I'm very inclined to go for the mac mini over the iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by madrag, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. madrag macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    I have been waiting for the iMac since Nov 2011, and after the long wait, I found the update very disappointing because (for the iMac 21"):

    - No firewire (I wouldn't mind FW 800 only, but nothing?), I don't want another adapter
    - No audio input (why??)
    - Sub-par HDD (5400rpm, why?), the SSD is too small, and fusion doesn't convince me and it is more expensive than a standard 7200 HDD and an extra SSD
    - Not user upgradeable (so no chance to save some more and in the future upgrade by myself the RAM and HDD or add an extra SSD). This is one of the main points for my upcoming decision, I'm not going to pay almost 4 times what I can get at Crucial, or changing the HDD in the future isn't possible.
    - All in one, the screen could get damaged and the all unit has to be sent for repair, or the opposite, the motherboard could die and the screen could be rendered useless.

    Looking at all these, and I never even payed much attention to the mac mini, I started to look at it and what I really like:

    - user upgradeable (I can get 16GB of RAM for about 80 EUR, and at Apple they charge 300 EUR and don't even give me the original 4 GB); I can change the HDD, or even swap it with another HDD or SSD.
    - I can add another HDD or SSD!
    - it has firewire
    - it has an audio input
    - comes with the adapter for a DVI monitor, I can plug it already to my monitor :)
    - cheaper

    I'm inclined to ditch the iMac purchase and go for the mac mini (i7 2.6GHz), the only doubt is if it will perform as well as the iMac, the advantages of the iMac for me are:

    - nice screen (I do have a nice one already and will probably buy another one, but nothing compared to the one on the iMac)
    - dedicated graphics card
    - more powerful (?)

    Will the mac mini perform as well? User upgradeability is important for me, and also the silence and temperature, I don't know if the mac mini is silent or warm/hot...

    Is this a good idea? I mean, Apple could listen to the consumer (cough, cough) and maybe release an updated iMac with a proper HDD and user upgradeable RAM, chance to add an extra HDD or SSD (let me dream, ok?)

    Your input will be helpful, thanks!
  2. diazj3, Nov 14, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2012

    diazj3 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 19, 2008
    IMO it's a GREAT idea. Despite the integrated display, the Mini is a better value purchase.

    Yes, for most of tasks. Perhaps some heavy games and GPU heavy software will see a lag.

    That wont happen. Apple does not back down on these issues. They see the iMac (and almost all their products nowdays) as a non-user upgradeable system for consumers. Apple prefers consumers that just buy whatever they sell, and shut up. Want a better system? more RAM? More storage? pay the premium price of a custom order, or buy a new computer... or shut up and live with it. That's their philosophy now: it's more profitable and less of a headache to take away upgradeability from users... and the iMac is the poster boy of this idea.
  3. Siderz macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    Depends what you're using it for really.

    Focusing on the graphics, the Intel HD 4000 will suffice for many people, but if you're doing video editing or gaming, you'd be much better off getting a computer with a dedicated card, like the iMac.

    The points you listed are agreeable, but bear in mind that the iMac has two Thunderbolt ports over a FireWire and Thunderbolt port, and you can get an adapter for FireWire to Thunderbolt. I know you said you don't want to fiddle with another adapter, but the one from Apple is very short, it's not a big deal. I bought one and it's perfectly adequate.

    I think the headphone port doubles as audio in...at least it should do...bit stupid to leave it out.

    Go for what you feel is best, if you need a dedicated graphics card, go for the iMac. At the end of the day, I think the Mac mini is going to be cheaper, but you're not going to have as good specs.
  4. triweaver2 macrumors newbie

    Jun 22, 2012
    I was looking at doing this myself but want the good and lightweight screen that comes with the iMac. It will cost less to get the that i7 2.6, with fusion and 16 gig of RAM (especially if you do that yourself) than the 21.5 iMac that allows fusion. For me the iMac seems to be winning. I am going to wait for the teardown to make a final decision. Now that my mid 2007 (running Snow Leopard) has 4gig of ram, I can hold off a bit.

    If you have not been following the threads over in the mini section, you might want to take a look. There are apparently known issues with the HD4000 graphics. Apparently Intel is having trouble fixing.
  5. madrag, Nov 15, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012

    madrag thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    Thanks, I am still using a PowerMac G5 2x2GHz, and it's almost 8 years old, and I would rather be in the Mac Pro thread asking about the Mac Pro, but the budget is very tight and unfortunately I have to go for an iMac or Mac Mini because of the price :(

    My work is web developement, and graphic design, so the graphic intensive could be an issue with the mac mini?

