Help configuring new 2018 Mac Mini

FrenchPB

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 15, 2005
360
0
Dear all,

I am considering getting rid of my late-2010 27-inch iMac for a new 2018 Mac Mini for the following uses :
  • playing HD videos with VLC : 1080p/ 60 fps or maybe 4K videos in the future, once I'll have the right display
  • home theater via a Plex server installed on the iMac : video files are streamed to my devices (TV, iPad, iPhone)
  • Photos app : 20.000 photos stored on the Apple Photos app, minor editing,
  • iTunes for music
I don't do games or programming on my computer. The most CPU-heavy task might be video decoding (I don't do encoding since Plex do it on the fly).

Based on those needs, I believe a new 2018 Mac Mini directly connected to my 55-inch Full HD TV might be more than enough for me (I might get a 4K TV in a year or two). I would still use Plex media server to watch video files stored on my computer on my other devices, but I could just run VLC to watch high quality files on my TV without Plex.


As a consequence, I have a couple of questions to pick the right configuration :
  • would it make sense to consider the 3.0GHz 6-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz model instead of the 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ?
    > I don't know whether VLC, Plex or Photos use multi-threading a lot or if that might be needed to decode 4K video files.

  • if RAM is really user-upgradable, how much RAM should I consider putting into this machine for the foreseeable future ? My 2010 iMac has 12 GB RAM installed. I've always bought Crucial memory to upgrade my Macs in the past, not to pay the premium Apple put on those parts

  • how should I define my needs for SSD storage ?
    > My Photos library is 150 GB : would performance suffer if my Photos library was stored on a USB-3 external hard drive ? I was thinking of having two USB-3 external hard drive connected to the Mac Mini, with only system files/ applications on the Mac Mini SSD hard drive. Does that make sense ?

I hope you guys can help me pick the right confguration for my needs.
Regards,

David
 

cruisin

macrumors 6502a
Apr 1, 2014
956
215
Canada
I believe the GPU is actually used for 4K decoding so the CPU will not affect much. My MacBook Pro needs to have the Nvidia GPU running for 4K playback as the Intel GPU stutters. The Mac Mini can run a 5K screen (and has a newer Intel GPU) so it will be fine with either CPU.

Check your memory pressure with current usage. If it is green then you can keep the same amount. The new Airs now come with 8 GB standard, so 8 GB is a good amount if you don't run anything demanding and 16 GB is a good bet if you want to use the machine for a long time and not worry about opening it up later.

Photos are not demanding so you will be fine. There might be a pause if the drive needs to spin up first, but that should be it. Video editing (especially 4K video) is something that benefits from fast storage during editing.
 

phrehdd

macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2008
3,266
725
Dear all,

I am considering getting rid of my late-2010 27-inch iMac for a new 2018 Mac Mini for the following uses :
  • playing HD videos with VLC : 1080p/ 60 fps or maybe 4K videos in the future, once I'll have the right display
  • home theater via a Plex server installed on the iMac : video files are streamed to my devices (TV, iPad, iPhone)
  • Photos app : 20.000 photos stored on the Apple Photos app, minor editing,
  • iTunes for music
I don't do games or programming on my computer. The most CPU-heavy task might be video decoding (I don't do encoding since Plex do it on the fly).

Based on those needs, I believe a new 2018 Mac Mini directly connected to my 55-inch Full HD TV might be more than enough for me (I might get a 4K TV in a year or two). I would still use Plex media server to watch video files stored on my computer on my other devices, but I could just run VLC to watch high quality files on my TV without Plex.


As a consequence, I have a couple of questions to pick the right configuration :
  • would it make sense to consider the 3.0GHz 6-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz model instead of the 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ?
    > I don't know whether VLC, Plex or Photos use multi-threading a lot or if that might be needed to decode 4K video files.

  • if RAM is really user-upgradable, how much RAM should I consider putting into this machine for the foreseeable future ? My 2010 iMac has 12 GB RAM installed. I've always bought Crucial memory to upgrade my Macs in the past, not to pay the premium Apple put on those parts

  • how should I define my needs for SSD storage ?
    > My Photos library is 150 GB : would performance suffer if my Photos library was stored on a USB-3 external hard drive ? I was thinking of having two USB-3 external hard drive connected to the Mac Mini, with only system files/ applications on the Mac Mini SSD hard drive. Does that make sense ?

I hope you guys can help me pick the right confguration for my needs.
Regards,

David
I'll just throw this 200 dollars amount out there - skip the Mini for 4k and get it to handle everything else. Kick in about 200 bucks and get a good device to handle the actual heavy lifting such as perhaps NVidia Shield TV which an use PLEX or Kodi or other choices if you like. This combo will make your system far more flexible. I am or rather was a huge fan of the Mini. I think that 4k is entirely a different beast than 1080p and no reason to tax a Mini when it might serve up the files or be entry for the scraping process (data about the movie/music files etc.) and more. If not the NVidia, there are other options.
 

