Ready to buy - but which one? Help!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by ppnkg, Aug 4, 2005.

  1. ppnkg macrumors 6502a

    ppnkg

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    Hi, I'm new here, about to switch, and I thought I could get some help from you in choosing the right Mac for me.

    I've been using windows systems all my life, and I'm fed up with windows for various reasons. Right now I 've got a HP ze4125 notebook, which never gave me serious hardware trouble (apart from the combo drive which now only reads CDs). I think what annoys me the most is trying to keep the system in good shape (clean up files, virus+spyware free etc).

    Apart from the usual stuff (browsing+mail, playing music etc), I regularly use MSoffice (including large excel files), and I also have a LaTeX system for producing my own written work. Occasionally, I work with datasets and statistics. I don't think I qualify as a gamer - the only games I've played from time to time are championship manager, tropico, simcity, pirates, blitzkrieg and cossacks.

    Now, the choice is between the mini and the iMac. I would pay the extra money and go for the iMac, because it's a more advanced system and should last longer. But I 'm worried about the display problems. I've now read a lot about it but still can't figure out how serious it is and how likely I am to have this kind of problem. Overall, how reliable is the iMac?

    On the other hand, the mini so far looks more reliable, but will it be ok for what I'm doing? I've read the HD is a bit slow, and this in theory could be a problem when I work with large files (I often do).

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks a lot!
     
  2. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #2
    The iMac is much faster and well worth the extra dough IMO. I've got an iMac and an iBook (which is relatively similar to the minis) and can safely say that performance difference is substantial.

    I wouldn't be too worried about reliability either. If you get a bad one, it'll be fixed or replaced under warrantee. :)
     
  3. wako macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2005
    #3
    Just putting in my two cents...


    You are also paying extra moolah for a gorgeous display...


    a display that is only going to be for that machine and once the machine dies, so does the display.
     
  4. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #4

    Very true. It's just a compromise I suppose. I suppose I justified it by saying that the iMac will in turn receive a greater resale value, since they always have done. However, this is assuming the machine is not broken.
     
  5. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    Location:
    Ireland
    #5
    The iMac is probably the more powerful out of the two. However it runs very hot and is noisier than the Mini. I'd prefer the mini because these days i want silence over power. The Mini fully decked out with a big screen (17" or 20") will cost about the same as an iMac. I already have a big screen so i wouldn't get an iMac (unless they released a DVI version and i could dual screen...).

    Personally i have a 12" iBook and was thinking about getting a mini as a desktop computer. Then i thought about it... If i sold my iBook today and used the money i was going to spend on a mini i could afford a 12" powerbook, which at 1.5GHz is faster than both the mini and the iBook. Comes with a faster hard drive, better graphics card and DVI. Better than all that though it is mobile so i can take it with me if i want to but still run in clamshell mode to give me a pseudo desktop. Also it has 2 USB ports, just like the mini and probably a better resale value.
     
  6. 20rogersc macrumors 65816

    20rogersc

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2005
    Location:
    Brighton, UK
    #6
    My opinion would be the mini. This way you can use whatever size screen you want, and then easily use it when you next upgrade, or easily buy a new monitor if you feel that it is required. With the iMac, once you've bought it, you can't change it, or use it again for another computer.

    ::20ROGERSC::
     
  7. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #7

    Just a little... ;)



    You might be thinking of the original G5 iMacs. The newer ones seem to have generally overcome their fan issues.

    Nevertheless, I concede. Although the iMac is easily the better computer, a mini will be perfectly adequate for surfing the web, Office, iTunes etc. Just get as much RAM as possible.
     
  8. mtrctyjoe macrumors 6502

    mtrctyjoe

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Motor City (Detroit, not Tokyo)
    #8
    Get the Mini

    If I were you.. I would get the top end mini... It will do great with big Excel files and a slow hardrive will not impact your work with excel files ....
     