    I saw that and that also worries me.

    What really makes me go away from the iMac is the fact that if I want to upgrade it, it should be done at the time of purchase, and I will have to pay premium. Also the HDD or Fusion option (nevermind the small SDD), I really would prefer a HDD and a separate SSD, if they removed the ODD why not use the space?

    And the price, that is the most important here, the iMac became more expensive and its much more expensive than the Mac Mini (I do have a monitor, so that could be a plus for the Mini).

    Aditionaly, the lack of FW, not such a big deal, but that means I would have to spend more money on an adapter (all my backups are done on external FW drives).

    The audio input I doubt the single connection on the iMac serves both ways, really strange move from Apple, I wonder why they did that? That isn't a big deal, but it will make have to get another adapter, more money, more rubish on the desk.

    Finally, the time of purchase, I would like to take advantage of the black friday discounts (not from Apple apparently, but other vendors can discount the Mac Mini), and finally the release of the iMac, because if it rocks I may consider getting it. Decisions, I wish I had more money to spend on the Mac.

    I think the main concern for me is to know if the graphic card will stand for the work I do with it. I believe I can return it if I don't like it, correct?

    EDIT: I just read the iMac may be delayed to the start of 2013, that is a big weight on anyones' decision, you can't buy something that isn't available.
  6. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Highly unlikely. If you're dealing with a lot of heavy motion graphics work it's a possibility. Someone else on here was having minor lag with the 2012, but they were using a 27" display (same resolution as the thunderbolt display) combined with enormous raster data and many layers. I do the same, and it's fine on a 2011 macbook pro, which displaced the use of a mac pro 1,1. If you're worried, buy directly from Apple for the return policy in case you need it. It just shouldn't be a big deal, especially with maxed ram. If you're on a G5, you're probably on Creative Suite 3 or 4. Those lose upgrade eligibility at the end of this year, so you should jump on CS6 immediately. Most of those individual applications recommend 8GB of ram. I'd go 16 and not worry about how many are open or if it'll choke on large files. For your uses, the performance gained per dollar greatly outpace an ssd. I don't see this as something where a few seconds off reboot time or application launches are a big deal compared to the responsiveness of little swap use.
  7. madrag thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    Nice one!

    I use two monitors, 1280x1024 (4x3 ratio), so I will have to get an adapter for the second monitor, I suppose the Mini will stand both monitors without much lag?

    For the software I do have CS4 but will have to go for open source or cheaper, money is really an issue right now, that's why the Mini feels like the better purchase right now. And if the iMac gets delayed as rumoured, this may suffice.

    I plan to get the 16GB of RAM very soon after the purchase I know it will make a nice diference, and add an extra SSD along the way (not right now), the 5400rpm is sad, (not that slow, because I've used a 5400 on a MBP, but still not as fast as a 7200rpm HDD). A SSD is never a bad drive to have, I think most will agree, I just can't stand the idea of an SSD only setup (unless it would be one of those 700MB ultra-expensive drive).

    Indeed I will probably buy at Apple or somewhere where they accept returns, either for the iMac or the Mac Mini.

    Is the Mini silent and not very hot?
  8. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    With the new uncertainty surrounding the new Imac's and with two buddies waiting for 21.5" models, I'm starting to think that the Mini with a Fusion drive might suit them just as well...My only concern is the purchase of a separate monitor which would push up the price a little.

    If Apple don't confirm November delivery dates for the Imac soon, I think I may start looking closely at the Mini as a viable alternative. Neither of them does any real heavy lifting, and I was looking at the base 21.5's for both of them anyway....What's the general take on monitors? There is no way either of them could afford an Apple screen, but I hear various reports on Dell Ultrasharp offerings etc.

    It's been a good few years since I bought or even priced a non-Apple screen.
  9. Yeroon macrumors member


    Jun 12, 2012
    I totally agree. The Mac Mini is an interesting alternative. Especially when you already have a good (big) monitor or want to buy one. I like the fact that it's easier to do upgrades, such as install a new harddisk or more memory.

