Computer Upgrade - 2013

My Computer Headquarters/Office

In November of 2019, I upgraded my computer(s). I replaced a late 2013 iMac with a 27-inch montior with a new 27-inch iMac (5k monitor). This new all-in-one computer has the exact same desk-space profile as the previous iMac. I switched from a Mac Pro to the iMac line in 2013. They take up considerably less space, costs a lot less, and this modern line of iMac has more processor power than my old Mac Pro (early 2009 model). The new iMac (purchased in 2019) has an amazing 5K monitor, and I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't be able to use my old Dell monitor with the iMac. After all, that 10+ year old technology is a bit archaic, and I honestly thought I would have to upgrade my secondary monitor. After a bit of work, and an ill-advised purchase (of a Benfei adapter), I was finally able to get the Dell 30" monitor to work with my new iMac. So now I've got two monitors (stacked vertically as shown here) again.

The computer upgrade was started at the begining of November and completed by the middle of November, 2019. Kim and I planned and saved for more than five years in preparation for this upgrade. With a budget of appx $5,000.00 (I didn't spend all of that), I initially planned the computer upgrade for November of 2018, but Apple didn't release an adequate iMac model that year. I considered the purchase of a Mac Mini as a replacement to the iMac desktop, but the Mac Mini doesn't come with a monitor (I didn't want to step down on the monitor option), so I would have had to purchase a monitor separately, and then I would have two 'extra' monitors if I went back to the iMac model the next time I upgraded. Instead I opted to wait.

Now that I'm not in the military anymore (I wasn't making much money in the military) military members make considerably more now)). With my new career, I can finally afford some of the nicer toys offered to consumers these days. The previous computer (another iMac) was purchased in November of 2013. It lasted a long time, and it did it's job well. With the purchase of our new computer (in 2019), I sold the old one back to Apple (as a 'trade-in').
<https://support.apple.com/kb/SP790?locale=en_US>

   

My Computer: Purchased 01 Nov 2019


 

Hardware/Primary Desktop machine:

 
 

Machine type: iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2019/Model Number A2115/Model Identifier iMac 19,1). This is my second iMac. I chose the iMac all-in-one desktop model instead of the Mac Pro (back in 2013). In comparisons of computing power for my needs, I now find that the iMac line has sufficient power to handle my computing needs. You no longer need a Mac Pro to do video editing, rendering, production (even the home video type). In the past, the iMac line couldn't adequately handle this type of application (in my opinion). Since occassional video production is now my most CPU/Graphics intensive application, I can easily switch over to the iMac line for my needs.

CPU Type: 64 bit, 14nm, ninth generation Intel Processor (released in October of 2018), code named 'Coffee Lake'.

CPU Speed/Number of Cores: I selected the standard build CPU category. The base option comes with a 3.7GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor. With the Turbo Boost (automatically enabled based upon processor load), this CPU can clock up to 4.6GHz. This CPU has six, direct channel processing cores (no 'Hyper Threading'). The 6 core CPU has a 9MB shared L3 cache.

Memory: The base model comes equipped with 8GB (2x4GB - Two slots unoccupied) of 2666MHz PC4-21300 DDR4 SO-DIMM SDRAM (260-pin) - The machine has 4 memory slots. Once again, I exercised the 'Bigger is Better' maxim. I didn't quite max out the RAM, but I did opt for a juicier option than the default. I upgraded from the 8GB option to a 32GB option for $540.00. Normally, I opt for a second party upgrade (installing it myself). I'm not sure why I didn't do that this time around... I really should have. Apple charges way too much for the RAM - I could have installed 64GB of memory for appx $400.00 - I'm such an idiot! ...Perhaps I'll attempt an upgrade to 64GB by purchasing some second party RAM? There is some risk that the RAM from two different sources may not work in the iMac. Mismatched RAM is a thing. It could happen.

