iMac or Mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by mstruve, Apr 25, 2012.

  1. mstruve macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2011
    Hi, I'm looking at upgrading my desktop Windows PC and think I'm going to switch to Mac, just not sure which one to get.

    It would mainly be used as an iTunes server and media downloader, but also for some web browsing and email etc.

    The Mini seems like a good option, as it uses little power so can be left on all the time, and seems like it has enough power for what I need.

    But I can see a lot of threads on this forum about various upgrades (adding SSD, more RAM etc), and about how it struggles with having a few applications open. I don't want to buy a new machine which will then struggle with my normal usage (browser with 10 tabs open, iTunes, Tweetdeck, Torrenting, then IM, Skype etc running in the background).

    It seems like it might be a bit of a false economy to save the costs of an iMac, but then have to buy a monitor, SSD, extra RAM just to get it to a usable level. Should I just get an iMac instead?
  2. an-other, Apr 25, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2012

    an-other macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2011
    Try one at the Apple Store if Possible

    I have Mini (core Duo) and it's still going strong. I did upgrade the memory immediately after purchase. I do some PS work and some occasional video editing on it. Overall, I'm happy with the current rate of performance. File conversion and rendering are a bit pokey, but that's not something you say you do. I'll also add no matter what machine you have when you do this stuff, you always want it to be faster!

    The new version of the Mini does not have a disc drive. You mentioned iTunes, and this could be a dealbreaker if you intend to rip music with this computer unless you have another disc drive on offer.

    Go to the Apple Store if possible, and take a test drive. They'll have plenty of apps for you to load, and see if the performance meets your needs.

    The value proposition for the mini is massively helped if you have a keyboard, mouse and/or monitor.

    I was suprisingly pleased with my mini from it's unboxing. However, if the numbers total to a difference of 20% or less for you, I'd go with the iMac. That's just me. Desk space, appearance (reduced cords) and easier hard drive upgrade (my year of mini is particularly challening to upgrade. It can be done, but I've know two people who've botched it.)

    Good luck with your purchase.
  3. mstruve thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2011
    Thanks, yeah I don't do any video editing, it really will primarily be an iTunes server more than anything else. You're right though that you always want it to be faster!

    No disc drive is not a big issue, I use them so rarely and do have other machines in case of emergencies.

    I do already have a decent mouse and keyboard from my Windows machine, but I will need to buy a new monitor. I can get this pretty cheap though.

    In terms of numbers, I'm looking at a refurb 2011 i5 2GB RAM Mini for £500, plus extra RAM £50, plus 24" monitor £150 so around £700 in total.

    The iMac equivalent would be base 21.5" i5 4GB RAM for £1000.

    So £300 difference. I'm wondering whether the performance difference would be worth the price difference?
  4. B.A.T macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2009
    Sometimes it is better to spend a little more (if you can afford it). I have both a mini (2009) and an iMac. Your computer interests might grow after using a mac and it's always nice to have a machine that can do video editing, photo editing etc in a faster amount of time.
  5. OneMike macrumors 603


    Oct 19, 2005
    Get the mini

    I've had most of the current lineup

    17-inch Macbook Pro
    11-inch Air 128GB Model
    Base iMac
    Base Mini

    The only two that remain are the 17-inch MBP and Mini

    The only reason I listed all 4 is to say that as far as struggling with applications. Even going beyond what you listed and throwing photoshop, handbrake, etc.. in the mix with 10 tabs in safari, firefox and chrome running. Struggling wasn't an issue. I did put 8GB of ram in the mini, literally right out of the box, so I'd bet performance would be worse with the stock 2GB. At the price and simplicity of swapping. Makes sense to upgrade. Amazon though or other, not Apple prices.

    I don't miss the iMac at all. For your uses I don't think the £300 difference would be worth it.
  6. mstruve thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2011
    Thanks, yeah I would definitely upgrade the RAM straight out of the box, and probably from somewhere like Crucial rather than from Apple.

