First Mac advice with specific requirements (virtualisation performance, photography)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by sunildvr, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. sunildvr macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #1
    Hi all,

    I'm looking at getting my first Mac at some point soon, but I'm somewhat torn.

    Some background: my current main computer is a 5.5 year-old WinXP machine - single core Athlon XP, 2GB RAM. Aside from the day to day office/web usage, I mainly use the machine for photography, and it's getting a bit past it when I'm processing multiple 50D raw files in the background and doing day to day stuff in the foreground!

    So, I want to replace my main desktop machine with a Mac. The image management software I use is Windows only, so there is a requirement for me to continue to run Windows. The logical solution is to virtualise Windows for this, using Parallels or VMWare.

    This is where I come a little unstuck: the options are Mac Mini, iMac, and Mac Pro.

    I'm not at all keen on the iMac, primarily because of the integrated display.

    The initial price of a Mini isn't too steep, and if I were to move up to a Mac Pro later on, the Mini could be re-used (under the TV, for instance) relatively easily.

    A Mac Pro would be ideal, but the absolute minimum cost is £1500 (4 core) or almost £2000 (8 core). It's not bad value for the power it provides, but I'm trying to save money for a PhD, and that's a heck of a sum to drop... On the plus side, it would be very powerful, upgradeable, and should last a number of years.

    At the moment my thinking is that if I could survive on a Mini for a year or two, that would be great... then start considering the Pro. But the deal breaker is going to be what virtualised and multi-tasking performance is like.

    Obviously the Mini won't be able to keep up with the Pro... but is virtualising Windows on a Mini with 4GB RAM unusably slow? How about if I'm doing day to day things (say, Mail, Firefox/Safari with multiple tabs, Dreamweaver, Photoshop) in the foreground - how soon do the limitations of the Mini begin to show?

    I'd really appreciate it if anyone who has any experience of virtualising Windows for this kind of thing could give me their thoughts.

    Many thanks

    Sunil
     
  2. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #2
    Hmm.. I would get Mac Pro. It's more expensive but will be fine for years. Mini's RAM is limited to 4GB while quad Mac Pro can take up to 16GB. Also, there's CrossOver for Mac which allows you to run Windows app in OS X, so what software are you using?
     
  3. Kat King123 macrumors regular

    Kat King123

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2009
    #3
    what would you need 16gb of ram for? i run windows 7 and osx AT THE SAME TIME with only 2 gb of ram and still have about 600-700mb free get the mini its well worth it :D
     
  4. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #4
    Depends what do you do. OP needs Windows for his image software and he wants to run multiple apps in OS X at the same time. I just find Mac Pro much better for his usage and it'll pay back its value. I didn't say he needs 16GB but in future he might.
     
  5. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604

    SnowLeopard2008

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2008
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #5
    I'd have to recommend the iMac. It's better able to handle the "multiple 50D raw files" of your DSLR (that I'm assuming you have). The Mini is good, but you need to upgrade it a little (faster processor, memory, HD maybe, etc), and after the upgrades, the price is about that of an iMac. And not to mention the iMac comes with a few accessories like a keyboard, mouse and display.
     
  6. sunildvr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    Thanks so far for everyone's feedback.

    I'm using IMatch, a shareware program. Although the interface isn't as pretty as many products which are available for the Mac, the underlying power of the image management side of the software is unmatched - unless you're looking at seriously expensive, corporate DAM tools.

    Without question, a Mac Pro would be ideal. However, the initial up-front cost is eye-watering. I'm not making any serious money from my photography, so it's somewhat more difficult to justify than it would be if I were relying on it for my income.

    Yep, I have a Canon Eos 50D (and a 20D), and I tend to shoot in raw mode - the resultant .cr2 files are ~20MB each (~10MB for the 20D). Opening these, applying some filters (noise reduction, a curves channel, etc.) and you quickly start to get pretty large files.

    If I went for a Mini, I'd be upgrading the RAM to 4GB; probably a 250/320GB HDD. Images would stay on an external USB disk.

    I don't really need a mouse or keyboard: existing USB ones work just fine, and would work fine with a Mac too. The iMac screen is ok, apart from the glossy finish, but again I have a reasonably good working screen which is pretty accurate for colour and I'm trying not to chuck money away for the sake of it - so I can survive on my existing screen for a while longer.

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has experience of the comparative speed between a Mini and a Pro when virtualising Windows. Obviously the Pro will be faster - but is a Mini unusably slow?
     

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