iMac 27" base vs Mac Mini High end + 27" Monitor?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by EcoGs21, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. EcoGs21 macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2012
    I'm wanting to get a desktop to replace my 2008 MacBook which is now almost approximately 4 years old. I would really like a desktop now that I'm done with school and all. I've always wanted an iMac but it was never really possible til now. The new 2012 versions seem to be pretty good machines. But after doing some research I've seen some good things about the Mac Mini's especially the newest ones. You can get a pretty powerful one for a lot less.. I don't play any computer games except occasional simple online things. I have tons of music, that's what takes up the majority of my harddrive space. I am also getting into photography so I plan on using Lightroom/Photoshop soon or similar app. Occasionally I like to use progrmas like FL Studio but I have a separate laptop I'm currently using for that so its not much of a deal there. All other uses are pretty basic. I do often have lots of things running at once, idk if that makes a difference or not. The size isn't an issue to me nor is how it looks where it will be put.

    So I'm wondering what advice anyone may be able to give me on these 2 options I'm considering.

    1. 27" base iMac, 2.9ghz i5, 1TB HD, 8GB RAM
    2. Mac Mini high end, 2.6ghz i7, 256 SSD, 4GB RAM (it's cheaper to get a 16GB RAM upgrade from later than the $300 option from Apple) + good 27" monitor

    From what I've seen people seem to recommend SSD's over HDD for numerous reasons including speed. I don't kno what it'd be like trying to install one in a new iMac or if that's even possible. I also don't kno if you can upgrade the RAM yourself on these new iMacs or not. From that standpoint the Mini seems more user upgradable. Plus if the display goes bad I still would have the computer intact. The Thunderbolt/Cinema displays are nice looking but so pricey, so I would consider other monitors as well. I really like the iMacs esp the 27", but unfortunately to get one with even a few options may be pushing it out of my price range as the base model is still pretty high. If user customization after purchasing one was easy then I wouldn't even consider the mini, as I could just get the base and swap the HDD for an SSD/upgrade RAM, etc. later on & at a cheaper price. Would the base model still suit my needs well or would the high end mini w/SSD be a better bet? I also plan on keeping this new comp for as long as I can, so I just want to make sure I would be spending the money smartly. Thanks for any help!
  2. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Aug 11, 2009
    I'd go with the 27" iMac with the 3TB standard HDD. On that model you can upgrade the RAM yourself and hook up an SSD via Thunderbolt.

    You're better off with that than with a mini:
    • 3.5" vs. 2.5" HDD (speed)
    • Since the mini uses mobile processors now, that iMac's i5 should be about as powerful as the mini's i7.
    • You'd have to spend serious money for a display on par with the iMac's.
    • The mini doesn't come with a keyboard and mouse; the iMac does.

    If you go for the mini, at least buy an aftermarket SSD and install it yourself.
  3. EcoGs21 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 1, 2012
    @flatfoot I am leaning towards the iMac, partly just because I've just always wanted one..
    I already have a magic mouse & keyboard so that doesn't matter to me so much, as well as a large external HD that I could use with either computer.

    But if I can get a mac mini setup for cheaper than the iMac is that better? From Apple I can get the mini with the 2.6 i7 & upgrade to a 256 SSD already installed & i've found a few used/refurbished Thunderbolt/Cinema LED displays for cheap enough to keep the cost below the iMac? Or is it worth the extra $100-200 to spend on the 27" iMac & get a SSD/RAM upgrades later on?
  4. rpramanik macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2008
    San Francisco, USA
    Don't forget the iMac has an awesome graphic card

    Future proof with the graphic card.
  5. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    iMac is a no brainer I think. It's not like either computer is much more upgradable than the other and yet the iMac has a nice clean set up. For me, just something about having no cords laying around other than the power cord and no extra boxes that is very powerful.

    Go with the mini and external stuff and you're in PC-hell with cords tangling everywhere, components that don't quite match together, and an aesthetic nightmare.

    You also get a crappier video card (as pointed out already), less power (may not be that important though for basics), less HD space, and probably some other things I'm forgetting. Though SSD is a good jump on a laptop where HDs are slower, I think the 7200 rpm HD on a desktop is already pretty good if money is too tight for the upgrade.

