27" imac vs mac mini with thunderbolt display

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mfacey, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. mfacey macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2004
    Our 2008 24" imac is getting to the point where its having a hard time swallowing normal tasks like dealing with our 23000 picture iphoto library. 5 years is a long time in computer terms.

    I love the new 27" imac but from a practical standpoint i like the idea of a mac mini mated with a top screen like the Apple TB display. The advantage i see with the latter that a one time investment will make me more future proof... I can switch out the mac mini for a newer one in 2-3 years time instead of waiting 5 years like i'm doing now.

    The mac mini setup, with the top of the line i7 processor and fusion drive (i'll upgrade the ram to 16GB myself) with a ATB display actually comes in a bit cheaper than the i7 27" imac as well. Besides the more powerful graphics card in the imac, is there really anything else i'm missing?

    My typical usage for the mac isn't very demanding... Photo editing and cataloging, browsing, occasional vmware into win7, office stuff. I want something that will last a while!
  2. Macman45 macrumors demi-god


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    I have the top iMac...3TB fusion, 32GB RAM, 2GB GPU etc. The machine is fast and a great workhorse for photo, and music work...If your needs are less demanding, then maybe take a look at the Dell Ultrasharps....Many people are mating them with Mini's and the results are all good.

    Personally, I prefer the iMac as it better suits me...I tend to upgrade every couple if years though...It's like you say, swapping a mini out is going to be way less expensive than a new iMac, but as good as the Dell's are, they are not ACD's...:)
  3. mfacey thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2004
    I've looked at the Dell displays but i'm not sure i could live with that Dell logo staring back at me, hence the Thunderbolt display being mentioned in my original post.

    If i do go the mac mini route, i'll at least wait until the Mac Pro is released to see if they upgrade the Thunderbolt displays at the same time.
  4. Macman45 macrumors demi-god


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    It's a distinct possibility that they will...but of course you are going to pay a lot more. Here in the UK the ACD ( 27") comes in at a hefty £899...that's $1404.00...:eek:
  5. macs4nw, Aug 18, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2013

    macs4nw macrumors 68040


    I don't know about pricing in your country, but in the US, it's a diff of $83 more for the iMac, with as close as possible specs. That iMac will give you a quite-a-bit-faster processor (3.4-3.9 vs 2.6 GHz quad core), and most importantly, as you noted as well, discreet graphics, rather than the Mini's HD4000. Both machines with the 1TB fusion drive, as well as 16GB of memory, and AppleCare. Had to go with the highest config on the iMac, to get the i7 though, hence the faster processor. Also with the Mini, I included the TB display, and to make it a fair comparison, the wireless KB, and Magic mouse.

    Other than $20 less for AppleCare on the Mini, as well as some ports, HDMI, FW800 and Audio-in on the Mini vs an extra TB port on the iMac, I don't believe you're missing anything. There's definitely something to be said for separates, the main thing being monitor flexibility, as well as down the line, just swapping out the Mini for a newer one.

    For me, the graphics would sway me towards the iMac, even more so, with your sizeable iPhoto library. When, as expected, the Mini is updated in the near future with Haswell, 802.11ac and HD5000 graphics, those graphics may become a bit less of an issue.
  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I think that Apple leads us down a path of making sure hardware becomes "old" quickly or rather, planned obsolescence. We have seen that with lack of backwards compatibility for both hardware and software and now, we are going through some spikes in technology advances where just yesterday was Thunderbolt and USB 3, and next year is Thunderbolt 2 and the new USB 3 which is many times faster than USB 3 of today.

    The Mac Mini is a great little computer. I have one and use it daily. The iMac 27" if I recall can easily come in a model that is both CPU and GPU combinations that beat out the Mac Mini's top model. Also the iMac I think can also take more RAM (32?).

    Both the iMac and the Mac Mini can become yesterday's technology rather easily. In your shoes, I would figure what I want to do right now and get accordingly. As for the Mac monitor offering, other than the connections offered (which you get for the most part on the iMac and somewhat on the Mini), would not be my first choice. For graphics - something like an NEC P series and for gaming and general use, lots of other very good 27" monitors that are also IPS monitors but fair better price and feature - Dell, HP, NEC, Samsung, to name a few.

    For my needs, I use the Mac Mini (replaced an older Mac Pro), which has a quad cpu and on board graphics (which doesn't impact my work) so that I may work with Photoshop and a bit with a few other applications. Also, the Mini is a great size computer to use as a media player/server as I do - Plex and XBMC.

    My next purchase will (assuming the price isn't too crazy) be - the new Mac Mini Pro aka Mac Pro that will be released later this year. That computer should last me a long while.
  7. kurzz macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2007
    When it comes to desktops, I prefer a separate monitor I can re-use or give away or use in a multi-monitor setup. I have an iMac now but I will not get another all-in-one PC in the future.
  8. patricem macrumors 6502


    Nov 18, 2005
    Same here

    I am having the same dilemma as you,..I too have a 2008 24' imac. I just can't decide between the mini or the imac. I am leaning toward the mini for the repairability...I keep my computers 5 years +....I wonder what type repair bill you would get in 4 years for the new imac if the drive went out? Plus the mini has firewire which I need for my externals. I would also go for the ATD. BUT_ I love imac, the all is one is sweet. I have yet to see the 2012 imac screen, it is really much better than the TD or 2011? I have thought about a 2011 too but it must have an SSD for me. Its a hard decision!
  9. macs4nw macrumors 68040


    As far as your 4-year repair bill is concerned, get AppleCare, that'll take care of the first three, plus that telephone support can sometimes come in handy.

