27" iMac or Mac Mini?

shaunsheppard

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 25, 2018
11
0
Some background, I'm a freelance software developer that works with ASP.NET Core, Java and PHP. The applications I use the most are Mac Mail, IntelliJ, Rider, PHPStorm, MySQL Workbench, Postman, and Slack. I also have things like Docker running in the background. I occasionally need to dip into Photoshop and Slack to extract assets for projects.

I've been working on a mid-2011 21" iMac. I've extended its life of the year by adding the maximum 16GB of RAM, an SSD Hard Drive and upgraded the stock i5 CPU to an i7. I also purchased a used CalDigit to give me USB 3 over Thunderbolt. I also have a second monitor, a cheap HP Pavilion 22xi (21").

This machine still serves me well, but I can't get the latest version of Mac OS and I believe next year I'll lose security updates too. So, I've started to plan my next upgrade, the problem is, I can't decide between a 27" iMac or a Mac Mini.

With either choice, I'm looking at the 6 core options, 512 SSD, sticking with the 8GB RAM and upgrading that myself as it's much cheaper. The Mac Mini seemed to be the better choice as it would allow me to purchase two 27" IPS Monitors and fix them to a dual monitor mount, giving a consistent look, whereas with the iMac you have two different monitors and I'd have to choose the Vesa mount option when buying the iMac.

The biggest concern I have about the Mac Mini is that I've read that it can be difficult to get the monitors set up correctly at the right resolution/scale. Some people are reporting that changing the scale causes stuttering when scrolling, and I certainly don't want that. Whatever monitors I choose, I think they'd be more than 1920 x 1080 in resolution, I don't see the point getting a 27" monitor any essentially just displaying the same as what I see now on 21", but larger. I want more real estate.

I guess my question is, will I be happy with the results from the Mac Mini, or would I be better getting an iMac with the better graphics and just put up with having two different styles of monitors?

My last iMac has lasted 8 years, so I'm hoping whatever I choose, I'll get a similar amount of usage out of.
 

MacRS4

macrumors regular
Aug 18, 2010
133
198
London, UK
I have an i9 iMac, an iMP, and a 2018 MacMini. The Mac Mini is a great machine BUT struggles with the graphics. Mine gets used as a headless server and is great, using it as a daily it struggled with anything graphics intensive - and it struggles a bit on my 5k LG monitor. It's just not fluid.

Add in an eGPU though then the story is different.

You can see a run through of the i9 Mac Here, and my 2018 Mac Mini here. MacMini + eGPU here.
 
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shaunsheppard

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 25, 2018
11
0
Thanks for the reply.

The OpenCL score on my current iMac is 4,755. Looking at one of those videos the Mac Mini performs 5 times better, but then I suppose it also has to handle higher resolutions too. I can't say that I've noticed any graphics bottlenecks on my current machine, mainly because I do very little that is graphics related. But, I suppose given the amount of money that I'll be spending, it would be good to have an improvement in graphics performance, even if I rarely use it.

Adding an eGPU at a later date is certainly an option, but at almost £500, it's an expensive option but does provide some flexibility.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,031
2,714
But, I suppose given the amount of money that I'll be spending, it would be good to have an improvement in graphics performance, even if I rarely use it.
Trouble is, if you want to run a pair of 27" 4k displays - which probably means using "scaled mode" to run them in "looks like 2560x1440" mode (= full 5k internal resolution downsampled to 4k by the GPU) then you really need a half-decent GPU with its own VRAM.

Upgrading the Mini from 8GB RAM may help (the Mini's GPU takes its VRAM from main memory) may help, but if you go the Mini route you should at least be prepared for the strong possibility of needing an eGPU (extra cost, another box on the table, more cables, another wall-wart on the wall).

If you're happy with the iMac way of doing things, then the 2017 and 2019 iMacs are decent bits of kit.
 

shaunsheppard

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 25, 2018
11
0
Trouble is, if you want to run a pair of 27" 4k displays - which probably means using "scaled mode" to run them in "looks like 2560x1440" mode (= full 5k internal resolution downsampled to 4k by the GPU) then you really need a half-decent GPU with its own VRAM.

Upgrading the Mini from 8GB RAM may help (the Mini's GPU takes its VRAM from main memory) may help, but if you go the Mini route you should at least be prepared for the strong possibility of needing an eGPU (extra cost, another box on the table, more cables, another wall-wart on the wall).

If you're happy with the iMac way of doing things, then the 2017 and 2019 iMacs are decent bits of kit.
The iMac route was initially my preference, as that's what I've had for years. The only reason I was considering the Mac Mini was for the aesthetics of having two of the same monitors mounted to a dual monitor mount.

I suspect that you are correct though, the iMac is the better option, and I just need to be clever selecting a good looking second 27" display, that when mounted on a dual monitor mount alongside the iMac doesn't look out of place.
 

alien3dx

macrumors 6502a
Feb 12, 2017
809
171
Some background, I'm a freelance software developer that works with ASP.NET Core, Java and PHP. The applications I use the most are Mac Mail, IntelliJ, Rider, PHPStorm, MySQL Workbench, Postman, and Slack. I also have things like Docker running in the background. I occasionally need to dip into Photoshop and Slack to extract assets for projects.

