Help with Mac Mini choice

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Scfm69, Feb 19, 2017.

  1. Scfm69 macrumors newbie

    Scfm69

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2017
    #1
    Hey all, I recently fried a win lap and desktop and bought a MacBook Pro as a replacement. Now I think I want to replace the office pc with a Mac mini. We are doing general computing. No real heavy stuff although with new things available we would like to learn. I've been told a 2011-2012 model would be fine for my needs. Anyone think different or have advice? We just want fast convienient integration with our devices etc. I'm an iTunes junkie. I have a 27" HDMI monitor from the fried desktop. Thanks in advance and forgive the obvious newbie.

    Thanks!!
     
  2. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #2
    Even though I've owned a late-2012 Mini for over four years now, and even though it still runs just fine, I wouldn't recommend buying one. It's just "too far back in the past".

    I'd recommend either of the following:
    - 2014 "midrange" model, with 8gb of RAM and 1tb fusion drive upgrade
    or
    - 2014 "top-level" model (comes with 8gb RAM and 1tb fusion as standard equipment)

    DO NOT buy a Mini UNLESS it has AT LEAST 8gb of RAM.
    DO NOT buy a Mini UNLESS it has either a 1tb fusion drive, or a "straight SSD".
    If you buy one with a platter-based HDD, you are going to be very unhappy. Platter-based HDDs run like molasses with recent versions of the Mac OS...
     
  3. Scfm69 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Scfm69

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2017
    #3
    Thank you! Those are things I needed to know. I would have gone too cheap and like you said, regretted it. I don't want to spend a lot but realize I may not get out as as cheap as I want. I know there are rumors of a new model or the final kill in the spring so maybe I should wait. I just don't feel we need the full iMac.

    Thanks again!
    --- Post Merged, Feb 19, 2017 ---
     
  4. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    Jan 26, 2014
    Location:
    Horsens, Denmark
    #4
    What the previous post said is pretty much 100% true, although I would add that if you get one with an SSD/Fusion Drive and at least 8GB of RAM, going for a model from earlier years would probably do you fine, as the 2014 model at most comes with two processor cores, whereas the old Mini could be had with a quad core CPU. You could find earlier models that are in fact faster than the 2014 can be (at the very least in multi-threaded tasks).
    Following the previous' post's suggestions you won't go too wrong regardless of what you do.

    By the sounds of things, the MacBook Pro is your first Mac, so also, welcome to the world of macOS :). Out of curiosity, how did you find MacRumors, as a new user?
     
  5. Celerondon macrumors 6502a

    Celerondon

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    #5
    I agree with the advice posted by Fishrrman and casperes1996 except for the 2012 quad core/2014 dual core thing. Even though I am a satisfied 2012 QC user three factors steer this OP toward the 2014 over earlier versions that are potentially faster.
    1. They are only faster if and when you perform CPU intensive tasks with software that is optimized for multi-core operation.
    2. Because of 2XTB2, PCIe storage, and AC wireless the 2014 is otherwise faster (better) than a 2012 the rest of the time. Clock speed and USB 3.0 can also impact speed comparisons.
    3. This user predicts no heavy video processing or other usage that would take advantage of a "faster" older machine.
    My 2012 2.3 i7 with Fusion drive is a great machine that has depreciated less in four years than any computer that I have ever purchased but...

    Most of the time, a 2014 (mid/high range)i5 with FD would be faster. ;)
     
  6. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    #6

    You have a fair point. With this in mind, I take back what I said about the older quad core models. Just go with a new one, unless an older model is a fair bit cheaper.
     
  7. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #7
    I agree. I also have a 2.6ghz 2012 quad Mini and love it. But it is dedicated to video editing and I wanted the fastest possible CPU for rendering. For example, I recently did a 13 hour export from Compressor and it would have taken 19 hours on the top of the line 2014 Mini.

