imac configs or mac mini

adh

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 18, 2014
18
0
I’m looking for a new desktop computer – I’ve built my own computers as long as I can imagine but my current Windows build is getting quite long in the tooth. I’ve recently started a migration over to iOS and OS X and this will complement my iPad and my MacBook Air.

My uses for a desktop are pretty light by your standards, I presume. Usual office work, movies, HTPC work, no games. My workflow isn’t that intense and the computer will be used with a 24 inch ASUS IPS 1080p panel. My workflow usually requires lots of simultaneous programs running, and is only mildly graphically intensive at times when friends/relatives need basic iMovie or Photoshop work. Besides this work, Spotify, Dropbox, Evernote, Alfred, f.lux, Mail, and a few more programs I can’t remember of the top of my head are always running. More important for me is that this machine remains relevant for the long run.

With this background out of the way, I have three possibilities of how this situation can play out for me, and I’d like your opinion on which best satisfies my use case. Hopefully this ridiculously long forum post addressed any questions you’d have for me, but don’t hesitate – I’m game for whatever gets me the best advice!

CASE 1: MAC MINI + 2.3GHZ QUAD CORE I7 + AFTERMARKET 8GB RAM + AFTERMARKET SSD
Pro: cheapest, best bang for the buck, powerful relatively, user upgradeable
Con: bring your own monitor, and my OCD will need to buy a mac kb and mouse, also HD4000, really ancient, ivy

CASE 2: IMAC 1.4 GHZ DUAL CORE (the new one that’s a joke) + FACTORY 256GB SSD + FACTORY 8GB
Pro: factory ssd (makes up for ****** processor?), monitor, haswell, comes w/ everything you need
Con: as powerful as my air, most expensive

CASE 3: IMAC 2.7GHZ QUAD CORE I5 + FACTORY 1TB HDD + FACTORY 8GB RAM
Pro: Best of the other two cases, haswell, powerful and beautiful
Con: HDD??!?!?! Bottleneck.

CASE 4: (current) MACBOOK AIR 1.8GHZ I5 + 8GB RAM + 256GB SSD (mid ’12) as a desktop
Pro: Save my $$$$$$
Con: don’t want to mess up my battery keeping it plugged in, lags w/ full workflow


Thanks, hopefully you read, hopefully I don’t get yelled at for not providing enough information
 

khedden

macrumors member
Jun 18, 2014
70
0
Charleston, SC
If your current Air lags with some of your workflow, then I would advise against the new iMac. Unless you don't mind the lag.

I always recommend getting the best machine you can afford. You won't regret that SSD or fusion drive, or the additional memory or storage (especially if you can't easily upgrade the machine) years down the line.

Get the Mac mini or the higher end iMac depending on if you want an all-in-one or not.
 

Jambalaya

macrumors 6502a
Jun 21, 2013
686
98
UK
You don't need a quad core Mini for what you want. My 2009 Mini could handle that. Keyboard and magic mouse you should get to make the most of the machine/os. Yes to 8GB memory. You can go to the Mini thread there are lots of us hanging out for a refresh with some thinking that's 2014, some 2015 (me, Broadwell) and some who fear it will be phased out. If you don't mind used I suggest you pick up a used dual core Mini and wait for 2015 to see if there is a refresh.
 

mad3inch1na

macrumors 6502a
Oct 21, 2013
662
6
Under a full workload, all of those machines will bottleneck. The MBA is really the best solution out of the options above. The key is to make sure you are balancing the RAM, the hard drive, the GPU, and the CPU. The quad-core machines are not going to have CPU bottleneck, but all the other components will. It sounds like your workload is not typically that heavy, so I am surprised that you listed lagging as an issue for the MBA. The batteries on the Apple laptops are great, so I really would not worry about damaging it.

If you are that worried about lagging under full load, you will have to pay more. This may not fit your bill, but for any power user with limited money, I recommend the 2012 27" refurbished iMac with gtx 680mx/i7 quad core/1 TB Fusion/8 GB RAM for 1949$. It is a really well rounded machine that provides a lot of bang for your buck. If you do not want to spend money on that, I would probably stick with the MBA for now.

Matt
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,102
6,546
If you like your current ASUS display, and also have a USB keyboard and mouse that you like, "Case 1" is probably the best choice.