I've been working on a mid-2011 21" iMac. I've extended its life of the year by adding the maximum 16GB of RAM, an SSD Hard Drive and upgraded the stock i5 CPU to an i7. I also purchased a used CalDigit to give me USB 3 over Thunderbolt. I also have a second monitor, a cheap HP Pavilion 22xi (21").

This machine still serves me well, but I can't get the latest version of Mac OS and I believe next year I'll lose security updates too. So, I've started to plan my next upgrade, the problem is, I can't decide between a 27" iMac or a Mac Mini.

With either choice, I'm looking at the 6 core options, 512 SSD, sticking with the 8GB RAM and upgrading that myself as it's much cheaper. The Mac Mini seemed to be the better choice as it would allow me to purchase two 27" IPS Monitors and fix them to a dual monitor mount, giving a consistent look, whereas with the iMac you have two different monitors and I'd have to choose the Vesa mount option when buying the iMac.

The biggest concern I have about the Mac Mini is that I've read that it can be difficult to get the monitors set up correctly at the right resolution/scale. Some people are reporting that changing the scale causes stuttering when scrolling, and I certainly don't want that. Whatever monitors I choose, I think they'd be more than 1920 x 1080 in resolution, I don't see the point getting a 27" monitor any essentially just displaying the same as what I see now on 21", but larger. I want more real estate.

I guess my question is, will I be happy with the results from the Mac Mini, or would I be better getting an iMac with the better graphics and just put up with having two different styles of monitors?

My last iMac has lasted 8 years, so I'm hoping whatever I choose, I'll get a similar amount of usage out of.
i'm also a developer using phpstorm,.net core

8 GB RAM is not enough.. SQL server for linux need 4 GB ram and the best 8 GB ram. I assume you will using .net core and .net framework parallel so at least need 4 GB ram.. and internal need 4 GB ram. So conclusion which ever you used preferable 32 GB ram.

Mac mini annoying just you cannot change brightness but still can overcome. Yes resolution it's a bit odd using TV only as display if using standard monitor should be good enough..

Buy mac mini if you need more ram else just buy imac and less hassle thinking to upgrade the ram.
 

fathergll

macrumors 65816
Sep 3, 2014
1,381
779
The only other option would be a Macbook Pro(refurb for discount).

The main issue is memory as the 32GB options get expensive and wouldn't make much sense if you never plan to undock.


 

shaunsheppard

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 25, 2018
11
0
i'm also a developer using phpstorm,.net core

8 GB RAM is not enough.. SQL server for linux need 4 GB ram and the best 8 GB ram. I assume you will using .net core and .net framework parallel so at least need 4 GB ram.. and internal need 4 GB ram. So conclusion which ever you used preferable 32 GB ram.

Mac mini annoying just you cannot change brightness but still can overcome. Yes resolution it's a bit odd using TV only as display if using standard monitor should be good enough..

Buy mac mini if you need more ram else just buy imac and less hassle thinking to upgrade the ram.
Sorry, I didn't make it clear. I would sticking with the base 8GB to keep costs down, and upgrading the RAM myself (to at least 32GB) as it is much cheaper than buying an iMac (or Mac Mini) from Apple with the 32GB.

For things like database servers etc, I never run them locally, I have a separate 6 core AMD Ryzen machine with XenServer on it, so I can spool up VM's for different things as and when I need to, which saves using resources on my iMac.

[doublepost=1560877073][/doublepost]
The only other option would be a Macbook Pro(refurb for discount).

The main issue is memory as the 32GB options get expensive and wouldn't make much sense if you never plan to undock.


I have a 2015 MacBook Pro, but as you say, memory gets expensive. I prefer having a fixed machine.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,600
389
The Sillie Con Valley
The Mini should do what you want.

I get it. You want to spend as little as possible and have a pair of nice, symmetrical displays. You might be able to get away with a pair of 27" 4K monitors connected to the USB-C ports. You do not need to spend the extra$ on USB-C monitors—DisplayPort is fine. USB-C to DisplayPort cables cost about $35 for the pair—adapters are not recommended as they sometimes cause issues.

If that works, then great. If not, plan to add eGPU. Apple offers two choices: the Radeon 580 for $700 or the Vega 56 for $1,200. You can do this after you purchase the Mini if needed.
 

alien3dx

macrumors 6502a
Feb 12, 2017
809
171
Sorry, I didn't make it clear. I would sticking with the base 8GB to keep costs down, and upgrading the RAM myself (to at least 32GB) as it is much cheaper than buying an iMac (or Mac Mini) from Apple with the 32GB.

For things like database servers etc, I never run them locally, I have a separate 6 core AMD Ryzen machine with XenServer on it, so I can spool up VM's for different things as and when I need to, which saves using resources on my iMac.

[doublepost=1560877073][/doublepost]

I have a 2015 MacBook Pro, but as you say, memory gets expensive. I prefer having a fixed machine.
yeah if you said so 16GB it's okay. Just to remind you 1.5GB ram allready dedicated for graphic card. 4 GB ram for the operating system and other left for application. I'm using 21 inchi 8 GB ram and a bit struggle.. Later will find out anybody can upgrade to 16 GB at least. mac mini the cheapest but least hassle but just upgrade to 256 GB ssd and 16 GB ram.