  9. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    Location:
    Ireland
    #9
    Well they still run hot :)

    I wish i'd bought that dual G4 1.42GHz MDD my friend was selling last year. Although it was a bit too noisy for me, and left an imprint in my carpet that was there until we got a new one.

    We'd even modifed a 9600 into it :D

    Too bad for me i didn't realise the fullness of the goodness of OSX at the time, and i thought G5's were the way to go :(
     
  10. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    Location:
    Ireland
    #10
    Also if you aren't scared of taking the Mini apart you can replace the hard drive with a 7200RPM hitachi travelstar monster and use the internal drive in a 2.5" external firewire enclosure. I also remember reading that the hard drive controller on G4's is better than the newer G5 one, giving the EMAC better hard drive performance than the iMac G5.
     
  11. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #11

    Once again this was a Rev A specific iMac problem that was overcome in the latest release (Rev B). From memory, it was a SATA problem, right?
     
  12. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Location:
    Location Location Location
    #12
    Getting a Mini is like getting a desktop iBook.

    For what you do, either of those systems is fine. The iMac is much more powerful, though, and its not just the CPU and graphics card. Oh no, it's the HD speed, which is embarrassing in the Mini. The iMac can also use more RAM.

    The only reason to get the Mini is because it's cheaper and you could get another Mini in a year, or 1 1/2 years, and then ANOTHER Mini 3 years from now, and you wouldn't spend much more than you would on an iMac today. However, I'd only get a Mini if I didn't have a decent monitor already.
     
  13. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    Location:
    Ireland
    #13
    Hmmm ... anyone think that running an iMac 20" with a dell 2005FPW is a bit overkill?

    I want to keep the dell as my main monitor and i really want to use DVI (which the mini has but the imac doesn't) but the iMac is a much better system...

    Why can't it have DVI! I do hate the way Apple cripple their computers for no reason! I can understand with the iBook and powerbook but the iMac and Power mac are in two different leagues.
     
  14. ppnkg thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ppnkg

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #14
    Thanks a lot everybody. It's a hard decision...
     
  15. nagromme macrumors G5

    nagromme

    Joined:
    May 2, 2002
    #15
    If reliability is your main concern... go with the iMac G5!

    It's a more powerful system, and I wouldn't worry about failures too much. The iMac MAY have had more than Apple's usual failure rate, but...

    * People post in forums (and polls) when there's a problem they need help with, or a reason to vent. They seldom bother to post "all is well." So forum sites would make ANY product seem less reliable than it is.

    * You can find scary anecdotes about any product--and the real hard stats are hard to come by.

    * The iMac G5 has been one of the best selling Macs (if not THE best) in a long time. More owners means more owners reporting problems.

    * Some problems (bad capacitors from a supplier?) were supposedly already fixed by Apple. People will still be experiencing those issues in old iMac G5s, but not new ones.

    * This model has been out a while--chance for Apple to find and fix some things.

    * Apple has the best hardware reliability record--and support effectiveness--of any PC maker, according to large-scale surveys done again and again by Consumer Reports. Some models have more problems than others, but I'd rather have Apple's "worst" model than another company's "worst."

    * You have a warranty to use as a last resort. (And you can even extend it--just as the original warranty is about to end, so need to decide now.)

    So while you COULD have a problem with any machine you buy, I wouldn't give up the G5 power over it.
     
  16. bodeh6 macrumors 6502a

    bodeh6

    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    #16
    The iMac is currently a very good buy no matter what configuration. Fast, Powerful, wonderful display, good GPU, Airport Extreme, Bluetooth all wrapped in a compact and elegent form.
     
  17. ppnkg thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ppnkg

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #17
    Oh, well.. the choice is difficult indeed.

    To recap: I have to get new keybord+mouse+monitor for the mini - that explains the original dilemma.

    I like the iMac more, and yes it's more powerful and fast, but after reading all the comments in the last couple of days, I am still worried about reliability.

    a) are there still display problems in rev b machines?
    b) are there still heat problems in rev b machines?

    and, finally

    c) Is there a noticeable diffrence in performance between the 1.8 and 2.0 iMac?

