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Old Aug 25, 2011, 02:32 PM   #1
sam2428
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2011 Mac Mini or iMac for Audio/recording

Hello All, I am all kinds of confused when it comes to deciding what my new computer should be. I currently own an ipad 2, and an aging 2007 macbook that is hooked up to a 27" Samsung LED display with BT keyboard and magic trackpad.

I am confused between getting a mac mini and hooking up to my existing monitor, keyboard, trackpad or to get an iMac.

My usage: I will be hooking up USB turntables (Numark Mixtrack Pro), a MIDI keyboard, and an audio interface with which i will be doing some recording (vocals/guitar), some digital composition, and mixing.

I also would like to make short videos in Final Cut express or perhaps FCPX. I have done video editing in the past, but lately i have not been doing any because my macbook cant really handle it. Regardless, they are not going to be full length movies or anything.

Note: the above mentioned are all hobbies which I do regularly on weekends and some nights, but nothing professionally.


Macmini would be nice since I already have a monitor, etc...but having a more powerful setup with the iMac and use my current monitor as a external display would also be nice as well. (But would i really ever use the screen real estate of a iMac (21.5 most likely) + a 27" monitor?

Also, would the upgrade mini be better or the quadcore server unit?

If i went iMac, would the base be sufficient for my needs or should i get the upgraded model? (I am primarily looking at the 21.5" iMac....but I also worry that it will look awkward with a larger external display).


^^hence all the confusion. Any advice would be much appreciated!

Thanks

----------

I forgot to mention...money is not really that much an issue, but I also dont want to spend money on something that will not get utilized properly. (i dont believe in wasting money).

I will be buying a new desk as well, so space isnt an issue either.


Also....sorry for the long essay in my original post.
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Old Aug 25, 2011, 03:01 PM   #2
Photics
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I don't know which one you should get... but maybe these questions might help...

What is more important to you...
  • Better GPU (AMD Radeon HD 6630M ) or better CPU (quad-core i7)?
  • Built-in Optical Drive vs. saving money?
  • All-in-one computer, vs. saving money?

I don't know about your current equipment, but it looks like you have a monitor already, so why waste the money on an iMac? Also, the Mac Mini is cheaper. The configuration for the new Mac Mini is weird though... the better GPU is in one model, while the better CPU is in the other.

Me, I'm glad I don't have to upgrade my computer right now. The recent hardware seems a bit confusing... like it's not a clear upgrade. Oh sure, the i5/i7 is much faster than my 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, but my computer doesn't feel slow to me. Coming from a Windows PC, my two year old computer still feels plenty fast. (Upgrading the RAM really boosted the performance of my Mac Mini.)

Your primary concern seems to be about processing power. Maybe this link will help you research the matter...

http://www.primatelabs.ca/geekbench/mac-benchmarks/

My little 2009 Mac Mini is way down the list, but it doesn't stop me from making games, movies or editing audio. Maybe I'm more patient with progress bars than most people. HA HA.
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Old Aug 25, 2011, 03:11 PM   #3
sam2428
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Thanks for the fast reply! Yea, I guess I am not certain what processor would be adequate for the the usage i mentioned above.

Although I consider myself pretty tech savvy, I am not really too knowledgeable about computer processors and if they are sufficient for my needs.

Mac Mini would be an obvious choice to some since i already have a monitor etc, but like you mentioned, the configurations are a little confusing. I would like a quad-core i7 processor and a decent video card to have some future proofing...but would an i5 be okay to use too?


Also, i will upgrading ram myself no matter which direction I go.
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Old Aug 25, 2011, 08:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sam2428 View Post
but would an i5 be okay to use too?
I don't know — How much power is enough power?

For doing work, my early 2009 Mac Mini is fine. I don't feel limited. Sure, I was running ImageOptim in the background as I wrote part of this message, and that image processing could be faster, but I'm writing this nice reply while I wait.

So, if I'm fine with a 2.0 GHz Duo-Core, would you be happy with an i5... when it seems to be much faster? I can't answer that question. That's your own personal preference... and probably why Apple still sells $2499+ Mac Pros. For some people, more power is still not enough. HA!

Back in PC land, I used to get mediocre CPUs and really great video cards. That worked out great for what I mainly did with PCs — GAMING! Now that I'm using a Mac, I'm not playing many desktop games. So, what do I need blazing power for?