    For the OP's usage, I'd also suggest a 2014 model, however I would get 16gb RAM since that cannot be upgraded and you might regret missing this opportunity a year or two down the road. However, here's the thing,… IMO, the 2014 Mini is not a very attractive deal when you start customizing it with a SSD and RAM. :(
     
  8. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #8
    Alright, time for a dissenting voice to chip in. ;) If you are desperate to squeeze the absolute highest performance out of a Mac Mini, then I would agree that you need to spend the roughly $2000 dollars to get a fully-tricked-out new 2014 Mini (if you want the fastest possible graphics), or the well-over-$1000 to get a fully-tricked-out 2012 Mini (if you want the fastest possible CPU).

    However, if you are just performing normal office tasks, and "no real heavy stuff", there is absolutely nothing wrong with a more inexpensive Mini. Even the cheapest Mini will run iTunes just fine. All the Minis will integrate with your Apple devices perfectly, and most of your non-Apple devices as well. Recent versions of OS X work better, not worse, with platter-based drives! (I'm typing this right now on a 2010 Mini running El Capitan; it does a great job minimizing wasteful use of the HD.)

    I would carefully consider the amount of RAM if you choose a 2014 Mini, for the same reasons as outlined above. I suspect you could get away with 8 GB of RAM, but you will find yourself running out of room very quickly with just 4.

    Also, if you want to use USB 3 devices at full speed, you should choose a 2012 or 2014 Mini.


    In short, don't feel obligated to empty your entire wallet trying to get a top-of-the-line Mini if you don't absolutely have to. In this case, spending twice as much money does not provide twice as much performance.
     
  9. EdwardC macrumors regular

    EdwardC

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    Jun 3, 2012
    Location:
    Georgia
    #9
    I have a late 2012 mid model mini with a 5400 RPM disk drive. It's not the fastest machine around but slapped 16 gigs of RAM into it. I will open every application I use since I have the headroom regarding RAM. After the initial application load every thing is very fast. Nothing wrong at all with the old mini for your use. My primary desk top is a late 2013 2.9 gHz. iMac ( 21.5" ) which has 8 gigs of RAM. I truly wish I had got one with 16 gigs with that said the iMac is much faster than the mini at everything.
     
  10. cynics macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #10
    Merely my opinion but I would consider this....

    A new Mac Mini maybe right around the corner although only rumors at this point. Even if you didnt want a new one, the older models prices drop so you could save yourself a little bit of money and get the system you are currently planning on or potentially get something nicer if they update it soon.

    In the meantime I would buy a monitor, mouse and keyboard for it (or use the ones you may currently own if they works) and connect your new MacBook too them for office use.

    Obviously this doesn't work if you have multiple users but its an idea to bide time.
     
  11. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    #11
    Depends a lot on how you look at things. Operating systems get bigger, more background processes run, apps get bigger and so on. Yes, newer versions are more sophisticated about disk usage, but at the same time, there's more stuff to load on boot up and the like, so for instance, restarting the system will still feel slower on newer versions. OS X/macOS does really well when it comes to caching things in RAM and the like so it isn't necessary to get it from the disk when it becomes necessary so with enough RAM, you'll see a lot fewer disk accesses, but this doesn't mean that you won't see an incredibly ginormous difference with things like boot up, and cold application launches. Just a tiny SSD to store system files, libraries, etc. on like the Fusion Drive obfuscates most of the slowness of a platter though, since as you point out, OS X/macOS handles disk accesses pretty nicely when it's done with the initial system load in, so if the most essential stuff is vastly accessed the rest won't feel that slow.
     
  12. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    Dayton, Ohio
    #12
    Yup, I sure want to pay an extra $1000 so that my bootups won't "feel slow". ;)

    Sorry, I don't mean to nitpick here. But I've gotten really tired of people complaining endlessly about having to wait an additional 45 seconds to start up a machine. This is a desktop computer; it stays plugged in all the time. If you don't want to wait for it to start up, then don't turn it off. The Mini is a wonderfully power-efficient machine, especially when it isn't doing work...

