2014 Mini v. 2014 MBA?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by JulesK, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. JulesK macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2002
    I looking to update an 2011 11" MBA, which is hooked up to a 24" ACD and very rarely leaves my desk. Because I use my iPad when travelling, I was going to just get a 2014 mini, because I already have the ACD and the Apple BT Keyboard and Trackpad. My computing needs are such that I'm going with the 2014 mini over a 2012 mini. But I'm trying to figure out whether it would be a significant improvement over the current 11" MBA, and I'm hoping that my next computer lasts 5+ years.

    When you configure both with max RAM (8GB for the MBA and 16GB for the mini) and 512GB SSD, the pricing between the two is roughly the same. Obviously, the mini has more RAM, but other the big differences seem to be connectivity (2-TB2 v 1-TB, 4-USB3 v. 2-USB3, Ethernet (would never use) and HDMI (wouldn't need with the ACD)) and a faster CPU (but I really have no idea because of the turbo boosts). It doesn't seem that the mini upgrade to the 3.0 i7 is worth it over the 2.8 i5, but if that would extend the life of the mini, I'd do it. I don't need 4K or 5K resolution. If the ACD dies, I'd look for a refurb TB display.

    If the 2014 11" MBA maxed out will perform roughly the same as the 2014 Mini maxed out, no reason to have occasional portability with the MBA.

    Thoughts on what would be a better choice? Thanks in advance!
  2. giggles macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2012
    If you order a Mini with Fusion, you can crack it open (just need a Torx TP6 security bit) and have already everything set up for you to install
    1) one Apple proprietary pcie stick of your liking (ebay)
    2) one 2.5" hdd/ssd of your liking

    At any time you like, even years from now. Can't do that (number 2) on the Air.

    And yes go for 16GB ram for future proofing. Can't do that on the Air.

    Plus a lot of ports and 2 TB2. The Air has zero TB ports after a mere GigE adapter is installed (although usb3.0-to-gigE is also a possibility), the Mini has real GigE and still two free TB ports. That's an abyss in terms connectivity. Personally I'll use the HDMI output for video and GigE for networking, and STILL have two free TB2 ports, that's huge.
  3. JulesK thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2002
    Thanks for this. I realize that the 2012 allowed you to install 2 HDs, but can you still do that with the 2014? I thought you couldn't. I was going to add a Time Machine drive to my system (and back up the main SSD via BackBlaze), but an internal Time Machine HD would be cleaner.

    Would the jump to the i7 3.0 make any real long-term difference? Sounds like the main difference is a slight speed bump and 33% more cache RAM. But both the i5 and i7 hyperthread (which, yes, isn't the same as true quad core...).
  4. giggles, Nov 4, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014

    giggles macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2012
    2012 had two 2.5" bays.
    2014 has one 2.5" bay and one pcie apple proprietary slot for SSD in stick form.
    2012 officially only ram was USER-serviceable = thumb domes to unscrew the bottom and change the RAM.
    2014 officially NOTHING is user-serviceable = security torx bits
    Both of them officially touching disks = void warranty. Both of them.

    (incidentally that's quite different from what 2014-bashers or 2012-fanboys here tends to acknowledge....as I see it, once you max out the ram, there's not a huge difference in terms of upgradeability between 2012 and 2014....and 2014 has TB2 for superior external upgradeability)

    If you order a SSD-stick-only 2014, parts to install the 2.5" could be missing. (a third party like OWC could provide kits in the future)
    If you order a HDD-only 2014, parts to install the SSD stick could be missing. (a third party like OWC could provide kits in the future)
    If you order a Fusion drive 2014, you'll find inside it a 128GB ssd stick and a 1TB regular 2.5" hdd, so you'll be 100% sure that everything is in place for you to swap them out for a stick (provided it's got apple proprietary connector) plus a 2.5-incher of your liking.

    As for the i5 to i7 bump, you're right that the i5 having HT got the basics covered, so it's not super necessary to go for the i7.
    On the other hand, I've configured the i7 anyway for the heck of it and to squeeze any drop of power possible from this otherwise lackluster (compared to, say, a quad core 21.5" haswell iMac) machine.
  5. JulesK thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 17, 2002
    Thanks for this info. This is tremendously informative. I was debating between the fusion and the 512GB SSD, and this may tip me towards to fusion.

    To be clear, I'm not somebody that looks to tinker with my computer much, so I'd rather max it out (although the 1TB SSD is a bit too much) and just attach a USB3 or TB HD to it, for Time Machine purposes. (Right now I'm using a very cheap/slow USB2 HD, which won't cut it going forward because it's capacity is too small.) I already have a separate TB HD for storing media.

    Still, I might wait to see what OWC does in terms of SSD storage for the 2014 mini before deciding.
  6. giggles, Nov 4, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014

    giggles macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2012
    Fact is, only the Apple official SSD stick gives you the holy trinity of SSD peace of mind
    1) apple ssd driver
    2) apple optimized ssd firmware
    3) apple osx TRIM

    So I wouldn't bother with OWC ssds, the small saving wouldn't be worth it.

    I'd order a fusion, then buy one of these:


    and this:


    (this specific external model from Seagate, then use a flat screwdriver to peel off the plastic case and free the internal drive, that is the thinnest 2TB drive available and is actually cheaper obtained this way than bought already "naked")

    And these to open the mini


    Then you just open it and swap
    - the included 128GB ssd for your 1TB ssd
    - the included 1TB hdd for your 2TB hdd

    You reinstall Yosemite on the 1TB ssd and use the 2TB hdd for time machine, and you're "set", it's unlikely you'll ever need more than that, or it's unlikely that getting your hands on a bigger Apple official ssd will become cheaper/easier down the line, if anything it could become increasingly more difficult (if they change the proprietary connector once again, and they have all the entitlement to do it without giving it a second thought since it's officially not user-serviceable).

    (it's a good time to remind that since Mountain Lion it's been possible to backup to multiple time machine drives, so once a month you could also backup to an external 2TB drive to keep in a safe place)

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