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Old Dec 28, 2012, 11:06 AM   #1
ArtieFufkin10
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27" iMac vs Mac Mini with TB Display - Opinions Wanted

Can someone help set me straight?

For the past month or so, I've been kicking myself on whether to buy a base 27" iMac with 1TB Fusion drive. I've recently played with the 27" at the store and they are absolutely gorgeous and extremely fast. The display is killer and I love the AIO design especially because it will keep my home office set-up very clean.

That said, the new Mini's are ridiculously compelling, especially the upgraded i7 running at 2.6GHz. Everyone seems to love the performance they're getting out of these. Although it voids warranty, you can configure the drives on your own and I wouldn't dare try this on a new iMac. The footprint of the minis is very small and I could eventually pair this up with a new TB Display whenever they're released.

Issues:
-the price of an i7 Mini with Fusion + TB Display is very close to the base 27" iMac with Fusion. I already have a keyboard/trackpad so no need to buy them.
-the Mini's drives are easily upgradeable for future proofing
-The AIO iMac is a cleaner set up and its display is (arguably) nicer than the current TB displays.
-no word on when new TB displays are coming out
-It could take a while to get the iMac because of current supply issues, while the Mini's are available now.

I would use the machine when I work at home. Email, web-browsing and programming in Xcode. I would also do some occasional photo/video editing probably using the base iLife programs. I also occasionally do some audio editing and recording with DAWs.

So what do you guys think?

Last edited by OllyW; Dec 28, 2012 at 11:20 AM. Reason: Moved to Buying Tips and Advice
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 11:12 AM   #2
R-Flow
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I looked at getting a Mac mini + Cinema Display once, but the costs of a maxed-out configuration plus keyboard and trackpad separately just wasn't very appealing compared to the iMac. Especially because of the integrated graphics the Mac mini still spots. From personal experience the graphics are always the first to show their age, so I tend to get the best I can afford when buying a new Mac.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 11:57 AM   #3
ArtieFufkin10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R-Flow View Post
I looked at getting a Mac mini + Cinema Display once, but the costs of a maxed-out configuration plus keyboard and trackpad separately just wasn't very appealing compared to the iMac. Especially because of the integrated graphics the Mac mini still spots. From personal experience the graphics are always the first to show their age, so I tend to get the best I can afford when buying a new Mac.
Thanks. I though this too, but i already have the keyboard, trackpad and a decent monitor to start me off.

I have a 2012 MBA with the intel HD 4000 and the performance is good even on an external display. Otherwise, I get that discrete graphics are better, but hard to compare the two.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 12:01 PM   #4
cheezeit
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Why not get the iMac now, and down the line when you feel you need another upgrade get the mac mini then and use your old iMac 27" as the display.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 12:09 PM   #5
ArtieFufkin10
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Originally Posted by cheezeit View Post
Why not get the iMac now, and down the line when you feel you need another upgrade get the mac mini then and use your old iMac 27" as the display.
Seems like overkill for a monitor, but you have a point.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 12:14 PM   #6
cheezeit
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ArtieFufkin10 View Post
Seems like overkill for a monitor, but you have a point.
I always wanted to get a TBD for my mbp/air/retina or whatever but for that much I could almost get a 21" iMac or shell more and get both and have more than what was needed.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 12:19 PM   #7
ArtieFufkin10
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Originally Posted by cheezeit View Post
I always wanted to get a TBD for my mbp/air/retina or whatever but for that much I could almost get a 21" iMac or shell more and get both and have more than what was needed.
Its a valid point. I guess the biggest weakness of the AIO is that its just not very upgradeable and that's sort of my dilemma in the OP.
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Old Dec 28, 2012, 11:24 PM   #8
Nate392
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I guess the biggest weakness of the AIO is that its just not very upgradeable and that's sort of my dilemma in the OP.

Yep, that, and if you don't get multithreading in the iMac until you get an i7 equipped model, while the mini has multithreading from the start, since it already has an i7.
Of course multithreading isn't a deal breaker, but if the HD4000 can do everything you need, why not go with the ability to access the drives and get multithreading? Another cost cutter is if you want to wait for a Cinema a TB
display update, you could just go with an inexpensive monitor now, and cut the
up-front cost, and have two monitors later. Food for thought, I guess.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArtieFufkin10 View Post
I guess the biggest weakness of the AIO is that its just not very upgradeable and that's sort of my dilemma in the OP.
Yep, that, and if you don't get multithreading in the iMac until you get an i7 equipped model, while the mini has multithreading from the start, since it already has an i7.
Of course multithreading isn't a deal breaker, but if the HD4000 can do everything you need, why not go with the ability to access the drives and get multithreading? Another cost cutter is if you want to wait for a Cinema a TB
display update, you could just go with an inexpensive monitor now, and cut the
up-front cost, and have two monitors later. Food for thought, I guess.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 12:22 AM   #9
KylePowers
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A lot of people spew about upgradeability, but an iMac can easily last the 3-5 years you'd expect from a desktop before replacing it, especially if you fit it with an SSD or Fusion Drive up front and upgrade the RAM yourself.

