Buying Advice: New Mac Mini (2012) vs. Mac Mini with AMD Radeon HD 6630M

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by shazammy, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. shazammy macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2004
    I need a bit of help with some buying advice, and I figured I would turn to my favorite Mac forums. If anyone could offer some insight here, I would be very grateful.

    Currently, my Mac system consists of a sole 13" MacBook Pro from late 2010. It's been a workhorse laptop for me, and I love it. However, last August I started producing a video show that runs once a week, and I've been using the laptop to edit it on, using Final Cut Pro 7. Surprisingly, it's been fairly robust, but at times it does chug through an edit.

    Usually when I'm on the laptop and not editing the show, I'm writing, surfing the web, using Photoshop for simple photo edits, and editing simple audio. However, I just received an offer to write video game reviews for the Mac (I write video game reviews for console games and PCs), and that combined with the video editing has me looking at a new computer.

    I had been just about set to purchase this Mac Mini through a friend with an Apple Employee discount:

    2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
    4GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (I would upgrade this on my own to 8 or 16GB)
    1TB Fusion Drive
    $1149 - before discount

    However, I was reading today about the Mac Mini from 2011 with the AMD Radeon graphics card in it and was wondering if I should go that route instead:

    2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
    8GB memory

    750GB hard drive
    AMD Radeon HD 6630M
    $699 - refurbished

    I understand that it has better graphic performance than the newer Mac Mini, but is it enough to make a huge difference? Would I notice a sizable difference between the machines when playing games? When editing video in Final Cut? Price is somewhat of a factor, as I wanted to keep the purchase as close to $1000 as possible. Otherwise I'd buy a powerhouse Mac Pro.

    Also, I know the rumor is that Haswell is possibly coming to the Mac Mini, but I really can't wait right now. Although I could possibly purchase the $699 2011 Mac Mini now and maybe upgrade to the Haswell Mac Mini later this year if it materializes by selling the 2011.

    Any advice? I already have a nice display that is ready to use, and an external keyboard, which was another reason I found the Mini attractive. But I would sincerely appreciate any input here. Much thanks!
  2. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    If you are doing Final Cut Pro and Photoshop, go with the 2012. If you want to game, go with the 2011.
  3. shazammy thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2004
    Right, although I need to do both. Is one machine better than the other for Final Cut, Photoshop, and gaming? Another caveat is that I won't be gaming on it constantly, as I have a PC for that. But for occasional reviews, yes.
  4. Pandalorian macrumors member

    Aug 28, 2012
    The antarctic
    My advice would be to go with the 2012.
    The AMD processor in the 2011 is a bit faster at some tasks, but the 2012 model you describe as an option is a QUAD CORE MACHINE. the performance increase in doubling the processor cores in a machine is giant compared to any gain/loss in sticking with the AMD processor. Also, i believe the 2012 can support 16GB of ram (mine has 16) but the 2011 can only support 8? Might be wrong there, but either way the 2012 is the way to go imho. I love mine, it can handle FCPX and Aperture flawlessly , and games like Civilization 5 run with little to no lag.
  5. shalliday macrumors member


    Dec 27, 2011
    The 2011 MacMini quad-core does support 16gb of memory. Not sure about the dual-core models though but I think they do as well.
  6. dakhein macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2011
    NorCal, USA
    I don't know what you want to play but if you want to run it at 1920x1200 or above I don't think either one is going to do very well even on low settings unless it's a very low spec game. I've used one at that resolution to play WoW and to me it wasn't playable.
  7. MajorPain, Apr 13, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013

    MajorPain macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    On, the Radeon 6630M is rated #180, while the Intel HD 4000 is rated #238 (#1 being best). You can select the two of them, then click "Restrict" at the bottom and then it will isolate those two for you so you can compare.

    The Radeon 6630M only has 256 MB of VRAM, but it clearly beats the HD 4000 on every benchmark, I believe. I am very disappointed that Apple offered no upgrade option beyond the HD 4000 on the 2012 minis.