The biggest handicap in my Mac was the lack of RAM. Once I upgraded the RAM, it wasn't a problem... but that's why the GPU might be more important than the CPU. I hate the Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor, which shares the RAM. You're upgrading the RAM, so that helps. (The Intel GPU is one of the things that I really hate about the MacBook Air.)

I think the Mac Mini with the AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics is a nice medium between performance and price. I'm very happy with my Mac Mini. If I was buying a Mac today, I'd probably go with another Mac Mini... or a maybe MacBook Pro.

Although, if I was about to buy a MacBook Pro, I'd probably wait until the next MacBook Pros come out. It's got a yellow light... http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/

You have a laptop now, I'm surprised that a MacBook Pro is not being considered here. I'm not crazy about the iMacs. With an all-in-one, it's can't be repurposed like a Mac Mini. I can turn an old Mac Mini into a TV companion. That's a bit awkward with an iMac. HA!
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Old Aug 25, 2011, 11:45 PM   #5
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Yea..that is a very valid questions "how much power is too much." I guess you can never have too much power and there will always be reasons to need/want more power.

I never really considered the macbook pro because my current laptop sits on a desk (and always has). Especially since i bought my ipad 2, I take care of all my mobile computing requirements with that. Plus i have a company provided laptop that i use for work when i need it. I see no point in getting a macbook pro and having it closed and plugged into a monitor. Mac Mini is smarter and cheaper solution. iMac will have more power and better graphics plus the screen. I know its nice to have a lot of screen space for certain softwares.


Anyone out there that has a similar setup to what im looking to create? I'd love to hear others chime in with their rigs and how it works out for them. Specifically those who do some audio recording/production.
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 12:20 AM   #6
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I also have a 2009 Mac Mini. I don't think any current generation Mac will have issues with audio recording. Faster processors would help for video encoding operations/rendering and when your stuck on hourglasses, but I don't think it will make too much of a difference for most of the actual editing work. I have 2 monitors hooked up to my Mac Mini and prefer the flexibility of a little box that I can hook up whatever peripherals I choose. Personally, I don't find Apple's monitors worth the premium price compared to what can be bought 3rd party. You may need to buy special adapters to get the type of connections to fit. I think the new Mac Mini may be better in this regard than the 2009 since most current monitors support HDMI and DVI. Don't hook anything larger than a 15" up with analog inputs - it looks horrible.
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 12:52 AM   #7
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Hmm that makes a lot of sense. I guess I won't really be doing a lot of video work any way..


I wish the non server mini had a i7 quad-core option...
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 05:49 AM   #8
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Im going to have to ask you to be a bit more specific in your setup. Some software are more cpu intensive than others. Which DAW will you be using? Logic? Pro Tools? Reason? and which third party plugins were you thinking of using? Will you be using any Virtual Instrument plugins? (Guitar amp modelers, drum sample libraries, synth module plugins) And what will you be recording as audio? Vocals? Guitar?

I too am actually debating your same situation almost exactly. But your needs might be a little different than mine. For me personally, I am shooting for running Virtual Instrument-based sessions. I would be using plugins like Superior Drummer for drum samples that will be triggered via acoustic to electric drum set that im building. I'll also be using Amplitube 3 and Guitar Rig 4 for guitar amp modeling. Ampeg SVX for bass amp modeling. Omnisphere for synth and piano tracks. All recording simultaneously into Pro Tools and using both stock and third party plugins for mixing and mastering. This setup will require lots of CPU and RAM power. And what I have discovered after some research is that the Mac Mini Server version would suffice with a bit of headroom to spare. But if you would be running even more plugins and processing hungry software i would go with the iMac.

But i'm waiting a bit to hear what they plan to do with the MacPro. It is currently the only Mac left that hasn't been revamped with thunderbolt and has not has any significant design changes for a few years. I have a feeling Apple will make one of two moves fairly soon. A: They will release new versions of the MacPro that will be affordable to amateur A/V guys or can optionally be configured for insane processing and storage needed for big businesses. B: They discontinue the MacPro line and focus on their notebooks and mobile devices.
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 11:13 AM   #9
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bgomez15, thats great information to know. I would like to have the ability to use virtual instruments, but I haven't decided which DAW I will go with. I have some experience with Logic and will probably be going with that, but I might also look into Cubase and Abelton as well. I will most probably be using drum and synth plugins, but as a novice, I am still searching for what works best for me.