    I've been using computers for similar purposes for over 10 years now, and I've never edited a photo or video, so I'm not buying with that in mind.

    It sounds like a Mini i5 might be the best option. Should I get the refurb'd one now or will it be significantly reduced after the refresh?
  7. tshrimp macrumors 6502


    Mar 30, 2012
    If all you are using it for is an iTunes server/media downloads. I might just go with what is the least expensive as it doesn't look like this will be your main computer. Also, if I am understanding correctly, this will be your 1st Mac purchase. If that is the case it will be easier to cope with a loss 700 instead of 1000 if you end up not liking your Mac (but this is doubtful :)). Plus, at least for me, I do not like the mouse and keyboard that come with the iMac. I must have a number pad on my keyboard and a mouse that will fit my hand better than the magic mouse. (I do have the Logitech K750 for Mac and it works great).

    If you need a CD/DVD drive then you can use the Remote Disk option on the mac mini that can read the CD/DVD drive of your Windows PC.

    Last thing. If you don't like a glossy monitor then this one is easy. I don't think you can get an iMac without the glossy screen.

    Good luck on your choice.
  8. Pheo macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2011
    My mini does not in any way struggle with many apps open. Just stick 8GB Ram in it yourself. Simple. Doesn't regularly need to page in/out as a result!

    If you are feeling more adventurous do the SSD upgrade.

    I still prefer screen to be separate from machine as they can be replace independently.
  9. mstruve thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2011
    Yep I also have a very nice Logitech mouse/keyboard set up that I'd like to stick with, and like the idea of being able to upgrade my computer and screen independently.

    700 is much more affordable and less chance of buyer's remorse definitely, although it's very unlikely I'll be disappointed I think.

    I'm glad to hear your Mini doesn't struggle with a few apps running, I will definitely be upgrading the RAM immediately.

    The only question now is whether to buy now or wait until after the refresh?
  10. tshrimp macrumors 6502


    Mar 30, 2012
    I agree here. If you are using this as a type of storage you do not want an SSD anyways, and the RAM will help out. Maybe a seagate momentus if you are looking for speed and storage combined.
  11. kamonohashi macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2010
    I've been using Minis as my main computing machines for years.

    I currently own a Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz (2010 model) and have the following programs running at startup :
    Libreoffice, Safari, iTunes, Mail, Twitter, VLC, Pixelmator, Thousand (2ch reader), uTorrent, Terminal, Activity Monitor, Text Edit, Console, and a bunch of widgets.
    Safari often has 10+ tabs opened when I browse.
    Sometimes, an extra program or two will be running on top of these.

    Never a hick-up.
    RAM is maxed out to 8 GB, though.

    So I'd say if you already have a monitor/keyboard/mouse handy from your old PC, the Mini is definitely a viable option.
    Upgrading RAM is pretty much as easy as putting a couple of coins in a jar.
    Open the lid, throw the RAM sticks in, close the lid.
    Just make sure you have the right kind of sticks, but there are tons of sources which will tell you exactly what you need.
  12. mstruve thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2011
    Yeah I might look at upgrading to an SSD further down the line, but never having had one I'm hoping I won't notice it's missing. Maybe when I get a MB Air/Pro I'll feel compelled to upgrade the Mini.

    Storage isn't a big concern as all my media is stored on an external HDD anyway.

    At first though my main concern is that I don't want to spend £700 on a new machine, and have it feel like a downgrade from my 6 year old Windows machine (which still runs very smoothly, although very noisy these days).


    Thanks, this is very reassuring as that sounds like similar usage to me.

    Think I'm going to go for it, £449 feels like less of a commitment and a good way of seeing if I get on with using a Mac generally before I decided on the MBP/Air.
  13. MacSignal macrumors regular

    May 8, 2010
    When I made a similar kind of change a couple of years ago, i definitely did not feel like the mini (mine was a 2009 refurb) was a downgrade from the i3/i5 Windows machines that I was using at the time.