Also, it's a misnomer to say the iMac isn't as upgradeable, it just isn't as easy. Now I can't speak for the 2012 (which I assume is the one you're looking at), but if you went with a 2011 (which would save you money), you can replace the CPU, GPU, HDD/SDD, RAM, etc. Plus, it could be a fun little project.

Also, the iMac GPU > Mac Mini GPu. Not sure if that's that important or not. IMO though, the Mac Mini + TBD is a nice setup, just way way way overpriced.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 01:01 AM   #10
Nate392
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Originally Posted by KylePowers View Post
A lot of people spew about upgradeability, but an iMac can easily last the 3-5 years you'd expect from a desktop before replacing it, especially if you fit it with an SSD or Fusion Drive up front and upgrade the RAM yourself.

Also, it's a misnomer to say the iMac isn't as upgradeable, it just isn't as easy. Now I can't speak for the 2012 (which I assume is the one you're looking at), but if you went with a 2011 (which would save you money), you can replace the CPU, GPU, HDD/SDD, RAM, etc. Plus, it could be a fun little project.

Also, the iMac GPU > Mac Mini GPu. Not sure if that's that important or not. IMO though, the Mac Mini + TBD is a nice setup, just way way way overpriced.
You make a valid point about upgradability, and that's another factor. But as far as upgradability is concerned for the new 2012 iMac, the screen is glued to the body (and the panel is glued to the glass), instead of using magnets, which rules out accessing the internals cleanly.

Yeah, if the OP is willing to make a project out of it, it would be a sweet project with a 2011 iMac.

I really agree with you as far as the GPU comparison, if you're not gaming or doing heavy duty editing, the mini's HD4000 is most likely sufficient.

IMO, if you're not doing that heavy duty photo/video editing, or color consistency isn't vital to your job, a TBD is super expensive overkill. But it's really up to the OP, all said and done. xD
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 01:22 AM   #11
pertusis1
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my humble opinion

I'm going to weigh in on the side of the Mac Mini. I'm one of the i7 2.6 GHz with 16 megs (aftermarket) ram who am very happy with the mac mini. I really think you're going to be happy with either one. The cost of a Mac mini plus 27" TB monitor is about the same as an iMac. But here's the kicker (and the reason I went with the mini)...

The NEXT computer you buy will cost you half as much. There's no way you're going to need to replace that monitor in 3-4 years when the base model iMac starts to seem slow. At that time, you can buy a new mac mini if you want, or you can take the money you saved buying another monitor and get a mac pro (if they ever come out with it).

I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but about 10 years ago, I bought a 20" studio monitor. I shelved it when I got an iMac in 2007. The iMac died this past year, so I replaced it with a Mac mini and pulled out my old monitor. At first my plan was to get a new TB monitor, but the fact is that the current one works great. Chances are, I'll be using the monitor until it's about 13 years old. Sooo, you'll save a lot of money over the next 10 years if you get the split CPU monitor setup. In return, you'll lose a little bit in graphics processing capacity.

Regarding graphics on the Mac mini, see my other posts. I had my brother come over and play some Starcraft with topped out graphics just to see how it would hold up. He was quite impressed, and will likely be getting a mini instead of an iMac as his next computer.

Full disclosure: The mac mini is a bit stressed out by heavy usage with FCPX, but unless you're a professional high definition video editor, you're not going to notice it.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 08:02 AM   #12
cheezeit
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pertusis1 View Post
I'm going to weigh in on the side of the Mac Mini. I'm one of the i7 2.6 GHz with 16 megs (aftermarket) ram who am very happy with the mac mini. I really think you're going to be happy with either one. The cost of a Mac mini plus 27" TB monitor is about the same as an iMac. But here's the kicker (and the reason I went with the mini)...

The NEXT computer you buy will cost you half as much. There's no way you're going to need to replace that monitor in 3-4 years when the base model iMac starts to seem slow. At that time, you can buy a new mac mini if you want, or you can take the money you saved buying another monitor and get a mac pro (if they ever come out with it).

I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but about 10 years ago, I bought a 20" studio monitor. I shelved it when I got an iMac in 2007. The iMac died this past year, so I replaced it with a Mac mini and pulled out my old monitor. At first my plan was to get a new TB monitor, but the fact is that the current one works great. Chances are, I'll be using the monitor until it's about 13 years old. Sooo, you'll save a lot of money over the next 10 years if you get the split CPU monitor setup. In return, you'll lose a little bit in graphics processing capacity.

