Giving up on mini - what next?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by noisedude, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. noisedude, Mar 9, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018

    noisedude macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    I've come to admit what I've known for a while - my 2012 i7 mini is dying. Even if I want to try to get its HDMI socket repaired or finish switching to an external SSD boot drive, I use it for work every day and can't afford downtime, so I really need to replace it in situ first of all so I can check the old and new machines side by side and check everything over in fine detail.

    I'm not going to buy a 2014 mini unless I absolutely have to and I don't think I can hold out much longer for a refresh of the range.

    I do web design and have a big iPhoto library. The most demanding software I use is probably Photoshop or Illustrator. I have fifteen years' worth of files on the mini's 1TB drive (backed up to USB and Time Capsule constantly), which is about 80% full. The mini has two 21" 1080p monitors attached, though one is now out of use because the HDMI stopped working. I need a two monitor setup on my new machine, and one of them can't be a 13" laptop screen.

    I have a 2015 13" Retina MBP which has a small internal SSD so I use it out and about with my various cloud storage accounts and Apple Music, and don't store much on it. It is much faster than the mini, which I guess is down to the drive because the processor's way less powerful. I'm scared of having a laptop with a small storage drive as my main machine - does it make backups more complicated and does it mean I never have a master set of all my files in one place anywhere? I need a set-it-and-forget-it approach to backups.

    So... I need to rebuild my desktop machine alongside my existing mini and be absolutely sure all of my files and software are manually moved onto the new machine, with none of the system stuff that's slowed the mini down. Is it a new iMac? Is it a second laptop that runs two screens and a load of external drives?

    Looking at my current options, and seeing as the correct answer (a 2018 Mac mini) doesn't exist, I don't know whether to go all-in on an iMac with a big Fusion drive or go for a less powerful MB/MBP with external storage drive and just leave it on my desk to act as a desktop. My main considerations are how much processing power I need, how to do my storage and how to get two 21" or larger monitors running.

    So, my questions:

    1. Is a MBPr genuinely powerful enough to replace a desktop machine?
    2. Am I a dinosaur for wanting my main computer to have a 1TB or larger drive in?
    3. What's the best value iMac, if I go that way?
    4. How stupid am I going to feel when they release a fantastic new mini the day after I drop big money on a new iMac or MBP?
    All advice very gratefully received!!
  2. Arctic Moose macrumors member

    Arctic Moose

    Jun 22, 2017
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    My suggestion would be an iMac. Of course you want a large drive, but whatever you do, don't get a Fusion Drive. It is noisy and slow. Sell a kidney if you have to and get a large SSD.

    Modern laptops are more powerful than what you're using, but as an owner of a 5K iMac and 15" MBP, both max-specification latest models, my experience is that the iMac performance is noticeably better, even for non-demanding day-to-day tasks.
  3. noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    That's interesting, thank you. I'm someone who gets impatient quickly - I do a lot by keyboard shortcuts and want a responsive machine. I don't wait to wait ten or more seconds for results when I'm searching for a file or for a minute or two for Illustrator to load when I just want to change one character in a graphic. :)

    I've had a play around on a colleague's 27" 5k iMac with a Fusion drive and it seemed good - are they really not, in practice?
  4. Arctic Moose macrumors member

    Arctic Moose

    Jun 22, 2017
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    I had the 2016 with a Fusion Drive, it beachballed and hiccuped infuriatingly often for no good reason. Upgraded to a SSD-only 2017, difference was night and day.
  5. mroy16 macrumors member

    May 28, 2017
    How much do you care about the Mac OS and ecosystem? A small PC tower or SFF computer can easily handle your needs for a lower price. I'm a huge fan of the OS and ecosystem, so I normally don't recommend that people step away, but it might let you get exactly what you want.

    If you go with a SFF, you can get essentially a modern, powerful Mini replacement for under $1000. If you go with a small tower, you would have slots for multiple hard drive, allowing you to benefit from a smaller SSD for boot and software and larger 1TB+ HDDs for mass storage. This kind of flexibility just hasn't been around with Apple since the old Mac Pros.
  6. Appleaker macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2016
    Well if you can’t afford to wait for the 2018 Mini/iMacs, then the best option would be the 4K iMac. It is great value, 21.5” and a solid upgrade over your Mac mini, but with RAM/storage upgrades it may get into 27” territory. Either iMac will be a good choice, but now’s isn’t really the best time to buy a Mac.
  7. frank4 macrumors regular


    Oct 17, 2011
    Why not consider buying a used 2012 Mini with specs similar to your current one?
  8. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2010
    Your 2015 MBP should have an HDMI and a thunderbolt port and will drive your two 1080P monitors. You stated that it is slightly faster than your mini. The only thing lacking is the 1TB Storage.

    So how many of those 15 years worth of files are actually in use? Probably not that many, so moving them to external storage or even iCloud Drive ($9.99/month for 2 TB) may be a reasonable solution.

    The internals of a Mac Mini are the same (essentially) as the MacBook Air. So in this case, yes.

