21.5" iMac or Mac Mini? Please Help

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Howard54, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. Howard54 macrumors member

    Oct 16, 2009
    I am a long time PC user buying my first Mac, hopefully in the next few days. I have wrestled with which model to buy and I apologize in advance for starting a thread repeated often here but I would like some timely advice based on the new Intel chips coming out next month.

    The Mac will be for general use. Web, mail, word processing, spreadsheets, some light photo/video editing etc. No hard core gaming.

    First, I have eliminated the laptops from consideration. I do most of my work at the desktop and I think I would enjoy a desktop more than a laptop configured with an external monitor keyboard.

    I considered the Mac Mini at first, but was concerned about its specs compared to the lower end iMac (hard drive size and speed, processor speed and memory upgrade constraints). Also, when you add in a keyboard, mouse and display, the cost is not far away from the 21.5” iMac.

    So here are my questions:

    Did I dismiss the mini too quickly or am I right to focus on the iMac?

    Is it worth the extra money to get the 21.5” with the discrete video card?

    With the new Intel chips being announced next month, should I wait and see if the 21.5” is refreshed or will any processor upgrade not really provide noticeable performance differences at this level?

    While I was hoping to put my toe in the Mac water somewhat inexpensively, is it a mistake not to go directly to the 27” model for the upgraded components in those configurations?

    The 27” models I have seen on display seem to generate an awful amount of heat radiating from the screen. Is the screen overly big for home office use in terms of heat, screen resolution or usability if one sits fairly close to the monitor?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. tardman91 macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2009
    Tampa Area, FL
    If it were me, and I was getting into my first Mac and I wasn't planning on doing anything hard core that would really require the upgraded hardware I would get the Mini and save a buck. You probably have a keyboard and mouse and monitor lying around, no? And you can get some pretty large screens for under $200. That's just me though.
    The iMac sure is nice because it's an all in one though, so ask yourself how you feel about wires and such. That might sway you one way or another.
    And the iMacs already have the newer processors. The ones coming out next month are more for laptops I believe.
  3. AAPLaday Guest


    Aug 6, 2008
    Manchester UK
    The mac mini and iMac were recently updated so they wont change for a while now. If you already have a monitor and for the tasks you mentioned a mini will be fine. If you do need a monitor and keyboard etc you may as well go for the iMac which is has a better spec and will support more ram than the mini.

    As for which iMac unless you want a big screen id go for the 21.5". And i noticed you said no heavy gaming. The base iMac with the 9400M graphics will handle games as long as you are willing to turn down a few settings and dont expect too much from it. The Radeon 4670 in the top end 21.5" though will be much better for games. And the 27" maybe more powerful but its overkill for your uses. Of course if you have money burning a hole in your pocket go ahead :D
  4. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 15, 2008
    When you consider everything you get with the iMac (amazing display, wireless keyboard/mouse, etc), it really is a great value. Now, whether you need those things would be a personal decision. I was in a similar situation a couple months ago, and decided on the iMac with the dedicated graphics and couldn't be happier. The mini will handle everything you mentioned just fine. It is basically the same specs as my MacBook, and it runs just fine.
  5. XxEjGxX macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2009
    hmm, i think iMac because, although more expensive, comes with a screen, mouse and keyboard plus has so much higher spec[​IMG] to me the minis don't really seem good value against the iMacs
  6. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    The really nice thing about the iMac is that everything is so nicely integrated - it's not just that the computer is in the screen, it's the webcam, speakers, mic, etc. that makes for a much more cohesive package that really just works.

    When you factor in that the iMac has a fantastic screen, very likely significantly better than anything you already have, has a much faster processor, more RAM, and the benefits of a faster desktop hard drive - all available for $999 in the refurb section, to me, the answer is clear.
  7. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    You probably can't go wrong with either, really. For my money, the monitor and video adapter in the iMac would be the swing vote. Plus, I like the all-in-one form factor.

    The 27" models are very nice if you don't mind dropping an extra $500. But the 21.5" is going to be quite capable.
  8. ecualegacy macrumors regular

    Oct 3, 2009
    Des Moines, IA
    My 2 cents.

