iMac vs Mac mini

Discussion in 'iMac' started by acharest, Mar 19, 2017.

  1. acharest macrumors newbie

    Mar 19, 2017
    We are looking to make the switch to a MAC but which one. My wife and I went to the Apple store and saw the iMac and we also looked at the Mac mini. We are still confused between the two.

    Can anyone share the knowledge on what the real differences are? Does it make a difference to get one with 4 GB of memory? I know I would not buy a computer running a Microsoft OS with only 4 GB of memory. Is the MAC the same?

    We would appreciate the assistance.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Mac Mini, dual core processor, iGPU only and hasn't been updated in several years.

    iMac quad core processors, much better GPU the 27" has a dGPU. The 27" has upgrade able ram

    As for ram, I'd recommend at least 8 GB

    Here's a nice article comparing the two.

    And this article
  3. colodane macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2012
    I really like the Mini concept, but the current offerings are quite crippled in terms of performance. Unless Apple comes out with some new ones (not rumored), buying one does not make a lot of sense.

    You will be better off with an iMac. At least 8 GB RAM. And either SSD or the 2TB fusion storage options.
    You could price those out and see how it works with your budget and needs.

    But, even if the above matches up, this isn't a really good time to purchase one. Sometime in 2017 (with any luck at all!!) Apple should be doing upgrades to the iMac offerings. Nobody knows exactly what the changes will be or when they will be announced and available. Most likely USB-C interfaces, but the remainder of the upgrades are anyone's guess. Pricing will probably be in a range similar to the current offerings.

    Unless you have an immediate need, this is probably a better time for education than for buying. Continue to look at and understand the current offerings in terms of performance vs. price. And follow the rumors on this forum and other resources. That way when the announcement comes you will be able to make an educated purchase decision quickly and decisively. That is what I'm doing, as I have a 6 year old iMac I'm anxious to replace.

    Sorry we don't have better news for you right now.
  4. Fravin macrumors regular


    Mar 8, 2017
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    The Mini is a great idea, but the actual lineup is composed by too old components. You should think the Fusion's one is a good deal, but unless you'll be surfing and doing basic editing, you'll realize how slow it is.

    The iMac, even the 21.5", are up to date, using a mixing of the 5th and 6th intel generation chipsets. The cheapest ones does have an iGPU, that will be fine to work, even with high loads like video editing, but will not be good for Games.

    If you trying to figure out what do you need, I'll make a another suggestion. Try one of those Mac Airs. It will work fast as hell, since they use PCI-e SSDs, and be easily connected with an external Monitor keyboard and mouse. And You can unhook all of it to work out of home.

    MacOS works in a different way from Windows regarding memory control. MacOS is not that hungrier, and you should be fine with an 8 GB setup.

    Sincerely, Try one MacBook Air with 8Gb of RAM. If you buy it from an Apple Store, you could try it for 14 days before returning it. Try it!
  5. ApfelKuchen, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017

    ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    The fundamental difference is all-in-one vs. separate CPU and display. All-in-one is more compact, somewhat neater, and offers greater simplicity - slightly fewer connections to make, fewer decisions (no need to shop for a separate display).

    Comparing specs should be easy. As has been noted, the iMacs are more up-to-date and have superior specifications.

    If you're interested in the lowest-priced entry into Mac computing, get a Mini and connect it to a display you already own. However, if your need for computing power grows and you've grown to love Mac... you may end up buying an iMac or MacBook in a couple of years anyway.

    In theory, all-in-ones can more economical (single enclosure, single power supply), but you can harness an existing display to a new or buy a bargain display and also save. If you're looking for a higher quality display, the 4K and Retina iMacs have actually been a "value proposition."

    From a standpoint of environmental waste, if you have a perfectly serviceable display, why replace it prematurely? If a display replacement is imminent, then an iMac may be less wasteful than buying separates.

    If you're interested in a high-end display, you'd likely want a CPU with performance to match (better graphics chip in particular). Since today's Minis are outdated and underpowered in that regard, you're better off getting a 4K or Retina iMac with graphics capabilities that match their excellent displays.

    Then there's the personal vanity side of things; having a sleek iMac with it's black Apple logo on exhibit vs. an inconspicuous Mini harnessed to a big display from another company.

    The era of separate CPU/monitor configurations is drawing to a close. Laptops are all-in-ones, smart phones and tablets are all-in-ones, and desktop all-in-ones continue to gain sales over separates. While there will always be those with compelling reasons to mix-and-match components, the vast majority of computer buyers no longer need to do that.