    Why make life difficult for yourself? Buy the iMac and you're done and can move on with life. With the Mini you need to buy all this other crap, make it all work, constantly be fidgeting with stuff since nothing will ever be perfect, etc.
  6. Liquinn Suspended

    Apr 10, 2011
    I agree. What do you mean by aesthetic nightmare? :p
  7. m00min macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2012
    Eh? Adding a separate monitor is cable hell? That's a bit of an over the top statement isn't it? Yes the iMac is the more powerful computer but unless the OP needs that extra power that's not really a consideration. The Mini has at least the same connections and peripherals (apart from the obvious lack of a monitor) as the iMac. Add in an optical or backup drive and you'll still end up in "cable hell".


    Are you referring to plugging in a monitor? It really isn't that difficult. :)
  8. alexdd macrumors member

    Oct 26, 2012
    mac mini is much more powerful(CPU) than the base iMac 27''(at least 30%)...the iMac 27'' is much more powerful(GPU) than the mini
  9. theanimala macrumors 6502

    Mar 2, 2007
    I too was stuck between these two decisions but finally ended up going with an mid-level i7 mini. I had a 24" iMac that had 2 HD failures over the years (1 covered by Applecare) and I hated that I could not easily replace the drive. When the new iMac's were announced that not only are harder to upgrade / fix but also lost the optical drive I really saw no reason to go with the iMac.

    Last week I ordered the mini along with an aftermarket SSD and 16GB of ram. 1 hour after receiving everything I had both installed within an hour. Saved quiet a bit of money, and more importantly can replace whatever items I need without giving Apple even more of my money.
  10. tears2040 macrumors 6502

    Aug 27, 2010
    New Mac mini 's next year will have a better graphics card..... That is what I will be upgrading too. This year the new Mini has a poor graphics card so I would stay away...
  11. alexdd macrumors member

    Oct 26, 2012
    Apple's marketing plan.....
  12. Pie Chips Salad macrumors member

    Sep 28, 2012
    Disagree with this post. But I do concede that if you care about wires and stuff you would be better off with an imac. Which to be fair doesn't negate the use the need for wires for all your usb peripherals and your now external optical drive. So who cares?

    I use my setup for audio so I need Cpu, Ram and SSD. Graphics aren't important and they don't sound that important to you. All you need to know is that when the mini has more than 8gb ram it buts more V ram into the internal graphics and boosts it a little. It also can push high res monitors thru thunderbolt.

    After much debating with a fully specced Imac with 768 ssd and the mini, I went with the Mini and peripherals. I got a very high end 27 inch monitor 2560 x 1440 led back lit panel. It was roughly half as much as a thunderbolt.

    I got a mac mini server with 2.6 i7 hyperthreaded i5 desktop is not. So it is very comparabe to the 2.9 - 3.2 i5 desktop. For programs like Logic the mini will show 8 cores and so is a better process for programs that use hyper threading. So actually might even have more power. It also still has turbo boost 2.0.

    The cherry on the cake here is that my two ssd's in my mac mini server set to raid zero give me 800 + read and write speeds. Boot up and opening apps is lightening quick. It takes about 11-12 seconds to boot.

    I save about 700- 800 pounds from top spec mini to imac.

    I have the advantage of selling my mini in a few years and upgrading again and keeping my monitor. The set up I have works pretty seamlessly. The display sleeps in hot corners etc. The only slight downside is the sound on the monitor is not as good for watching movies so I have to go ito sound preferences and switch to my external speakers. So slight 1o second faff there.

    Plus as you said if your imac breaks both are gone. The Solid state on the new Imac cost about as much as the high end mini. So I feel I got a bargain powerhouse thats great for my needs.

    If you play games or do video obviously imac is your choice. However In a few years who knows i could even upgrade to a new mac pro if I want crazy power.
  13. majkom macrumors 65816

    May 3, 2011
    you wont upgrade SSD by yourself, or maybe you will, but firs of all, check ifixit teardown, it is difficult as hell
  14. randy98mtu macrumors 65816


    Mar 4, 2009
    My wife is taking our current iMac to her office, so I am getting a new desktop for home. After debating, I had basically decided on the mini. Then I took my old mini to her office to set up for her assistant. Ugh. It really made me appreciate the iMac approach. You plug in 1 cord and you're done. After they opened orders for the new iMac, I landed back there again. I need an optical drive on my computer, so I'm still stuck with an external component, but that would be true either way. I really enjoy our current iMac, so I'm sure the new one will be just as nice. I agree I'm less intimidated about opening up the Mini than the iMac, so I just ordered the iMac with the 3TB Fusion so I don't need to open it.

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