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Old Dec 30, 2012, 03:56 AM   #1
Kayakphotos
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2011 iMac vs. 2012 mini

I am trying to decide on going with a refurb iMac or getting one of the new Mac Mini's. The intended use will be mostly for photo editing in Photoshop CS5. So which would be the smarter investment?

Mini Setup
$799 model
2.6 ghz i7 upgrade
1 TB fusion upgrade
Dell u2412m monitor
16gb Crucial Memory

iMac Setup
$979 refurb
2.5 ghz i5
500gb HD
external SSD drive to use as boot drive. (thinking this one)
16gb Crucial Memory
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 01:17 PM   #2
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I'd say mini right off the bat, but I'm a little biased.
Since you're using CS5, I don't know if photoshop has the added GPU support, then again, the iMac has an AMD GPU, instead of Nvidia, so either way you don't exactly get the full benefit from what I'm told. Also another thing to note is the fact the the processor on the mini can multithread, which the iMac cannot. All said and done I'd say the mini really is a better choice. But I could be missing something.

One last thing to think of, the monitor is super easy to replace on the mini.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 01:25 PM   #3
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Since you're using CS5, I don't know if photoshop has the added GPU support, then again, the iMac has an AMD GPU, instead of Nvidia, so either way you don't exactly get the full benefit from what I'm told.
NVidia or AMD makes absolutely no difference there. You're thinking of After Effects and Premiere. CS5 has fewer gpu leveraged functions than CS6. They look like a huge improvement in benchmarks, yet you may rarely use them. The screen redrawing doesn't seem to be much faster with a fast gpu. The imac seems to satisfy most people, although I'd be tempted to go with the 27". The Mini provides a wider range of displays. Depending upon if you incorporate this in paid work, some investment may be worthwhile there if you go with the Mini.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 01:37 PM   #4
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 02:17 PM   #5
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NVidia or AMD makes absolutely no difference there. You're thinking of After Effects and Premiere. CS5 has fewer gpu leveraged functions than CS6.
Thanks! I thought I might have been a bit off...

Interesting that the GPU doesn't actually do that much...
But remember that the CPU in the mini is a big improvement over the iMac, especially in the concern of multithreading.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 03:18 PM   #6
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thekev: great signature
Thanks. I like silly sigs and avatars of people using their cat as an ipad rest.

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Thanks! I thought I might have been a bit off...

Interesting that the GPU doesn't actually do that much...
But remember that the CPU in the mini is a big improvement over the iMac, especially in the concern of multithreading.
Well if we're specifically talking about photoshop, not everything is equally threaded. Saving large files can take a long time due to compression. They worked around that somewhat by enabling background save. It used to be a single threaded process where you'd go get coffee while it saved if the file was large enough. It wasn't even that long ago. Most functions scale reasonably well up to 4 cores or so. Beyond that point it can get somewhat faster, but the diminishing returns are pretty severe. If you look up benchmarks on something like barefeats, the 12 core mac pro doesn't have a significant advantage in that application. As for photoshop, some of the functions that leverage it are specific to the extended version, such as vanishing point. Iris blur is quite slow on the cpu, but you may never use it. Liquify is slower, but it's nowhere near the difference in use that benchmarks would suggest. The gpu can bring it to nearly real time, although as a tool I think it would benefit more from modern 2D mesh relax and pin tools like you'd find in a decent UV editor. Perhaps they thought puppet warp would take over. It does seem to render cleaner. Either way careful masking can be a requirement if you don't want to mess things up.

Regarding the HD 4000 specifically, many of the complaints seem to be bug related. HDMI has been mentioned as an issue. I haven't seen it really lag, but it may depend on what you're working on. These programs are more dependent on memory than processing capability in a lot of ways. Note how Adobe doesn't really state their requirements like a game would. They specify minimum vram requirements and OpenGL requirements. OpenCL specifications are used for any gpu computation unless it's After Effects or Premiere. In those cases it's a matter of if you have a certified NVidia CUDA card, although it's possible to enable support for a wider range of CUDA cards.

I'm not saying the gpu is completely worthless here. It's just not always a reason to change purchasing decisions. Apple offers a pretty forgiving return policy, so you do have some time to test it out. I would take note that the Dell is kind of a low end 24" display. If the OP is purchasing this for work reasons, going a little higher would allow for something like a P232W. Seeing as the 21.5" imac is a consideration, a 16:10 23" should also be okay. I know I've seen better deals on NEC than I can find at the moment. I was going to say a Dell U2410, but it's around the same price as the NEC, and I tend to be biased in order of Eizo > NEC > Quato > Dell (roughly) = Apple. I dislike the fixed stand height on the Apple displays. For something like the OP's use, I would want it right at eye level. Dell's best displays may be a little better than Apple's offerings if you're comparing the top Dells to Apples. The difference is Dell makes a greater range. Someone corrected me recently noting that the 2412 is a lower end model with a confusing naming convention. They named it like it's a successor to the 2410.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 08:42 PM   #7
Kayakphotos
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Thanks for the help.

It sounds like the mini might be the way to go for my uses. I was under the impression that the dell monitor I mentioned was a pretty good one. Going with a 27" is tempting as well.

While I'm not a professional photographer I do paid projects on occasion so I want something that can save me time. I'm running an older hp dv7 laptop with dual core AMD right now. It's ok, but a little bit slow.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 09:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Kayakphotos View Post
Thanks for the help.

