2011 Mini Server vs 2.5 Mini with Upgrades

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by mikeylikesit, Aug 15, 2011.

  1. mikeylikesit, Aug 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2011

    mikeylikesit macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2011
    I've been debating between the mini server and the high end mini with upgrades and I would appreciate your thoughts. I will put 8gb of RAM in either machine. The server set up would be Raid 0 spanning both 500gb drives. The 2.5Ghz i5 machine would need to be upgraded with either one or two better drives. I'm thinking I would probably get a cable for the second drive and install a small SSD for OSX and a 1TB drive for data. The upgrades would probably bring the cost to around $1k (about the same price as the server.) The server upgrade doesn't require me to crack open the case (which I am comfortable doing.)

    I'm trying to determine which system is better for me. I really don't game on the computer. I process movies at times, iphoto work, and have a lot of video on tape that needs to be transferred and imported to iMovie. These are old family movies that I would like to edit once their imported. Normal uses are email, web, MS Office, etc. My current mini (2009) is slow and bogging down, probably due to too many programs loading at startup.

    Which configuration do you think would be better? Does the performance gap between the CPUs outweigh the GPU benefit? I guess the other option would be to get a base model and do the upgrade listed above.

    Thanks for your advice.
  2. macbook123 macrumors 68000

    Feb 11, 2006
    I have exactly the same question. Are the performance differences posted online somewhere?
  3. macintoshBR macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    The quad-core's performance is much better than the dual-core's.
  4. indg macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2007
    you'll want the amd gpu if you need faster openGL performance. specifically that usually means games and 2d/3d graphics apps whose performance rely heavily on openGL (like apple motion, adobe after effects, specialized CAD software, etc.). the openGL performance of the amd is over 2-3x faster than the hd3000 (and the base imac's openGL is about 3-4x faster than the amd in the mini). for games, if you're someone who wants the highest framerates at high resolution and medium to high graphics setttings, you'll want a discrete gpu. if you're fine playing at lower resolutions and lower graphics settings, the hd3000 should be sufficient for casual gaming.

    for everything else (apps may use openGL but don't rely on it for its primary function), a qc i7 with hd3000 will outperform the dc i5/i7 with amd. what you lose in openGL performance, you gain in raw cpu power. and in most cases, you'll benefit more from the faster cpu. the amd gpu won't make your handbrake videos encode faster, zip up 1000 files faster, play 1080p h264 videos in vlc smoother, import your video files into imovie faster, calculate your excel spreadsheet quicker, or make web pages load faster, etc. for most tasks, cpu speed, storage speed, and quantity of ram will be bigger factors in overall system performance.

    one thing the amd gpu may allow you to do that the hd3000 can't is connect 2 thunderbolt displays to the mini along with the hdmi display for a total of 3 displays (macworld says it's possible, but it isn't explicitly stated on apple's site for the mini, and yet unconfirmed since tb displays are unavailable).
  5. gigaguy macrumors 65816

    Apr 19, 2010
    how does moderate video editing in iMovie or FinalCut figure into GPU/CPU needs?
  6. mikeylikesit thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2011
    I would also be interested to know what is more benefitial in working with large RAW files (CPU or GPU). I sense is that GPU doesn't play much role in this.
  7. indg macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2007
    the gpu does come in to play with fcpx, but at this price range it's 6 or half a dozen. i don't think you'd notice much of a difference during the actual editing process, but exporting the final project in compressor would be faster with the qc.

    if you're integrating a lot of motion graphics and effects, you'd probably be better off getting an imac which has a much higher class gpu. but at the low end, the 6630m vs the hd3000 is kind of moot for video editing. the speed of the drive where your media files are sitting on is probably more of a factor.

    same goes for raw files in lightroom or aperture. until you get to the higher class gpu's, it won't be much of a factor. comparing the dci5+amd to qci7+hd3000 is like comparing a turbocharged I4 engine to a normally aspirated V6 that both produce about the same horsepower/torque in different ways. either will be more than sufficient for the daily commute. but if it's high performance you're looking for, neither cpu/gpu combo will really cut it.

    that said i've used imovie and fcpx on my mini server and it's fast enough for me (480p and 720p @30fps footage). i edited sd dv in fcp7 on an old macbook pro c2d which has a dGPU with 256MB and the mini is much faster with the final encodes. as fcpx does a lot of rendering in the background, it's hard to tell how much faster it is during the actual editing process.
  8. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    also remember that external gpu may be less then 3 to 4 months away. two companies are making pcie cases to attach via tb.

    so the server may just slap a better gpu on soon.

    the 2.5 is not adding a better cpu .
  9. macbook123 macrumors 68000

    Feb 11, 2006
    Wow, is TB fast enough for that?
  10. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    It'd fast enough for medium range desktop graphics cards.
  11. srf4real macrumors 68040


    Jul 25, 2006
    paradise beach FL
    And in the mean time, the i7 quad is stutter free without beachballs in iMovie and all the raw image editors. By far a better proccessor than an upgraded 2.5, with a superior xgpu coming soon.

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