Mac Mini vs iMac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by 7enderbender, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502

    7enderbender

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Messages:
    481
    Location:
    North East US
    #1
    So, I'm going through another round of sorting through my next purchase in the upcoming weeks. I'm leaning towards the Mini but I want to make sure I'm not missing something. So if was to spend about $1800 before any upgrades (which I'd like to make later and incrementally starting with 16GB memory from OWC) I get two options (give or take). Which is better for what I want to do?

    Goal: very good home studio capabilities (Pro Tools and/or Logic); pro level photo editing (Lightroom and Photoshop, not too heavy on layers)

    i5 iMac 27"
    Advantages: better GPU, desktop processor, mouse & keyboard included, 2 TB ports
    Disadvantages: only one screen choice, shiny, no wide color gamut, more difficult to open and upgrade drive(s), no designated FW port, camera, microphone and speakers included (don't need that), all-in-one design

    i7 Mac Mini 2.6 with good 27" screen in the $800 class
    Advantages: easier to upgrade drives, FW port, I get to chose my monitor(s), cheaper to replace once screen(s) are purchased, potential upgrade path to used or refurbished Mac Pro with screens in place, I get to chose keyboard and mouse, i7 processor
    Disadvantages: Intel GPU, mobile processor, only one TB port (used by non-Apple display)

    So, that's my assessment so far. None seems ideal, but that's how it is on a budget. So which is really "faster" and/or "better" for my applications? And why?

    And also: I know that either will be a vast improvement over my current setup with an older Thinkpad for CS5 and LR3 (nice screen on that thing though) and an old Dell Pentium 4 franken-PC that I use with Cubase.
     
  2. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #2
    To get a more varied/neutral response you might want to post in the advice section.

    Both are good options. The iMac GPU is worth it if you will take advantage of it. Mac mini has lower entry point $$ wise (after getting monitor) and a bit easier to upgrade mini every year and sell the old one. Also can go with a non Apple monitor. Really comes down to the GPU.


    http://forums.macrumors.com/forumdisplay.php?f=54
     
  3. macrumors 6502

    7enderbender

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Messages:
    481
    Location:
    North East US
    #3

    Thanks for the link to the other forum section. Posted it there.
     
  4. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #4
    How long do you tend to keep computers?
     
  5. ZenMoto, Dec 13, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012

    macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    Messages:
    15
    #5
    Mac Mini would be my choice. Can you run Pro Tools on a MacBook? Yes. I wouldn't worry about the Mini having the mobile processor. These days, they're getting pretty good.

    Mac Mini + display(s) is like having multiple tracks. Rearrange them, edit them individually, hire studio musicians to collaborate...

    iMac is like taking a two-channel mix from the board, and calling it a recording. Not much you can do, if you don't like a certain part of the mix. less control. (the new thin design is stunning, but the unibody mini is still nice to behold)

    If your glossy screen gives you problems, you're down an entire recording studio + digital darkroom on the iMac. Mac Mini all the way.
     
  6. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Messages:
    466
    #6
    Replaced 2009 MacPro Quad 2.93 with mini 2.6/Apple SSD/16G ram and 27" ATD - primary use is pro tools HD10 with Metric Halo ULN8 -- recording and sample drive is 500G external USB3 samsung 840 -- 240MB/s read and write --

    Mini is significantly faster than MacPro - CPU loading about the same for a given session. Quiet but runs hot. Expect to hit over 90degC with 20% loads unless you override the fans or take other measure. I keep 2400 rpm as a minimum and run 80degC with 15 to 20% loads. Still very quiet 3 feet from my head.

    May just turn temp monitor off --- :)

    Besides that, I love it. Awesome computer.
     
  7. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Messages:
    208
    Location:
    Europe
    #7
    I've just bought the new mini - but I think you might be better with the iMac!

    My new mini with Dell 24" has replaced a 2006 iMac. Although very happy with the mini, I'm (luckily) not doing high quality audio production.

    As an electronics/communications engineer I was quite horrified when I installed my mini to notice the familiar nano-surface-buzz of a 115-volt leakage current. My 2012 Mac mini PSU is fed by a 'figure of 8' un-earthed twin pole 230-volt EU mains cable. The case is therefore 'live' floating at half the supply voltage - due to EU/FCC regulatory RF suppression components in the system. This tiny - but very perceptible - leakage buzz, is a floating voltage at half the supply - with literally no amps behind it. For audio this might be complicated!?? (I know Digital Audio 'is better than analogue' - therefore intermittent ground loops and noise feedback paths might be a thing of the past?)