It sounds like the mini might be the way to go for my uses. I was under the impression that the dell monitor I mentioned was a pretty good one. Going with a 27" is tempting as well.

While I'm not a professional photographer I do paid projects on occasion so I want something that can save me time. I'm running an older hp dv7 laptop with dual core AMD right now. It's ok, but a little bit slow.
If you had spec'd the 27" iMac versus a Mini with a comparable (Dell) monitor I'd say go with the iMac because it would be a better deal and probably faster. Also if you were ever to go into Apple's Aperture it would be the definite choice.

Looking at the 21.5" iMac it's a tougher choice.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 01:51 AM   #9
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If you had spec'd the 27" iMac versus a Mini with a comparable (Dell) monitor I'd say go with the iMac because it would be a better deal and probably faster. Also if you were ever to go into Apple's Aperture it would be the definite choice.

Looking at the 21.5" iMac it's a tougher choice.
No way you will pay same price for mini with 27 dell as for imac. Moreover, you can add SSD from 3rd party into mini much cheaper than any option offered by apple, you cant do that with imac (or can, but it is very, very difficult)
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 08:46 AM   #10
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Also if you were ever to go into Apple's Aperture it would be the definite choice.
Does aperture utilize the GPU more than photoshop? I have thought about getting Lightroom or Aperture in the future.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 09:10 AM   #11
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No way you will pay same price for mini with 27 dell as for imac. Moreover, you can add SSD from 3rd party into mini much cheaper than any option offered by apple, you cant do that with imac (or can, but it is very, very difficult)
No 2011 iMacs on the refurbished store, so comparing with new:

27" iMac, base model (2.9GHz quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, GTX660M) $1799

Mac mini, upper model, (2.3GHz quad core i7 (mobile CPU), 4GB RAM, 1TB HD (mobile-5200RPM), Intel embedded graphics 4000) $799
Dell Ultra Sharp U2711 monitor, on sale $849

So you would save $151 on the mini, but would have to add extra RAM, keyboard and mouse, and would have a slower CPU, hard drive, and graphics. If 2011 iMacs were available on the refurbished store, (the OP was comparing 2011 refurbished iMacs with new 2012 minis) then the pricing would be in favor of the iMac even without the need for keyboard and mouse.

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Does aperture utilize the GPU more than photoshop? I have thought about getting Lightroom or Aperture in the future.
Yes, Aperture makes major use of the GPU. AFAIK, Lightroom and Photoshop don't. Gurus have always said that when buying a machine for Aperture to put money in the GPU.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 09:18 AM   #12
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You could always find a middle ground and get a 24" display and save money. Not sure if you need the pixels of a 27" iMac.
I just picked up a 1920x1200 Asus PA248q for about $300.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 09:35 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by talmy View Post
No 2011 iMacs on the refurbished store, so comparing with new:

27" iMac, base model (2.9GHz quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, GTX660M) $1799

Mac mini, upper model, (2.3GHz quad core i7 (mobile CPU), 4GB RAM, 1TB HD (mobile-5200RPM), Intel embedded graphics 4000) $799
Dell Ultra Sharp U2711 monitor, on sale $849

So you would save $151 on the mini, but would have to add extra RAM, keyboard and mouse, and would have a slower CPU, hard drive, and graphics. If 2011 iMacs were available on the refurbished store, (the OP was comparing 2011 refurbished iMacs with new 2012 minis) then the pricing would be in favor of the iMac even without the need for keyboard and mouse.[COLOR="#808080"]
Well, maybe I was looking at this too much from EU perspective.. here, I can get new mini 2.3 i7 and dell U2711 for 2050 USD, base imac 27 for 2550 USD - 500 USD difference.

i7 in mini is stronger cpu than i5 in imac.
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Old Dec 31, 2012, 11:37 AM   #14
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Well, maybe I was looking at this too much from EU perspective.. here, I can get new mini 2.3 i7 and dell U2711 for 2050 USD, base imac 27 for 2550 USD - 500 USD difference.

i7 in mini is stronger cpu than i5 in imac.
Interesting -- costs for mini are about the same (figuring you are including VAT in your prices) however they seem to be asking an outlandish premium for the iMac.

I haven't seen benchmarks comparing the two. Things are muddied by Intel's marketing. AFAIK the difference between a mobile i5 and i7 is number of cores (no quad core mobile i5's), and while desktop i5's are available with quad cores, the i7's have Hyperthreading(TM). They all have various amounts of Turboboost (TM) which comes into play when not all cores are needed.

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You could always find a middle ground and get a 24" display and save money. Not sure if you need the pixels of a 27" iMac.
I just picked up a 1920x1200 Asus PA248q for about $300.
IMHO pixels are everything for photo editing. You want lots of them and high quality (IPS, accurate colors) as well. 27" 2560x1440 IPS monitors are the best way to go.
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Old Jan 1, 2013, 04:26 AM   #15
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Interesting -- costs for mini are about the same (figuring you are including VAT in your prices) however they seem to be asking an outlandish premium for the iMac.

I haven't seen benchmarks comparing the two. Things are muddied by Intel's marketing. AFAIK the difference between a mobile i5 and i7 is number of cores (no quad core mobile i5's), and while desktop i5's are available with quad cores, the i7's have Hyperthreading(TM). They all have various amounts of Turboboost (TM) which comes into play when not all cores are needed.[COLOR="#808080"]
Well, all prices are VAT included. It is not about mini not being overpriced here and iMac being overprices. It is apple being overpriced in europe... price of dell is approx same here and in US.
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