If you don't mind waiting until an Apple-refurbished Mini with those specs shows up, you can save even more. But you have to keep a close eye on what stock is available, and be ready to "jump" when it appears.
A web site to watch:
http://www.refurb.me/us/

Be aware that the existing Mac Mini lineup has been unchanged since October of 2012. Many folks are wondering when an updated Mini will be released, but that's speculation. My guess is that Apple may "hold out" until the Broadwell CPU chip appears, late this year. I could be wrong.

If you do get the Mini, I'd suggest getting ONE 8gb RAM board instead of 2 4gb's. Then you have a choice:
a. pair the 8gb board with one of the existing 2gb boards for a total of 10gb (some will argue that the "mismatched ram sizes" will not run as fast as would 2 4gb boards, but I sense the speed difference will be inconsequential in real-world usage).
b. Take both 2gb boards out, and run with the single 8gb board instead.

Consider puttting together an EXTERNAL USB3-based SSD boot drive instead of opening up the Mini. Then again, I sense you're an experienced computer-builder. But be advised that there are numerous fragile and very-breakable connections inside the Mini...
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
I’m looking for a new desktop computer – I’ve built my own computers as long as I can imagine but my current Windows build is getting quite long in the tooth. I’ve recently started a migration over to iOS and OS X and this will complement my iPad and my MacBook Air.

My uses for a desktop are pretty light by your standards, I presume. Usual office work, movies, HTPC work, no games. My workflow isn’t that intense and the computer will be used with a 24 inch ASUS IPS 1080p panel. My workflow usually requires lots of simultaneous programs running, and is only mildly graphically intensive at times when friends/relatives need basic iMovie or Photoshop work. Besides this work, Spotify, Dropbox, Evernote, Alfred, f.lux, Mail, and a few more programs I can’t remember of the top of my head are always running. More important for me is that this machine remains relevant for the long run.

With this background out of the way, I have three possibilities of how this situation can play out for me, and I’d like your opinion on which best satisfies my use case. Hopefully this ridiculously long forum post addressed any questions you’d have for me, but don’t hesitate – I’m game for whatever gets me the best advice!

CASE 1: MAC MINI + 2.3GHZ QUAD CORE I7 + AFTERMARKET 8GB RAM + AFTERMARKET SSD
Pro: cheapest, best bang for the buck, powerful relatively, user upgradeable
Con: bring your own monitor, and my OCD will need to buy a mac kb and mouse, also HD4000, really ancient, ivy

CASE 2: IMAC 1.4 GHZ DUAL CORE (the new one that’s a joke) + FACTORY 256GB SSD + FACTORY 8GB
Pro: factory ssd (makes up for ****** processor?), monitor, haswell, comes w/ everything you need
Con: as powerful as my air, most expensive

CASE 3: IMAC 2.7GHZ QUAD CORE I5 + FACTORY 1TB HDD + FACTORY 8GB RAM
Pro: Best of the other two cases, haswell, powerful and beautiful
Con: HDD??!?!?! Bottleneck.

CASE 4: (current) MACBOOK AIR 1.8GHZ I5 + 8GB RAM + 256GB SSD (mid ’12) as a desktop
Pro: Save my $$$$$$
Con: don’t want to mess up my battery keeping it plugged in, lags w/ full workflow


Thanks, hopefully you read, hopefully I don’t get yelled at for not providing enough information
1. All I can say is you are spending a lot of money and the GPU (Intel HD 4000) will be a real bottleneck.

2.You do know that the 1.4Ghz processor in the iMac turboboosts to 2.7Ghz? And the dual core hyper-thread to 4 threads. Overall 64 bit multicore performance is around 65-70% of the next level of iMac.

With an SSD, this will perform the same as a Macbook Air with 8Gb of RAM and 256Gb SSD.

3. I have the 2.9Ghz iMac with 8Gb of RAM, Nvidia Geforce GT 750m and a 1Tb HDD. The HDD is no bottleneck. Boot up is only 35 seconds. Applications can take a few seconds to open first time after a restart, but once opened then closed they will reopen just as fast as an SSD due to App Caching within RAM.

4. Look into a refurbed 2013 Macbook Air with 256Gb of storage (as this will give you PCIe based Flash), and 8Gb of RAM. If you can't find that refurb (or one with an i7), just buy new of the 2014.