Display: The iMac desktop comes with a 'built in' monitor - Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that the iMac monitor comes with a 'built in' processor. This particular iMac comes with the juciest monitor one could ever want! It's an amazing 5K monitor. With a 5120 x 2880 resolution, you can clearly see the wrinkles on a gnats ass with this monitor. The glossy glass-covered widescreen monitor has a 16:9 aspect ration, LED backlighting, featuring IPS (In-Plane-Switching) technology, and a P3 color gamut (P3, aka PCI-P3, is a common RGB color space standard created by Apple, Inc) and 500 nits of brightness (the Nit is the standard unit of luminance used to describe various sources of light. A higher rating means a brighter display. Ratings of 500 nits or more are extremely good).

Hard drives: With only one slot for internal storage, I'll need to connect external drives via USB and/or Thunderbolt in order to get the same kind of redundancy/storage I had on the old Mac Pro. The old Mac Pro had a total storage capacity (counting internal and external storage) of 9.28TB.

Internal to 27" iMac:

  • This model came with a 2TB fusion drive. The fusion drive is a serial ATA spinning hard drive (7200rpm) paired with (via PCI-e) a 128GB SSD drive for optimal speed. The 2TB drive is more than spacious enough for my current needs, and the SSD addition makes for super snappy apps, especially those I use most frequently.

External/Network drives:

  • External/Network drives:
  • G-Technology G-RAID 4TB hard drive (Model number GRATHNB40002BAB SKU 0G02289). This 4TB RAID device contains two Hitachi hard drives (2TB each). The drive is a Thunderbolt 2 device (connected to USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port using a Thunderbolt to USB-C adapter), which I have externally connected to my iMac to serve as a primary backup for my system level 'Clone'. This bootable clone is maintained using Carbon Copy Cloner software by Bombich.com. In addition to the 1TB partition for system level backup, I've configured another partition for external storage, Archive03 (1TB).
  • Buffalo Technology 6TB hard drive (HD-LX6.0TU3). This massive hard drive is attached to my network by way of my primary router. I've configured it to serve as a primary back-up destination (Archive01 (2TB - Set up as backup for music, movies and photos), Archive02 (2TB)), and a Time Machine backup destination (TimeMachine01 (1TB), TimeMachine02 (1TB)).
  • Seagate Expansion 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEB8000100)
    • One of these bad boys (8TB hard drives) is used as my 'Media Drive' - That's right, all my media (music, movies, photos) is stored on one of these hard drives. Seagate isn't a very reliable brand, so I bought a 'replacement' warranty when I purchased these 8TB drives. The warranty was inexpensive, but it's a full replacement warranty with a content backup clause. So even if the drives fail, I'll get a new drive with my data copied to the replacement.
  • Seagate Expansion 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEB8000100)
    • No that's not a typo, I bought two of these! While I've got all my media on one drive, I'm backing up that drive to another 8TB (backup for all my media). As noted above, I'm not very confident with the Seagate brand, so I bought a 'replacement' warranty. Having one drive as a back-up to the other pretty much guarantees the security of my data. Unless my house burns down... That's a sad thought. I sure hope that never happens!
  • Synology DiskStation 2-Bay Network Attached (NAS) DS214: w/2x WD Red 2TB NAS Hard Drives - 5400 RPM Class, SATA III 6Gb/s, 64MB Cache, 3.5" WD20EFRX - My NAS drives are configured as RAID1 devices. I'm storing backups of data on one of these devices and using the other for remote access to some gaming materials.
  • Synology DiskStation 2-Bay Network Attached (NAS) DS216: w/2x WD Red 2TB NAS Hard Drives - 5400 RPM Class, SATA III 6Gb/s, 64MB Cache, 3.5" WD20EFRX- My NAS drives are configured as RAID1 devices. I'm storing backups of data on one of these devices and using the other for remote access to some gaming materials.
  • Buffalo MiniStation 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive (HD-PCF500U3B): A portable hard drive connected directly to my iMac. Just in case I ever need a portable solution with more capacity than a thumb drive (I've got plenty of those handy). Buffalo is a brand that I trust/know, and this drive fills a niche case.
Total storage = 34.5TB

