i5 2.3ghz Mac Mini vs. iMac (2011)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by dlim, Jan 15, 2012.

  1. dlim macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    I'm trying to decide on what Mac desktop I should get. Right now I have my 2011 13" MBA hooked up to a wireless kb, mouse, and LED monitor, but I don't want to keep using the air as my main, I'd like to save it for school usage.

    I've done a lot of searching the forums but haven't been able to find anything that really helps me in my decision.

    I won't be doing any gaming, though if I do finally get some free time I'm considering trying Star Wars The Old Republic. What I have running now (which is what I'm doing 90% of the time) is ichat, itunes, microsoft word, microsoft powerpoint, and chrome. Now and then I'll take a break from my studies to watch some videos (both SD and HD).

    I already have an apple wireless keyboard, mouse, and a HP2311x (23" LED) monitor I can use for the mini. I'd actually dual screen the monitors b/c i have 2, and probably use one and sell the other if I get an iMac.

    I'm kind of leaning towards the mini right now (which is why I'm posting this here), but was wondering if I'd be better off with the iMac. Hoping that there's members on here who've been in the same situation as me and could give me some insight!

    The options I'm considering are:

    -i5 2.3Ghz Mac Mini (mid 2011) -> upgrading the memory to 8gb myself.
    -i5 2.7Ghz 27" iMac -> adding another 8gb of ram to it anyways for 12gb

    The $$$ difference between the two options isn't much of a concern to me as I know the base 27" is MUCH better in every spec than the mac mini with an awesome display, but what concerns me is whether or not I can justify spending that much more for my needs (or if it's just purely overkill). Thanks guys!
  2. R3DH3R0 macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2010
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    If you're using a MacBook Air now, the mini is faster than that. But the base mini only has the intel 3000 graphics, it won't be able to play the old republic. You would have to get the 799 (760 on amazon.com no tax) mini with the 6630m and it will run the old republic on medium settings. The mini i5 is only dual core the MBA is dual core where the iMac is quadcore. But it sounds like the mini will more than suit your needs for what you are doing.
  3. dlim, Jan 15, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2012

    dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    Didn't know that old republic was PC platform only and I don't want to install windows on my mac so looks like I won't be playing it haha.

    What about the mid-level mac mini ($760) one vs the base 21.5" iMac? ($1130 on amazon). Is it worth the extra $400 for the iMac?

    Once again, is either iMac model overkill for what I need, considering if I went with the mini I wouldn't need to buy other peripherals (maybe an external dvd drive sometime down the line if I need it)?

    I'm worried that if I go with the base-level mac mini, I might get frustrated with performance (which I have not at all with either the '09 13 mbp, or my current air). If I'm not planning on gaming will the Intel 3000 vs AMD 6630m make a difference for connecting/running 2 external displays? Will it lag if on one monitor I'm watching a movie while on the second I'm on chrome/ichat/ms word?
  4. R3DH3R0 macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2010
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    The iMac has more advantages than the mini, and some disadvantages.


    2.5ghz i5 quadcore (mini is dual)
    6750m 512mb (mini is 256 and 6630m)
    Optical drive
    Built in iSight camera plus mic (would have to buy a webcam on mini)

    Can use any size screen (iMac is only 21.5)
    Small form factor (I bring this up if you need repairs, easier to bring in a mac mini than drag around an iMac)
    Easy to upgrade HDD or add 2nd (if this is what you are looking for and don't care about the warranty)

    Otherwise both have 4gb of ram and a 500gb HDD. I'd say go for the iMac, unless 21.5" is too small. But then again you did say you had a 23" monitor do you could hook them up side by side. But like I said, for everything your doing the mini is more than enough. I have a few macs in my house, and for most of the stuff your doing I use a 17" iMac Core Duo! Haha. If you read some of the posts on here, people have replaced their G5 PowerMacs with Mac minis! I'm sure other members will have their own opinion on the matter as well.

    As far as the dual display for the mini goes, the intel hd shouldn't lag, but the amd would be a better choice. Plus if you do change your mind about the old republic it's pretty much unplayable with the intel hd
  5. dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    Mmm..yeah the 21.5" is smaller than I'd like it to be haha, that's why I said earlier it was either the mac mini or the 27" iMac haha. I wish they still made the 24" models, that would be a perfect size.

    I think for now I'm leaning towards the base model mac mini and upgrading the ram. And when the new iMacs are released I'll see if I want to sell my mini and upgrade or if I'm happy with it's performance. I hope they release a 24" version though I doubt it.

    And if I do decide to game it won't be until the summer wherein I could sell the base mini and pick up either an iMac or the new mini haha.

    Thanks for the input!
  6. R3DH3R0 macrumors regular

    Apr 27, 2010
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    Yeah, I understand. I'm probably going to get the 2.5 mini myself and a 23"-25" display. I was going to get an iMac, but I figure when I'm done with the mini I can use it as an HTPC.