Option 3 is best for you. It will give you a great processor, more than enough RAM, the best GPU from your list by far, and the best screen.
 

adh

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 18, 2014
18
0
1. All I can say is you are spending a lot of money and the GPU (Intel HD 4000) will be a real bottleneck.

2.You do know that the 1.4Ghz processor in the iMac turboboosts to 2.7Ghz? And the dual core hyper-thread to 4 threads. Overall 64 bit multicore performance is around 65-70% of the next level of iMac.

With an SSD, this will perform the same as a Macbook Air with 8Gb of RAM and 256Gb SSD.

3. I have the 2.9Ghz iMac with 8Gb of RAM, Nvidia Geforce GT 750m and a 1Tb HDD. The HDD is no bottleneck. Boot up is only 35 seconds. Applications can take a few seconds to open first time after a restart, but once opened then closed they will reopen just as fast as an SSD due to App Caching within RAM.

4. Look into a refurbed 2013 Macbook Air with 256Gb of storage (as this will give you PCIe based Flash), and 8Gb of RAM. If you can't find that refurb (or one with an i7), just buy new of the 2014.

Option 3 is best for you. It will give you a great processor, more than enough RAM, the best GPU from your list by far, and the best screen.
1) HD 4000 will still power multi monitors and generally be enough, also the cheapest on the list by far

2) MBA just doesn't cut it when everything's going. idk if its b/c ULV or dual core

3) why didn't you go w/ fusion drive and a slower CPU? I feel like the SSD makes a massive difference, no doubt about it

4) already have the air, it's in the first post

----------

If you like your current ASUS display, and also have a USB keyboard and mouse that you like, "Case 1" is probably the best choice.

If you don't mind waiting until an Apple-refurbished Mini with those specs shows up, you can save even more. But you have to keep a close eye on what stock is available, and be ready to "jump" when it appears.
A web site to watch:
http://www.refurb.me/us/

Be aware that the existing Mac Mini lineup has been unchanged since October of 2012. Many folks are wondering when an updated Mini will be released, but that's speculation. My guess is that Apple may "hold out" until the Broadwell CPU chip appears, late this year. I could be wrong.

If you do get the Mini, I'd suggest getting ONE 8gb RAM board instead of 2 4gb's. Then you have a choice:
a. pair the 8gb board with one of the existing 2gb boards for a total of 10gb (some will argue that the "mismatched ram sizes" will not run as fast as would 2 4gb boards, but I sense the speed difference will be inconsequential in real-world usage).
b. Take both 2gb boards out, and run with the single 8gb board instead.

Consider puttting together an EXTERNAL USB3-based SSD boot drive instead of opening up the Mini. Then again, I sense you're an experienced computer-builder. But be advised that there are numerous fragile and very-breakable connections inside the Mini...
very helpful, thanks..
I just watched some teardown videos, seems definitely doable.
thanks to everyone else as well. on the fence now between case one and a refurb late 13 imac (can't remember which case that was, lol)

con of imac: HDD!!!!, price!!!
con of mini: HD 4000!!!!
 
Last edited:

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
1) HD 4000 will still power multi monitors and generally be enough, also the cheapest on the list by far

2) MBA just doesn't cut it when everything's going. idk if its b/c ULV or dual core

3) why didn't you go w/ fusion drive and a slower CPU? I feel like the SSD makes a massive difference, no doubt about it

4) already have the air, it's in the first post

con of imac: HDD!!!!, price!!!
con of mini: HD 4000!!!!


Intel Iris Pro just doesn't cut it for me. I can handle waiting an extra 15 seconds for booting once every 3 months, and with App Cache apps open instantly anyway. I can not handle missing out on Cuda cores, as well as half'ing my FPS in games when I push them (Intel Iris Pro is pretty much on par with my 750m when running on medium with lower resolutions, but my 750m destroys the Iris Pro when I turn things up to Ultra and 1080p) as well as I could not do with 128Mb of DRAM for the GPU. I need my 1Gb of GDDR5 VRAM.

Also, when I do heavy video editing (2hr long 1080p video with several layers of audio and video, lots of filters, colour corrections, image stabilizations...), when it comes to rendering, my processor will turboboost to 3.6Ghz where as the lower model will only TB to 3.2Ghz. That would really add quite a few minutes onto my render jobs.