Media Drives: Apple stopped including built-in media drives (optical drives) back in 2008. In January of that year they introduced a new MacBook Air that didn't have a CD/DVD drive. That was the start of their efforts to eliminate these media drives completely. As processor became more powerful (faster), internet speeds increased, and drive storage became cheaper, Apple realized that media drives were no longer a necessary component for modern computers. Over the next eight years, Apple continued to remove optical drives from it's computers. The last Mac sold (in Apple stores/online) with an optical/media drive was the mid 2012, 13", second-generation, non-Retina (display technology), MacBook Pro (MacBookPro9,2/Models MD101xx/A, MD102xx/A). I've been using external media drives since November of 2013, when I purchased my first external SuperDrive in preparation for my first iMac (purchased in November of 2013).

  • Apple USB SuperDrive: The iMac (the one I purchased in 2019) doesn't come with any media drives (CD or DVD). I purchased a USB SuperDrive (back in 2013) for any disk reading/writing needs. Model MD564ZM/A is a slot-loading 8x SuperDrive (DVDA±R DL (double-layer)/DVDA±RW/CD-RW). Writes DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs at up to 6x speed. Writes DVD-R and DVD+R discs at up to 8x speedWrites DVD-RW discs at up to 6x speed and DVD+RW discs at up to 8x speed. Reads DVDs at up to 8x speed. Writes CD-R discs atup to 24x speed. Writes CD-RW discs at up to 16xspeed. Reads CDs at up to 24x speed.
  • SEA Tech Aluminum external USB Blu-Ray writer Super Drive. One external drive is not enough. I needed a Blu-Ray reader, but wouldn't be content unless I could also write to Blu-Ray discs, just in case. I purchased this drive from Amazon. On the back is a label which indicates that this is a 'Archgon' Ultra Slim Optical Drive Model: MD-8107-U3. Apparently it has a Panasonic Blu-Ray device inside. According to documentation I was able to find online, this drive is able to read and write to the following formats: CD, DVD and Blu-Ray. It can read UHD 4K BD, but it can't write to the UHD Blu-Ray discs. I use it to read Blu-Ray discs.

Internet connection: 100Mbps (download) / 5Mbps (upload) always-on cable (Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem) internet connection (Comcast) w/DHCP IP assignment (Plan was last upgraded on the 15th of Mar, 2020. Cost (after a one year promo period) is ~$55.00/mo).

Wired/Wireless Network: Setting up and maintaining a proper wireless network is no easy chore. Especially when you have a large house and a lot of devices employing several different wireless standards for communications. Add in some wif-fi wielding neighbors in a standard tract-home community, and you've got one challenging wi-fi landscape.