    The thing that kills it for me is the GPU. The previous mini's had a dedicated graphics chip. As I'm also into gaming, the Intel HD 4000 isn't good enough. It's a good chip, but it's weak at anti-aliasing and such. Not really futureproof. Maybe it's an option when external GPU's via Thunderbolt are common.
  10. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Well from CS4 the entire creative suite would be $700 for the standard CS upgrade. Individual applications are $200-250 for most upgrades, but I have no idea which ones you require. Adobe is forcing people to upgrade every version going forward. This annoys me as some of their releases aren't very good. Overall it might be tough to displace all of that with Open Source. Pixelmator gained cmyk support, and it's cheap. If the mini simply won't work, you could also consider a Windows based machine (Adobe will allow you to switch). They tend to offer a lot more options in the $500-1000 range. If you've been bid down so far on work that a few hundred for software is a major problem, it may be time to look at the job market. I know what a pain in the ass it can be dealing with fluctuations in freelance rates.

    The mini supposedly gets pretty hot. I don't know how noisy it gets. I can tell you my macbook pro can get noisier than my mac pro, but in Creative Suite, it's not constantly noisy, and painting is generally very smooth. I keep gpu path anti-aliasing turned off as it makes paths too difficult to see against certain backgrounds.
  11. Kev.LoveMac macrumors member

    Oct 31, 2012
    First, Mac mini is a very good product, I bought for my parents and they love it.
    Second, w.r.t. what you mentioned, I think thunderbolt and USB3.0 are enough for any kind of input. USB3.0 can be used as an audio input. The real trick component I think is the Fusion Drive. It is a good way to bypass the expensive pure SSD and the low-speed HDD. It has convinced me :D as a good option for large and fast storage, even though it will cost around extra $250.

    The idea 'all in one' itself is very attractive to me, since it helps me to get a power desktop and me to maintain a clean, simple and beautiful working room.

    I would not compare any Mac product with PC. If your wish is a power game center, the PC, Xbox, etc., are all better options. Mac is rather a personal addiction which maintains the pursue of simple and nice computer culture.
  12. madrag thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    It's not just a few hundreds, I have to upgrade a lot more software, CS4 is just a part of the apps I need, the rest some work in ML, others will have to be upgraded and yes I am in a down finantially, but won't go the Windows path, I used Windows at my previous Job (10 years ago) and still use it in an emulator for testing/web dev, but honestly Apple's OS X is very good, the hardware is debateable, as so many threads (even this one) confirm.


    I disagree, why did they remove the audio input and force us to spend more on an adapter?

    Also why not keep the FW? the Mini has it (probably not for long as it was taken out on the iMac).

    The lack of these two inputs would make me have to get two adapters, more money spent...

    I live in Portugal and the Fusion drive costs 300 EUR, make the conversion from dollars to Euro and you can see that Apple's math is very generous (to them). I understand the taxes they pay, but I too pay taxes and pay a lot. With 300 EUR I can get a 250 GB SSD and keep the HDD.

    I'm not convinced because I wonder what happens if the HDD has a problem? both units (HDD + SSD) are useless, correct?
  13. mihai.ile macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2012
    In terms of data loss yes, you probably loose everything, but you can still use the not broken one, just format/install and you are good to go.
  14. Kev.LoveMac macrumors member

    Oct 31, 2012
    I just checked the price in Portugal, the Fusion drive in Mac mini costs 250 EUR. It is indeed expensive. But if you choose SSD with 256 GB, it costs 300 EUR. I don't know what you mean by keeping the HDD. If you mean to have an extern SSD, it becomes a different story.

    The Mac mini I bought for my parents has FW, but the time I or my parents use it is ZERO :D .

    I think you do not need an adapter for audio in, there are plenty of audio-in devices support USB.

    By the way, a friend of mine has a five year old macbook, it never shows problems on the HDD. I personally trust the quality of Apple product :).
  15. majkom macrumors 65816

    May 3, 2011
    What exactly is meant by "quality of Apple product"? There are ordinary samsung SSDs in mini and ordinary WD (or even worse brand) HDD... so, you believe in quality of standard products, which have some standard failure rate :D
  16. Overg macrumors 6502

    May 26, 2012
    thought so..

    I also thought to buy the mac mini and add 27" screen, if you do the math you will get to the price of the Imac 27 more or less with even worse machine.
    So no option but to wait.

    The good side in this story is that we see some apple history, by far this is the first time they ****ed up so big.
    (when we buy our 27" imac in the jan or fab we can say that we bought it in the year where apple missed the dead line for a year...)
  17. mihai.ile macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2012
    They will sell in Jan/Feb and ship just in time when the other companies start selling machines with the new 2013 intel CPUs :D
  18. madrag thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 2, 2007
    You're right! I got mixed up, the Fusion is 250 EUR

    By "keeping the HDD" I meant buying the Mac with the HDD and afterwards getting the extra SSD, this way I will spend the extra 300 EUR but with the advantage of keeping the original HDD that I can use or sell helping me to maybe buy a faster HDD.

