio with 10-core CPU, 24 core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, with 32GB RAM?

But then will I just kick myself in another year’s time that I didn’t spend the extra £700 to get the latest one?

I’ve got two very good screens that I’m running either side of my iMac, so there’s no additional hardware cost involved in going from iMac to the Mac Studio.

I’m not currently rendering my models other than with Styles and shadows, but I do want to learn, and Layout often drives me up the wall with the spinning beachball for the most simple tasks.

To be honest I’m just not sure whether I need, or want, to drop £2k on a new machine rather than taking it out of the business as personal income!

Questions, questions, in a quandry!

What would you do?!

But don’t bother with, ‘buy a PC’ as I have never used a Windows machine in my life and cannot find my way around them and am not about to start!


Only you can decide whether you can rationalize the substantial cost of a loaded new Mac. I too have struggled with this each time I have upgraded, and each time I have made at least one tradeoff that I later regretted. For example, on my 2019 MBP I chose to max the graphics and settle for the second tier of CPU. It turns out that, at least for SketchUp, having 8GB of video ram instead of 4GB doesn’t really make any noticeable difference, whereas a 10% speedup of the processor does.

One thing to bear in mind is that Macs in general, especially the new SOC ones, are not upgradable. Whatever you choose about processor, memory, etc. is all you will ever have. So, you have to consult your crystal ball to guess how demands on the system may change over the period you will keep the computer. The one thing I am confident I would maximize on a new Mac is the RAM. Because the CPU and video share the memory, they can compete for it in situations where a separate graphics adapter wouldn’t.

1 Like

thanks, I know that I will keep it for a decent length of time and see value for money out of it if I do go for the M2, and I think from what I’ve read the new ‘32GB unified memory’ is equivalent to more than normal RAM, so I’m not sure I would need or could justify the additional £400 to boost that to 64GB

Any thoughts on the improvement of the 2022 M1Max versus my current set up as an alternative?

I guess aside from the cash spend, I’m just not sure whether I really need the upgrade?!

I’m in a similar position with an even older late 2015 27” retina iMac, i5 processor, 24GB RAM, and Radeon R9 M395 2GB video card.

It does all I need it to do now, and the screen is gorgeous (it’s what converted me from Windows almost 8 years ago). But it won’t upgrade the OS beyond Monterey.

There’s a hardware plug-in box (I’ve read) costing around $100 that will let me use the iMac as a monitor for another computer, and that may a way to go with either a Mac Studio or a high spec M2 Mac Mini to drive it. Anyone remember what it’s called?

Too many not quite right options, and no real need (yet) to change. So when, and to what, should I upgrade?

I’ll follow responses to this thread with great interest.

I’d be interested too- there was a time when you could use an iMac as a display with with Mac/PC, using standard cables . However Apple removed this function in all models after 2014

John and Adam, this is the product that lets you use your later spare iMac as a primary screen to a Mac Mini or second screen to a Macbook or iMac…

I was using it to run two 27" retina iMacs together until recently when I picked up two 28" AOC 3840x2160 screens for the price of one second hand, now I’m running those either side of my iMac instead!

1 Like

Also John, re high spec M2 Mac Mini or Mac Studio if and when you get to that decision, here in the Uk the top spec M2 Pro Mac Mini is exactly the same price as the base spec M2 Max Mac Studio, but with a lesser processor and slower ethernet connection, so it’s pretty much an obsolete spec option.

Well between that M1 Max and the M2 Mad there is around 5-7% improvement in single threaded performance in synthetic benchmarks.

If we said the 5% is directly equivalent to being a time saving for the very most intensive of SketchUp things.
10 seconds of beach-balling will be 9.5 seconds instead.

Many of the other improvements of the newer SOCs are less relevant to 3D modelling.

Sketchup and most 3D softwares use just one thread to run, the performance of the M2 macs single core is the same on the Mac mini and on the Mac Pro, the difference is the gpu, if you don’t need a lot of gpu power you could get a Mac mini M2 pro, with 32 gb of unified memory, it will perform like the M2 max max studio. If you are going to work with huge files probably the gpu from the M2 Max could be bettter, but if your projects are reasonably big the M2 pro Mac mini can handle without any issues.

Cheers, there’s no point speccing an M2 Pro Mini with 32GB though, it’s the exact same price the M2 Max Studio with 32GB and a better processor (all round not necessarily sketchup specific) and 10 Gigabit Ethernet as standard vs 1 in the Mini.

But to go back to SketchUp’s processor demands… when does SketchUp start using GPU power?
Is it just the actual modelling that only uses single thread CPU power?
Is navigating around a model using GPU power?
Even more so with styles and shadows, more so again with textures?

What about Layout? Is that using both?

And to go back to one of my original questions, what about the difference between the 2022 Apple M1 Max chipped Mac Studio with 10-core CPU, 24 core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, with 32GB RAM over my current 27" iMac 4.2Ghz Quad Core i7, Radeon Pro 580 8Gb graphics card and 64GB RAM?

Would that still be a worthwhile and noticeable upgrade while saving me £700?

Navigating a model uses some GPU power but not enough to justify a top-tier GPU. It will be noticeable as “smoothness” rather than increasing model size or complexity.
Shadows do display faster on better gpus.

LayOut uses virtually no GPU… maybe a little if you have twin 4k monitors, but not enough to worry it.

SketchUp doesn’t use all that much RAM either. Layout uses quite a lot more RAM than SketchUp.

eg SketchUp = 3GB
LayOut = 10GB
This is for rather large/complex models (few hundred MB).

I don’t know too much about the Apple CPUs but there is a Performance Benchmark thread on these forums which might help you with info.

1 Like

Thanks Sam, good info, cheers