Upgrade Your iMac To Become An Editing Monster With Other World Computing

By Heath McKnight (doddleNEWS)

If you’re like me, you buy the best Mac or PC for your work, but within your budget. I needed to move up to an iMac from my Mac mini for Final Cut Pro X editing, but didn’t want to spend too much money on a new, late-2012 model iMac. So I bought a 21.5-inch Apple-refurbished mid-2011 iMac, base model with 8GB of RAM. And I upgraded it to 16GB of RAM from Other World Computing (OWC), plus an OWC Mercury Elite Pro hard drive and a NewerTech Guardian MAXimus mini RAID drive for good measure.

I really liked my base model Mac mini from mid-2011, but with the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, slower dual-core processor, it wasn’t getting the FCP X job done for me. I do a little bit of editing here and there, but between FCP X, FCP 7 and DVD Studio Pro, the render and export times were killer, despite my 8GB of RAM.

So I saved myself about $300 to $400 buying an Apple-refurbished iMac, compared to a new the late-2012 iMac, which is powerful and perhaps the most beautiful iMac yet, to quote the late great Steve Jobs, but that’s money I saved that I can use for buying affordable RAM from OWC and additional hard drives. Plus, this iMac has a built-in DVD burner, which the new ones don’t have, so I saved $60 or so buying an external Apple Superdrive.

The new iMacs, like I said, are breathtaking, but darn hard to upgrade the RAM — you need to have one built-to-order with 16GB or more RAM in it, which adds more money to it. The good news is, the mid-2011 was very easy to upgrade the RAM — I went with 16GB, but you can put in up to 32GB — and OWC has plenty of installation videos available, which makes it easy to install everything from RAM to a new hard drive.

I noticed immediately just how fast my little iMac got when I fired up apps, launched FCP X, which is notorious to load quickly when there are a ton of projects and events, and most important of all the CINEBENCH tests, from Maxon, makers of Cinema 4D. Check out the speed tests with CINEBENCH below; they’re impressive.

The CINEBENCH results with 16GB of Other World Computing RAM (click for larger)

Hard Drives From OWC and NewerTech

When I bought my first editing monster in the spring of 1999, a then-super fast Power Mac G3 blue box, ProMAX was selling internal hard drives that I set up as a RAID, which was huge! At the time, the largest capacity drive was a 37.5GB, and I had two of those and two 25GB drives. And it cost me $3,000.

By 2001, I was buying external fire wire drives from Fantom, G-Technology, LaCie, etc., with capacities ranging from 125GB up to 1.5 TB. I have about a dozen of these hard drives with multiple projects and files sitting on them. It’s a bit of an organizational mess.

Fortunately, the cost of external hard drives has dropped as the drive capacities have increased, and between Thunderbolt and FireWire 800, the transfer speeds are lightning fast and constant (unlike USB). So it was a no-brainer for me to buy a pair of drives from OWC, the OWC Mercury Elite Pro hard drive (4 TB) and a NewerTech Guardian MAXimus mini RAID drive (1.5 TB).

Setting up the OWC Mercury Elite Pro was simple and I’m using FireWire 800 to connect, though it has USB 3.0 and eSATA. This is the drive I’m backing up ALL my other external hard drives to, because over time and lack of use, well, I’m concerned about files possibly disappearing, and the very real chance that the drives fail because they’re so old.

And it’s easier to use one giant 4 TB to pull up all my old projects vs. literally going into my home office and pulling out one drive after another, looking for a short or feature film I edited back in 2006. Many of my editing friends have done the same thing, especially since most of them went to the iMac or portable with the MacBook Pro when Apple went with blazing fast Intel processors.

The 1.5 TB NewerTech Guardian MAXimus mini RAID drive is a powerful and small external RAID that is lightning fast and connects via FireWire 800, eSATA and USB 2.0, and this is the drive I’m using to back up my most recent projects, such as a DVD I’m creating for a film I directed a little while ago.

RAIDs are terrific for video editors thanks to the speeds and also the ability to mirror, if you so wish. I set up the GUARDIAN MAXimus as a RAID-1 to mirror, so if one internal drive failed, the other would be okay. It’s bus-powered, so I can carry it with me and a MacBook Pro and do video editing work at the doddle HQ offices, if need be. It’s a terrific plug-and-play back-up and storage solution for my most sensitive Final Cut Pro X projects and also my current projects.


You don’t need to drop over $1300 on a new late-2012 iMac model, because Apple offers refurbished previous generation iMacs for less, and those units are much easier to upgrade the RAM. Throw in a fast Other World Computing hard drive or RAID, and you’ll have a computing monster that will make cutting in Final Cut Pro X, Autodesk Smoke, Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer easy and quick. All without breaking the bank. Check out OWC’s website for more upgrades and drive options.

About Heath McKnight

Editor and Web Content Manager at doddleNEWS; I've been a writer for over 10 years, and a producer/director/editor in film and video for over 16 years. I've written for TopTenREVIEWS, Digital Media Net, Videomaker and other sites and magazines.


  1. alf says:

    Yes, this is good, but it points out that Apple is pricing itself out of the market for professional (and especially high end semiprofessional) work. My choice, rather than throw good money after bad, was to buy Windows 7 and move Adobe over to it, while keep my older Mac Pro around for clean up of FCP 7.0 work. The newer Windows machine is vastly faster at rendering, and was much cheaper to buy, though I have not had quite the reliability of hardware that Apple has always brought to the table. All in all, I regret that Apple has forced me and others in to this, as I had invested a lot of my limited funds into their computers, to do a job that they themselves claimed was important to their business.

    OWC is still a great find, wonderful folks, I still buy my hard drives for my Windows machines from them. They are a 5 star company IMHO.

  2. Martin says:

    I agree with your thinking and have been buying refurbished for quite some time, my last three Macs, in fact.

    I went in the opposite direction us you did, keeping my 24in iMac, dual core and buying the 2011 i7 mini Mac server. Instead of buying another display, I screen share the mini Mac over the network (either ethernet or Firewire) with the iMac. Two computers on one screen!

    I also upgraded to 32 GB ram and since I produce Blu-ray disc, I connected an external DVD/Blu-ray burner to the mini Mac.

    Now I can use the iMac to do the routine business stuff and the mini Mac can crunch away on the video projects!

  3. jim says:

    this was a great read. Thanks heath