    Also the Mac Mini tends to hold its value pretty well. I was looking at auctions for 2009-2010 minis and they usually go for $450-600. Well the lower end models, usually.
  7. iamthedudeman macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    The mini has more advantages in my opinion just depends on what is important to you. Just to give you some perspective form a someone who owns both.

    1).You can change out the HD. And no it does not void the warranty. It only voids the warranty if you damage anything. If you want them to service your mini you have to put the old HD back in. If you buy a Apple Toshiba which SSD for instance which can be had on ebay for cheap, you can leave it in since it's a apple part.

    2)With the imac your stuck with the monitor for the life of the computer. With the mini you can buy whichever monitor you like. 21.5 inches is small compared to 27 inches. If your monitor has issues, so does your whole computer. If your mac mini has issues or monitor has issues change them out or get them repaired.

    3) Believe it or not the Mini saves you money in the long run, and you can upgrade more often. You can keep the monitor for as long as you like. Change out the mini each year or every other year. Sell it and maybe lose $200.00 max. Add 200 and you have yourself a new mini. I have a TBD and plan on keeping it for awhile. My mini will be new every year or every other year. Four years from now my new mini will be spec for spec way better than the current base imac. Selling a imac is not so easy.

    4) you can take your mini with you, and it can hook up to almost anything. Needs service, easy to take around.

    5)The GPU on the imac is more powerful. That is the only advantage I can see. The 2.7 i7 dual mini is just as fast as the base quad imac. All the mac mini's either the i5 or i7 mini's have hyper threading and mimic a quad core part. The i5's on the imacs do not have hyper threading.

    The mini is the closest thing to a headless mac you will see especially with the new models. A Quad mini server smokes just about every imac except the i7 model and matches the i5 3.1. Where it falters is in the GPU department.

    I have taken my imac i7 with SSD back to the office and set up a TBD with Mac Mini i7 2.7 with SSD. I will most likely never go back to the imac for the reasons stated above. Performance wise the imac is more powerful but I really cannot tell the difference. The SSD in both make every thing so fast.
  8. elpmas macrumors 68000


    Sep 9, 2009
    Where the fresh snow don't go.
    I'd go for an iMac. :) Just can't beat the screen resolution!
  9. dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    Thanks for all the input everyone!

    I've actually been trying to keep an eye out for a good deal on a used mid-2010 mac mini to use until the new iMac's rolled around, but haven't been able to find one.

    Think I'll go for the base-model mac mini. Looking up it's benchmarks (geekbench) it seems to score better than my current air, and that's with the 2gb stock memory so I'm sure upgrading it to 8gb will make it even better.

    All the advantages listed about the mini were exactly things that've been on my mind as well. My old desktop was a i5 3.3ghz quad core, 8gb DDR3, 1GB GDDR5 that I only ended up doing AIM, chrome, ms office, and watching TV shows and movies on, and I figure that's basically what I would get out of the iMac (overkill).

    My NEW plan is to get the base model and use that until the new mac minis and imacs roll around, and perhaps sell it and pick up one of those, and if I stick with the mini, maybe picking up a TBD too.
  10. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Yes, you can with another 27" monitor - anti-glare and better colour reproduction (if that is important to you).
  11. iamthedudeman macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2007
    Exactly. I have a TBD and mainly got it for the integrated powered hub that is built in. So i could hook my Air up to it also.

    A TBD with anti glare would be ideal.
  12. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    True, but for me a TBD without the display would be even better since I already have two 24" monitors :)
  13. Cmd-the-World macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2010
  14. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
  15. Spinnetti macrumors regular

    Apr 26, 2005
    I bought an Apple TV and repurposed the mini (which was the HTPC) and gave it to my daughter. We bought a 23" display, and its horrible! To get a Mac quality display, it seems you have to spend Mac quality money, thus, unless you have low image quality needs, the iMac seems to me to be the better option (due to the cost of a decent display).....
  16. eutexian macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2012
    Mapperley, Nottingham UK
    Are you serious?
  17. dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    I think I've pretty much scratched the idea of an iMac b/c while I do love them (my brother has the current 27" one), I've never been a fan of AIO desktops. I've built customized windows desktops for myself and my friends for the past 10 years, so I like the option of swapping out defective parts or upgrading parts as I please. (I know the mini's hard drive isn't the easiest to access, but definitely better than removing the iMac's screen).

    I'm now thinking of two different set ups:

    1. Buying a TBD to use with my current 13" MBA (base model)
    2. Buying a base model 2011 mac mini and upgrading the memory myself to 8gb. (I currently have an apple wireless keyboard, logitech wireless mouse, and dual HP2311x monitors I would use with this set up)

    Once again, for my usage: 90% of the time I'm running ichat, chrome, itunes, ms word, and ms powerpoint. The other 10% of the time I'm running all of those while watching movies/tv shows on Mplayer OSX Extended or Netflix.

