Best year mac mini for upgrading

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by macmesser, Aug 22, 2015.

  1. macmesser, Aug 22, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015

    macmesser macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I need a mac mini to act as a data entry station and also a server for an image database. The image database lists 4 cores as min spec and support told me that was a serious recommendation. AFAIK (never owned a mac mini) this means a core i5 or i7. I heard that the recent ones are not memory upgradable so I'd like recommendation as to best year and processor to look for. If I understand correctly the i7 features hyper-threading which affords 8 virtual cores while the i5 affords only 4 physical cores, so I'm looking for an i7 which will be easy to upgrade in terms of memory and disk storage. What models/years should I be looking for? Are the servers essentially identical to the standard models? If not, what are differences except for software? Thanks for any insights.
     
  2. CoastalOR macrumors 68000

    CoastalOR

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    #2
    If you want an i7 quad core and upgradeable then you should look for a 2012 Mac mini with the i7. They are hard to find because they are popular, but they are the last ones with an available 4 core i7.
     
  3. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    Thanks for reply. Are the 2011 models essentially the same? There are more of them available.
     
  4. CoastalOR macrumors 68000

    CoastalOR

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    #4
    No, the 2011's are only 2 core for i7.

    EDIT: Another important difference, for me, is that the 2012's started using USB3, the 2011 only have USB2 ports.
     
  5. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    Thanks! Glad I asked that last question. I absolutely need the 4 cores.
     
  6. dwfaust macrumors 68040

    dwfaust

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    #6
    I saw this earlier today on another forum (iMore)...

    http://forums.imore.com/marketplace-buy-sell-trade/337423-mint-late-2012-mac-mini.html#post2578214
     
  7. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #7
  8. karbi macrumors newbie

    karbi

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    #8
    The 2011 i7 2.0 GHz had 4 cores.
     
  9. CoastalOR macrumors 68000

    CoastalOR

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    #9
    Not according to Mactracker app for the Mac min mid 2011. I did go back to check and I did find the Mac mini Server mid 2011 does have a 4 core. So the answer is yes and no for 2011 Mac mini. You just have to find the server version.
    Here is everymac information about the 2011 Mac mini Server:
    http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-2.0-mid-2011-server-specs.html
    Here is everymac information about the standard 2011 Mac mini:
    http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-2.7-mid-2011-specs.html
     
  10. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    #10
    With hyper-threading, just as a quad-core i7 affords 8 virtual cores the mini's dual-core i5 affords 4 virtual cores. As a dual-core processor this i5 has only 2 physical cores.

    A QC i7 should work fine for your application.
     
  11. SpacemanSpiffed macrumors member

    SpacemanSpiffed

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    #11
    Some of the confusion about cores is due to the fact that Intel puts different i# designations on their chips depending if they are "Desktop" or "Mobile" CPUs.

    A Desktop i5 is (usually) going to be a Quad Core CPU without Hyperthreading, and a small amount of cache missing (either due to manufacturing defect, or fused off), while a mobile i5 is (usually) going to be a Dual Core CPU with Hyperthreading.

    I say usually because Intel keeps messing with their designations from year to year, as new chip generations come and go. After a few years, it gets ... messy

    The main differences between Desktop and Mobile chips are in two ares: Power Consumption and built-in GPU.

    Desktop chips are going to have smaller integrated GPUs, but a much higher power consumption profile (TDP) - which translates into higher clock speeds. The less powerful graphics are made up by the fact that desktop users are more likely to (and can) have a dedicated graphics card.

    Mobile chips need to work in laptops where battery life is very important and tiny systems where cooling is very important. The clocks speeds they give up compared to their desktop counterparts give them a huge edge in power (and heat) - To get that last gigahertz of clock speed takes a disproportionately large amount of the total power consumed, and produces a proportionately large amount of the heat that has t be dealt with.

    Mac Minis have always used the laptop chips, allowing for their tiny size and great efficiency.

    Anyway, back to the OP: Given the usage situation you described, I suspect that you will want to upgrade to an SSD drive as well as making sure you have enough RAM. For a database application that is going to get some use, the SSD should result in much better perceived and actual performance compared to a regular hard drive. The difference I suspect is going to be *many* times greater than the clock speed differences between a 2011 quad-core server and a 2012 quad-core mini.
     
  12. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    #12
    Perhaps the answer to your question got lost in our forest of words. Most of our advice points towards this suggestion.

    Purchase a late 2012 i7 Mac mini (model identifier 6,2). This USB 3.0 equipped model will be suitable with either the Core i7 (I7-3615QM) or Core i7 (I7-3720QM) processor option. Likewise, you can choose from the mid-range or server models because they are quite similar other than the second installed drive in the servers.

    As has been mentioned, SSD storage is faster storage but it will have no effect on your processing capabilities. If you select an SSD equipped mini or upgrade your purchase you will experience a massive storage performance boost compared to a standard HDD. Also, although some 2011 models offer quad core performance the four-year-old machines have USB 2.0 and run slightly slower RAM.

