base iMac or mid Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by mosiejczuk, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. mosiejczuk macrumors member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Warszawa, Poland
    I'm doing research before replacing my 2009 c2d mbp and in spite of having done some heavy math I need help from people with more knowledge.

    I'm running on a limited budget and I have to choose a machine that will do best at video rendering (Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro). My choices are:

    Base 21" iMac with i5 2.7, 8 GB of RAM and 640M
    Mid Mac Mini with i7 2.6, 16 GB (I can do that myself) and HD4000

    I know both have flaws, but do You think one will do considerably better than the other?

    Thanks for Your help!
  2. Melsir macrumors newbie


    Jun 13, 2012
    I'm asking myself the same question.. I would choose the mid Mac Mini but I'm worried about the Intel HD 4000...
  3. mosiejczuk thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Warszawa, Poland
    Exactly! The point is: does memory and CPU outweight GPU?
  4. zeemi macrumors newbie

    Jul 22, 2012
    Well, there are a few things to consider:
    • The iMac has IvyBridge desktop class processors (the one you are talking about most likely uses the i5 3330S while the mac mini uses mobile IvyBridge processors (most likely the Intel Core i7-3610QM

      The mac mini processor has 8 threads and hyper-threading support, while the iMac processor has only 4 threads and no hyper-threading support. I'm no real expert on this and there aren't any benchmarks for the i5 3330s out yet, so unfortunately I can't tell you how much of a difference this will make in your day to day work.

      I do think the Mac Mini has the edge here, even if it's a mobile processor. If you weren't doing cpu intense operations such as video rendering I would tell you it probably doesn't matter. If you are waiting longer with the purchase, I would wait for benchmarks on the i5. Matter of fact is that the i7 used in the Mac Mini is one of the most powerful mobile processors out there, while the i5 certainly won't be at the top of desktop benchmarking lists.

      Arstechnica also released an interesting article on this topic just yesterday:

    • I don't think the ram will be an important criterium. I have a MacBook Pro with 8GB of ram and I often run some memory hungry applications (photoshop) and virtual machines at the same time and I haven't run into any shortages yet, so as long as you have 8+ Gb I think you should be good. Of course it is nice to know you have more, but I think it will be a decent while before 16Gb actually come in handy.

    • Another thing to consider would be upgradability and as you already pointed out the Mac Mini clearly wins here. You will be able to upgrade both the ram and hard drive to your heart's content in the future, while you'll pretty much be stuck with the iMacs default configuration. The question here is of course how long you will want to use the computer. As 8Gb of ram are enough for now, if you plan on getting a new computer in the next 2 years, I don't think this should be important.

      Of course the ability to upgrade your Mac Mini's hdd to and ssd at some point and give him an additional performance boost is tempting, but once again this depends largely on how long you want to use your computer and if you are willing to invest money in it over time or rather save up for a new one.

    • As for the GPU. While the 4000HD certainly can hold its own, it of course doesn't compare to a dedicated GPU. However I don't really know how big of an influence this has on video rendering performance. This is probably worth some research on your part. The only other reason I see for choosing a dedicated GPU over the 4000HD would be if you want to do some light gaming on occasion, I think apart from that the 4000HD will fair fine in day by day usage.

    • Finally, peripherals, which play a deciding factor I think.

      Consider that when buying the Mac Mini you will still need to get a mouse/trackpad, keyboard and screen. The iMac not only comes with all those, but they also are of superb quality. Both the wireless bluetooth keyboard and magic mouse are great products, but the iMac screen deserves the spotlight.

      It's a high quality IPS panel and a similar, standalone monitor will easily set you back $300 if not more.

      Of course, the Mac Mini gives you the freedom of choice and you can get alternatives that might either be cheaper or preferable to you (e.g. a larger screen).

      Even though I don't think this is essential for either, there is the matter of portability. Of course the Mac Mini is much easier to transport, as long as you don't have to lug all the peripherals around with you. If you know there will be a screen available at your destination, you can just grab your Mac Mini and throw it in your backpack. This will obviously not be quite as easy with the iMac

    To summarize I have to unfortunately give you a fairly boilerplate response: It all depends on how you wanna use it.

    Unless the gpu has a major impact on video rendering performance or you want to do some gaming (which to be honest, neither of your two choices is particularly suited for) I think the Mac Mini might be the better choice for you. You get more bang for your buck, upgradability and can choose your own peripherals. Assuming you would buy both the magic mouse and wireless keyboard as well as a decent screen for about $300 you'll still save about $60 compared to the iMac (and of course you could choose cheaper alternatives and save even more).

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