    That FW you're mentioning, may very well also disappear from the Mini, to be replaced by another TB port, but there is a simple $29 solution for that.

    As far as the optically bonded screen on the latest iMacs is concerned, yes they are notably more vivid and sharp, but I suspect this technology may also come to an updated TB display.

    Of course both the iMac and the Mini have that SSD option in the form of Fusion drive.

    As I have mentioned to mfacey above, the main advantage of the iMac is considerably better graphics, with upgrade options, while the Mini gives you the display flexibility. Since both the iMac and the Mini could very well get spec-bumps or minor upgrades this fall, I'd say.....hang tight.
  10. patricem macrumors 6502


    Nov 18, 2005
  11. SuperMatt macrumors 6502


    Mar 28, 2002
    The iMac 27" is quite a bit more powerful than the mini. However, I understand the appeal of having a display you could keep for 10 years or so... especially with the new Mac Pros coming out this fall.
  12. dazey macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2005
    Splitting the units up has some benefits. I still use a 20" apple display with my desktop but its on a Mac Pro now, rather than the G4 tower it started with. Having the display seperate meant I could use both longer (the G4 tower got turned into a server when it was no longer up to desktop duties).

    Equally, I inherited a G4 Mini, which is no longer much use as a desktop but it now functions as a 24/7 server in my office (and I use it as a desktop sometimes when I am in the office by using it to remote desktop into other machines)

    All in one machines get dumped a lot faster when they become too slow and they are too big to just tuck places like the small, quiet and energy efficient minis. I do like the minis, I bought a quad core one to replace my G4 server (although it is installed in the G4 chassis), so I run two mini servers now, a modern one and the G4.
  13. rnauman821 macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2004
    I have been waiting for apple to update the mini and ATD. I want to run two ATD displays through thunderbolt and have the HDMI connection run to my receiver and eventually my TV. The current graphics (HD4000) only supports two unique displays running at the same time. Furthermore, the ATD is due for an update (thinner panel, Magsafe2, USB3).

    I am hoping they update both this fall. If they do, my wallet will be $3000 lighter.
  14. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Don't be fooled by the GPU. The CPU still does most work, and a Mini with quad i7 is more powerful than any of-the-shelve iMac which are only i5's and the package is cheaper. If you move to better yet even cheaper displays like the Dell U2713HM or the astonishing Nec PA271W (now very affordable in the US I read) the gap increases in favor of the Mini based set.

    Your 2 year upgrade scheme is a good thing to consider, the Mini's don't go down much in price second hand and it has a much better reputation on repairs (iMac screens always go rotten to some degree in a few years).
  15. Bowser-23 macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2009
    Hi - I too am waiting for the new TD and want to run it and have my TV connected HDMI will this be a prob?
  16. rnauman821 macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2004
    If you want to run a single thunderbolt display and a single TV, you are fine and can do that now.

    If you want to run two thunderbolt displays and a TV via the HDMI, you can't right now. The HD4600 graphics chipset for base haswell wont support it either (as far as anyone knows). The 5000 series chipsets should be able to run three displays at once between the HDMI and thunderbolt daisy chain.
  17. Bowser-23 macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2009
    Thanks for that
  18. COrocket macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2012
    FYI you'd have to get the i7-3770 BTO in the 27" iMac in order to get a processor more powerful than the top of the line quad mini. All the other processors benchmark lower.
  19. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    However under Mavericks it will support a third monitor through airplay and Apple TV.

    In my experience though, the quality on Air Play mirroring is not great for video. I get much better results using Air Video server’s h.264 pass-thru on the iPhone/iPad app. Air Play is fine for web browsing and other low-motion applications, but not for high bit-rate video.

    Attached Files:

  20. memo90061 macrumors regular

    Jan 2, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm in the same boat, and I don't know what to do.

    I'm looking at the Mac Mini with 2.6GHz i7 and a Apple Cinema Display. I don't know about the graphic card though. I'd use it to edit pictures, videos, and sometimes I like to use Cinema 4D for some video graphics.

    The refurbished Mac Mini goes for 827 at the Apple store including taxes. I looked at Apple Cinema Displays on Craigslist, and they are going for around 650. The total would be 1477.

    I've seen the following iMac for 1500 on Craigslist:

    27-inch: 3.2GHz
    3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
    Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
    8GB (two 4GB) memory
    1TB hard drive1
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX with 1GB

    I don't know what I should go for.

    I have a question. Does the Apple Cinema Display 27 inch have the same FaceTime camera as the Thunderbolt Display?
  21. gerlitzappel macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2004
    South Florida
    I did the same comparison when I upgraded from my 2008 MBP. You'll save money going the mini route but will not have near the performance options, processor, RAM, graphics, even HD options. I'm very happy with my 21.5" iMac, but wish I had the option to go with 32GB of RAM and a 3TB Fusion drive like the 27" offers. Just thought the 27" would be too large. good luck

Share This Page