iMac vs. Mini for graphic design work?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by ILikeTurtles, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. ILikeTurtles macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2010
    I've just been given approval from my supervisor to work from home. I have to get a Mac, and I'm not sure if I would be better served with an iMac or Mini. Price is really not an option.

    I had an iMac, but after very heavy use, the thing had a melt-down and was taken to the trash. I think the graphics card went bad, and then the hard drive failed. Which is why the Mini is so appealing to me - no integrated monitor to deal with if something does go on the fritz. Plus I could connect it to an HD Monitor and use that as a second TV when needed.

    But when I look at the specs on the processor and graphics card in the iMac - I wonder how much better they are compared to what's inside the Mini.

    I would mostly be using the Mac for graphic design work during the day (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver), and for personal entertainment (HD Movies, video, music, etc.) during the evening.

    Can anyone help give me an idea of how the two top-of-the-line iMac and Mini would compare in this scenario?

    Thanks much!!!
  2. The Aviator macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2012
    Doing design work you definitely want a good graphic card. Mac Mini aren't strong in design work but it is possible. I would go with iMac just because it will be better for what you are doing.
  3. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    This is a little misleading. The graphics card is one of the absolute least important aspects here unless the OP is doing a lot of motion graphics work. On Windows you could argue that a firepro card + eizo or nec could net you 10 bit displayport functionality which is nice if you're dealing with a lot of raster based media. If we're talking about photoshop/illustrator/indesign, you will see almost no gain past the minimum requirements. The only awkward thing with CS6 is that more features are tied to OpenGL drawing and OpenCL computation. If you review to see if they're really required, it's possible to determine your benefit from worrying about this. Overall neither offers an amazing gpu for its time, and both are stuck to 2011 options.

    As soon as CS4 came out, people immediately started worrying about their graphics card. It was just weird. OpenGL in the CS4 creative suite was so bad that many people disabled it. It wasn't amazing under CS5 either. The things that matter are also different from things like games. Note that for mercury engine support in photoshop, a gpu with a minimum of 512MB of vram is recommended. They were suggesting 1GB previously. I don't know what motivated the change. Perhaps too many people were cut off Then of course if After Effects factors in here, that still uses CUDA. The intel HD3000 is kind of bad overall. If the mini had the HD4000, I'd say buy the mini. Install 8 GB of ram minimum, or 16 if you work with larger files/multiple programs. Adobe recommends 8.

    Chasing the gpu without providing any detail is just really meaningless, and it confuses people. I truly suggest against doing this. The only reason it even comes up is that Apple is really weird on gpu options, but a 2012 mini should be fine.

    That shows the integrated gpu models falling behind on OpenCL accelerated tasks. If support is planned for the HD4000, it won't stay that way. I haven't checked Adobe's forums, and it should be noted that they used a large problem to exaggerate that. For the most part, once something meets the requirements, you see virtually no benefit past that point. Going for a quad core option is arguably a good idea, but the low end mini depreciates very little for some reason, probably because it's cheap. If you're cost sensitive, you can swap it out every year without losing much. Just make sure your workflow isn't starved on ram. It's one of the most common boneheaded mistakes. Everyone wants an expensive gpu, yet they complain that 8GB is the baseline norm as it sounds like a lot.
  4. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    Good post from thekev.

    Really, general graphic design work takes far less horsepower than most people seem to think it does unless you're doing really high res print work or a ton of 3d rendering. I'm running CS3 on a late 2006 iMac and it does just fine with most things until I get into bigger print pieces.

    You'd really be good either way, both machines should be more than capable for what you want to do. I'm actually looking at a similar decision now and am waiting for revisions to both lines before making a decision. Assuming those ever happen :)
  5. ILikeTurtles thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2010
    I will be doing high-res print work. There are times I have images as large as 145mb that I'm working on in Photoshop. And I typically have all 3 Adobe applications running at the same time, along with Outlook.

    I do appreciate the responses.
  6. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    If you're near an Apple store, I'd throw a big high res file on a flash drive and go play with a Mini and an iMac. Most have Creative Suite installed, you can fire up whatever you want to and see what the speed is like.
  7. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    3d rendering is a bit different. If you're talking about lower poly counts for some 3d graphics, that is totally different from getting into things involving millions of polygons and heavy simulations. As soon as PS implemented OpenGL drawing as a feature, everyone assumed they now needed the best gpu possible when it isn't the case. The only reason I'm a little hesitant on the Intel HD3000 is that it's so much worse than the 4000. Anyway print demands haven't increased that sharply over time. Most of the guys using mac pros bought their last machine in 2008 or 2009. There isn't much to gain beyond that. The easiest way to approach this might be to order directly from Apple. If it chokes, send it back.

    Assuming we see a 2012 mini soon, I'd say order the base option and 8 or 16GB of ram from a reliable vendor. Test it thoroughly. If it chokes order the fastest one. If you sell it later to upgrade, you lose a few hundred at most after a couple years. the issue is that there's no way to future proof this stuff. Imacs go out of date about as fast as minis. If we're comparing quad core imac to dual core mini, it might last a bit longer. I just don't suggest buying above your current workload on the presumption of extended longevity as things never work that way. If we're talking about motion graphics and you need more power to get your work done today, it's a much different thing from buying for future proofing purposes. If we were still in the PowerPC era, I'd suggest the fastest machine available. They all choked on some things, so you'd buy the one that choked the least. 32 bit software also sucked when addressing enormous raster data.

    Talk to me when half your files are saved out as .psb :p. 145MB is nothing, especially if you're referring to cmyk (fitting 4 channels into that size). I basically tell people to load up on ram so that large numbers of history states, lots of layers, thumbnails, etc. won't weigh you down too much. PS and illustrator aren't as cpu intensive as some people would suggest. Years ago some of the warp adjustments and things in illustrator were brutal on lighter hardware. Now none of it is that bad. Ram is also very cheap. You can get 8GB for $50 or 16GB for a bit over $100. A year ago if you wanted to go 16, that alone killed the economy of a mini.
  8. mikelegacy macrumors 65816


    Dec 5, 2010
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Price isn't an option!?

    Get a Retina MacBook Pro with a 27" Thunderbolt Cinema Display....God i get excited just thinking about that...
  9. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Eye Candy in Mountain Lion is more depressing for the video card than any 2D design program. The biggest + of a Mini, you can work with a serious graphics monitor. If you hook it to an Nec PA271W for example, any iMac 27 inch will give you a step back feeling with its clownesque display.
  10. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    I am going to be the contrarian. If you are using CS 6 and having multiple apps open, including PS, I would recommend a 16 GB maxed out iMac. I just can't imagine working with CS 6 on a mac mini, particularly once you add up all of the components it is roughly equal in price to an iMac. I think that the real decision for creative folks is between the maxed out iMac and Mac Pro with the Mac Mini not considered. IMHO comparing the mac mini to the iMac is like comparing the whimpy MBA to the robust rMBP. If you can't appreciate the differences, go cheap. mikelacey's post recommending the rMBP is worthy of consideration, albeit a more expensive option if you add a display.

    This is a business tool, isn't it?
  11. abcbcd macrumors newbie

    Apr 30, 2010
    imac, hands down. get the quad i7 and get 16gb ram from OWC and you're good

    if price is no object, why is the even a question?
  12. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    If you have the budget go for the iMac, it's worth every penny due to a faster CPU, better graphics card, and more room (compared to the mini) for upgrading.

    If cost is an issue there are some very good refurbs, again my last 4 macs were refurbs and great little machines at that.

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