2012 mini "passable" for 3-D games? Should I go with the 2011 model w/6630M?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Griffon Twelve, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. Griffon Twelve macrumors newbie

    Griffon Twelve

    Nov 30, 2012
    Istanbul, Turkey

    First post here.. I'm considering upgrading from a 2010 base model iMac to a Mac mini (more flexible). The only question in my mind is whether to get the 2012 base model or the 2011 model with the 6630M dedicated GPU.

    I'm not a "gamer" and it's been more than a month since I last played a game on the iMac, but I don't have any other computers/consoles to play games on, and I would like to play the upcoming Simcity - preferably Diablo 3, Starcraft 2 and Trine 2 too. Would these games run passably well at 1280*720 on the 2012 Mac mini? Or should I go with the 2011 model with a dedicated GPU (6630M)?

    I'm also interested in photography, and use Aperture for my RAW photos.

    The two models score similar in Geekbench AFAIK. I would lose USB 3 if I chose the 2011 model, anything else? Can I go for 16 GB RAM with the 2011 model? Are its SATA ports of the 6 Gb/s kind?

    Here in Turkey, after all taxes, the 2012 base model costs around 800 $. Second-hand 2011 minis with GPU's go for around 850 - 875 $. I could try to find a new 2011 mini with GPU as stock clearance, but it wouldn't be cheaper than 950 $.

    If I knew the 2012 mini would handle the new Simcity reasonably well, I'd not bother with the 2011 model at all. It's also quieter from what I've read.

    Thanks in advance for your comments!
  2. SuperRob macrumors 6502

    Mar 14, 2011
    The 2011 model with the 6630M has better 3D capabilities than any of the current models. If you can get a refurb or used one, and you plan on primarily playing games, that would be the way to go. But if you can only get a current model, the HD4000 is acceptable.
  3. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Since you say you're not a gamer, don't even consider games when you make your decision.
  4. mus0r macrumors regular


    Mar 27, 2005
    I play WoW on my 2012 Mini just fine (as long as I don't use the HDMI).
  5. MrXiro macrumors 68040


    Nov 2, 2007
    Los Angeles
    played L4D2 with no issues on 2012 i7 Mac Mini
  6. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    1. As SuperRob put it, the Radeon HD 6630M is better than the Intel HD 4000. For StarCraft II and Diablo III, the difference between the two probably won't be all that stark, in which case, you might as well go for quad-core Ivy Bridge over dual-core Sandy Bridge. I have no idea about Trine 2 or the new Sim City. Do more research, and you'll surely figure out the disparity. I know that the difference in performance between the two isn't that stark, but there is one, so look into it.

    2. 6Gbps SATA should be present in both models. All Mac models introduced in 2011 or later have it.

    3. Both models will recognize 16GB of RAM. Apple only supports it on the 2012 model. All that means is that if you stuff 16GB of RAM in a 2011 model, and you have a problem, a repair technician can be lazy and attribute whatever problem you're having to you having an unsupported amount of RAM in the machine. Take what you will from that.

    4. As far as ports are concerned, the only difference between the 2011 model and the 2012 model is USB 2 vs. USB 3.
  7. philipma1957, Nov 30, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    frankly mac mini and 3d gaming are not that good. just look into the new 21 inch iMac. compare the 650m gpu with the hd4000 or the 6630 and you will see that the 650 is a lot better.
  8. Griffon Twelve thread starter macrumors newbie

    Griffon Twelve

    Nov 30, 2012
    Istanbul, Turkey
    Hello again,

    Thanks for the replies, and sorry I couldn't write back sooner.

    I'm definitely not a gamer, the last game I played was Portal 2 1,5 months ago. I'd just rather be able to play a modest 3-D game if I have some extra time.

    If the 2012 model can run Diablo 3 or Starcraft 2 passably at 1280*720 or so, I'd be happy enough. But the truth is, they didn't run so well on the 2010 iMac with the 4670M GPU.

    Games are nowhere near my primary concern. If WoW and L4D2 run well enough, that would be OK for me. I can't get the quad, though - if I get the 2012 mini it will be the base model.

    I cannot get refurbs here in Turkey. I saw some 2011 models with GPU for sale as second hand, and they're about 70 $ more expensive than 2012 base models.

    Yebubbleman, thanks for the detailed reply. I see that the only (important) differences are USB 3.0 vs 2.0 and the GPU. The CPU scores seem to be comparable. USB 3.0 is not so important for me. As for the stronger GPU, I'm not sure if it will be worth paying more, getting a second hand computer instead of new, shorter warranty and more noise, for gaming a few hours in a month, if at all.

    philipma1957, I have a 2010 iMac ATM, and it's been in service for 2 weeks due to 2 problems with the display (I'm writing this message from an EeePC). I'm not getting another computer with an integrated display. And we don't have a "mid-tower Mac", so I'm down to the mini..