    With a RAM upgrade, the mini should work fine for the tasks that you describe.

  14. Confuzzzed macrumors 68000


    Aug 7, 2011
    Liverpool, UK
    If you need one, buy it now because it doesn't feel (to me at least) a refresh is coming to the minis for a good while yet. Mid-July at the earliest (unless OS 10.8 comes through faster than previously anticipated). Buy a refurb (I have no reason to doubt this route particularly for apple computers) now to save some pennies but if I were you, I would look to pick up the mid-level machine which comes with a discrete GPU. I know there are not usually a lot of them around but if you are patient, you may have a good chance of picking one up for £594. It's a bit more than the £449 you were looking at for the entry level BUT you will get the benefit of a much better machine that should give you years (and I mean years) of enjoyable computing. To boot you get 4GB of memory which you should be able to sell for £12 when you upgrade yours to 8GB. And upgrading the memory really is so easy on the mac mini...And a serious limitation of the iMac in my opinion

    Good luck
  15. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    Upgrading the ram is even easier on the iMac. RAM is user upgradable on both.
  16. Confuzzzed macrumors 68000


    Aug 7, 2011
    Liverpool, UK
    I thought suction pumps and the line need to be used to remove the glass panel first to get to the inside of the iMac? Or am I mistaken?
  17. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    That's needed to change the hard drive. The RAM is easily upgradable via a little opening at the bottom of the chin. All you need is a Philips screwdriver.

    Also even though the article says that the maximum is 16 GB (4x4GB) it was written before 8 GB modules were available and the 2011 models support 32 GB (4x8 GB).
  18. Itzmemark macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2012
    So I'm wondering how about a Mac mini to 46" les tv?
  19. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    How about it then? Lots of people use their mini as an HT system connected to various large TVs.
  20. plucky duck macrumors 6502a

    Jan 5, 2012
    With the Mac Mini, you have the same upgrade options for SSD and ram. You can pick and choose any display you'd like. There's the portability factor. But bear in mind if you don't already have a display/keyboard/mouse in the end your saving$ may be dwindled.

    If you're out of warranty and the display goes on the iMac then you're SOL, that is if you plan to keep it past warranty period, nor choose not to get AppleCare for it.
  21. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    I'd lean in the direction of the mini, personal preference with regards to footprint & ease of expandability.
  22. dotcomet macrumors member


    Dec 23, 2011
    Definitely true with me. I bought the Mac Mini Server and realized that I should have spent the extra cash for the iMac. I ended up buying the iMac, which will probably be handed down when the new ones get released.

    The main reason I bought the iMac is for the display. But, I still utilze my Mini as my media library server and a media burner. I also use it to process photos and videos. One issue I had was trying to install Adobe CS 5.5. It took me forever because of some install errors, but I finally found a resource that I used to get it installed.

    A final note, if you are going to buy the Mini instead of the iMac, I would just buy the Mid range mini and upgrade the RAM aftermarket.
  23. Confuzzzed macrumors 68000


    Aug 7, 2011
    Liverpool, UK
    Thank you. I am new to the iMac range so didn't know this.


    There's an echo in here! ;)

    Another reason for doing this would be as it can also drive a second display if you ever needed that capability
  24. John Adams macrumors regular

    Apr 22, 2012
    Fort Worth, TX USA
    I am new to Mac and bought a Mini last week, on sale at BB for $560. At the same time I picked up 8gb of ram for $50 and installed it before I ever turned it on. The mini is a little powerhouse! I plugged in my existing USB keyboard, mouse and ran an HDMI cable to my 24" Monitor. What a great setup!

    I'm still getting used to the Mac way of doing things but overall I am very impressed so far.

  25. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    This is essentially what i bought my 2007 spec mini for.

    The current ones are plenty powerful so long as you don't try and run high end games on them. Just max the ram as suggested and they're fine...

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