    I was faced with the same decision a month ago. I'm a first time Mac user as well and I went with the iMac 21.5" for $1200 because I wanted the all-in-one set. Yes, you will still have a good computer in the mini, but I think you'll probably enjoy the iMac's greater processing speed, faster drive, larger memory, and magic mouse. Basically, it comes down to a budget question.

    Remember this though. An Apple computer is a *luxury*. You can always find a way to do what you want on Windows if you need to and probably for less money.

    Below is my review of things posted on another thread:

    First time Mac user since Nov 24 on an iMac 21.5" 500 GB :D. Used Windows since 1991. Happy overall with my iMac. Some things take getting used to. :rolleyes:

    1) Finder has no cut feature. Must drag/drop files to move them. Also, files and folders aren't grouped separately in an alphabetical list. A 3rd party $40 program called Pathfinder will fix these issues.
    2) Must resize all windows at the bottom right hand corner.
    3) Some webpages take longer to load on Mac vs Windows (using Safari, Firefox, Google Chrome).
    4) No 1-click "hide all" or "show desktop" although can achieve same result through Spaces.
    5) Programs assigned to a Space don't always stay there.
    6) Reflective screen takes getting used to.
    7) Time machine only lets you select what you *don't* want to back up. I wish it would let me chose only what I *do* want.
    8) Syncing up my iPod occassionally crashes the computer (others on web have reported same issue).
    9) Camera quality isn't as good as say the iPod Nano 5G (but not a big deal)
    10) Mouse/keyboard take getting used to ergonomically. No number pad on the keyboard. Right clicking takes some practice. Wireless never seems to track quite as well as a cable mouse.
    11) $1200 *starting* for an iMac.
    12) Entry level graphics cards below industry standards for overall price (not a big deal for me since I don't have time to play, but its the thought that counts right?).
    13) Crashed 3 x 1st month. But take into account that I'm installing a lot of 3rd party stuff.
    14) Menu bar is at the top of the screen instead of the application window. Must remember to select the app you want before using the bar (not a big deal, but it takes getting used to).
    15) Allow/Deny glitch with new programs. The window flashes for <1 sec before going away, but comes back when you try to do new things on the 3rd party program. You have to be quick to hit the Allow button to stop it from coming back.
    16) Must add 3rd party drivers to write to NTFS files.
    17) Galling to admit, but I could get done everything that I wanted on a Windows PC for half the price. Windows 7 is *almost* as a stable an OS as Snow Leopard from what I hear. Given that you can buy an i7 for around $1000, speed isn't likely to be an issue with Windows anymore.

    1) Unmatched *cool* :cool: factor - the iMac looks like it came off a Star Trek episode.
    2) Fast processing. The Core Duo handles things just fine now, so the i7 should keep things running quickly that much longer for the life of the computer.
    3) LED backlight is DAZZLING!
    4) Built-in speakers, camera, microphone.
    5) No stinkin tower!
    6) Wireless keyboard/mouse.
    7) Magic Mouse's touch only surface is AWESOME. Love the inertial scrolling.
    8) Can install Windows on it if you need to. It is $160-$200 for a copy of Win 7 or $90-$100 for Win XP. Just please don't buy ever use Vista. That's just sick. ;)
    9) Can upgrade RAM easily on an iMac.
    10) Plenty of productivity options: MS Office for Mac for $130, iWork 09 for $80 (cheaper on ebay), or Open Office for free.
    11) Expose is a dead useful feature! You can see what you are looking for and just click it to bring it up.
    12) Spaces can give each application its own desktop if you like. Or group some apps in the same desktop.
    13) Dashboard is handy for loading apps that will show you in one click the weather, radar, CPU usage, daily comics, and a clock you can see from across the room.
    14) The Dock works much like a task bar. Very easy to learn for me.
    15) iPhoto slideshow is a professional presentation. You'll love it.
    16) My 2 year old son loves playing with it (yes, I had to throw that in there) :D

    I'm sure I could go on, but 30+ bullets is probably enough to get you started. Hope this was helpful.
  9. ecualegacy macrumors regular

    Oct 3, 2009
    Des Moines, IA
    I did *a lot* of number crunching to see what kind of value you get between the two. I basically came down to how much I felt the convenience of the all-in-one was worth.
  10. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
  11. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    Comments bolded below.