    Please help - and thanks so much for all the answers so far!
     
  18. iGary Guest

    iGary

    Joined:
    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    Randy's House
    #18
    If you don't have a display, and don't mind throwing (or selling or whatever) your machine away with the display in four or five years, get the iMac....if you get the mini you'll be upgrading much sooner - why start out behind the times?

    I loved my iMac and it would do everything you want it to and more. I had a Rev A with no problems whatsoever.
     
  19. feakbeak macrumors 6502a

    feakbeak

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2003
    Location:
    Michigan
    #19
    I'll throw my two cents in as well. I've contributed to many Mac Mini vs. iMac G5 threads because I faced the same dilema and felt very torn. After hasing over many a thread just like this the truth is there is no right choice. It is just a matter of what you feel more comfortable with.

    I wanted the power of the iMac G5 and I think the design is wonderful, but I questioned the reliability. In particular, I worry because it runs so hot. I know people say it is better with rev. B - but when Apple has to have a performance setting to keep heat and fan noise down by default I get worried. I also have never been a fan of the all-in-one design. I like my components separate so that when one breaks or becomes obsolete I'm not losing the other half of the machine either. Again, the iMac G5 is a great machine and I really do like the design, but I couldn't bring myself to buy one.

    I ended up sacrificing some performance so that my system would be more flexible. I got a Mac Mini and decked it out. I also had to buy a keyboard, mouse and display for the Mini. You can see my specs in my sig. I ended up spending nearly $1500 for my entire Mac Mini setup, but I have a very nice display that I expect to outlast my Mini.

    One thing to note is that the G4 is not crushed by the G5 in terms of performance. The two largest areas of performance improvements is for multimedia apps and the significantly faster system bus speeds. The G5 is clearly a better processor, but not by leaps and bounds.

    The Mac Mini hard drive speed and capacity will be the largest draw back if you often work with large files. You can always get a large capacity, fast external hard drive (FW or USB2) to store and work with your data files. Another thing to note about the slow hard drive is that you'll want to be sure you have more than enough RAM. Being low on RAM by itself will really slow you down, not having enough RAM when you have a 4200/5400 RPM drive is a double-whammy because when it starts caching memory to disk it will really slow down.

    Other significant differences have to do with longevity such as the fact that the max RAM for the Mini is 1 GB and for the iMac it is 2 GB. Also, while both GPU's are not user upgradable, the 9600 w/128 MB is head and shoulders above the 9200 w/32 MB. If you are only going to be doing casual photo editing and no gaming or older/lighter gaming the Mini will be fine but the iMac GPU will definitely give you much better performance now and down the road.

    I have found my Mac Mini to perform just fine for my tasks - iTunes, iPhoto, Web, Email, Office, IM, heavy Dashboard usage, light photo-editing, some web development, light gaming (mainly just Starcraft). It's not a power house though and I am planning on upgrading to a rev b. Mactel PowerMac when they come out. I figure this thing will last me about 3 years before the performance begins to bug me - perfect timing for the Mactels.

    I'm sure the iMac G5 would have better longevity, but I just can't do all-in-one no matter how tempting those specs are. I wish Apple offered similar specs in a mid-size tower case for a price comparable to the iMac G5 - that's not happening any time soon. I don't understand why though, based on the number of threads like this I've come across there is a market for such a Mac.

    I hope my experience with this decision is helpful for you. Remember, it's all about your preferences and what you want to get out of a machine. Just make sure you are informed about the implications of your choice. You seem to be researching your purchase well and MR is a great site to ask such questions.

    Good luck with whatever you do.
     
  20. AstrosFan macrumors 6502

    AstrosFan

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2005
    #20
    Yet another vote for the iMac!
    Right note I feel the iMacs offer some of the best bang-for-your-buck value in the entire Apple line.
    I have a Rev A 17" 1.6GHz iMac and have had zero problems.
    As nagromme eloquently stated above, when you read forums like on MR, the actual incidence of problems are overrepresented b/c the people who have problems are much more likely to post. I have never started a thread that says, "Wow, my iMac G5 is great, how about yours?"
    I think if you get the iMac, you won't regret it.
    Good luck!
     