    EveryMac.com is a great place to research specifications and to compare models. :apple:
     
  13. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Thanks for reply.
     
  14. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #14

    Thanks for the insights!
     
  15. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #15

    That sums up the advice nicely. Thanks to you and all the others who contributed so much knowledge to this thread.
     
  16. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Is it worth it to go for a 2.6 GHz i7 over the 2.3 for about a $250 differential? That's based on correcting for fusion drive in the faster model, HDD standard on the slower and same RAM in both. These puppies are going for more than original price, which has got to be extremely rare in the tech world.
     
  17. CoastalOR macrumors 68000

    CoastalOR

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    #17
    I would definitely go for the 2.6 GHz i7 with the fusion drive over the 2.3 Ghz if you want to avoid opening up the 2012 to do your own upgrades. If you are willing to take the chance and feel comfortable working in the computer then you could add your own Sata 3 SSD to the 2.3 Ghz, but you would have to add the cost of an appropriate sized SSD.

    Yeah, the price of old quad core i7 minis are crazy.
     
  18. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #18
    Actually, there is a 2011 quad-core i7 but they are kinda rare.
     
  19. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    I've seen some on ebay the last few days so they're not like black swans. I'd consider as they are significantly less expensive but I'm not sure exactly what I'd be losing with the older model other than USB 3. They are tempting.
     
  20. macmesser, Aug 24, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015

    macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #20

    I'm fairly comfortable with that level of upgrade. I installed SSD's on my 2009 (PS scratch and boot disks) Mac Pro and flashed it to 5,1. I could save some money with the 2.3 GHz and I don't mind going a little tinkering, but will performance be pretty comparable to the 2.6GHz/fusion drive if I add my own boot SSD to the 2.3GHz? Clock speeds say the 2.3GHz will be around 88% as fast. If I get a maxed out '12 mini there's less point in buying an older model. Price would be a reason but they have pretty much kept their value. User upgradable/fixable is a plus, but not all that compelling. The fusion drive might be, but that brings up the price of an old mini. Is fusion drive that effective?
     
  21. grcar, Aug 24, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015

    grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #21
    Well, it gets complicated. The nominally quad-core i5 mid-2011 macmini5,2 MC816LL/A had an optional upgrade to a quad-core i7 (which is not reflected in either model numbers). These machines are pretty rare and they have Radeon graphics which you do not want the hassle of. The mid-2011 macmini5,3 MC936LL/A was stock quad-core i7. It sells for about $550 on eBay auctions. The late-2012 macmini6,2 MD388LL/A also was stock quad-core i7. It sells for about $630 on eBay auctions. There was also a macmini6,2 MD389LL/A stock quad-core i7 "server". Most of the eBay machines have upgrades and accessories that bring the price up. And most of the machines are sold by small shops at fixed or negotiated prices rather than auctions. Bottom line is you will pay at least a couple hundred to a few hundred more than the prices I have posted. At these prices and the wait to buy on eBay you might as well give up on the quad core and buy a 2014 model direct from Apple.

    As you say, the main difference between 2011 and 2012 is usb3.0. This makes a huge difference if you intend to connect a large external hard disk.
     
  22. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    #22

    This seems like solid advice. The 2.6 Ghz i7 and Fusion Drive certainly cost more than $250 additional when the machine was new.

    Likewise, the 2.3 Ghz i7 can save you plenty of $ if you are willing to perform your own SSD upgrade. The performance of the two 2012 i7 offerings is very similar. After all, the main advantage of these i7 chips is the quad core configuration rather than the raw clock speed.

    Yes a Fusion Drive (or an unfused SSD) is that effective!
    Compared to a regular hard disk drive they are really, really fast. Period. :cool:
     
  23. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    Thanks for reply. I was getting there in my thinking, too. The current models are the same as 2014? Unfortunately I need the quad core and I just realized that none of the new ones are. The app I plan to use specifies 4 cores. They told me it might work but I'd be on my own.
     
  24. macmesser thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Thanks. As long as the clock speed difference does not translate into a big performance difference then the 2.3GHz is what I should be looking at as the basis of my calculation. Add to ebay price the cost of maxing RAM plus adding 256GB SSD. If it's close to similarly appointed 2.6Ghz or loaded 2.3Ghz, then buy higher end; else buy lower end and do upgrade myself.

    One thing is for sure: I'm getting pretty burned sifting through ebay listings. Happens every time. This thing must end! ; )
     
  25. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

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    #25
    Yes, that 88% as fast translates to 12% faster the other way. The large differences are between solid state based storage and spinning rust. Or recent RAM prices versus a few months ago. It appears that Amazon is chock full of 16 Gb sets for less than $80.

    Go for it! :apple:
     

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