It is actually a great idea to wait and see what will happen with the MacPro line. I really doubt they would get rid of it all together and for some reason I dont think they would make an affordable version either just because then you would fall into the iMac range. There will always be a need for the really high end users.

Interesting thoughts though...I would like to wait and find out as well, but unfortunately my macbook is really not handling day to day tasks (web browsing, itunes, etc) well any more. I also dont think they would announce the MacPro until closer to the end of the year with the expected iphone/ipod updates soon...but you never know!
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 11:47 AM   #10
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aside from the cpu/gpu question, the other thing to remember is the drive that you'll be recording to. I haven't used logic for a while, but the biggest bottleneck aside from ram, was the speed/capacity of the drive to record to.

I only have logic 8, but it does have something called logic node, where you can link it to other intel macs 'ala' mini & use the cpu power, so in your case, link in back to the mb, instant power, I'm not sure if final cut also supports this!
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 01:31 PM   #11
sam2428
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McScooby, I am planning on going with an external t-bolt SSD as the boot drive perhaps (or a FireWire Drive depending on costs) and use the 7200 rpm internal HDD to write to.

Or if i go with the server mac mini, i might swap out one of the two internal drives for an SSD for OS and apps.
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 02:01 PM   #12
uktour84
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Fcp x

If you want to use FCP X, you'll need a Mac with a fairly recent graphics card. Otherwise you cant run it.

If I was you, I'd look at a new MacMini, whatever your budget allows..
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Old Aug 26, 2011, 05:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by uktour84 View Post
If you want to use FCP X, you'll need a Mac with a fairly recent graphics card. Otherwise you cant run it.

If I was you, I'd look at a new MacMini, whatever your budget allows..

Which MacMini would you recommend? And why?

(I'm assuming you mean the upgraded dual core model with dedicated graphics?)
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Old Aug 28, 2011, 10:51 AM   #14
jungeliest
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If money is not an object, definitely the MacMini Server with dual HDD. With my i3 iMac, I never run into CPU problems, but "the HDD is too slow" error bugs me when using Logic too often. You sure need more than one HDD when doing music production or music for video. And no, external HDD is not the same thing. Plus my iMac has backlight bleed issue and I postpone sending it to repair since January because it's my workhorse and I don't have the luxury to be without it for a week. With the MacMini, all you have to do is to plug it in a back-up monitor when you have a similar problem. It's modular. If you'll need the computer in another studio, well unplug the display and carry the damn thing in your backpack. Almost every studio has more than one monitor.

Ah, one more thing. You'll need 8 GBs of RAM. Lion is a resource hog.

But, of course, the iMac has better value for money. I mean you spend $1200 for an IPS monitor, quad core CPU, dedicated GPU, wireless mouse and keyboard. You can't really go wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sam2428 View Post
Hello All, I am all kinds of confused when it comes to deciding what my new computer should be. I currently own an ipad 2, and an aging 2007 macbook that is hooked up to a 27" Samsung LED display with BT keyboard and magic trackpad.

I am confused between getting a mac mini and hooking up to my existing monitor, keyboard, trackpad or to get an iMac.

My usage: I will be hooking up USB turntables (Numark Mixtrack Pro), a MIDI keyboard, and an audio interface with which i will be doing some recording (vocals/guitar), some digital composition, and mixing.

I also would like to make short videos in Final Cut express or perhaps FCPX. I have done video editing in the past, but lately i have not been doing any because my macbook cant really handle it. Regardless, they are not going to be full length movies or anything.

Note: the above mentioned are all hobbies which I do regularly on weekends and some nights, but nothing professionally.


Macmini would be nice since I already have a monitor, etc...but having a more powerful setup with the iMac and use my current monitor as a external display would also be nice as well. (But would i really ever use the screen real estate of a iMac (21.5 most likely) + a 27" monitor?

Also, would the upgrade mini be better or the quadcore server unit?

If i went iMac, would the base be sufficient for my needs or should i get the upgraded model? (I am primarily looking at the 21.5" iMac....but I also worry that it will look awkward with a larger external display).


^^hence all the confusion. Any advice would be much appreciated!