  12. StruckANerve macrumors 6502

    Dec 31, 2008
    Rio Rancho, NM
    I would choose the iMac personally. But if you have a nice HDTV you can hook up a mini to it and keep it in your entertainment center and use it sitting on your couch if you have a wireless keyboard and mouse.
  13. ecualegacy macrumors regular

    Oct 3, 2009
    Des Moines, IA

    Thanks for the comments zhenya.

    I tried reinstalling OS X last night and that may have done the trick for my browser speeds and the Allow/Deny glitch.

    I tried using the cmd key to help move files, but found Drag/Drop seems to be the only way to straight up move files. I'll get used it.

    I'll have to try the Two fingers up = Expose, Two Fingers Down = Show desktop.

    Point taken about Time Machine's purpose being to back up the whole disk. I'm just too frugal to buy a 1 TB external hard drive for less than $70 after seeing the holiday sale possibilities.

    About NTFS, yeah I hear it isn't the best filing system, but to make Macs more compatible with a home netwrk (and a recent article in Rumors I believe said about 90% of Mac users have a Windows PC), it would be *nice* if Apple supported it.

    And in fact longevity, stabilty, and low maintenance are some of the reasons I used to justify buying the Mac. I haven't seen the super stability *yet* but after my reinstall of the OS last night, we'll see how it does. Resale value is a consideration too. For now, I'm planning on keeping that baby till it breaks beyond the ability to repair (or if it would cost almost as much to repair as buy a new one) :D
  14. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    You're welcome. Hopefully the reinstall makes things better for you. I'm a heavy Windows user that went through the learning curve just like yourself, so I know what it's like. All in all it's definitely worth the effort though.

    Straight drag and drop of files will make a copy of the file or folder. Holding the apple (cmd) key when selecting and dragging the file will move the file or folder.

    Regarding NTFS, iirc, Microsoft may have some patents in place that prevent Apple from including compatibility.

    Definitely try the bettertouchtool with the Magic Mouse. Start with just a couple of gestures until you can activate them easily and reliably, then add new ones little by little. I have a Logitech Performance MX mouse at work (considered by many to be the best mouse available), and in many ways I already prefer the Magic Mouse.
  15. macrumorsMaster macrumors 6502

    May 20, 2008
    1) Finder has no cut feature. Must drag/drop files to move them. Also, files and folders aren't grouped separately in an alphabetical list. A 3rd party $40 program called Pathfinder will fix these issues.
    Hold the cmd key when dragging to move rather than copy
    Yes, but still that's not the same as the ease of just selecting a file in windows, pressing ctrl+c, then going to the destination folder and pressing ctrl+v. A lot easier than having to DRAG a file. :)

    12) Entry level graphics cards below industry standards for overall price (not a big deal for me since I don't have time to play, but its the thought that counts right?).
    Not a major consideration for the majority of users. The majority of that remaining minority tend to overspend on graphics cards anyhow.
    So true, but just to clear up, it's NOT a graphics card, it's integrated graphics. You need to go to the mid level 21" to get a graphics card:)

    13) Crashed 3 x 1st month. But take into account that I'm installing a lot of 3rd party stuff.
    Wow, honestly I can't remember the last time mine or anyone I knows Mac crashed. Given some of your other issues here, I would be considering the possibility of a hardware issue.
    Go to a college and you'll see mac's crash(spinning ball of death) happen frequently. Mac's don't always just work:D
  16. jonthompson macrumors newbie

    Dec 28, 2009
    Des Moines, IA
    Depends on the sysadmins that configure the build. Macs don't always just work, but it's a lot harder to screw one up, too.

    -- Jon Thompson
    Macintosh IT Support for Small and Large Businesses
  17. ecualegacy macrumors regular

    Oct 3, 2009
    Des Moines, IA
    Just an update, my webpage loading speeds were fixed by changing my Ethernet settings to Manual with Full Duplex. Don't know why it works but it does.

    @ Jon, nice to see someone else in the neighborhood. I'll have to stop by your shop on Locust sometime. Hope you're enjoying the balmy weather we're having in Des Moines ;) All of 14 F today.

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