Intel HD 4000 is laughable when doing heavy tasks in 1080p (at least for me). Don't worry about the Ivy Bridge CPU, as the performance gap is not massive (at least not as large as Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge), but I think you will find it rather hard finding such a good 1080p, fully calibrated IPS monitor that matches the 21.5" iMac (both in terms of screen quality and build quality, I really don't see you finding a monitor with an enclosure as good looking as the iMac or even Aluminium for that matter).
 
Last edited:

robertojorge

macrumors regular
May 6, 2014
129
25
Portugal
Hey,

Regarding any system it will depend on what you will used it for as mentioned before. Anyway about a month or so ago i made a few tests (and recorded the videos) with my Mac mini Late 2012 and my brothers Macbook Pro Late 2013.

You can in this case compare the Macbook Pro L2013 with the Imac witch has a GTX 750M, in these comparisons i also used my Win8 PC I7 4770K with the GTX 760 so that i could have a wider range of results.

The original thread is at https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/1732065/

Hope that the videos help you out, at least they are all focused in After Effects, Premiere, FCPX, Motion 5 so you can get an ideia.

PS: The HD4000 is really weak thats for sure but if you are planning just to play arround with 1080p videos on FCPX than you will be fine as you can see in the videos.
 

shaunp

macrumors 68000
Nov 5, 2010
1,808
1,386
I would go for the Mac Mini, even though the spec is a bit old now it's still a very quick machine. If you already have a good monitor then I don't see the point in an all-in-one. It gives you more freedom to change components as you need to. So long as you are not a gamer then the Mini makes good sense.

I would add 3rd-party RAM as it's better value, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to strip the machine down to put a 3rd-party SSD in there unless you don't mind invalidating the warranty. Personally I don't think the price difference is worth the hassle of potentially trashing the machine. Also don't discount the Fusion Drive if you need capacity.
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
Hey,

Regarding any system it will depend on what you will used it for as mentioned before. Anyway about a month or so ago i made a few tests (and recorded the videos) with my Mac mini Late 2012 and my brothers Macbook Pro Late 2013.

You can in this case compare the Macbook Pro L2013 with the Imac witch has a GTX 750M, in these comparisons i also used my Win8 PC I7 4770K with the GTX 760 so that i could have a wider range of results.

The original thread is at https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/1732065/

Hope that the videos help you out, at least they are all focused in After Effects, Premiere, FCPX, Motion 5 so you can get an ideia.

PS: The HD4000 is really weak thats for sure but if you are planning just to play arround with 1080p videos on FCPX than you will be fine as you can see in the videos.
Good comparison for the i7's and GPU's, but you should not be comparing the prices. The Mac Mini is a desktop with no monitor and no PCIe based flash, and the Macbook Pro is a laptop with a high res screen. The battery and high res screen along with PCIe flash should increase the cost alone. The iMac I have then with an i7 upgrade would be a much better price compairson, but you would have to find a nice 21" (or similar) 1080 IPS calibrated monitor to add on to the Mac Mini.

----------

I would go for the Mac Mini, even though the spec is a bit old now it's still a very quick machine. If you already have a good monitor then I don't see the point in an all-in-one. It gives you more freedom to change components as you need to. So long as you are not a gamer then the Mini makes good sense.

I would add 3rd-party RAM as it's better value, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to strip the machine down to put a 3rd-party SSD in there unless you don't mind invalidating the warranty. Personally I don't think the price difference is worth the hassle of potentially trashing the machine. Also don't discount the Fusion Drive if you need capacity.
Great to see the results though anyway! Thanks :)
 

robertojorge

macrumors regular
May 6, 2014
129
25
Portugal
I would add 3rd-party RAM as it's better value, but I wouldn't be in a hurry to strip the machine down to put a 3rd-party SSD in there unless you don't mind invalidating the warranty. Personally I don't think the price difference is worth the hassle of potentially trashing the machine. Also don't discount the Fusion Drive if you need capacity.
+1 :) I still have mine with that crappy 5400rpm and although i could upgrade my self i just wont. If i knew what i know today i had put an extra to come with the SSD from Apple. But i bought the Mini before i tried an SSD on my main PC :)

----------

Good comparison for the i7's and GPU's, but you should not be comparing the prices. The Mac Mini is a desktop with no monitor and no PCIe based flash, and the Macbook Pro is a laptop with a high res screen. The battery and high res screen along with PCIe flash should increase the cost alone. The iMac I have then with an i7 upgrade would be a much better price compairson, but you would have to find a nice 21" (or similar) 1080 IPS calibrated monitor to add on to the Mac Mini.