Thanks

----------

I forgot to mention...money is not really that much an issue, but I also dont want to spend money on something that will not get utilized properly. (i dont believe in wasting money).

I will be buying a new desk as well, so space isnt an issue either.


Also....sorry for the long essay in my original post.
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Old Aug 28, 2011, 11:12 AM   #15
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"Which MacMini would you recommend? And why?"

An off-the-shelf Mini "server version" should do fine.

- has -2- 7200rpm drives
- has the quad-core i7
- video card is adequate (not the absolute _best_, but still adequate)
- has 4gb of RAM already installed

You've already got a good monitor.
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Old Aug 28, 2011, 10:07 PM   #16
sam2428
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Thanks for the replies guys. One more thing I just realized is that the mac mini only has 2 memory slots, and unless I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money, 8GB is basically the cap.

Would that be be adequate to use? With the iMac I was planning on upgrading to 12GB.


Also, how is the integrated graphics of the mini server? Will it handle making short videos in iMovie or final cut express?
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Old Aug 28, 2011, 10:46 PM   #17
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For anyone interested, I found this thread that was pretty helpful for anyone in similar shoes as me when it comes to video editing and the intel HD 3000:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1102510

Looks like it should be fine for making small videos etc. I guess I didn't know that CPU is more important than GPU when it comes to video editing in iMovie or final cut (especially if you are not planning on doing lots of 3D effects or anything).

I just hope the 8GB doesn't become a bottleneck for both video and audio applications. Im not sure which plugins I'll be using in my DAW, but I know they can get taxing.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward the mini server and getting an external SuperDrive just in case (Although I don't really anticipate using it much). I am also contemplating getting the SSD option for on the the internal drives.
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Old Aug 29, 2011, 12:15 AM   #18
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I don't think you'll need the i7 mac mini unless the software you use is CPU intensive. The difference between the two i5 options are a slight CPU speed bump and a better graphics card.

if I where you I'd get the 799$ mac mini.

if you wanted to go with an iMac, either the highest end 21" iMac or the base model 27" unless you absolutely need the i7.

if you go that route you could use your existing monitor as a second display or a tv or sell it if it has resell value.

Quote:
Thanks for the replies guys. One more thing I just realized is that the mac mini only has 2 memory slots, and unless I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money, 8GB is basically the cap.

Would that be be adequate to use? With the iMac I was planning on upgrading to 12GB.


Also, how is the integrated graphics of the mini server? Will it handle making short videos in iMovie or final cut express?
8gb is good FCPX might run slow with 8gb though. Graphics on the server mini are the same as the base model mini. Nothing great but nothing cheap. if you got a mini I'd go for the 799$ model with 8gb of RAM
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Old Aug 29, 2011, 04:15 AM   #19
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Thanks for the reply AppleDApp.

If you say there is not much of a difference between i5 and i7, then why do you recommend the highest end 21.5" iMac and not the base?

I am worried that 8GB of memory might not be enough if I ever use some programs later that require a lot of ram.

Im still leaning toward a mini at the moment, but with your comments I would think the base iMac would be fine as well if I decided to go with an i5 processor (vs the high end)

----------

For anyone interested (Geek Bench scores):

iMac (21.5-inch Mid 2011) -$1699
Intel Core i7-2600S 2.8 GHz (4 cores) 10179

Mac mini Server (Mid 2011) -$999
Intel Core i7-2635QM 2.0 GHz (4 cores) 8573

iMac (21.5-inch Mid 2011) -$1499
Intel Core i5-2500S 2.7 GHz (4 cores) 7882

iMac (21.5-inch Mid 2011) -$1199
Intel Core i5-2400S 2.5 GHz (4 cores) 7250

Mac mini (Mid 2011) -$899
Intel Core i7-2620M 2.7 GHz (2 cores) 6980

Mac mini (Mid 2011) -$799
Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 GHz (2 cores) 6472

http://www.primatelabs.ca/geekbench/mac-benchmarks/
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Old Aug 29, 2011, 10:49 PM   #20
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Sorry I meant get the 21" iMac with 2.7 GHz i5 (1 499.99$) rather then the 2.5Ghz model. Not for the CPU speed but you get twice the hard drive space (1tb) and a better GPU(AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB).