    The 2011 dual Core i7 was only dual-core, but it is still a powerful chip. The 2012 quad Core i7 is a monster! But it won't help you much with graphics, which depend on your video "card". For the mini, we are really talking about a video chip.

    The 2011 machine can address 16 gigs of RAM. It probably is able to address 32 gigs of RAM, but the mini (both 2012 and 2011) only has 2 RAM slots, and 16 gig sticks of RAM at the laptop size are not yet available on NewEgg, OWC, Crucial etc. gives you pretty good specs on every mac ever.

    The 2011 core i7 2.3 with Radeon 6630M was recently available on the Apple Store refurb for $589. It only had 4 gigs of RAM and a 500 gig HD. But that was fine for me cause I will upgrade to 16 gigs of RAM, so I didn't want to pay for any more pre-installed RAM than I had to. After the 1 year warranty expires, I plan to remove the 500 gig HD and put in a 500 gig SSD, if SSD prices fall a bit. (I did buy that machine off the Apple store refurb and I hit "buy" extremely quickly).

    If you can wait, the lurk around the Apple Store refurb for a couple of weeks. They just had a whole bunch of good refurb deals put up last week, and they sold out of those entirely.

    Edit: I just saw that you "just received an offer to write video game reviews for the Mac"... the Mini really is not a gaming machine. The 2012 21.5" iMac with the nvidia 650M is supposed to be real nice for gaming. The 650M can handle most new games. Make sure you get 16 gigs of RAM because the RAM is very tedious to upgrade- even for a tech.
  8. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    First off the AMD Radeon HD 6630M, while being better than the Intel HD 4000, isn't THAT MUCH better. Secondly, a lot of this conjecture depends on how much you are going to be using which version of Final Cut Pro. If you're using FCP 7, it kind of doesn't matter as the two will be similar enough, plus FCP 7 isn't multi-core aware, so Quad-Core Ivy Bridge i7 vs. Dual-Core Sandy Bridge i7 will only be a modest difference. A lot of this conjecture also depends on which games you will want to be playing. StarCraft II, for instance, will likely look very similar on both. If you're going to be using Boot Camp to try to play some Bioshock Infinites (or similarly, will be waiting for the Mac version to come out this summer), then the 2011 machine is probably preferable.

    Ultimately, it boils down to: how important is the AMD Radeon HD 6630M to you? The Fusion Drive combined with the quad-core CPU is going to make the 2012 machine unarguably faster in all CPU/Disk-access tasks, while slightly inferior in some (but not all) GPU tasks. So, it's kind of taster's choice.

    This being said, I'd suggest scrapping the idea of a Mac mini altogether if you want a machine to be both good for Final Cut Pro and for gaming as it's not a machine meant to be put through the rounds like that. Much better of a machine would be a 15" non-retina MacBook Pro or perhaps an iMac. If you are casual enough on the gaming end, a high-end 21.5" iMac (and yes, get the 16GB of RAM preloaded) or any 27" iMac will more than suffice. While that is a heftier cost, you can recover some of that extra burden by selling your Mid 2010 13" MacBook Pro.
  9. Drharrington macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2012
    Not sure if this matters but the HD 4000 VRAM flexes up based on how much ram is installed. See below with 16 GB installed. Jumps to 768??

    Does that matter?

    Attached Files:

  10. gregorsamsa macrumors 6502a

    Apr 6, 2006
    (Metamorphosing near) Staffs, 51st State.
    True about the HD 4000 Mini's VRAM, but keep in mind that the 2011 Mini with dedicated HD 6630M GPU has 256 VRAM that's GDDR5 type. That has a wider bandwidth & is much faster than the HD 4000's DDR3 VRAM.
  11. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    the the 2011 it is cheaper. when the new mini comes out sell the 2011 and get the new mini. why? neither machine the 2011 or the 2012 is good enough for your needs. so if you are going to be short in power you may as well pay less. Hopefully the 2013 in the fall? will be more to your needs.
  12. Fietsbel macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2012
    Go for the 2011 model, it's fast enough for your needs and save the rest of money for the other things. The 2012 isn;t worth that much money
  13. MajorPain macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    Thanks for posting that photo!
  14. Acorn macrumors 68020