  21. FFTT macrumors 68030

    FFTT

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    #21
    The Superdrive equipped mini with 512-1GB of RAM gets you rolling with a nice very usable entry level system, but it does have the 32 MB VRAM limitations. By the time you add a keyboard, mouse and a good display,
    you're into about $1100+

    The Rev B 2.0 GHz iMac G5 with the 128 MB VRAM and SuperDrive is way more computer than the mini ever could be.

    If you do not already have a "good" monitor, this gives you the best bang for the buck.

    Education pricing makes this even more attractive @ $1499

    The other choice many are going for now is the 12" PowerBook with an external 17-24"WS display.

    This gives you a very versitile set-up for both work and home use.
    Something to ponder while you're browsing through the AppleStore
    near you.

    Even though Apple products are generally very reliable,
    I would strongly consider getting AppleCare for the mini, iMac G5 or any PowerBook before the standard warranty runs out.

    No matter which one you choose, with Mac OSX, you'll find yourself doing much more and enjoying it more than you ever thought possible.

    Good luck with your decision.
     
  22. ppnkg thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ppnkg

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #22
    I'd like to thank you once again for your all your answers, they were really very helpful! I think I'll be a regular here and hope my own experiences and comments will be as helpful to other people in the future.

    I managed to see both the mini and the iMac working at the same time with the same setup more or less. There was a quite a difference in terms of response etc and I suspect there will be times the mini will not be entirely happy wiith some of the things I'll be doing in the future. The mini had an impressive monitor attached to it, but, well, the iMac is simply very beautiful.

    While I'm still not entirely convinced about the reliability issues, I have decided to go for the 1.8 iMac which at apple's education store will cost me £791. That's about £60 more than I would spend for the mini+mouse+keyboard+monitor+1GB of RAM (as I would hesitate to add the extra RAM myself). So budgetwise I'm ok, and I feel I'm buying a much better system.

    I'll buy the mac from apple's UK online store - I'll let you know more details about the buying experience and the setup process very soon!

    Again thanks so much for all your advice and comments!
     
  23. QCassidy352 macrumors G3

    QCassidy352

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2003
    Location:
    Bay Area
    #23
    imac over mini, no question about it. The performance difference will be quite substantial. Looks like you've decided to go that way, so enjoy your new imac!
     
  24. ppnkg thread starter macrumors 6502a

    ppnkg

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #24
    Well, I just placed my order! I'm posting this update, then I'll go scream, jump, cry, fly. I wanted a Mac since I was 12 (i'm 32 now), so you can imagine how I feel right now.

    Thank you all for your great advice. You gave me more than enough to think about, and after considering everything, I decided to go for the iMac. The mini is wonderful machine, which would probably cover all my present needs, but I was not so sure about the next 2-3 years (because that's how long I plan to keep my new computer). My concerns were the 32MB graphics card and the RAM limit. As for reliability, it seems that the mini is very reliable indeed - but, as a knowledgeable friend of mine put it, this is an apple computer I'm buying, and I shouldn't be too concerned about reliability whichever I buy.

    So my first mac will be an iMac 1.8. I thought that the extra processor power will not make a difference for me. But I did add another 512MB of RAM, since the stuff I'm using (openoffice, TeX system) is more or less memory hungry, and everybody says that 512MB is just enought for Tiger. So the extra memory is useful, and I thought I should get everything now from Apple, a and stop thinking about it.

    I ordered my mac at the online education store, uk. They said it will take them 3 days to ship, and 3-7 days to deliver. These will be very long days...

    I'm getting a mac! I'm getting a mac!
     
  25. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #25
    Congratulations! :)

    You made the right choice, they're the best! And the extra RAM will really make it fly. I can't help but get very excited on your behalf, I hope you don't mind. :D
     

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