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My Days of 4 CPU Cores Are Over: Six Cores is Dubious for My Work, 8 CPU Cores Might Have to Be the New Minimum + Might Need 8TB SSD

Have a similar peformance issue? Consult with Lloyd.

Too much over the last year my work has been impacted by having only 4 CPU cores on the 2017 iMac 5K. At times the machine has become nearly unusable.

Common CPU hogs include:

  • Carbon Copy Cloner backups while I work. These can take hours sometimes, and chew up two entire CPU cores. The heavy I/O activity on hard drives exacerbates the CPU usage.
  • Conversion of raw files in Photoshop.
  • Bouncing my local development web server for testing new code, as many as 100 times a day in a long day’s development, each bounce taking up to a minute to be fully usable for certain types of testing. Heavy I/O activity means that what should take 20 seconds can take several minutes.
  • All of these at once!
  • Just trying to type or work or even use Spotlight or Mail with the CPU cores mostly chewed up by any of the above.

It has just become too problematic and wasted too many hours of my time.

Going forward, six CPU cores will be the absolute minimum; I simply will not consider any Mac with fewer than that. Increasingly I think that even 6 CPU cores is not going to solve the issue satisfactorily: I suspect that a minimum of 8 real CPU cores (16 virtual cores) is really what I need for my work.

CPU cores won’t solve the workflow impairment alone however—I am going to have to move to an 8TB SSD like the OWC Thunderblade, because it is frequently the case that heavy I/O activity on even a hyper fast hard drive RAID is far worse than the CPU usage impact, making the machine unresponsive. That 'dog' just don’t hunt.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using 5 (virtual) CPU cores on a 4-core 2017 iMac 5K
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using ~11 (virtual) CPU cores on a 4-core 2017 iMac 5K
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