    Jan 2, 2009
    i think the baseline imac refurbished the 21 inch one with the 650m graphics for 1269 is a better deal and better option. if you could somehow get that discount on top of the refurbished discount that would be even better.

    this machine is far more suitable for game reviews than a mac mini. the best mac for 1200ish bucks anyway.
  15. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    The 2011 runs the best OS ever made. The 2012 runs a lousy on eyecandy od-ing quite annoying ugly kitten and the 2011 will hold value better as it will stay a unique machine: rare and spanning a really long time of apps (from 2000 to 4-5 years in the future at least).
  16. qap macrumors 6502


    Mar 29, 2011
  17. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Don't count too much on that. I wonder if it fits thermally. The current quad i7 pretty much pushes the heat envelope, and the Haswell will have twice the amount of GPU transistors, still baked at 22nm. Apple might wait for Intel to Tick the Haswell into Broadwell.
    If you look at the step Core2Duo to Sandy to Ivy, we might see new Broadwell notebooks early 2014, and mini's following in the summer of 2014. The usual interval for new mini's is around 500 days (excluding the little speed bumps).
  18. Count Blah macrumors 68040

    Count Blah

    Jan 6, 2004
    US of A
    Sorry, the 5200 is a pipe dream.

    First off, Apple would never release it in the mini because it would hurt sales of the iMac and MBP.

    Second, as others have been saying all along, the thermals likely put this one out of reach without some major redesign of the mini.

    Finally, the incremental increase is to be expected in the mini line, even when they offered a discrete GPU, it was purposely hobbled with a substandard amount of RAM(see 1st point).

    The 4600 is what will be in the mini for 2013. Beyond that? Who knows.
  19. timmillea macrumors newbie

    Oct 20, 2014
    I am ressurrecting this old thread because I am one of the many who had been holding out for a new Haswell Mac Mini only to find the new generation offers considerably less performance than the 2012 quad-core predecessors. I have had to revalue the 2012 Mac Minis and this has lead to revaluing the 2011 gen too.

    As a result of the withdrawal of quad core Minis, re-sale prices of quad core 2012 and 2011 minis has sky-rocketed. They are typically attracting 20-40% more than Apple were asking for their refurbished models only a short time ago. The latter appear increasingly rarely and sell out same-day of they do appear.

    Having read a very long essay/review on the new Mac Pro over on AmendTech which describes how CPU performance has increased relatively little in 5-6 years compared to GPU performance - a factor of 10+ difference between the two - the value of a discrete GPU for general purpose computing is increasing.

    Just as the loss of quad core Minis was lamented with the 2014 Minis, so was the loss of a discrete GPU option lamented with the 2012 Minis. In terms of raw compute power, the discrete AMD Radeon 6630m of the high-end 2011 Minis is capable of 480 GFLOPS - three to four times that of the highest-specced 2.7GHz i7 dual-core CPU of the day and still over double that of the latest highest-specced 3GHz Haswell option on the 2014 Minis. With the trend towards GPU computing, these numbers deserve a pause for thought.

    By today's valuation, the Mac Mini may have peaked with the discrete GPU options of the 2011 models. Intel HD 5000 and 5100 are a major improvement on HD 4000 but are still well behind in the benchmarks of the 6630m. And these are artificial benchmarks. They neglect the fact that general CPU performance is degraded more by integrated graphics working full-out than it is by a dscrete GPU working full-out.

    Everymac reports that the DDR3 1600 MHz of the 2012 generation is "far faster" than the DDR3 1333 Mhz of the 2011 generation Mac Minis. What it neglects to menton is that the 2011 Minis can also run 1600MHz at native speed and, shockingly, also at 1866 MHz at native speed. The 2012 & 2014 Minis have an EFI restriction to 1600MHz which the 2011 Minis do not.

