2009 (late) mini upgrades for photo editing

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by ccrnnr9, Nov 12, 2016.

  1. ccrnnr9 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    #1
    Hello all, I'm new here but looking for some help that searches didn't quite answer. In short I have a later 2009 mini that I bought new around that time -- for whatever reason I've hardly used it since 2011. It's basically been used as a dvd player and hard drive for music.

    Anyway, I'm a student on a tight budget. I need a machine for home use for basic photo editing. I use lightroom 99% of the time though having the capability of basic photoshop use would be a plus. I have access to a mac lab at school for heavy PS lifting if needed.

    In short I have the following model: 2.26 GHz Intel Core2 Dup, 2GB RAM, 160gb hd, GeForce 9400 graphics card.

    In an ideal world I'd love to spend $2,000 on a new machine but that's just not in the cards with grad school and a very limited income. I can, however afford some upgrades and a new display. Forgive my ignorance. Questions:

    1. OWC offers an 8gb memory upgrade for $59. Reviews are positive and install seems straightforward. Anything else I should consider?
    2. I'm assuming the stock processor is not something I can upgrade. If I'm wrong what would you suggest I do?
    3. Disk setup: there are lots of options out there. Any recommendations for replacing the stock drive? Is it possible to add two drives if I take out the optical drive. It appears that macsales has kits that allow this. If so, what setup would you suggest. I was thinking of having a two internal drive setup -- a smaller ssd for my os, apps, LR catalog, etc and a larger drive for storage of photos, docs, etc. Then having an external drive for each internal drive as a backup.
    4. Video card: I'm lost here. Ideally I'd like something that will allow me to use a 27" display that's as good as I can afford (<$450).
    5. Display: any limitations I'll have here given the ports on the late 2009 models? If you have recommendations for displays I would take that too!

    I should mention that running 10.10 or newer is required. I'd prefer to be on El Capitan.

    I'm a photographer first and foremost but shoot primarily in film and use a traditional darkroom. That being said I do standard editing in lightroom with RAW files only and the macbook pro I have is hardly capable of the task. If this mini is capable post upgrade it would be my primary device for photo editing and basic programming and playing music/basic web browsing. Everything else will be done on my laptop.

    Apologies for the load of questions. I've searched a lot online and thought asking the experts would be best. Any help you can suggest is appreciated.
     
  2. Andres Cantu, Nov 12, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016

    Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

    Andres Cantu

    Joined:
    May 31, 2015
    Location:
    Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
    #2
    If a 27" display is what you're looking for, look no further than this HP display: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/hp-27-ips-led-fhd-monitor-natural-silver/5029800.p?skuId=5029800

    It costs $249.99 but is currently on sale for $119.99, a killer price. I have one and I love it! Asthetics-wise, it looks even better than a 27" iMac as it is extremely slim and has minimal borders.
    --- Post Merged, Nov 12, 2016 ---
    Also, ideally it would be best to wait for the next Mac mini upgrade, but at this point, who knows if there is one on the table. I would suggest a refurbished 2014 base-model or one that you can find at non-full price. The 2009 Mac mini has been discontinued and will not run anything past OS X 10.11 El Capitan, so upgrading it does not make too much sense at this point.

    As much as people here love to hate on the 2014 base-model Mac mini, I think it could suit your needs just fine, since it's much more powerful than the 2009 Mac mini. Of course, that would depend on your budget, as well (display and Mac mini would be around $540 plus taxes). I'm curious to know what year your MacBook Pro is from, too!
     
  3. California macrumors 68040

    California

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    #3
    I have this same machine. With the 8 gig ram upgrade, I have an older SSD hard drive that makes it run fine. You can't upgrade the video card.

    My suggestion is to find a used 24" or 27" Apple Cinema Display. The mini display port connectors run the speakers. I have the 24" Apple Display, it's perfect.

    I like having the dvd player, but your idea of the smaller SSD and larger backup drive is nice. With the 3gigabit hard drive limit on your machine, even an older 840 EVO Samsung SSD will be fine with the full eight gigs of ram. Your video card leeches performance from your ram, so the ram upgrade is a must.

    I am running Mavericks on my machine, very happily.
     
  4. ccrnnr9 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    #4
    Thank you both. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the 3gb hard drive limit. Mind catching me up there?

    Just as a note I need to run OS 10.10 or newer for lightroom CC. I'm fearful the CPU I'm stuck with won't be powerful enough.

    Is my video card going to be a limiter on display capability for my needs?
     
  5. California macrumors 68040

    California

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    #5
    I think you have a "hard drive limit speed" of 3 gigabits per second on that machine. While an 840 evo SSD will work fine, you don't need the newest or fastest SSDs because your machine can't bypass that inherent speed limit.

    The nvidia 9400 video card on your machine will have 256gbs of v-ram or video ram if you have more than 1 gig of ram installed, but this could be taxed by photo editing. Mine is fine with general photo editing. All I can say is try it and see how it performs. But for a modest 120 or so dollars, you can upgrade your machine's performance immensely (60 for SSD and 60 for ram); and if it doesn't work out, you can sell your upgrades to get back the cash.
     
  6. ccrnnr9 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2016
    #6
    That's a good way of looking at it. It seems like the lifespan of these generation minis is pretty good too. If nothing else it will likely be a good investment and if it doesn't serve my purposes as a photo editing machine then it will make a good media server in the future. That being said, I'm wondering how solid 240gb will be for a single drive. I'd like to hold off on replacing the optical drive until I'm sure that's the direction I want to go.

    If I'm transferring files to and from a separate drive how incredibly slow should I anticipate transfer rate to be between the older USB 2.0 and an external drive? Any way around that?

    Regarding display, being that I'm working with static images and not gaming, is my video card likely to be a limiter?

    --- Post Merged, Nov 13, 2016 ---
    Is this still the case if I do the upgrades I mentioned? I'm perfectly happy with 10.11 (it's actually what I currently use with no gripes) but it might be good for future reference. If that's the still the case, what is the limiter for an apple machine to run the new OS? CPU?

    Nick
     
  7. Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

    Andres Cantu

    Joined:
    May 31, 2015
    Location:
    Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
    #7
    Good question! Unfortunately, Apple did not give a clear answer as to why it discontinued the Macs that it did with macOS 10.12.

    Even with the upgrades, it can't officially run the latest OS, it's only possible with a workaround.

    While adding an SSD and 8GB of RAM to the 2009 model would really speed it up, the CPU and especially the graphics would always be the bottlenecks.
     
  8. California macrumors 68040

    California

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    #8
    When working with externals, I usually use firewire 800 on these computers. USB very slow. A 240gb SSD is fine, just make sure you are getting the full 3gigabits. With upgraded ram and SSD, you've done all you can do to speed it up. Get a firewire 800 hard drive enclosure if you want external transfer speed...

    If I was really desperate for more speed, I'm pretty sure there is a way to re solder the points on the logic board to speed it up to 2.66ghz.
     

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