Regarding graphics on the Mac mini, see my other posts. I had my brother come over and play some Starcraft with topped out graphics just to see how it would hold up. He was quite impressed, and will likely be getting a mini instead of an iMac as his next computer.

Full disclosure: The mac mini is a bit stressed out by heavy usage with FCPX, but unless you're a professional high definition video editor, you're not going to notice it.
Isn't this the same as if he gets the 27" iMac? Next comp is half as much, cause hell already have a monitor. Course it'll have internals but it doesn't mean he has to use them.... And you have the option for extra gpu power if you ever need it where as the mini atm you'll only have the integrated graphics
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 08:13 AM   #13
pertusis1
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Originally Posted by cheezeit View Post
Isn't this the same as if he gets the 27" iMac? Next comp is half as much, cause he'll already have a monitor. Course it'll have internals but it doesn't mean he has to use them.... And you have the option for extra gpu power if you ever need it where as the mini atm you'll only have the integrated graphics
I may stand corrected. Can he use his old iMac as a standalone monitor when the CPU is is no good anymore?
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 08:19 AM   #14
cheezeit
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Originally Posted by pertusis1 View Post
I may stand corrected. Can he use his old iMac as a standalone monitor when the CPU is is no good anymore?
The 27" iMac from past generations can be. The 21" can not. I assume the current models would allow the same but not sure yet.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 09:22 AM   #15
pertusis1
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Originally Posted by cheezeit View Post
The 27" iMac from past generations can be. The 21" can not. I assume the current models would allow the same but not sure yet.
ah, I see. I (and my family) have only ever had the 20 or 21.5".
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 10:16 AM   #16
Nate392
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Another factor that's been tossed around a lot lately is a TB graphics card, though they are expensive right now, they could start getting cheaper as they loose their novelty.

On that note, some people say that the graphics card would be bottle necked by the TB port, but if you're only rendering with it, would you even notice?
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 01:20 PM   #17
ArtieFufkin10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KylePowers View Post
A lot of people spew about upgradeability, but an iMac can easily last the 3-5 years you'd expect from a desktop before replacing it, especially if you fit it with an SSD or Fusion Drive up front and upgrade the RAM yourself.

Also, it's a misnomer to say the iMac isn't as upgradeable, it just isn't as easy. Now I can't speak for the 2012 (which I assume is the one you're looking at), but if you went with a 2011 (which would save you money), you can replace the CPU, GPU, HDD/SDD, RAM, etc. Plus, it could be a fun little project.

Also, the iMac GPU > Mac Mini GPu. Not sure if that's that important or not. IMO though, the Mac Mini + TBD is a nice setup, just way way way overpriced.
Would definitely upgrade the RAM and go with a Fusion drive.

I hadn't considered getting a 2011 model and upgrading the CPU - that's interesting and I need to give that some thought and check CPU prices.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by pertusis1 View Post
I'm going to weigh in on the side of the Mac Mini. I'm one of the i7 2.6 GHz with 16 megs (aftermarket) ram who am very happy with the mac mini. I really think you're going to be happy with either one. The cost of a Mac mini plus 27" TB monitor is about the same as an iMac. But here's the kicker (and the reason I went with the mini)...

The NEXT computer you buy will cost you half as much. There's no way you're going to need to replace that monitor in 3-4 years when the base model iMac starts to seem slow. At that time, you can buy a new mac mini if you want, or you can take the money you saved buying another monitor and get a mac pro (if they ever come out with it).

I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but about 10 years ago, I bought a 20" studio monitor. I shelved it when I got an iMac in 2007. The iMac died this past year, so I replaced it with a Mac mini and pulled out my old monitor. At first my plan was to get a new TB monitor, but the fact is that the current one works great. Chances are, I'll be using the monitor until it's about 13 years old. Sooo, you'll save a lot of money over the next 10 years if you get the split CPU monitor setup. In return, you'll lose a little bit in graphics processing capacity.

Regarding graphics on the Mac mini, see my other posts. I had my brother come over and play some Starcraft with topped out graphics just to see how it would hold up. He was quite impressed, and will likely be getting a mini instead of an iMac as his next computer.

Full disclosure: The mac mini is a bit stressed out by heavy usage with FCPX, but unless you're a professional high definition video editor, you're not going to notice it.
Thanks and this is a great point and one reason, at least today, I'm leaning towards the mini. If I can hold out until the next TB display update, it will probably have USB 3.0 ports, maybe two TB ports as well.

Tough decisions, but right now I think this is a good problem to have.
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