    If I were to buy the SSD only, they don't give me the HDD, see my point?

    Anyone know if we can use the Fusion + an extra SSD?
  19. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010

    The second half is more likely.

    The software can be quite good. Snow Leopard was really my favorite. The subsequent revisions have given me issues, such as Lion not wanting to release inactive memory when other applications require it. I don't know which ones you're looking at open source. If you are not concerned with loss of upgrade paths, CS4 applications will work with mountain lion (which will be pre-installed on a new machine) as long as it's fully updated and licensed. You'd just need to deactivate the licenses on your old machine. I do find it slightly annoying how Adobe has constantly altered their licensing rules. As for other stuff, if I can offer open source suggestions I will. Going from a G5 could be potentially expensive depending on how much stuff must be switched over. With the mini, I would say that the base or mid mini would be fine. The mid- mini at $800 has a very fast cpu. In that regard, I think it'll be fine for the life of the machine.

    There are a couple other things I should mention. Search the existing threads. Some people have experienced some trouble with hdmi on the mini, and HD4000 bugs. I mean bugs, not so much raw power. I can't imagine you're dealing with 10k+ resolution in your files. I've dealt with some huge files, and it would take quite a bit to lag the OpenGL drawing under normal circumstances. When I mention others having specifically lagged it, they were dealing with files that went into GB combined with large displays. These applications also aren't upping their requirements very quickly. Even the original creative suite moved around a lot of data. It's just pushing more through ram and less through scratch disks now.
  20. mchoffa macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2008
    Asheville, NC
    I'm using CS6 from the creative cloud subscription on my old 2008 24" bottom of the line iMac... my biggest issue is ram... I use it all constantly. But everything is usable. I just have to close illustrator to use photoshop and vice versa.

    The more I think about this, the more I want to just get a mini. If only they had not gone with integrated graphics... That is the one thing I'm just not sure about. I'd also prefer to max out ram at 32GB but 16 would be better than what I've got now.

    A mini i7 maxed out + a couple dell u2713hm monitors is becoming more and more attractive to me
  21. mchoffa macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2008
    Asheville, NC
    but the more I read the integrated graphics would not work out for what I want to do... if Apple had kept the option to add a gfx card, or released the 27" imac right now, I'd be pleased...
  22. xraydoc macrumors demi-god


    Oct 9, 2005
    Not sure how the Intel 4000 integrated graphics compares to the ATI Radeon 6630M chip in the last generation mini, but I've got the previous 2.5GHz i5 mini with the discrete ATI chip and it drives the 27" Thunderbolt monitor very, very well. I don't play games on it, but I've never had any graphic lagginess with UI visuals (launch pad, mission control, etc.).
  23. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    This is something you'd need to test, but their last discrete gpu option was a terrible implementation. The 2011 discrete option doesn't even support the full feature set in CS6. 32GB would keep you going longer, but 16 is extremely extremely usable, even with with 30-60MP camera files + layers. You have to be dealing with a lot of data to really stress the ram.
  24. mchoffa macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2008
    Asheville, NC
    I'm going to wait until last minute (~December 19) before I make a decision. I know if I pulled the trigger now we'd see 27" iMac coming sooner than later :)

    I very rarely do anything video intensive. I mostly use photoshop + aperture + illustrator + xcode/coda etc on a daily basis.

    Also wishing the samsung series 9 monitors were as cheap as the dell, but right now they're on sale $200 off at best buy for $999, the same as the thunderbolt... not sure if one is really better than the other.

    Can a mini effectively push two 2560x1440 displays? guessing it can't push 2 thunderbolts + hdmi
  25. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Good question. I don't think it can. I know the discrete 2011 mini was able to push more displays than the integrated version, but it was still weak on support for certain functions. Photoshop and illustrator leverage the gpu for specific tasks. Minimum vram requirements are also only an issue for specific tasks. It's important to note what you need. At $999, I'd really go for something more like this. Pricing has dropped to $952 if you click through to see the updated pricing. I'm interested to see what improvements they've made with the new imac. The last one was annoying when it came to judging colors. I'm not saying so much right or wrong. It's impossible to get 100% consistency across all devices. What I care about is that nothing is obviously incorrect and that it's stable/predictable. It's important to me that if I look at something today, it's the same as a week from now. Beyond that I care that shadow detail is resolved, it doesn't have banding issues, etc. I concentrate on things that are within the capability of the technology if you buy the right combination of hardware.

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