  • My primary router: Apple has stopped producing their Airport line of network devices. Apple officially discontinued the AirPort product line on the 26th of April, 2018. They've sold off their inventory, and they no longer sell the products through their online or retail stores. It's a sad day. Apple made some great network devices. They were innovative, reliable and well supported. Unfortunately, I've had to turn to someone else to provide my network needs. I still own some of the Apple network devices, but they no longer serve in a primary boundary role (Internet/Intranet interface).
    • My primary router is now an ASUS GT-AC5300 (aka ROG (Republic Of Gamers) Rapture) router. This beefy bad-boy represents the top-of-the-line (as of Jan 2019) residential router. This router is Tri-Band beast with the ability to bind three channels (in the 5GHz networks) for high-throughput (If I ever need/want to stream 4K content). The router is capable of 802.11a,b,g,n and ac networking (using IPv4 or IPv6 protocols) with MIMO beam forming using 8 antennas. It's easily capable of covering my 2,200sqft house (ranch style). Yes - I said Tri-Band. This router is capable of creating three simultaneous networks: One 2.4GHz network, two 5GHz networks, and the ability to create three guest networks means I've got six networks running simultaneously (they're all hidden for security purposes). My maximum download from Comcast is 100mbps (which would easily accomodate 4K content, if Comcast permits/sustains the throughput). The router features a 1.8GHz quad-core processor, 256MB of flash storage and 1024MB of RAM in order to run and manage all the built in features. This router should serve my needs for many years to come - Provided they can manage to keep it updated. Unfortunately, the modem (or its manufacturer) doesn't notify me when there are updates available, and I'm constantly getting drop outs (due to channel congestion), but I don't have an easy way/know of an easy way to deconflict congestion, determine the best channel for each network, or automatically realocate channels when interference is detected.
  • Secondary router/running in bridged mode: One of Apple's older MB764LL/A Airport Time Capsules. It's a 500GB model, with 802.11a/b/g/n simultaneous dual-band wi-fi capabilities. I'm using this router as a network pass-through (bridging) to provide more ethernet and USB connectivity, and it's currently generating a second set of wireless networks (1x2.4GHz, 1x5GHz and 1x 2.4GHz Guest network). Yes it's old, but it still works well. I'm using the timecapsule with my wife's laptop. 500GB is more than enough to back up her laptop.
  • Secondary router/running in bridged mode: In November of 2013 I bought one of the new (at the time) ME182LL/A Airport Time Capsules. The 3TB model (~$379.00). The Time Capsule is a simultaneous dual-band (2.4GHz/5.0GHz) wi-fi base station (Apple's Airport Extreme router) with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless, Bluetooth (modified in Apr 2012 to use an external antenna), an Ethernet WAN port, three Ethernet LAN ports, and one USB port. It supports the following protocols: NAT, DHCP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP), DNS Proxy, IPv6 (6to4 and manual tunnels). There's a 3TB hard drive inside the casing for use as a Time Machine backup (I'm using this one with my iMac). Unfortunately, my plans to use this as my primary router were thwarted. It failed to perform as expected. I wrote all about that failure on my blog. No matter what was tried, I could not get the Time Capsule to create a hidden network (which is o.k. - I can live with that) or allow my Airport Express to pair with the base station. In the end, I connected the brand new Time Capsule to my network in bridging mode. I've added it to my network as a Time Machine destination, and removed it from any network/base-station responsibilities.
 
     
 

Video card / Displays:

 
 

Video card: iMac desktop - This particular beefed up version of the iMac comes with a Radeon Pro 580X video card with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. You need a lot of memory to drive that 5K monitor, and this beast has an awesome video card. The monitor/video card simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at 1 billion colors, and 1x 5120x2880(5K) external display (60Hz w/1 billion colors) or 2x 3840x2160(4K UHD) external displays (60Hz w/1 billion colors) or 2x 4096x2304 (4K) external displays (60Hz w/millions of colors). I currently run the primary monitor at a 2560x1440 resolution (so I don't have to squint) for routine/daily use. The video card/iMac also has support for Thunderbolt 3 digital video output via the Native DisplayPort output (to the built-in display) or the USB-C ports on the back of the built-in monitor. You can also connect Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI and VGA monitors using applicable adapters. Finally, the monitor has a built in FaceTime HD camera.

Second display: I also use a Dell 30" monitor (a DELL3007WFPHC Display) with my new iMac (I've been using it with my previous iMac and a Mac Pro before that). The old Dell UltraSharp 30" monitor still works (properly) with the new iMac (a 27" iMac w/5K retina monitor), but it took quite a bit of work to get it working properly. When I first started using the Dell monitor with my new iMac, I couldn't get it to connect at all. Cable incompatibility is a thing... Sometimes it happens when you upgrade from one computer (or monitor) to another. So I had to purchase a new cable adapter. I purchased (For $12.85 on Amazon) a Benfei USB 3.1 (USB-C) to DVI-D Adapter (male to female converter). Unfortunately, with that adapter I could only get the monitor to function in a 1280x800 mode (despite it's capability of 2560x1600 resolution).