    Want vs. need. I WANT to have room for all of the music and movies I ripped from CD/DVD, but I definitely don't NEED it because I consume all of that media through various streaming channels now. I've had a 256GB SSD in my MBA since 2012 and have never had any issue with space.
    Network Attached and especially cloud storage are your friends.

    We all measure value differently. To me, the 21" is a non starter even though it's lower cost, because I value that 27" screen more than I value my dollars. YMMV
    Generaly, the 1TB Fusion Drive is not considered a good value because it has a smaller SSD portion and doesn't provide enough of a speed boost. So probably stay away from those configs.

    You might see a new processor, but I doubt there is going to be any significant new features to the Mini. It sounds like it would be feasible for you to convert over to your MBP and defer the cost. This is the ongoing story with Tech - There is always something better 6 months away. Just buy what you need when you need it.
  9. noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    In a previous career I was an IT tech. Nowadays I really value the set-it-and-forget-it approach so I can get on with work. So although I know they're price gouging me, I'm fairly set on staying within the ecosystem.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    I've waited a couple of years for the mini to be updated so I'm not spending significant money on downgrading my machine compared to my current one. But it's really slowing me down now.

    Why's now not the best time? Because of product cycles?
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    I'll give that some thought and see what's out there - thanks. :)
  10. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "I've come to admit what I've known for a while - my 2012 i7 mini is dying. Even if I want to try to get its HDMI socket repaired or finish switching to an external SSD boot drive"

    What, specifically, does the Mini "not do" that makes you think it's "dying"?
    What is failing on you?
    It could certainly be the internal HDD, and that will be most evident if you're trying to run a newer version of the OS (anything from Mavericks and later) on the slow, platter-based, 5400rpm internal hard drive. These OS's don't "run" on an HDD -- they "walk".

    If slow, slow speed is your problem, that can be fixed in a couple of minutes by plugging in an external USB3 SSD and booting and running that way.

    It's a cheap, easy, quick fix that will TRANSFORM the Mini -- so much so that you won't comprehend it until AFTER you've tried it.

    I don't see ANY MacBook Pro as a "replacement" for a desktop Mac with a large display.
    But perhaps that's just me.
    I would get a 27" 5k iMac. Nothing less would do.

    But again, if speed is what's slowing you down on the Mini, spend $100 or so for a 480-500gb external USB3 SSD. It will easily give it 2-3 more years.
  11. Appleaker macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2016
    I have no idea what you mean by "I'm not spending significant money on downgrading my machine compared to my current one"? Do you mean the cost of the 4K iMac? Do you refer to it as a downgrade because your current system has an SSD?
    It's not a good time to buy a Mac, not only because we're three quarters/half way through the product cycle, but also because of the significant Mac refreshes this year, including the core bump with Coffee Lake.
  12. mroy16 macrumors member

    May 28, 2017
    This brings up the age-old question - should I wait? And the answer is always: if you need or want it now, buy it now. If you can wait, wait. Tech in the future is almost always better (except the 2014 vs 2012 Mini, of course). But as it stands, no one actually knows what 2018 holds for the Mac lineup. Maybe we'll see much faster devices at lower prices. Maybe we won't see anything at all. This is a rumors forum, after all.

    OP, if your Mini is just no longer cutting it, you can try some upgrades or replacing your computer. I don't really see the purpose of sitting with a struggling machine just because you might get better specs by waiting 3-12 months. This is especially true if the currently available specs are already more than you need.
  13. noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    No, sorry, I mean I can't afford to wait much longer for a 2018 mini and getting a 2014 mini to replace my 2012 mini just so I had a clean system would be an expensive downgrade.
  14. rmpbklyn macrumors newbie


    Oct 25, 2015
    i upgraded mine to 8gb ram, saw video on youtube, there's a round disc shape it popout easily.
    backup your files firstly
    i was able to put 2 x 4gb, crucial brand, for less than $50.
    It's running good , no hiccups on videos, netflix , etc

  15. noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    I've already been waiting for that long, like an indecisive fool. :) All I wanted (and so many other users did too) was a sensibly priced mini with reasonably modern internals! Now I have to decide between two more expensive options that I didn't want...
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    Mine has 16GB (I added an extra 8GB). But it's slow slow slow, partly because it was restored from backups going all the way back to 2006 and partly because of the hard drive, and now with the HDMI port broken (it's not a software issue, I've tried everything) it's really limiting. Oh and the wifi keeps dropping when every other device in the room has full signal.

    No, I have to replace it, and not with a new mini because none exists. :(
  16. mroy16 macrumors member

    May 28, 2017
    It really sounds like the 21" 4K iMac is going to be your best option. It's a good computer, and it would easily replace one monitor in your setup with minimal rearrangement. With a decent sized SSD and then mass external HDD, I bet you would find yourself very happy with your choice. It sounds like your hardware requirements aren't particularly high, so just make sure you have a decent amount of RAM and SSD storage.

    A lot of people prefer the 27". Between the user-upgradeable RAM and the nicer screen, it's easy to see why. Depending on your budget, you may want to consider that as well.
  17. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    What's the budget?

