2012 iMac vs. 2012 Mac Mini (both high end models)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Bill Killer, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    Hi, I'm sorry if this post seems like I'm not doing the research....it's just that for a lot of the newer tech, I just don't understand the differences.

    I currently have a 2009 iMac that I was to upgrade from. It's ole faithful and reliable, but I'm looking for something faster. I don't game with it much (mostly just use Wine to play RCT2). My iMac currently is little more that a multimedia streaming hub and a word processing machine. This wouldn't be a purchase out of necessity.....just simply one for the sake of improvement. Also, USB 2.0 sucks, and I just upgraded to a 4TB WD external hard drive for all my media via USB 3.0.

    Therefore, what I would use the possible new Mac for is ripping and converting video to Apple TV .mp4 format, streaming to one of two different ATV devices, Microsoft Office, and some Wine visualizations for Microsoft Access and older PC games like RCT.

    I was set on getting the new iMac 27" when it is released this December, but the lack of custom upgrades (namely, increasing RAM and swapping out a hard drive for an SSD of my own) is making me think twice.

    Would the Mac Mini be a better option? I've noticed some people here mentioning it is much easier to add custom upgrades, and since I will not be using an Final Cut, Adobe, or high-end video editing software, I don't necessarily need all of the Apple-priced upgrades.

    Which one would be a better deal? Keep in mind that I would likely purchase a Thunderbolt screen (or non-Apple equivalent) along with the Mini.

    Thanks in advance for any help!
  2. macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2010
    My 27" 2010 i3 iMac is starting to show its processing age, but the display is perfect. I bought the maxed out Mac mini to supplement my imac and use it as a dual workstation by using command+f2
  3. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    I guess I am a bit naive about dual workstations. Are you saying your able to use your current iMac as a display, while using the Mac Mini as the main desktop?
  4. rkahl, Oct 29, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012

    macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2010
    I'm going to use the display ports to toggle both computers independently. Handbrake, iMovie, etc is going on Mac mini, photos and unimportant stuff is going on my imac. Command F2 will toggle display between mini and iMac. In short, yes u can if you have a certain year imac.

  5. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2010
    Iowa City, IA USA
    I purchased 2 Mac Minis, one for home and work. For work I went 2.3 i7, std. drive and 16GB memory from NewEgg. For home I went with the 2.6 i7 std. drive and 16Gb memory from NewEgg. I'm replacing a 2008 24" iMac 3.0 GHz with 6GB memory so it should be a huge step up.
    Down the road when 512GB SSD's drop some more I'll probably replace the 5400 1tb.
  6. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    The internal hard drive size actually isn't that important to me. I don't plan on having any more than 50gb to 80gb at a time on that hard drive, and all media will be going on the 4 terabyte hard drive directly from the mini. Which is why I'm perfectly happy with a 128-256gb SSD that I can install through the aftermarket.
  7. macrumors G3


    Mar 20, 2003
    San Francisco
    there are many differences between the mini and imac, but probably the biggest two are that the imac has dedicated graphics (quite good, at the high end) while the mini only has integrated, and the imac is an all in one (obviously). The imac also has a faster processor, but that's not going to matter for most people. Since you don't game much, the graphics really aren't an issue. So it really just comes down to whether you like the integrated display. Some do, as it's a high quality display, and looks nice and clean. Some don't, as it's reflective (though supposedly 75% less-so in this generation) and means you have to replace the display every time you replace the computer.

    For you, it sounds like the mini would be plenty, and it would save you a bundle.
  8. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    This is my barrier, honestly. It's not necessarily that I require an integrated display, but damn, I love the look of Apple's displays. For my purposes (ripping/converting 1080p video to .mp4 format and streaming being the primary purposes), does the entry level Mac Mini make sense? I can personally justify paying a ton for the Apple display if the mid-level Mac Mini suits my needs plenty (and should for another 2 years).

    Thanks for your help.


    Nevermind, I just realized that the base model is dual-core.
  9. macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Actually the processor is not faster. About the same in processing power.