    As I added to the rats-nest of USB2, USB3, mini-displayPort and FW cables that grew between the mini and the back of my U2412M, something somewhere has earthed my mini chassis. Is it my USB3 external HDD?, is it my Dell display?? - I dunno! I no longer get the buzz....

    I'm therefore worried a bit about how the mini might perform in a pro-audio environment. For my home use its great, except the USB3 disk kills the bluetooth magic mouse and Apple BT keyboard when it is transferring data. USB3 has a lot of energy around the 2.5GHz microwave band - I suppose one of my cables is leaky.

    with my old iMac, I had much less cable frenzy behind the computer - and it was earthed in a defined qualified way with a German DIN 230V plug to an earthed IEC socket on the back of the iMac. I haven't examined the new iMac for this aspect, as for me it was just too expensive for home use. I've ordered one for work so will be able to report later.
     
  8. macrumors 6502a

    shinji

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Messages:
    827
    #8
    Photoshop performance is great on the Mini. Better than my old Mac Pro 1,1.

    If you already have a good display, then go with the mini...very happy with my purchase.
     
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2008
    Messages:
    652
    Location:
    iLondon/iDurban
    #9
    The biggest difference between the two is the screen for one,obviously, and the fact that the processors in the iMac are not mobile like the QM chips in the Mini, so there will be a speed diff, then there's the GPU which is obvious.

    But for the money you'll get more out of your mini as you've said RE upgradability.

    As for as graphics and photo apps go...no idea there but I just bought the 2.3QM 2012 Mini and put 16GB ram and a 512GB SSD in myself and it flies!
    I run iTunes, Safari, XCode, VMWare Win 7 with Visual Studio and handbrake encoding(just for fun) and there is no lag whatsoever. That's pretty intense stuff, running 2 24" monitors, one IPS at 1920x1200 and one MVA at 1920x1080 with no stuttering. I even decided to look through iPhoto at the same time, which alone would have murdered my old MBP, and wow...no change in speed.

    I'm very impressed by the mini, but then my needs are slightly different.

    Hope that helped :)
     
  10. macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    Messages:
    1,549
    #10
    Dive into the model specs, and find out Mobile and Desktop does not matter a thing. It is just a matter of testing and labeling in most cases. Just compare cores/threads/cache/speed/turbo boost and you will see the 2.6 Mini beats the crap out of the i5 iMac performance wise.

    And for your work, Nvidia or HD4000 does not matter. HD4000 will speed up CS and LR as much as the Nividia will do.
     
  11. macrumors 65816

    designs216

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    1,035
    Location:
    Down the rabbit hole
    #11
    I'd lean toward the Mini also. The new form factor of the latest iMac is unproven -- let the early adopters discover the glitches and flaws. I also like the Mini because I can upgrade the HD as well as the RAM.
     
  12. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Messages:
    331
    Location:
    Virginia
    #12
    Don't forget, you get an HDMI port as well. The mini also comes with an HDMI to DVI adaptor. That gives you two more plug options with monitors without needing to give up the TB port.

    The mini is a powerful machine, especially in the spec you're talking about. Additionally, you could replace it after a couple of years and keep your monitor, keyboard, etc.
     
  13. macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    Messages:
    4,934
    #13
    "Mini is significantly faster than MacPro - CPU loading about the same for a given session. Quiet but runs hot. Expect to hit over 90degC with 20% loads unless you override the fans or take other measure. I keep 2400 rpm as a minimum and run 80degC with 15 to 20% loads. Still very quiet 3 feet from my head."

    Just wondering....

    Have you thought about taking off the black plastic coverplate on the bottom, and then setting the mini on something like this?
    http://tinyurl.com/cwndpum
     
  14. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Messages:
    331
    Location:
    Virginia
    #14
    I'd say just mount the mini on the inside of a mini fridge.
     
  15. macrumors 6502

    Carl Spackler

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Messages:
    320
    Location:
    Outer Space
    #15
    check barefeats.com

    I'm in a very similar prediciment as you. You may want to check barefeats next week. They've been running a some comparisons between the Mini, iMac and others. Their ProApps test should be out very soon, as they are set to get their 27" iMac on Monday.