    And yeah, as you point out:

    Yes! Things like bootup and cold application launches take time. And, this is time you can avoid, by simply not turning the machine off and not closing your apps. With sufficient RAM, you can keep most apps open forever; and, with the "memory compression" feature of modern OS X, you can squeeze the most out of what RAM you've got.

    Anyway, I agree that SSD > HDD for all storage-related tasks. If you can afford an SSD, get one! But an HDD can still do the job just fine. That's all I'm trying to say here...
     
  13. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    Jan 26, 2014
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    Horsens, Denmark
    #13
    I do agree with you. And to be honest I generally don't turn off any of my Macs unless there's a software update, I have to access Single User Mode or something along those lines. On my iMac specifically I do however have to boot it pretty often, because of a glitch in the latest beta that causes kernel panics, but that's another discussion.
    Back to the point, I just wanted to point out the circumstances under which having a spinner would make the computer feel slow to better inform someone's potential buying situation. And owning a MacBook Pro that uses exclusively flash storage, I wouldn't want the OP to get disappointed on boot-up or anything of the sort, thinking the computer was terribly slow, when in reality, it just needed to get things off disk to get up to speed. You know, avoiding nasty surprises.

    My personal recommendation remains the Fusion, but consider your usage and determine what is right for you in that way. Also keep in mind that because of the way OS X/macOS caches data in RAM, 16gigs of RAM will mean fewer disk accesses than 8gigs of RAM, so the more RAM you get, the less of an impact (after initial boot) the HDD will make. Hope this helps with making the right choice :)
     
  14. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #14
    What rumors have you seen? I haven't seen any, and the "new Mac Mini is almost certainly coming" thread is more like fantasy than "rumors". :p
     
  15. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    #15
    There was a single one about a month back or so, but it was rather vague... In essence, I think most of us are just going by how long it's been since the last refresh. From 12 to 14 was two years, and 14 to 17 is three. It's like with the Mac Pro refreshes, the time between the updates are making us all fear that we won't see another update to the point that we get so hopeful about the prospect that we might be wrong in our fears, leading us to fantasise about rumours and whatnot.
    Or I may have missed something...
     
  16. brendu macrumors 68020

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    USA
    #16
    Do you use a hard drive as the only drive in your computer on a daily basis?
     
  17. BenTrovato macrumors 68020

    BenTrovato

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    Canada
    #17
    I think the 2011, 2012 and 2014 are great Mac minis for processing power. They are all heavily under powered for gpu performance. If you don't need a strong gpu or high end external monitor support, they are event options. It goes without saying, Apple prefers you buy an iMac or MacBook Pro if you need to drive a lot of pixels.
     
  18. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #18
    Indeed I do! (Well, I do have several external drives connected at the moment, via both Firewire and USB. Currently, they are all HDDs as well, though.)

    Then again, how i "use" my hard drives is, I think, part of the issue here. Right now, "uptime" says that my Mini has been running for 31 days. I did restart my Chrome browser last Monday night, because it was getting snippy about needing an update. Thunderbird has been up since Jan 20th. iTunes up since Feb 8th.

    So yeah, I don't reboot very often, nor do I load apps very often. It is true, however, that I've migrated some of my workload off onto my Linux boxes, so I'm not doing as much on the Mac as I used to...
     
  19. brendu macrumors 68020

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    USA
    #19
    Gotcha. Yeah I haven't used a hard drive in any of my computers in so long I don't truly know how well the newest Mac mini with a hard drive runs compared to with a flash drive but I wouldn't buy one, I know SSD is the future and any development from now on is with SSD drives in mind first and foremost.
     
  20. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #20
    :) SSD is the future. (At least, until something better comes along!)

    But, "development with SSD drives in mind first and foremost?" Exactly what does that mean? From a software point of view, other than speed, there is no difference between SSDs and HDDs.

    Which means, I guess, you're assuming people will have SSDs, so you can allow yourself to write sloppier code, because the user won't see as much of a delay from the application accessing the drive? ;)

    Applications shouldn't ever notice the difference between a drive that is solid-state and a drive that is magnetic. That's all hidden under the hood by the Kernel. The application's job is merely to use storage as efficiently as possible...
     
