Help with choosing external storage and display

netnothing

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Mar 13, 2007
3,639
283
NH
I'm a web developer (self employed), so I don't really do any tasks that require a ton of CPU. Only rarely do I need to render a short video. Most work is BBedit, Photoshop, FTP etc.

Currently running a 2010 Mac Pro with SSD + 4 internal drives + 1 external for backups and a Dell 27" display. Got the Mac Pro mainly for the form factor/internal storage at the time.

I'm looking into the Mac mini because I really don't like the iMac form factor and tying the display and computer together. I've had enough problems with displays in my life.....and I can't afford to be without my system. Currently looking at the i5/256 SSD and upgrading RAM myself.

1) Think I'll be fine with the i5 correct? If I had an extra $200, guessing that's better spent elsewhere and not on the CPU?

2) I love the 5K displays on the iMacs. Really want to go 5K, but the LG is so expensive. I'm guessing at 27" there is a decent difference between 4K and 5K?

3) I need a good Thunderbolt/USB-C external enclosure. Something like the Thunderbay 4 or 6. I'm only looking for JBOD, not any RAID. I just need a place to put my 4 drives in with some room to grow. Is the Thunderbay a good choice? Do people recommend other manufacturers? Think I'd prefer direct attached storage vs. a NAS.

Thanks for any suggestions.
 

Stephen.R

macrumors 65816
Nov 2, 2018
1,367
906
Thailand
I'll preface this by saying I think we have some similarities - my work (effectively freelance) is a mixture of (primarily server-side) web dev, ops, and dev 'tooling'. The two most demanding things I tend to worry about (resource-usage wise) are a) VMs and b) a Java based IDE.

CPU wise, apparently the i3 > i5 jump is significant, but the i5 > i7 is more of a hop. The key thing would be hyperthreading, if you do stuff that's particilarly suited to parallel tasks it may be more beneficial. If not, it's not likely to make a huge difference.

I think the key difference with 4k vs 5k is whether you can use a 'normal' scaling (i.e. 2x). 2x on 4k is 'looks like 1920x1080' - which would make the UI massive on a 27" display. I can't even use 2x on a 4K 24" display. For the OS itself this is probably not a huge issue. However a couple of people have recently commented that Photoshop specifically has problems rendering at scaled resolutions (i.e. besides an even 1x or 2x) on the new Mac mini.

For storage it probably depends on your use-case. I use a 5-bay enclosure from Orico (4x 3TB in a software RAID 1+0, 1x2TB rescued from a USB external with a dead controller). It isn't TB - it's not even USB 3.1, but it works fine for mass-storage that isn't particularly speed sensitive (I don't actually use this for work - it works well for housing an iTunes library, but would probably work well for storing project content, just not live VM images). For work, I use a USB-C 2.5" case with a SATA SSD. I have all the repos I need cloned on here, it's used as $VAGRANT_HOME and contains any other VMs (e.g. any Modern.ie builds I may have downloaded at the time) etc. The idea being, I can swap between the 2018 Mac mini (which I can finally order, now that they're available here) and this 2018 MBP I'm typing on, either if I happen to need to work away from my home office, or if the Mini has a fault and needs to be serviced.
 

netnothing

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Mar 13, 2007
3,639
283
NH
I'll preface this by saying I think we have some similarities - my work (effectively freelance) is a mixture of (primarily server-side) web dev, ops, and dev 'tooling'. The two most demanding things I tend to worry about (resource-usage wise) are a) VMs and b) a Java based IDE.

CPU wise, apparently the i3 > i5 jump is significant, but the i5 > i7 is more of a hop. The key thing would be hyperthreading, if you do stuff that's particilarly suited to parallel tasks it may be more beneficial. If not, it's not likely to make a huge difference.

I think the key difference with 4k vs 5k is whether you can use a 'normal' scaling (i.e. 2x). 2x on 4k is 'looks like 1920x1080' - which would make the UI massive on a 27" display. I can't even use 2x on a 4K 24" display. For the OS itself this is probably not a huge issue. However a couple of people have recently commented that Photoshop specifically has problems rendering at scaled resolutions (i.e. besides an even 1x or 2x) on the new Mac mini.

For storage it probably depends on your use-case. I use a 5-bay enclosure from Orico (4x 3TB in a software RAID 1+0, 1x2TB rescued from a USB external with a dead controller). It isn't TB - it's not even USB 3.1, but it works fine for mass-storage that isn't particularly speed sensitive (I don't actually use this for work - it works well for housing an iTunes library, but would probably work well for storing project content, just not live VM images). For work, I use a USB-C 2.5" case with a SATA SSD. I have all the repos I need cloned on here, it's used as $VAGRANT_HOME and contains any other VMs (e.g. any Modern.ie builds I may have downloaded at the time) etc. The idea being, I can swap between the 2018 Mac mini (which I can finally order, now that they're available here) and this 2018 MBP I'm typing on, either if I happen to need to work away from my home office, or if the Mini has a fault and needs to be serviced.
Thanks for the reply!

The more I look, the more I don't really think I'll ever use the i7. I just don't use the apps that really multi-thread. Most of my days it seems I'm simply using a browser in a Wordpress admin and using BBedit to edit text files. Certainly not anything the i7 would even touch!!

For the display, I think it's looking more like a 5K display, as I'd prefer to stay at 27" and a resolution of 2560x1440.....which I believe is the default 5K setting for most Macs. I'm not looking for more display space, I'm looking for the super crisp text etc. I'm just hoping that with the integrated graphics, that the system can handle the 5K now and in the future.

Thanks again for your input....very helpful. Good luck with your mini purchase!
 

Stephen.R

macrumors 65816
Nov 2, 2018
1,367
906
Thailand
I'd prefer to stay at 27" and a resolution of 2560x1440
That's certainly the best chance you have for it being 'smooth' - that is indeed the '2x' resolution for 5K. It may or may not be the 'default' though. My 2018 MBP15 has a non-2x scaled resolution as it's "default".
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Thanks again for your input....very helpful. Good luck with your mini purchase!
No worries at all, you too!
 

archer75

macrumors 68030
Jan 26, 2005
2,700
1,235
Oregon
For external storage there's no beating the versatility of a Drobo. I have one(thunderbolt 2) with another on the way(USB-C). They also make a thunderbolt 3 model.
Adding and replacing drives is as simple as plugging them in. It can protect against one or two drive failures. Drives do not have to be matched. If it begins to get full just pull out the lowest capacity drive and put in a higher capacity drive and keep working.
I use my current one as a server for 1000+ movies, 4k movies and full UHD backups. The new one will be used exclusively for photos and lightroom.

My monitor is a 34" ultra wide screen dell. Color calibrated individually at the factor. 3440x1440. Best i've ever owned.