    Does the value equation start to change?

    * Discrete GPU with several times the raw compute power of today's Mini CPUs
    * Memory (cheaply) upgradable to 16GB 1866MHz DDR3
    * 2 x 2.5" drive bays for e.g. a 2TB Fusion (2TB + 120GB SSD) drive
    * Same aluminium 'Unibody' enclosure with Thunderbolt, SDXC slot PLUS Firewire 800 for legacy data transfers

    If you learn the lessons of the Mac Pro evolution, the 4-core Mac Minis are less attractive than the GPU-equipped 2011 dual-core but higher clocked i7 model. That is a journey for you to make. We may never see such an attractive Mac Mini again.
  20. macaron95 macrumors regular

    May 5, 2014
    how strange,

    my 2012 Mac Mini has also 16 gb installed

    and my intel HD 4000 shows 1 gb

    which OSX do you have ?


    another strange thing: I have 1600 Mhz ram installed, but recognized at 1333

    yours shows 1600
  21. brdeveloper macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    If the 2011 Mini works with 1866MHz at native speed this means the processor will operate overclocked at ~17%, that is, their internal clock multipliers are automatically adjusted to support the faster FSB. Never heard about this. The most common scenario is faster RAM operating at lower speeds if it finds a slower FSB.

    I'd like to see how the 6630M would perform on this setup. It could probably match or beat an HD5000 in terms of performance.
  22. gugy macrumors 68040


    Jan 31, 2005
    La Jolla, CA
    Does anybody know if the Photoshop CS6 takes a big advantage of quad core performance? I wonder if dual core would be enough.
    I want to add SSD and RAM and I wonder if that is enough to have a solid performance on a 2014 model.
  23. timmillea macrumors newbie

    Oct 20, 2014
    My new 'old' Mini and upgrades are on their way and will happily report back mid December when I return to the UK and put it together.

    There are many reports out there of 1866MHz memory running at that speed on the 2011 Minis and others that the same RAM only runs at 1600MHz on the 2012 minis. The fastest Geekbench result for the 2.7GHz i7 2011 Mini is also with memory reported as running at 1866MHz.

    From the benchmarks, the 6630m easily outperforms the HD5000, has the lead against the HD5100 'Iris' but just lags behind the HD5200 'Iris Pro' (not yet available on the Mini). Again this is isolated, artificial benchmarking when real-world performance would favour a separate GPU over integrated when the CPU is also working flat out.

    I am interested in your comment that the processor would overclock to run memory at 1866MhZ. From Geekbench, the advantage is less than 1% over 1600MHz RAM so this would appear not to be the case. I also thought I read that the i7 runs memory at whatever speed it can, not directly related to its own clock speed.

    I am far from expert, I just read as I go, so welcome any thoughts, opinions and explanatons.

  24. brdeveloper macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    I'm not an expert too. But if the faster memory automatically gets "permission" to operate at an unsupported speed, I suppose the front side bus is automatically adjusted to support that speed. The processor then can keep its internal clock speed untouched by selecting a lower internal multiplier OR it keeps its multiplier untouched making the processor operate at a faster clock speed.

    Actually I think it's possible to the memories to operate faster while the processor keeps the original speed. It depends on how this "automatic setup" actually works, that is, how the multipliers are adjusted to synchronize processor, ram and the fsb.

    What really matters is that, if ram speed is increased, then the internal gpu will get higher memory access speed, resulting in better performance. A faster processor clock speed could be a collateral effect of this reconfiguration, but it may or may not happen.
  25. timmillea macrumors newbie

    Oct 20, 2014
    I have ordered Kingston HyperX 'Impact' 2 x 8GB capable of 1866MHz @ CL-10-10-10. How will I know if 'it' 'has happened' ? It is not as if there is a pregnancy test for it.


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