    Hardware tinkerers hate all-in-ones - it's very difficult, sometimes impossible, to replace/upgrade components. But, like auto repair, far fewer people do their own computer repairs today. Ease-of-repair comes at a cost - additional components, fasteners and connectors that actually reduce long-term reliability... If you haven't been performing "surgery" on your PCs, there's no need to start doing it on a Mac.
  6. Fishrrman, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017

    Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "Does it make a difference to get one with 4 GB of memory? I know I would not buy a computer running a Microsoft OS with only 4 GB of memory. Is the MAC the same?"

    The Mac is the same, or... worse.

    Words of warning:
    DO NOT under any circumstances buy a Mac UNLESS it has at least 8gb of RAM.

    The Mini (of course) has no display. Compared to the iMac, the Mini (in most cases) has less CPU and GPU power.
    The exception is the "top level" Mini (which comes standard with 8gb of RAM and a 1tb fusion drive). This one can perform reasonably fast, but it's still no match for the better iMacs.
    Be aware that the current design of the Mini has been unchanged since 2014 and is quite dated. The graphics can't even do 4k @ 60hz.
    New Minis may come out late this year, but a lot of Mac folks are wondering if they're going to be updated at all.

    If you can afford it, I'd recommend the "late-2015" 27" 5k iMac.
    Get the model that has a 2tb fusion drive and m395 graphics.
    Ram is 8gb (but you can add more later).

    Check ebay for these, currently being sold "as Apple factory refurbs" in the $1,700 price range. But they're like new, I'm wondering if some aren't indeed "new" computers being "moved out" due to overstock.
    The 2tb fusion model has a 128gb SSD portion and a 2tb 7200rpm HDD. Very nicely equipped, a fast performer.
    This one would be a great way to "get started on the Mac".

    AVOID the "1tb fusion drive iMac" -- the SSD portion of the drive is only 24gb, far too small.
  7. EnderBeta macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2016
    I would avoid buying a machine with a 8GB RAM ceiling. It is starting to feel cramped on my MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM. I'm looking at selling my MacBook Pro 13" with 128GB SSD and 8GB RAM and buying a Early 2015 MacBook Pro 13" with 256GB SSD and 16GB RAM.

    The silly thing is if the RAM wasn't soldered (I HATE YOU TIM) :mad: I could simply upgrade the RAM and it wouldn't be a big deal.

    acharest, my suggestion would be to get a 27" iMac. For the drive get either a 2TB Fusion drive (smallest fusion drive option with the full 128GB SSD) or the largest SSD you are comfortable with. For basic use I think a Fusion drive would be perfectly fine.

    Here is a pretty good deal on a refurbished mid range iMac for a little under $2000. It only has 8GB of RAM but you can upgrade the RAM yourself if you decide you need to.

    Here is a great deal on the exact type of iMac I am using right now. If you can afford it this thing will serve you well for years. I personally love it. Apple is selling this one for $3400. To put that in perspective when I purchased mine I paid just under $4000 for it not counting the cost of AppleCare.
  8. Fravin macrumors regular


    Mar 8, 2017
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    Yes, RAM will never bee "enough"! I think 8Gb Is the minimum, not the perfect. In Sierra 8Gb should give you plenty of room to ran a couple of Apps. Maybe you're running too many Chrome tabs.

    Actually I do have a Macbook (m3 2016) with 8Gb and an iMac 5k with 32Gb. Obviously the later is faster, but can't tell differences between then in basic surfing or editing simple documents.
  9. EnderBeta, Mar 19, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017

    EnderBeta macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2016
    I agree with the sentiment that 8GB is a minimum RAM to get. However if leaning towards a machine with soldered components I suggest upgrading in this order of priority:


    The reason I have put the CPU in the bottom of the list is because truth be told all of the current processor options are adequate. Since gaming isn't the primary purpose of these machines they too are not paramount, but I would upgrade them over the CPU because IMO a faster graphics chip will increase the life of the machine longer then the CPU will.

    The most important items in order are RAM and storage because on most Macs the RAM is not replaceable and the SSD drives are very expensive to upgrade aftermarket.

    For the 27" iMac since the RAM is upgradeable and starts at 8GB RAM my order on that would be important to upgrade would be as follows:


    This isn't to say a machine with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage won't work. However with such a low amount of storage cloud based storage and external storage will be critical. 8GB of RAM can be worked around with fairly easily, but it will be the thing that kills the machine early if you must run the latest software. That said if people are ok with running Sierra for years I don't see an issue with the machine for a long time.

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8 March 19, 2017