    I'm leaning towards the 2012 base model at the moment, to be upgraded with an SSD and 16 GB RAM.
  9. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'm just going to mention gpus can accelerate very specific things in these programs, but none of those used in the minis will have much of an impact. CPU, ram, and storage speed are the things I'd focus on there, but raw files aren't that bad if they aren't huge. Remember that 22MP raw files existed in 2004 or so. Around that time they were absolutely painful, and converters basically cached a low resolution version to preview edits. You needed custom workflows to attempt to get these previews to even somewhat match the final processed results in a color managed image editing program. The point I'm going for here is that if they aren't huge libraries at high resolution, it doesn't have to be an incredibly painful process on modern hardware. Photographers still tend to use beefy hardware, but a lot of them might have 1000 images in a given folder. Also I personally prefer Lightroom as far as workflow, and Phocus gives some of the nicest color renditions without a lot of tweaking. Capture One still has one of the best workflows.
  10. Roy G Biv macrumors 6502

    Roy G Biv

    Dec 26, 2010
    The most favored Amazon review mentions that the Mini with 4GB of RAM has 512mb of video memory, and with 8GB it has 768mb.

    But that not's better than last year's mid-level Mini with the discrete 256mb? Elucidation appreciated, thank you.
  11. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    VRAM is not as important as it was in the PCI era. GPU's now reside on the main RAM bus, which is gazillion times faster than PCI. So on a PCI card, you need tons of VRAM as the interface is a real bottleneck.
    The RADEON even has a bit of superspeed DDR5 VRAM, but remember that the CPU can refresh its complete 256Gb EVERY FRAME. You could say a 16Gb Mini 2011 has 12 Gb of VRAM with a 256Mb cache. So that is what we are splitting hairs about.
    With the HD4000 the amount of VRAM is nothing more than a different pointer to some RAM space. I think you could even tweak a HD4000 to use 12Gb out of 16 as VRAM if you know how to program it.

    The base speed is complete identical
    The Radeon is about 10-20% faster than the HD4000. Heavy game runs 24fps instead of 20-21.
    The Mini2012 does USB3 (which is for normal harddrives completely on par with FW800 in speed)
    The Mini2011 does SnowLeopard and runs a way longer span of software.
    For now, the 2011 does not have HDMI issues, where Apple works on a patch for the 2012.
  12. Quash macrumors regular

    Sep 27, 2007
    From the games listen i only play SC2 on mine, i run at the full 2560x1440 on LOW settings which runs fine. I have 16gb corsair vengeance and an intel 520 ssd which maybe help performance though. At 720p you can probably get away with running at medium. But I prefer to play on low settings anyway. The machine does run hot though when play SC2 for an evening the CPU hits 100c. The fans stay relatively quiet though.
  13. Hakone macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2011
    Southern California
    What frame rates are you getting while in the big city and raiding? Are you at 1920x1080?

  14. mus0r macrumors regular


    Mar 27, 2005
    I play with the settings mostly "good," and view distance high to get 30fps +/- 3-5fps. Totally playable, generally very smooth. The only real hard drops I've had were doing Sha of Anger, but my previous machine was a Mac Pro with a real GPU and had the same problem.
  15. calvol, Dec 4, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012

    calvol macrumors 6502a

    Feb 3, 2011
    I had the unfortunate experience of buying a 2012 Mini i7 2.6 with blank screen/snow issues, but before I returned it I ran some Cinebench tests against a 2011 Mini i5 2.5, which showed me the ATI GPU is superior:

    Cinebench CL:
    2011 i5 dual-core: 23.75
    2012 i7 quad-core: 23.25

    As a check, look at notebookcheck's bench using 3DMark11:
    ATI 6630M: 999
    HD4000: 612



    Looks like the ATI GPU is vastly superior... also remember, the HD4000 is underclocked 30% in the ULV versions of i5/i7.
  16. Griffon Twelve thread starter macrumors newbie

    Griffon Twelve

    Nov 30, 2012
    Istanbul, Turkey
    I forgot to reply the last week, sorry. :( Thanks for all the replies.

    thekev, I have 12 MP RAW files from a 5D and I will soon get a 18 MP NEX-6. At the moment the 2010 iMac is doing fine with the RAW's; not terribly fast, but fast enough. I don't have a huge collection either - I plan to keep only the last year's photos in the "working" Aperture library and that has around 3k images. A single folder usually doesn't have more than 200 in my case.

    I liked Lightroom's workflow as well, but at the moment I'd rather not spend an additional 150 $ (more than that in Turkey) as I'm just an amateur and I already purchased Aperture.

    blanka, USB 3.0 and Snow Leopard are not important in my case (at least for now). I see there's now a patch for the HDMI issues but it seems it's not solved all the problems (especially color issues). The Radeon is better in graphics performance, by about that margin you mentioned. However, I read that it also runs hotter and louder.

    Quash, it's good to see real-life results. It seems the 2012 base model is not so bad.

    calvol, I definitely wish they kept the discrete GPU on the mid-level model. Maybe your screen issues would have been solved with the recent patch?

    The Cinebench scores don't seem so much different, right? But maybe the Quad i7 is helping the HD4000 there. 3DMark11 does show a big difference, though.

    I agree the HD4000 does not really reach a discrete GPU. Still, I don't game often, and in the end, I think I'll be better off buying a new 2012 model. By the way, do Mac mini's use ULV processors? I thought they had "regular" laptop versions?

    Thanks for all the input. To sum it up; it won't be as good for gaming, but keeping things in perspective (general use, silence/heat issues, warranty, getting a new model instead of second hand), it seems like a new 2012 base model will be a better choice. I just have to decide "when" and "what SSD to install"..

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