Following my intial disappointment/inability to get the Dell 30" monitor to work as expected, I considered the purchase of a new monitor. Before I pulled the trigger on the new purchase I did some additional research. It took considerable effort - I read through countless video, monitor and hardware forums, watched a bunch of YouTube videos, read multiple hardware spec sheets and did a bunch of experiments. My research eventually revealled that the 30" Dell monitor could work with my new iMac. As it turns out, the original purchase of the Benfei adapter was ill-advised. Despite some Q&A on the Amazon website, this adapter will not work (properly) with the new iMac (and the DELL3007WFPHC monitor). I had to purchase a new adapter. The second purchase (for $42.49 on Amazon) was a Club 3D CAC-1510 (USB-C) to DVI-D Dual Link Adapter. The difference? In order to get the 2560x1600 resolution, you must have a 'Dual-Link' adapter. A single channel is not enough to get the 2560 resolution. The new link adapter allows a connected monitor to function with resolutions up to 3840x2160 @30hz (My Dell 30" is only capable of 2560x1600 @60hz).

It took 3+ months, a considerable amount of research, a lot of experimentation, and the purchase of two video adapters, but I finally have a fully functioning second monitor to use with my new iMac. The old Dell 30" monitor looks great with its 2560x1600 resolution, and I'm glad that I was able to make it work. I initially bought that Dell monitor (For ~$870.00) back in March of 2009. Now - 11 years later, it's still working perfectly! I really expected this 10 year old technology to be obsolete. Thankfully, a little bit of perseverance allowed me to keep the old monitor.

 
     
 

Peripherals:

 
 

Printers: Our home is currently hosting three printers (two in the office and one downstairs near the D&D table)

Brother HL-2270DW: Wireless laser printer with duplex printing. This laser printer produces black and white toner prints for cheap. It's a great printer for use with drafts that don't require color and plain text documents (I print a lot of those for D&D). This printer sits in the basement, closer to our D&D table. Eventually I'll get a color laser printer that I can share with others (D&D players). For now it's connected to my primary network, because it doesn't have dual network wireless capabilities.
Brother MFC-J985DW: A wireless multi-function ink-jet printer with duplex printing. This ink-jet printer produces color prints for far less than any Epson printer I've ever owned. Granted, I've only owned it since March of 2017, but it came with an entire years worth of ink. This new 'INKvestment' line of printers has ink that is considerably less expensive than the typical Ink-Jet printer, and I'm no longer able to trust Epson to satisfy my printer needs.
Brother MFC-J995DW: Another wireless multi-function ink-jet printer with duplex printing. This ink-jet printer produces color prints for far less than any Epson printer I've ever owned. I purchased this one in Dec of 2018.

Like the MFC-J985DW that I purchased in 2017, this new model came with an entire years worth of ink. This new 'INKvestment' line of printers has ink that is considerably less expensive than the typical Ink-Jet printer (and I've been able to purchase 3rd party cartridges that are compatible with the Brother printers), and I'm no longer able to trust Epson to satisfy my printer needs. This model has slightly more network compatability features than the MFC-J985DW, and the ink cartridges have been redesigned to hold more ink. For more information on Brother's INKvestment printers, please read the review of the MFC-J995DW produced by Tom's Guide.

Camera: The iMac's built in monitor comes equipped with a built in FaceTime HD camera. The built-in 720p FaceTime HD camera (with an ambient light sensor) lets you make video calls that are so clear, it seems like everyone's in the same room. Make FaceTime calls from your iMac to any FaceTime-enabled Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The video is supported with the iMac's dual noise-canceling microphones. The camera has an indicator light that illuminates when the camera is in use, but it doesn't have a manual shutter like the old Apple iSight camera, and I can't disconnect it at will like a second party USB camera.