----------



Great to see the results though anyway! Thanks :)
Wasnt comparing prices at all :) just specs
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
+1 :) I still have mine with that crappy 5400rpm and although i could upgrade my self i just wont. If i knew what i know today i had put an extra to come with the SSD from Apple. But i bought the Mini before i tried an SSD on my main PC :)

----------



Wasnt comparing prices at all :) just specs
I was talking about a little bit in your FCPX video. Doesn't matter anyway, I can see you put a lot into that so thanks :)
 

robertojorge

macrumors regular
May 6, 2014
129
25
Portugal
I was talking about a little bit in your FCPX video. Doesn't matter anyway, I can see you put a lot into that so thanks :)
Ah! i see. Yep those were my thoughts. I made all those tests to help me decide what ill be upgrading to and i thought that it could help others like me.

A beginner in OSX :) and loving it
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
+1 :) I still have mine with that crappy 5400rpm and although i could upgrade my self i just wont. If i knew what i know today i had put an extra to come with the SSD from Apple. But i bought the Mini before i tried an SSD on my main PC :)

----------



Wasnt comparing prices at all :) just specs
Just watched the Ray Tracing comparison (something I do quite often myself). The HD 4000 really never done well then. Even the entry iMac with HD 5000 would be a bit better.
 

adh

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 18, 2014
18
0
Intel Iris Pro just doesn't cut it for me. I can handle waiting an extra 15 seconds for booting once every 3 months, and with App Cache apps open instantly anyway. I can not handle missing out on Cuda cores, as well as half'ing my FPS in games when I push them (Intel Iris Pro is pretty much on par with my 750m when running on medium with lower resolutions, but my 750m destroys the Iris Pro when I turn things up to Ultra and 1080p) as well as I could not do with 128Mb of DRAM for the GPU. I need my 1Gb of GDDR5 VRAM.

Also, when I do heavy video editing (2hr long 1080p video with several layers of audio and video, lots of filters, colour corrections, image stabilizations...), when it comes to rendering, my processor will turboboost to 3.6Ghz where as the lower model will only TB to 3.2Ghz. That would really add quite a few minutes onto my render jobs.

Intel HD 4000 is laughable when doing heavy tasks in 1080p (at least for me). Don't worry about the Ivy Bridge CPU, as the performance gap is not massive (at least not as large as Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge), but I think you will find it rather hard finding such a good 1080p, fully calibrated IPS monitor that matches the 21.5" iMac (both in terms of screen quality and build quality, I really don't see you finding a monitor with an enclosure as good looking as the iMac or even Aluminium for that matter).
thanks, martin. i guess the difference between us is i don't play games or really tax my gpu
thanks to roberto and shaun too, really helpful. i appreciate it.
 

scaredpoet

macrumors 604
Apr 6, 2007
6,627
342
Have you considered looking at refurbished iMacs as well? I was getting ready to update my desktop setup as well and was waiting for a mac mini refresh, until I saw the refurbished iMacs on sale. There's just as good as new, with the same warranty and Applecare eligibility, and you can pick up current-model iMacs at a good discount.

On top of getting a good, current iMac on the cheap, I re-dsicovered the awesomeness of having dual, large displays on my desktop. :)
 

adh

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 18, 2014
18
0
Have you considered looking at refurbished iMacs as well? I was getting ready to update my desktop setup as well and was waiting for a mac mini refresh, until I saw the refurbished iMacs on sale. There's just as good as new, with the same warranty and Applecare eligibility, and you can pick up current-model iMacs at a good discount.

On top of getting a good, current iMac on the cheap, I re-dsicovered the awesomeness of having dual, large displays on my desktop. :)
oh yeah, i'm buying all of them refurbished! with apple, it's literally free cash back to you. imac is still a little steep though :/
 

MartinAppleGuy

macrumors 68020
Sep 27, 2013
2,242
888
oh yeah, i'm buying all of them refurbished! with apple, it's literally free cash back to you. imac is still a little steep though :/
If you feel the iMac is steep, then just go for the mini as long as you don't tax the GPU like you said. It is the best value for money as well as upgradable so I'm sure that is the best option for you :)
 

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