  10. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2003
    Bill, the mid-level Mac Mini would certainly be all that you need, but since you do not already own a nice monitor I'd recommend just springing for the iMac; you can install your own RAM in the 27" models, and it'll remain to be seen what it'll take to replace the hard drive with an SSD.
  11. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    The way I see it, figuring top-of-the-line base prices:

    Mac Mini: $779
    Thunderbolt Display: $949


    $1,899 (estimated)

    *Student pricing

    To be honest, I'm not sure I entirely see the benefit of waiting for the iMac. I already have the extra RAM, so there is no actual cost for upgrading that, but I am hugely apprehensive about upgrading the hard drive on the iMac compared to that of the Mini. I am more confident in paying for an aftermarket SSD and installing it in the Mini. With the iMac, I'd likely upgrade the specs out of fear of screwing something up in an all-in-one, upping the price considerably. I just did not know if the performance difference between the two machines is great enough to not satisfy my needs.
  12. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2003
    One thing to remember is that the screen in the new iMac is going to be superior to the Thunderbolt display, which now has 75% more glare, outdated USB 2 ports, doesn't have the true-to-life factory-calibrated colors and is quite the chubster by comparison. If you go with the Mini, which is not a bad idea at all, you might want to look elsewhere for a monitor. There are no doubt other great 2560x1600 LED-backlit LCD panels out there which don't cost $999.
  13. macrumors 6502a


    Mar 21, 2012
    75% less reflections: Yes. Depends where you want to place it how important that is.

    Factory calibrated: The TBD is already quite nice factory calibrated, don't expect huge gains here.

    USB 2.0: You get 3.0 ports on your Mini.

    Chunky: I'd call it solid. ;)
  14. oYx
    macrumors regular

    Sep 2, 2007
  15. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    Thanks for everybody's help. I think I know exactly what I am going to do:

    -Get the high end 2012 Mac Mini
    -Get a Samsung 27" 1080p LED monitor to connect via HDMI
    -Upgrade the RAM to 8gb using my unused memory lying around here

    -Upgrade to a 128gb SSD, or add it as my second option (possible according to iFixit)

    Total cost: $779 + $400 - $400 (sale from old iMac) = $844 after tax, and around $1,000 if I pursue the SSD route

    I think that's a pretty damn good upgrade.
  16. macrumors 68000


    Jul 22, 2002
    I'm in the same boat, I know the iMac 27" is faster than the Mini and will have better graphics but I don't do games so that is not an issue. Yes the iMac now have more RAM and can got to 32Gb but I don't see many home users needing that in the next 5 years.

    Also costs for the Mini and a 'cheap' 24" LCD could be almost $1000 less than the top iMac with Fusion.

    I'm seriously considering the i7 2.6Ghz Mini with Fusion. RAM City has 16Gb for $132, so all up with a BenQ 24" it would be about $1800, almost $700 less than the 27" iMac with half the RAM and Fusion.

    The only things I'd miss out on at the built in camera but I gain FW800.
  17. mchoffa, Nov 17, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012

    macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2008
    Asheville, NC
    Since we don't have BTO pricing for iMacs, here is the closest comparison between iMac and mini we can get

    Mac mini 2.5 ghz dual core i5 w/ HD4000 gpu $599
    upgrade to 16GB from crucial $79
    thunderbolt display $999 (could just get a refurb for $829)
    keyboard + mouse $100
    TOTAL $1780 (or 1650 with the refurb TBD, or $1510 with the dell U2713HM which is on sale for $739 from newegg now)

    iMac 2.9 ghz quad core i5 w/512mb nvidia gpu $1799
    same 16gb ram upgrade from crucial (for a total of 24gb) $79
    TOTAL $1880

    basically it's $100 for 8gb more ram (and ability to go to 32gb for another $79), a real gpu, quad core instead of dual, a higher quality screen and better upgrades, like the 3tb fusion or 768gb SSD, unless, like I said, you buy a cheaper screen and already have a keyboard/mouse

    if you go with the i7 (which I'm guessing a lot of people would), I'm not sure what that will add to the iMac, maybe $200? and the upgrade to the 1TB fusion or 256GB SSD should be the same too... But until we know we can't really compare apples to apples...

    the iMac is a beast of an all in one... I love my old 24, but I'm seriously considering the mini (mostly because I can't wait another 4 months to actually get a new machine if they are delayed and/or take a long time to get a BTO)

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