Mouse: I exclusively use the Magic Track trackpad 2 for Mac. Awesome! Transforms your hand into a mouse. It's the best 'Mouse' I've ever used. It beats the traditional mouse, the scroll-wheel mouse, and the thumbwheel mouse. No wrist strain, easy to use, highly configurable. Additionally, it's got a rechargeable battery that lasts quite a long time, and I've got the charging cable nearby for the inevitible inconvenient moment when it decides to stop working or requires charging (see note below).

Speakers: Bose Companion 3 - Series II mulimedia speaker system. These speakers work so well that I bought a second set and gave my first purchase to a relative.

Keyboard: I'm still not using one of the standard Apple keyboards. While I like the aluminum body with chiclet keys styling, the ergonomics of that keyboard aren't comfortable for me. For many years (appx 10 years), I used an Adesso Tru-Form ergonomic keyboard: Model EKB-2100. Despite it's problems handling powered USB peripherals (any use caused continuous restarts after any operator initiated system restart), it served me well for many years. In February of 2009, I bought a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard. The Microsoft keyboard features an ergonomic design, augemented with numerous customizable hot/favorites keys, internet/media keys, integrated palm rest, and an outstanding design - Microsoft makes some good stuff. This keyboard is one of their better products. I used that Microsoft keyboard for many years (9 years), and I still own it. It's the same model that my empoyer offers as an Ergonomic option. If necessary, I'll bring it back. In 2018 (for Christmas), I bought a new ergonomic keyboard; one with a superior design (or so I've been led to believe). I'm now using a Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard for Mac (9" Standard Separation). Combined with the VIP3 Accessory Kit (KIN-FS-VIP3), this keyboard can be tilted and angled in a manner to produce a highly customized typing experience. My wrists, hands and forearms are already appreciating the fact that I can use the keyboard more comfortably than I ever thought possible.

Note: There are two versions of the Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard. USB Wired and Bluetooth Wireless. As with most 'Wireless' devices - There is a problem. They're just not reliable... I specifically chose the wired version of the Kinesis keyboard because bluetooth keyboards have a tendency of not working properly. You would think that after 30+ years of development (First developed by Nils Redbeck of Ericcson mobile in 1989/First commercially available in 1999), the standard would work flawlessly - Not! Bluetooth as a wireless protocol is more prone to unauthorized access (aka hacking), and then there’s the problem with batteries. Any bluetooth device also requires batteries, which must be changed. If you’re lucky, they’re the re-chargeable sort, but even those wear out and have to be replaced. I prefer wired over wireless for many reasons. I choose security and reliability over convenience in most circumstances.

 
     
 

Operating system / Core components / Software:

 
 

Mac OS: macOS 11.2.3 build 20D91 (Big Sur) - As of 09 Mar, 2021. When I got my new computer (a new 27" iMac with 5K retina display) I upgraded the new computer to macOS 10.15 (Catalina). This OS is very different from the previous OS (macOS 10.14 Mojave). The change from 32 to 64 bit Operating System, and break-up of iTunes (into four apps (Books, Music, Podcasts and AppleTV)) has been a huge change. It took me a long time to work through the Mojave to Catalina update. Thankfully I didn't have to reformat the hard drive, but migrating the data (from the old mac) took six+ hours. The upgrade from 10.15.7 to 11.0.1; Catalina to Big Sur, on the other hand... That was relatively quick. Completed the upgrade in less than 2 hours. After four hours, I had most apps updated and running without issues.

Apple's Mobile Operating System: iOS 14.4.2 on iPhone 12 Pro Max (as of 26 Mar, 2021), iOS 14.4.2 on iPod Touch 7th Gen (as of 26 Mar, 2021) and iPadOS 14.4.2 on iPad Pro 10.5" (as of 26 Mar, 2021).

Productivity Software - When I ordered this latest iMac in November of 2019, it came with the iWork productivity software: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote all came pre-installed on the iMac at no extra charge. That wasn't always the case. When the iWorks productivy suite was first released (2003-2007) it cost $79.00.

 
 
 

Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail:
Last Updated: