Am I better off buying a Mac mini vs. an iMac?

Karvel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 27, 2007
229
0
England
Hello - I've always been used to buying Apple's all-in-ones ever since my Performa 5400 (click) in 1996; but since the unimpressive refresh to the last iMac, its fixed RAM and the slowly increasing even-higher price tag, I've been looking towards buying a Mac mini and an external monitor.

Let's say I would buy a base, standard config iMac: that would cost me £1149.

I could, however, spec the i7 Mac mini with a Fusion Drive for £838.99, and then buy 16GB of RAM (2x 8GB) from Amazon for £105. Total so far: £943.99

I already have a keyboard and Magic mouse, so I would just then need a monitor. I would probably buy the Dell Ultrasharp U2312HM; that would cost about £145. End total: £1088.

For £61 less I would get an i7 machine with a Fusion Drive and 16GB RAM. I'd previously dismissed the Mac mini because of it's standard specifications; looking at it now with its BTO offerings it almost seems a no-brainer to not go through the iMac route anymore -- but now I wonder if I'm missing something that should perhaps make me reconsider the iMac?

Thank you in advance
 

Micky Do

macrumors 68000
Aug 31, 2012
1,906
1,786
An island in the Pacific Ocean
Get the Mini

Get the Mini configured to suit your needs, or desires. For general use it is probably all the computer most people need.

When the time comes to update your system, with an iMac when update your system you replace the lot. With a Mini you just replace the parts you want to.
 

Luap

macrumors 65816
Jul 5, 2004
1,212
558
I've had a variety of iMacs over the years, but the last one was replaced with a near enough maxed out 2012 i7 MacMini. No regrets nor problems here.
 

fig

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2012
916
70
Austin, TX
I had a similar decision back in May and went with a dual 2.6ghz i7 Mini with a Fusion drive. My reasoning is the benchmarks between the Mini and iMac are now pretty similar, and if there's a faster Mini option in a year or two I can easily sell off and swap out the main unit while keeping my displays, keyboard, etc., or even upgrade to a Mac Pro should the need arise.

Unless you have a real need for a dedicated graphics card for games or 3d work, I think it pretty much comes down to whether you want an integrated or separate display.
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
The Mini is cheaper than similar equiped iMacs.
I would consider this though:
Keep the drive configuration and add a 256GB SSD yourself (easy, apple switched the position of the HD on recent models so you can "slide" it in.), and consider the Dell U2412HM. A penny more expensive, but 1200pix vertical is very welcome! Also get the 2.6 BTO if money allows.
 

LCD

macrumors member
Dec 28, 2012
76
1
USA
There's also some luck involved with the display you get in the iMac. I've had none.

And even with the problem Apple was having glueing the displays together and delaying the release of the late 2012 iMacs, I was still willing to wait for one with only an iPad 1 to use after the well documented 17" display from hell in my 2006 1.86 GHz Core Duo iMac died in October 2012.

I ended up getting a maxed out i7 mini with 16GB RAM and SSD that's slower than the two 2.9 GHz i5 iMacs with 16GB RAM and Fusion Drive I tried for a week or two. It takes the Mini with Carbon Copy Cloner about 10 minutes to clone 1-2GB while it took about 7 minutes to do it with the iMacs.
 

Karvel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 27, 2007
229
0
England
I ended up getting a maxed out i7 mini with 16GB RAM and SSD that's slower than the two 2.9 GHz i5 iMacs with 16GB RAM and Fusion Drive I tried for a week or two. It takes the Mini with Carbon Copy Cloner about 10 minutes to clone 1-2GB while it took about 7 minutes to do it with the iMacs.
How can that be? If they're both pretty much the same spec?
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
It takes the Mini with Carbon Copy Cloner about 10 minutes to clone 1-2GB while it took about 7 minutes to do it with the iMacs.
Now THAT is a very relevant test to decide who is faster.
With CCC you clone between 2 drives. Which is the second drive? A platter disk? Perhaps the 500/1000GB 2,5 inch in the Mini, and the 1-3TB 3,5 inch in the iMac? That is no match.
Now try the following:
Make a preset in say Lightroom to process a decent image, and apply that to a whole folder. Or export a movie in iMovie for say Youtube upload. The Mini will win.
 

Karvel

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 27, 2007
229
0
England
Interesting -- are there any bench-marks against similarly specced iMacs and Mac minis where the only difference has been the mobile vs desktop processors? Curious about the idea of an i7 mobile (Mac mini) being beaten by an i5 desktop (iMac)??
 

Luap

macrumors 65816
Jul 5, 2004
1,212
558
Interesting -- are there any bench-marks against similarly specced iMacs and Mac minis where the only difference has been the mobile vs desktop processors? Curious about the idea of an i7 mobile (Mac mini) being beaten by an i5 desktop (iMac)??
Check/compare the geekbench scores to give you a better idea. But whatever LCD's problem was, it wasn't the CPU's.
 

LCD

macrumors member
Dec 28, 2012
76
1
USA
Interesting -- are there any bench-marks against similarly specced iMacs and Mac minis where the only difference has been the mobile vs desktop processors? Curious about the idea of an i7 mobile (Mac mini) being beaten by an i5 desktop (iMac)??
Thanks for all your skepticism. I forgot I bought a Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter to connect the drive to the iMac. I've been using the Mini's FireWire port.
 

MacPC

macrumors regular
Sep 25, 2006
213
0
Hello - I've always been used to buying Apple's all-in-ones ever since my Performa 5400 (click) in 1996; but since the unimpressive refresh to the last iMac, its fixed RAM and the slowly increasing even-higher price tag, I've been looking towards buying a Mac mini and an external monitor.

Let's say I would buy a base, standard config iMac: that would cost me £1149.

I could, however, spec the i7 Mac mini with a Fusion Drive for £838.99, and then buy 16GB of RAM (2x 8GB) from Amazon for £105. Total so far: £943.99

I already have a keyboard and Magic mouse, so I would just then need a monitor. I would probably buy the Dell Ultrasharp U2312HM; that would cost about £145. End total: £1088.

For £61 less I would get an i7 machine with a Fusion Drive and 16GB RAM. I'd previously dismissed the Mac mini because of it's standard specifications; looking at it now with its BTO offerings it almost seems a no-brainer to not go through the iMac route anymore -- but now I wonder if I'm missing something that should perhaps make me reconsider the iMac?

Thank you in advance
Personally, I prefer the mini over iMac for the following reasons:
1. The mini is tiny and portable vs. the iMac is a bit bulky for my taste.
2. The mini, you use an external monitor, I have an older iMac, the logic board is gone but the monitor is still very nice, now I have a dilemma on what to do with it because there is no way I can use it as an external monitor and I feel bad for giving it away. Although on the newer iMacs, it is possible to use the monitor as an external monitor.
3. Upgrading RAM and hard drive is a lot easier on the mini.
4. you can choose any size of external monitor up to 27" (2560x1600)
5. With the external monitor, you have much more flexibility in adjusting the degrees of you viewing angle.
6. You can mount the mini to the wall in a vertical position, so all ports can be easily reached vs on the iMac, all ports are in the back, when you need to plug in anything, it can be awkward.
The downside of the mini
No iSight camer or mic. You need to supply your own or get the expensive Apple display that has iSight built in.
 

Acorn

macrumors 68030
Jan 2, 2009
2,554
282
macrumors
if you dont care about graphics to me the mac mini wins even if it is a hair slower. the updatability of it is just better. also if you need to take it in to apple its a lot easier to take in a mini then to lug a imac.
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
Thanks for all your skepticism. I forgot I bought a Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter to connect the drive to the iMac. I've been using the Mini's FireWire port.
You were cloning the internal drive? That is unfair. The mini has a 5400rpm 2,5 drive, the iMac a 7200rpm 3,5 inch one. Try again with 2 SSD's in the Macs, then you will measure the CPU and the external interface. Both will be limited by the external HD in that case, so you will see a tie. Disk intensive tasks are no good thing to compare speed
 

denco101

macrumors newbie
Feb 10, 2013
10
0
Moncton, NB
I have a maxed out Mini, which I mainly chose due to the modularity of it compared to the all in one approach of the iMac. I have a separate computer, DVD drive, monitor, etc. If one small component fails, my system is not completely out of commission until I lug the whole thing down to the Apple store: replace or fix the failed "module" and that's that...

The one advantage to the iMac is that you can get better graphics... and the purists might argue that it is the "true" Macintosh desktop. :p
 

50voltphantom

macrumors regular
Jun 23, 2011
177
0
Your reasoning matched mine exactly when I switched from an iMac to the mini. Also, you can't go wrong with Either of the Dell monitors mentioned in this thread. I have the 2312HM and it's a great piece, as is the 2412HM.
 

goodcow

macrumors 6502a
Aug 4, 2007
626
324
if you dont care about graphics to me the mac mini wins even if it is a hair slower. the updatability of it is just better. also if you need to take it in to apple its a lot easier to take in a mini then to lug a imac.
Why would you lug in an iMac? Just have Apple come to your home, AppleCare covers that.
 

Acorn

macrumors 68030
Jan 2, 2009
2,554
282
macrumors
Why would you lug in an iMac? Just have Apple come to your home, AppleCare covers that.
I didnt know they would come to your home for one computer to service. I know you can send it in and also bring it in. it seems to be what most people do. I never read any posts about apple coming to people houses or stories of them looking for a place around a persons house to work like the kitchen table.

any time ive had a issue ive had to take it to a genius to run hardware tests first before they would do anything to it like a repair.
 

goodcow

macrumors 6502a
Aug 4, 2007
626
324
I didnt know they would come to your home for one computer to service. I know you can send it in and also bring it in. it seems to be what most people do. I never read any posts about apple coming to people houses or stories of them looking for a place around a persons house to work like the kitchen table.

any time ive had a issue ive had to take it to a genius to run hardware tests first before they would do anything to it like a repair.
The AppleCare agreement offers in home service. I know of one friend who has had his iMac repaired twice at his apartment.

As a Mac Pro (old model) owner, I never had any issues, but if I did, I surely wasn't going to lug that 60-pound behemoth onto the subway.

Even with an iMac, with the glass front, I wouldn't want to transport it.

Apple probably doesn't advertise it for two reasons - one, to save costs, and two, because the technicians aren't Apple employees, they're contracted out local technicians who are Apple Certified repair shops.
 

LCD

macrumors member
Dec 28, 2012
76
1
USA
You were cloning the internal drive? That is unfair. The mini has a 5400rpm 2,5 drive, the iMac a 7200rpm 3,5 inch one. Try again with 2 SSD's in the Macs, then you will measure the CPU and the external interface. Both will be limited by the external HD in that case, so you will see a tie. Disk intensive tasks are no good thing to compare speed
I no longer own the late 21" 2012 2.9 GHz i5 iMac. I had it for less than 2 weeks in early December 2012 and got the 2.6 GHz i7 Mini in late January 2013.

Both computers were purchased with SSDs and 16GB RAM. The iMac had a 128GB Fusion Drive loaded with less than 100GB of data. The Mini has a 256GB SSD and Crucial RAM.

I was also surprised that the iMac booted up about the same percentage faster, 4 seconds vs. 7 seconds for the Mini. What else besides the processor could be responsible for the differences in speed I saw between the two computers? Thanks.
 

Yamcha

macrumors 68000
Mar 6, 2008
1,804
134
I've had two Mac Mini's before, and I love them. I'd say you'll be better off buying a Mac Mini provided you don't play graphics intensive games.

For everything else it's pretty much perfect, I use it for Web Design so using applications like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom & Fireworks, no hiccups at all. I can even play 4K video perfectly..:D
 
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