  21. brendu macrumors 68020

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    #21
    I meant more that as time goes on having the ability to read and write faster will help some apps run increasingly better on a SSD than a hdd. Thats all.
     
  22. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #22
    Hmm. I think all apps run better on better hardware. Whether that is an SSD, a faster CPU, a better GPU, more RAM... I've gotta admit, after years of using Mac hardware, I'm now back to using a Linux box with a desktop-grade GPU card. And even though it is a fairly cheap card, the difference it provides in some apps is really amazing.

    Still, that doesn't mean that I've stopped using my Mini. For light workloads, it does a fine job. :)
     
  23. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #23
    I have a 2014 base mini with the 500gb hard drive. I only use it for an iTunes server (just runs iTunes 24/7) and it's fine for that, the library is on a fast 4TB USB 3.0 hard drive that clocks around 180MB/sec. The internal Mini drive clocks around 100MB/sec. But this machine just feels really slow for anything interactive, even something as simple as opening system preferences seems to take forever. And booting is incredibly slow. Of course, for an iTunes server, that doesn't really matter since it runs for months without a restart.

    I had a base 2012 Mini for two years with the same 4gb RAM and same 500gb drive. For some reason, it felt a lot more responsive than the 2014. Upgraded it to 16gb and added a 500GB external Samsung T3 SSD as the boot drive which made a huge difference - gave it to my daughter's family and they love it.

    My 2012 quad server has the original Apple SSD that clocks around 450MB/sec write, takes 15 seconds to boot. The 2014 Mini has a faster SSD, it is probably comparable to my 2013 MacBook Air that clocks around 700 MB/sec write. The Samsung T3 USB 3.0 SSD is no slouch either, write speed is about 400MB/sec, the 2012 Mini takes 30 seconds to boot from it.
     
  24. brendu macrumors 68020

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    USA
    #24
    I dabbled with Linux mint and ubuntu recently and while I like them and they run surprisigly well even on older hardware, I just can't get past the total lack of iCloud support. I am so deep in apple's ecosystem I have to make the tough choice of possibly replacing my current Mac from 2009 with a ridiculously overpriced for what you're getting 2014 model (this isn't happening) or taking some serious time to migrate out of apple's ecosystem while knowing I will keep using iphones and iPads for many years to come. Hackintosh is an option but I don't want to tinker much. I just want a headless desktop Mac with some new hardware that I know will last me 8 years like my last Mac has.
     
  25. casperes1996 macrumors 65816

    casperes1996

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    #25
    To the application, no, there shouldn't be any difference that's true. But actually, if you look at what Apple's been doing lately, it's evident they don't pay much attention to HDDs on a kernel level either. For instance, in a version of Sierra, I think the first, but perhaps an update, srm was removed entirely and is no longer a functioning command. The justification was that on SSDs it makes no difference (which in some ways isn't true – srm itself didn't in its old incarnation do safe removes from SSDs since it would need to call TRIM which it didn't, but until TRIM is called on an SSD you won't get the same effect as srm in any way anymore, which is sad).
    Then there's something like the Apple File System. Obviously still functional on HDDs since it is just a file system, but the way it places files is made for parallel operations rather than track based operations, potentially making it even faster on SSDs and even slower on HDDs, where parallel isn't really possible.
    And yeah, all software runs better on better hardware, but there's also a limit where the hardware just can't run the software to a satisfying degree, and whilst storage rarely has been to blame in the past, aside from very specific workloads like video editing and whatnot, it could potentially become it at some point. I highly doubt we'll see a point where software will require an SSD and not run perfectly fine on an HDD after initial startup, but is it theoretically possible? Yes. And if you plan on doing something along the lines of editing 4k, or high quality 1080p or something, weeeeell...... If it's an HDD, it'd better be part of a big striped RAID.
    Anyway - that's my rant for now. Have a nice day everyone
     

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