    The often-cited geekbench results of the various Macs:

    I've got a 2012 2.3 i7, so I'd really be looking at the top-of-the-line i7 if I needed this now (to actually get a much faster machine)

    For the kind of money, one could also get a 15" pro and an USB-C dock and a 4K display (upgrading to whatever display Apple is going to release alongside the new MacPro).

    So, I'm glad I'm not in your shoes right now - because it would either be iMac 15" MBP - or a Linux workstation...and either way, I'd spend serious cash.

    As to the timing being "bad" - we will most likely see much more powerful GPUs in the next desktops. CPU-power-wise, we've kind-of peaked. GPU is where the performance growth is these days.
  18. Falhófnir macrumors 68020


    Aug 19, 2017
    Think you're right to give up on a new mini at this point. Apparently about 80% of mac sales are now laptops, so I presume that is where Apple will now concentrate efforts for an entry-level machine. More specifically my expectation is that they will split mini users and redirect to either an iMac, MacBook Air/ whatever replaces it this year, or mac pro. Assuming this scenario, what would your preferred solution be? I'm guessing iMac would probably be the best bet>
  19. noisedude, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018

    noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    I'm just sat at my desk measuring up. I've played with a 27" iMac and they're great. Thing it might be a bit big for my desk though as it had a monitor platform raised up already. Also, a 27" with a small SSD is hugely more expensive than the 21".

    Can you not upgrade the RAM on the 21" ones? I might be looking at a refurb 2017 model.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    Thank you. Looking at the prices, it's a straight choice between:

    1. 13" MBP (2.3GHz dual i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD), use it as a desktop with some USB docks and my current HD monitors for now
    2. 21" iMac (3.0Ghz quad i5, 8GB, 256GB SSD)
    And either way use external drives for my photo and music libraries, and hope Time Machine will understand how to treat them as part of the system.

    Either way I keep my 2015 MBPr, which is still powerful enough for Illustrator and Photoshop, for most out-and-about work, and given it only has 180 cycles on the battery that should keep me out of mischief for a couple more years.

    ARGH! What do I do?

    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    I'm happy with my 2015 MBPr still, so power isn't a major factor. But I don't want to have only one machine. So it's whether I get an iMac or use newer MBP to run my two monitors.
  20. mroy16 macrumors member

    May 28, 2017
    According to iFixit, you need to remove the display on the 21" to access the RAM. The 27" has a rear cover, so it's intentionally user-accessible.
  21. noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009

    OK so I think I've ruled out the 27" iMac (too pricey) and might eventually have to bite the bullet and let iCloud store my photos (which is utterly terrifying to me for some reason) and will either get a new laptop that eventually becomes my main laptop, or 4K iMac to just slot straight in to my desk.

    I'll give it some thought.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    Just realised I didn't reply to this. Thank you - it's really helpful. You've convinced me to move away from a single large internal drive, and to stop worrying about the power of these things as all of the current laptops and iMacs are good enough.

    I think if I didn't want the security of knowing I had two machines so I wasn't overly exposed if I had downtime on one, I'd dock my existing MBP and wait it all out. But I really want to get one de facto new machine with everything set up perfectly on while still knowing my existing stuff is unaffected.
  22. Appleaker macrumors 68020

    Jun 13, 2016
    Oh, ok. Sorry for the confusion, I understand that the 2014 mini is an overpriced downgrade, i wasn't suggesting to get that. The 2018 mini would be the best solution (and actually an upgrade), although we don't know what the pricing in on that, I was saying that the best current solution would be a 4K iMac, which is great value and would match your current monitor setup.
  23. noisedude, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018

    noisedude thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    I think you're right. Some just came up on the refurb store.

    Are we sure the Fusion drive is naff? It's a 1GB Fusion drive with the 4GB video card vs 256GB SSD with the 2GB video card - same price.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 10, 2018 ---
    In fact, sod it. I've ordered the one with the SSD. Refurbished 21" 4K 2017 iMac, 3GHz, 8GB, 256 SSD, more powerful than anything I've had before and will slot straight in on my desk. Collecting on Monday. I'll need to order some external drives now too.

    Thanks very much for the help, everyone. I'll let you know how it goes. :)
  24. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    I would have just bought a dock for the MacBook Pro for a few hundred dollars and had all your drives and keyboard and mouse and screens set up on the dock for a one cable setup at home, it’ll match your mini on most work loads with ease and be a cheap one computer solution for the next 3-4 years.

    If the iMac doesn’t work out and it back and try a thunderbolt to dock with your MacBook.
  25. Arctic Moose, Mar 14, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018

    Arctic Moose macrumors member

    Arctic Moose

    Jun 22, 2017
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    Absolutely, no question!

    It was a good idea in 2012.

    (I ripped the DVD player out of my 2010 MacBook Pro in 2012 and put a "fast" 1 TB spinning disk and a 256 GB SSD configured as a Fusion Drive in it. It felt like a great upgrade at the time, but I recently reformatted to use only the SSD as I do not need the space on that laptop, and it felt like the same performance boost all over again. Sadly, my five year old upgrade is better than what Apple is offering in 2018, which is pretty bad considering a SSD twice as large as the one Apple is offering is only about $30 more, and of course significantly cheaper for Apple.)

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