    Thanks for all the help so far everyone! I really appreciate it. I've been lurking the forums for a while now but never became a member. Glad I finally did!
  18. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    My 24" 2.16 C2D iMac will be my last iMac in the foreseeable future.

    The iMac "glassy" display reflections and lack of shadow detail is one reason. Why can't Apple offer an anti-glare display option? I am also sensitive to the LED backlighting that Apple uses these days. I haven't always had this problem: my 2008 15: MBP also has LED backlighting and it never caused me any problems. But apparently Apple changed its displays since then.

    The total lack of ergonomic adjustments ("tilt" doesn't really count...) is another deal-killer for me. When I bought my current iMac I almost returned it because I developed serious neck pain because I could not adjust its height. I am arguably an average-size male at 5'10" so one would think I shouldn't have a problem using the computer but that isn't the case.

    I looked into getting a new computer desk/chair, wondering all the while why I had to consider spending hundreds of dollars to accommodate a computer. But many of the desks I looked at presented the same problem as my current office furniture: if I raised my chair high enough to have my eyes at the proper level in relation to the display my knees would have to be squeezed beneath the keyboard table. In some cases the desk could not accommodate my knees...

    I was able to workaround the problems with my iMac by raising my chair as high as it will go and placing my keyboard and trackball on books. Even then I am still seated too low to allow a proper viewing angle.

    Last summer I went with a MacBook Pro and a high-quality 24" NEC display. All the ergonomic problems vanished. The NEC display is anti-glare. Its CCFL backlight doesn't cause the severe eyestrain I experience with Apple displays. The display can be easily lowered to within 3 inches of the desktop vs. between 5-6 inches with the iMac. (Some NEC displays can be lowered so they almost touch the desktop.) I can switch between my office chair and a kneeling chair and adjust the display with one hand. My 5'4.5" wife can also use the NEC without any problems. An added bonus is a display that blows away anything Apple offers.

    So far I haven't found the MBP to be under-powered. Now I am considering another MBP or a MacMini for my second Mac. If there was a "headless iMac" I would probably go for that. The MacPro is too much computer for my needs; it is too large and expensive.

    I realize that many people don't have a problem with the iMac right out of the box. But for people like me (and a little time spent on the Apple forums will turn up plenty of people in a similar situation) Apple's move to "one size fits most" design is a real bummer.
  19. evohuntinwrx macrumors newbie

    Aug 28, 2010
    Just FYI

    My computer setup is currently at 2011 iMac i5 (I put 8 GB of ram into it), and my laptop is the latest gen base model 13 inch macbook pro (very similar to the mac mini specs, except I also put 8GB of ram into the MBP as well).

    While the iMac does play old Republic with higher settings and smoother, I can most assuredly eek out 30+ FPS on my macbook pro at native resolution (1280 x 800) with the HD3000. I believe Bioware worked the HD3000 into the engine, and it seems to run admirable (all things considered)

    With Old Republic, you just have to drop everything to low, and turn shadows off.

    In my opinion it still looks very good for a MMO even at the lowest settings.
  20. cardude280 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2006
    West Virginia
    I currently have a setup very similar to your second option and I can tell you that a base mac mini with 8GB of ram will not have any problems doing the 90% of what you do and that if you are used to taking apart computers the mini is one of the easier ones to take apart (for a sff compy)

    That being said if you have gotten used to the ssd in your air you will definitely miss it compared to the stock drive in the mini.

    EDIT:and i forgot to say, mine is hooked up to two 21.5 inch 1080p monitors
  21. dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    I'm more used to the 7200 rpm HDD I had on my windows desktop than I am the SSD in the air, though I do love it haha. I had no problems with the 5400 drive in my '09 MBP so I'm not too worried.

    BUT just in case, any recommendations on a good 128gb SSD for the mini? I think I'll keep my eye out for a deal.
  22. cardude280 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2006
    West Virginia
    I put an OCZ solid 3 120gb in for Christmas, no problems so far and its a sata6 drive. :)
  23. kas23 macrumors 603


    Oct 28, 2007
    I've ordered an OWC 120GB Mercury Electra 6G. It should fly.
  24. dlim thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 15, 2012
    I don't need a different cable for SATA III correct? The one currently connected to the 500gb 5400rpm drive in my mini will work?

    I just set up my mini last night and I have to admit, I've been spoiled by my MBA's SSD :[ haha.

    Thinking about selling one of my monitors and putting the extra $$$ towards a 256 drive instead of a 128 now.
  25. cardude280 macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2006
    West Virginia
    as far as i know it should be fine, and thats a very good idea if you don't want to go the external route.

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