    In the meantime, based on their Photoshop-only test, I'd go for the Mini and accept that a handful of filters might render a little slowly. http://barefeats.com/imac12p.html
     
  16. macrumors 6502

    7enderbender

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Messages:
    481
    Location:
    North East US
    #16
    As long as they work for my needs. My current machines are 6-7 years old and have both been upgraded with memory and different drives over time. I even recently put a new screen into my old laptop because I like the thing as is and it does everything I expect it to do. Problem really is that they don't make them like that any longer. Which is the main reason I'm even looking to switch to Macs since the MBP seems to come closest to what I prefer - with a few minor drawbacks with respect to the keyboard and the screen. So for now I'm intending to keep my Thinkpad going and switch to Mac for my desktop which I almost exclusively use for my "creative" work anyway while the business stuff can remain on the Windows laptops for now, one of which is a brand new work-only HP Elitebook and just flat out awful.
     
  17. curmudgeon32, Dec 14, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012

    macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Messages:
    240
    #17
    In light of this, I'd go with the Mini and that nice monitor. That way when you upgrade later, you get to keep using the monitor. Macs hold their resale value so well that you can always eBay the Mini in a few years and swap it out for whatever faster machine is available.

    Speaking of upgrades, RAM on the Mini is user-accessible, and even the non-server model will fit a second HD pretty easily without too much trouble. You could pop an inexpensive SSD in very easily — with the iMac, you pay quite dearly for that upgrade, which can only be done when you buy it (since the iMac is basically sealed, apparently).

    The way I see it, you get a lot of flexibility and modularity out of the Mini, and the iMac is just one sealed object you're stuck with as it is.
     
  18. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #18
    Are you sure?

    21.5 iMac 2.7 i5= 8879
    Mini 2.5 i5= 7269

    That is over 20% more processing power. Not even mentioning the added benefit of the discrete GPU.
     
  19. macrumors 68020

    Yebubbleman

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    2,495
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #19
    The Mac mini is more reliable, especially after this most recent firmware update. The 27" iMac is more powerful. Most of the problems with heating and reliability with the past 27" iMacs, I fear, won't be as improved on these new ones as the new 21.5" iMacs are from their predecessors.

    Speaking of the new 21.5" iMac, might that be a sensible middle-ground? You still have two video-out options for a second (larger) display and you still have a Thunderbolt port to play with AND you have a discrete graphics processor (the same one as in the low-end 15" non-retina MacBook Pro, if you get the higher-end). You would want to pre-configure it with 16GB of RAM and likely a Fusion drive, but after that, I'd imagine, it'd be quite the awesome machine for you.
     
  20. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Messages:
    466
    #20
    I have done a few of these things. 26% load + Cover off + fan at 2200rpm = 80degC CPU. --- with cover back on it is ~2400rpm fans and 94degC CPU.


    At one point I did have a second fan blowing in and this helped more (though I don't have the data). To make this better requires a little engineering so that one does not let all the dust in too. FWIW - with the cover off the fan noise is much more addible. For all the added effort to actually keep the mini cool I have been trying to get myself to just let it be. It is darned quiet as built. If I add apple care and make sure to sell it with AC still in place (~2 years) maybe I can just use it and ignore the temps... :) (sort of against my nature - but they say change is good !)

    I am taking notice today of the preliminary thermal results from the new iMac.... looking very promising!
     
  21. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #21

    New iMacs are being torn down now. Some are upgrading the HDD to SSD themselves. So depends how adventuresome you are. Will be curious if someone finds a way to upgrade RAM on 21.5.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1507713
     
  22. macrumors 6502

    7enderbender

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Messages:
    481
    Location:
    North East US
    #22
    Good thought but no, the 21.5 is not an option as I have absolutely no use for that kind of screen with its lack of real estate. I'll either have two 24" screens at 1920x1200 or one good 27". Plus I'd want wide color gamut and Apple doesn't do that. So the new Mac Mini as a "poor man's Mac Pro" seems to be what makes most sense. Graphics should be more than sufficient for what I do.
     
  23. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    Messages:
    2,175
    #23
    Geekbench 64-bit scores:

    2.6 i7 mini: 12811
    2.9 i5 iMac 10008
    2.6 i5 iMac: 8879

    OK, not comparing like with like, but it proves that you can get more power for your money with the mini. The i7s on the iMac are roughly the same as the mini (one a bit less, one a bit more).

    As well as Firewire gone on the iMac, there's no audio in either, which may be of interest.

    I've seen no disadvantage to the Intel 4000. Drives two monitors, OpenGL seems fast enough.
     
  24. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #24
    The issue I was responding to was that blanks said:

    I'm just not sure I agree with their being no difference between the mobile and desktop CPU's except for marketing. That is why I was looking at the i5 in the iMac and mini to compare (2.7 vs 2.5). Not really fair or appropriate to compare i7 vs i5.
     
  25. macrumors 68000

    53x12

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    1,546
    #25
    You going with the 2.3 or 2.6 i7?
     

Share This Page