Buying my first Mac. Please help me decide.

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by tennisproha, Nov 23, 2014.

  1. tennisproha, Nov 23, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2014

    tennisproha macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #1
    Hi all,

    I'm buying my first Mac after being a Windows user for about 15 years. I have used Macs at work before but have never had my own personal one at home. Been impressed by the ones I've used so far so I figured I'd buy my own. My only Apple products right now are an iPhone & iPad so this way I can integrate everything as well.

    My main use will be:

    interactive web browsing & streaming
    document creating/editing
    streaming HD content (including bluray playback)
    photo editing & video rendering (eventually)
    VPN
    home server (once I figure this out).

    The only use I wont have right now is gaming. It will be my main PC, getting moderate 1 person usage. I'd like it to do everything really well as opposed to just getting by; and I definitely want it to be as 'future proof' as possible since I wont upgrade it for about 5 years. For my setup, I've got an external HD backup, Xbox, and a satellite TV connection . Everything is in the library (man cave) so I'm thinking I can get a Mac Mini and connect it all to 1 TV...

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    My main concerns: Updated

    I did some research and settled on getting a 2010 Mac Mini so I can use the optical drive. I'd replace the optical with an internal bluray. But I've read a lot about the optical having issues so I thought I'd connect an external bluray drive instead. BUT the 2010 Mini isn't future proof since it needs a workaround for Continuity & Handoff. Because of this I'm leaning towards a 2012 Mac Mini now. I can connect an external bluray, and Continuity works OTB with iOS as far as I know. Solved

    With the 2012 Mac Mini, the only issue I have now is whether the integrated HD 4000 graphics are a good idea or if I'd be better off getting the 2011 Mac Mini with the Radeon HD 6630M graphics? How much of a role does the GPU play in online video streaming or video rendering/editing vs the CPU?

    Lastly, I want to set up a home server for centralized backups, remote access, and maybe media but I don't know how yet. This seems like a whole other animal so I'll get to it eventually. But in the meantime, should I get the normal or server version of the Mac Mini? And does the home server need to be a dedicated PC or can I just use this main PC for both purposes (daily use and server)?

    So am I better off getting the 2011 Mini, 2012 Mini, or the current 2014 Mini? Quad core? server or non-server?
    any other options I'm missing?

    Thanks for reading & I appreciate any advice.:D
     
  2. jji7skyline macrumors 6502

    jji7skyline

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    #2
    The Mac Mini will be fine for the uses you mentioned. Since you're comfortable with buying second hand, you could look for an upgraded 2012 Mac Mini. Mac Minis have incredibly low deprecation rates though, so don't expect to find a bargain.

    Watching HD content will be fine with Intel HD graphics. I'm not sure what you mean by rendering, do you mean like 3D graphics rendering? If so, a Mac Mini may not be the right computer for you.

    The thing is that OSX does not have built-in bluray function. No Mac comes with a bluray drive. As a result you won't be able to play bluray videos natively. The solution is to buy an external bluray drive designed for Mac. They come with bundled software that allows you to decode and watch blu ray videos.

    A Mac Mini would make an excellent home server.
     
  3. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #3
    If you're going for a 2014 Mini, get at least the "mid-level" model.

    Comes with 8gb of RAM standard, and the IRIS (better) graphics.

    If you want to upgrade the storage, looks like the costs are the same for either:
    - 256gb SSD, or
    - 1tb fusion drive
    (Note: the "1tb" fusion drive is actually TWO drives, probably a 128gb SSD -and- a 1tb 5400rpm HDD)

    You can go either way, pure SSD will be a little faster (but less storage space of course); fusion drive will not be quite as fast as SDD (but will still be "fast"), but offers far more capacity.
    I don't use fusion myself, but it actually looks to be the better choice for a first-time Mac buyer if you have "a lot of stuff" to bring over.

    For Bluray, you'll want to buy an external USB reader/writer. I've got a Samsung that works well, only needs one USB connection to power it (some drives need 2 USB connections, or an external power supply).
    Be aware that the Mac OS doesn't support Bluray playback, but that there are 3rd party software options that do.

