With all the focus on iPad and iPhone and MacBooks, it’s easy to forget that Apple makes some pretty powerful desktop computers too. Remember the iMac? It’s not an underpowered kid’s computer anymore. With the latest 27″ iMac, you can get a full range of processors starting at the base model 3.2GHz i3 up to a 2.93GHz Quad i7. It’s more than capable of doing some serious creative work, video editing, or photography.

But, because of its all in one nature, the iMac is a difficult beast to upgrade. And the biggest need when working with video or photography is storage space. Other World Computing offers a turnkey upgrade program for the iMac, and recently added a 3TB hard drive upgrade option to the 2010 27″ iMac. If that’s not enough, you can also add an eSATA port, as well as up to three internal SSD drives. For flat out noticeable speed, an SSD is by far the best upgrade you can make. Of course the iMac can be shipped build to order from Apple with a 2TB drive, or an SSD drive, but not both at the same time. And also, there’s no eSATA port option.

So is it worth it? Just for kicks I priced out what an eSATA port, 3TB hard drive, 480GB SSD and 16GB of RAM upgrade would cost. After shipping, it came to $2415. Add the $1999 for the i5 Quad Core 27″ iMac, and you get $4414. Sounds like we’re heading into MacPro territory, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see. A base level Quad Core MacPro with 27″ Apple LED display is $3498. Ordering the upgrade parts from OWC (because it’s pretty easy to install drives and RAM in a MacPro) gives the following:

  • 3TB Hard Drive $259.99 (on sale!)
  • 16GB RAM $349.99
  • 480GB SSD $1579.99

That comes to $2189.97 for the upgrades, and a whopping total of: $5687.97.

So, what did we learn today? Well, for starters, 480GB SSD drives are fracking expensive. Also, there’s not much of a premium for installation services over the cost of the bare parts, just over $200. And there’s still about a $1200 difference between a MacPro and an iMac. While it still sounds crazy to be spending such huge amounts on a computer, if you need the horsepower, you need it.

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