I you wanted the 27" model get the base model (1 699.99) it's the same specs as the 21" imac but with the larger screen.
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Old Aug 31, 2011, 12:00 AM   #21
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Oh okay, if i get an iMac I would probably get the highest end model upgraded to 2.8 GHz quad, because the mini server has a higher geek bench score than the $1499 model.

Now I have it narrowed down to the mini server that is almost half the price and has the dual hard drives that will make upgrading to SSD a easier diy for me (the iMac DIY intimidates me too much).

Or the $1699 iMac 21.5" that has more pro's to it (like faster processor, good gpu, monitor, keyboard/mouse, optical drive) but comes at a much steeper price tag.


If I am primarily doing mixing and recording only 1-2 tracks at a time, would I run into an issue with recording to the same drive the app is running on? or would dual HD's really make a big difference?

Also, I've never owned an SSD....does it really make a big difference? Apps load a lot faster, that's about it right?
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Old Aug 31, 2011, 12:21 AM   #22
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Oh okay, if i get an iMac I would probably get the highest end model upgraded to 2.8 GHz quad, because the mini server has a higher geek bench score than the $1499 model.

Now I have it narrowed down to the mini server that is almost half the price and has the dual hard drives that will make upgrading to SSD a easier diy for me (the iMac DIY intimidates me too much).

Or the $1699 iMac 21.5" that has more pro's to it (like faster processor, good gpu, monitor, keyboard/mouse, optical drive) but comes at a much steeper price tag.


If I am primarily doing mixing and recording only 1-2 tracks at a time, would I run into an issue with recording to the same drive the app is running on? or would dual HD's really make a big difference?

Also, I've never owned an SSD....does it really make a big difference? Apps load a lot faster, that's about it right?
Dual HDD is not important. SSD's are alot faster defenetly worthwhile but don't splurge on a high capacity SSD get like an 80gb or something to load all your apps and the other HDD for data.

The mini is easier to upgrade but limited for upgrades. The iMac is trickier to upgrade but it's a much better machine out of the box. You could get an iMac with a 2tb HDD and maybe get the SSD (money permitting) that should be enough space.
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Old Aug 31, 2011, 01:59 PM   #23
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Dual HDD is not important. SSD's are alot faster defenetly worthwhile but don't splurge on a high capacity SSD get like an 80gb or something to load all your apps and the other HDD for data.

The mini is easier to upgrade but limited for upgrades. The iMac is trickier to upgrade but it's a much better machine out of the box. You could get an iMac with a 2tb HDD and maybe get the SSD (money permitting) that should be enough space.

I agree, the easier upgradability and getting more for your money is why the iMac is such a smart buy.

If you compare the mini server with the $1699 iMac -

$1699 - $999 (apple display) - $69 (keyboard) - $69 (mouse/trackpad) - $79 (portable superdrive) = $483

I know its not an apples to apples comparison, but the iMac is def a better deal and will probably last me a lot longer in terms of usability.


As for the SSD, I was planning on doing exactly that (~80 GB to load apps and OS on). I guess i can always have an Apple Authorized service center install it for me in the future when I want to do the upgrade.
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Old Aug 31, 2011, 03:26 PM   #24
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Not previously mentioned, but the Mac mini server uses the same intel graphics as the low end mini -- not good at all.

If you have the money, strongly consider the 27" iMac. You will like having the larger display over the 21.5". With either iMac you can connect you existing monitor as a second display and use as a full screen video monitor.
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Old Aug 31, 2011, 03:56 PM   #25
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Not previously mentioned, but the Mac mini server uses the same intel graphics as the low end mini -- not good at all.

If you have the money, strongly consider the 27" iMac. You will like having the larger display over the 21.5". With either iMac you can connect you existing monitor as a second display and use as a full screen video monitor.

The integrated HD 3000 graphics are really not that bad based on the research I have done. And it really boils down to what you will be doing with it though. As mentioned in the original post, I will primarily be using it for audio composition/recording with a very small amount of video editing (and no gaming). The HD 3000 should be more than adequate for this use.

Also, I would still prefer to have the highest end 21.5" iMac over the base 27" as it is more powerful for the same price and I already have a really nice 27" Samsung LED display to use as an external. (I was already concerned with having those two as being overkill...having two 27's would be even more haha )

Thanks for the response though, I hope I didn't sound like a jerk or something by shooting down your points (was not my intention at all).
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