HDFan

macrumors 65816
Jun 30, 2007
1,487
362
I don't know whether VLC, Plex or Photos use multi-threading a lot or if that might be needed to decode 4K video files.
I have seen plex background tasks go over 1000% cpu.

I tried playback to my 1080p TV via 3 methods:

iMac Safari Plex player ~400% cpu

Streaming a single 4K video (Bladerunner 2049) via the Plex Mac client I see the Plex media player running at ~300% cpu and the Plex server running at 100% via direct play. Unclear to me exactly what resolution is being used on a 5K iMac.

UHD disk player - 100% cpu

Steaming to the DNLA server on my UHD disk player (which does a lot of the decoding) attached to my 1080p TV I'm seeing the Plex Media server running at ~100% cpu. [Interestingly enough that number remains constant even when I pause playback, a bit of a puzzle]. Repeating the test I am now seeing just 1% server activity and the Plex server shows just 1% of cpu. Evidently the UHD player must have downloaded what it needed. Started streaming a new disk, back to 100%.

Apple TV Version 4 (NOT 4K) ~400%

When started Plex stream media server was at ~100%, with no streams playing. Starting the stream Plex media server went to about 220%.

Summary

Since I am streaming to a 1080p television the results obviously might differ if you don't have to downres. Cpu utilization is clearly specific to my machine. However I think that I can safely say that the computer that you run the server on is only one piece of the configuration scheme. If your playback devices support direct play then you don't use as many computer resources. Conversely if you are having to do transcodes, are running multiple clients, then you will need a more horsepower.

Running a test with 7 Plex Safari clients on my iMac, 1 direct play and 6 converting HEVC to H264 I was running at ~1700-1900% of cpu. Could have started more streams (this was ~50% of my cpu capacity), but illustrates the point. Update: started seeing some pauses on my UHD disk player at 7-8 streams. Back down to 4 streams and still getting very short (<5 second) pauses. Something else evidently is going on.

Your greatest flexibility if you aren't sure what your ultimate Plex configuration is going to be is to to get as many fast cpus as possible. No regrets that way if you run out of resources.
 
Last edited:

FrenchPB

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 15, 2005
360
0
Isn't using a Mac Mini linked to the HDTV via HDMI the easiest way to watch a video file on the TV screen ?
I wouldn't have to use any Plex server that way, just open the video file via VLC and it's done.

I'd keep a Plex server to watch those same video files on my iPad for instance.
My HDTV would become my computer's display basically.
 

deviant

macrumors 65816
Oct 27, 2007
1,151
228
Dear all,

I am considering getting rid of my late-2010 27-inch iMac for a new 2018 Mac Mini for the following uses :
  • playing HD videos with VLC : 1080p/ 60 fps or maybe 4K videos in the future, once I'll have the right display
  • home theater via a Plex server installed on the iMac : video files are streamed to my devices (TV, iPad, iPhone)
  • Photos app : 20.000 photos stored on the Apple Photos app, minor editing,
  • iTunes for music
I don't do games or programming on my computer. The most CPU-heavy task might be video decoding (I don't do encoding since Plex do it on the fly).

Based on those needs, I believe a new 2018 Mac Mini directly connected to my 55-inch Full HD TV might be more than enough for me (I might get a 4K TV in a year or two). I would still use Plex media server to watch video files stored on my computer on my other devices, but I could just run VLC to watch high quality files on my TV without Plex.


As a consequence, I have a couple of questions to pick the right configuration :
  • would it make sense to consider the 3.0GHz 6-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz model instead of the 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ?
    > I don't know whether VLC, Plex or Photos use multi-threading a lot or if that might be needed to decode 4K video files.

  • if RAM is really user-upgradable, how much RAM should I consider putting into this machine for the foreseeable future ? My 2010 iMac has 12 GB RAM installed. I've always bought Crucial memory to upgrade my Macs in the past, not to pay the premium Apple put on those parts

  • how should I define my needs for SSD storage ?
    > My Photos library is 150 GB : would performance suffer if my Photos library was stored on a USB-3 external hard drive ? I was thinking of having two USB-3 external hard drive connected to the Mac Mini, with only system files/ applications on the Mac Mini SSD hard drive. Does that make sense ?

I hope you guys can help me pick the right confguration for my needs.
Regards,

David
Transcoding 4K is crazy power hungry. Direct stream it with Apple TV and the infuse App
 

phrehdd

macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2008
3,266
725
Isn't using a Mac Mini linked to the HDTV via HDMI the easiest way to watch a video file on the TV screen ?
I wouldn't have to use any Plex server that way, just open the video file via VLC and it's done.

I'd keep a Plex server to watch those same video files on my iPad for instance.
My HDTV would become my computer's display basically.
VLC is good but if you like some of the Plex basics then try Kodi (XBMC) that doesn't require anything but itself and no subscriptions etc. Either of these do fine.