    Don't buy an Apple Thunderbolt display, it's outdated and far too expensive.
    Get a 3rd-party display (or use the one you have now).
    Good reference page for display-hunting is here:
    http://www.pchardwarehelp.com/guides/s-ips-lcd-list.php

    Also -- don't buy the Apple keyboard or mouse. They are all "style" and not enough substance. Use the keyboard and mouse you have now, or find 3rd-party alternatives. I prefer Logitech mice, myself.

    Final thought about buying a 2012 Mini:
    If you go after a "late-2012" Mini, I'd suggest keeping an eye out for Apple refurbished models at this page:
    https://www.refurb.me/us/desktop/mac_mini
    The models you want would be either:
    - i7 2.3ghz, or
    - i7 2.6ghz.
    I have the latter and it's still a fine performer after almost 2 years of usage...

    Be advised that Minis on the refurb page come and go very quickly, so you have to be ready to "jump" when they're available!
    You can set the site up so it will notify you by email when items are in stock...
     
  4. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #4
    rendering as in video rendering/editting from say FCP or similar.

    Would I be better off getting a normal or server version then? and can I use my daily PC as a server or should it be dedicated?

    ----------

    For my use, how would the 2014 compare to the 2012 say quad core? which would be better as a future proof PC?

    Thanks for the refurb link. and the other links.
     
  5. trs0722 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2011
    Location:
    Newark, DE
    #5
    I just got my 2012 refurbed quad core and noticed faster performance in iMovie. I've never used FCP but would expect (from what I've read) that a quad core (i.e. 2012 model) would do better.

    On the other hand, the 2014 has 8GB RAM, which should be enough for what you want to do, and a pretty new GPU (Iris).

    The only difference with the 2012 server model is it comes with two hard drives and a server app, which I believe you can download even on a non server model.
     
  6. jji7skyline macrumors 6502

    jji7skyline

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    #6
    If you can get a cheap refurbished 2012 quad core, sure go with that. Just be sure it doesn't cost more than the 2014 version.

    I'd get the normal version. Any computer can be a server, the server version just comes with Apple's server software.

    Servers don't have to be dedicated, especially if it's only a light server such as web, mail or database. If it's a game server or something, you'd be best with a dedicated server. More importantly, you need a fast internet connection with 5Mbps or more on both up and downloads.
     
  7. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #7
    Thank you. You've been really helpful. I appreciate it.

    I just have a few more questions:

    How big of a difference is it between the 2012 quads i7 2.3 and i7 2.6? Noticeable?

    Also, I know the GPU is used when gaming but is it used when streaming vids as well? For instance, if its high quality, high frame rate videos, does the CPU handle it all or does the GPU come into play? Im just wondering how the integrated graphics will compare to a dedicated for my purposes.
     
  8. jji7skyline macrumors 6502

    jji7skyline

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    #8
    The 2.6Ghz will be better for everyday performance. The quad i7 will only be faster in places where it can utilise those two extra cores. One 2.3Ghz core will be slower than one 2.6Ghz core though, because of Haswell architectural advantages, and of course the higher clock speed.

    10 years ago, in the days of Pentium 4 and PowerPC, you would definitely have needed a good video card to watch full HD video smoothly. Nowadays though, it's absolutely, completely unnecessary to have a dedicated graphics chip for video consuming purposes. The built in Intel graphics in current machines are around 50 to 100 times faster than even a mid-range graphics card back in those days.
     
  9. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #9
    That does make sense with regards to the video card. How well would 4k be handled?

    So both the 2.3Ghz and 2.6Ghz are quad core systems. You're saying the 2.6 will be better for everyday performance but only 2 cores are used? the quad cores only come into play for specific purposes? I thought all 4 cores are used all the time and then boosted to a higher Ghz and an additional quad virtual cores when needed?
     
  10. newellj macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2014
    Location:
    Boston, MA, US
    #10
    A lot of software is not coded to take advantage of quad core CPUs. I'd still go for it, but don't expect to see benefits across the board.
     
  11. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #11
    Just 3rd party software or even Apple software? If I run Yosemite on it, won't Yosemite utilize the quad cores for system processes and built in software such as Safari or iLife?
     
  12. jji7skyline macrumors 6502

    jji7skyline

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    #12
    Intel built-in graphics can play 4K video, no problems.

    If they are both quad core (I thought you were comparing the 2012 and 2014 Mac Minis), then the difference will be very slight.
     

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