iMac vs Mini vs MacBook Pro: advice on first Mac

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ranny2, Oct 26, 2011.


Which Mac is right for me?

  1. Mac Mini

    14 vote(s)
  2. iMac

    11 vote(s)
  3. MacBook Pro

    14 vote(s)
  1. ranny2 macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Hi there,

    I have posted several threads on MacRumors before asking about which Mac to buy. So far, I have not received a crystal clear result. I have now finalised my options, and given pros and cons for each relating to what I want from a computer.

    I am a student, so money is quite tight at the moment. Please note, I do also have an iPad 2 32GB.

    My uses:
    Web browsing
    Document editing*
    Photo editing (using mainly Aperture, PhotoShop rarely)
    Light video editing (Not frequently and only using iMovie)

    Option 1:

    Mac Mini, refurbished 2.3GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + Samsung 24" LED monitor + Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse set (Would upgrade to Apple in the months after.)

    Price: £650

    Pros: easy to upgrade to a new computer as you can just replace the Mini but keep the monitor etc; easy to upgrade HDD to SSD; option to add a second HDD; cheap

    Cons: not as powerful as iMac; no optical drive; less 'Apple Experience'

    Option 2:

    iMac refurb, 2.5GHz i5 (quad core), 500GB HDD, 4GB RAM + Apple keyboard and mouse

    Price: £850

    Pros: powerful; all-in-one system; good quality monitor; dedicated graphics card

    Cons: expensive, difficult to upgrade hard drive, expensive to replace with a new computer in coming years

    Option 3:

    MacBook Pro refurb, 2.3GHz i5, 320GB HDD, 4GB RAM

    Price: £779

    Pros: easy to upgrade/add additional HDD/SSD; portable; becomes desktop when used with an external monitor

    Cons: less powerful than iMac; small screen
  2. hafr macrumors 68030

    Sep 21, 2011
    You don't need the portability, so the MBP is out of the picture. (Get a keyboard dock to the iPad and you've basically got a laptop.)

    So, we've got the Mini and the iMac. The iMac is more powerful, but with what you're doing you really don't need the extra power. It's a lot cooler, but since you don't have all that much money, the Mini is a better option for you.

    If I was in your situation, I'd get the Mini. I can't really see why this would be a difficult choice...
  3. ranny2 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Okay, thanks for your response. I do like the Mini and love the fact that when a new Mini comes out, for example one with Ivy Bridge, it is quite a cheap, easy upgrade to get an entirely new computer.

    I have two slight worries with the Mini though. 1) The monitors I would get with the Mini are never going to be as good as an Apple display (or so I've been told on this very forum) and 2) the lack of dedicated graphics is apparently a bad thing.

  4. dsiee macrumors newbie

    Feb 20, 2011
    Rual NSW, Aus
    i currently have a early 2011 15" MBP (with dedicated graphics) and i hardly use the dedicated card mainly just the integrate.
    however i don't do much other than logic pro which isn't graphics intense but 1080P videos play fine through iTunes and that pathetic excuse of a game, mine craft, runs at a min of 70fps on the integrated.

    so all in all, from my experience the intel 3000 graphics (the integrated ones) aren't nearly as bad as people on this forum make them out to be.

    (if your gaming, which you didn't mention but who knows, it would be a whole different ball game)
  5. bwhinnen macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2010
    San Diego
    I have a 2011 MBA with the i5 and obviously the integrated HD 3000 GPU. I can play 1080p videos on it without a problem even when displayed on a 1080p panel, and these are streamed over wireless from my NAS.

    So for what you are going to do I think the mini will be fine.

    Although the iMac is just stunning in display quality (my wife has a 21.5 2011 mode), I have 2 x 23" LG LED monitors on my machine and they are still damn fine and I look at those for 8 - 10 hours a day with work. So in saying that the LED panels will do a great job with the mini, just remember to get the right adapter cable :)

  6. ranny2 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Thanks both, that's very reassuring. I don't game at all really, so the HD 3000 should be sufficient for my needs. The other concern, will the Mini run PhotoShop well? I heard it is quite intensive! The 2.3GHz i5 does have hyper threading though, which I pressure helps as PS utilises all cores? Thanks.
  7. bwhinnen macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2010
    San Diego
    Yes it will run PS fine. I used to run it on a Windows laptop with a C2D 2.5GHz without an issue, a colleague had an equivalent MacBook Pro 15" (C2D 2.5GHz) that would run it even better than my Windows laptop. So a current generation i5 will not have any issues with PhotoShop.
  8. ranny2 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Great, thanks very much. I won't use PS very much, if at all. More likely will be Aperture and Pixelmator. Thanks.
  9. LeandrodaFL macrumors 6502a


    Apr 6, 2011
    Friend, the Mini is the right choice for you, here is why:

    The iMac is almost the same configuration and more expensive, and the little extra power is close to nothing

    You already have an ipad, so you don't necessarily need a mobile computer.

    BTW, that thing that other monitors will never be as good as apple displays….this is crap, thats fanboy talking, do not listen that. Apple gets its monitors from Samsung/LG, and a monitor from them is equally great in terms of quality. Aa a matter of fact, I can also list Benq as an amazing display manufacturer.

    The Mini cpu and graphics are powerful enough to run any applications, except for games. And with 4GB RAM you are on a great spot.
  10. ranny2 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 9, 2011
    Thanks very much for the clear answer. Do you think spending an extra £20 to get 8GB of RAM as opposed to 4GB would be a good decision knowing my uses?


    Right, I think you have all convinced me that the Mini is the right choice. Thanks so much - it has solved a difficult decision that has been taunting me for months!

    In the poll however, the MacBook Pro came up top-dog... Nobody on this thread has fought its corner. Should I be considering it? It does effectively turn into a Mini when on a desk I suppose...

    Thanks all!
  11. W1MRK macrumors 6502

    Dec 9, 2010
  12. sinfonye macrumors regular

    Nov 22, 2010
    It's a great machine if you need some portability (the air is better if you need a lot of portability), but it doesn't seem to fit your needs. You'd need to add an extra monitor and keyboard/mouse to make it equivalent to the Mini when not travelling, which would be expensive. I think people are voting for the machine in general more than for what you need.

    So I'd agree that the Mini is your best choice. Apple monitors are good, but Samsung makes excellent displays (often for Apple-branded products) and are usually cheaper, so I'd have no hesitation in specifying one. Have fun with your new purchase!
  13. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'd go as far as to say Apple makes some of the worst displays in their price range. Samsung/LG make panels + some displays. The only other thing I want to mention is that LED displays don't necessarily profile well for color accuracy, so I wouldn't view it as a feature when you're shopping for a display. This will eventually change. If you ever have to do any serious photo or color grading work on an imac display, you'll want to throw it out the window (this is from personal experience and it wasn't one owned by me).

    By the way you mention a macbook pro in the lineup yet you make no mention of if you actually require a portable computer. I like the mini if you don't need a laptop. If you would require a laptop anyway, then I'd say go with the macbook pro.
  14. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'd go with a 13" MacBook Pro. Why 13" over 15" or 17"? Because nothing you've listed would require the extra CPU muscle or the discrete video power of the 15"/17" MacBook Pro(s).

    Why a 13" MacBook Pro over a Mac mini? The baseline Mac mini is only slightly slower than the baseline 13" MacBook Pro, and where you can't easily upgrade the hard drive on the former (which mind you, is also a 2.5" laptop drive), you can on the latter.

    Why 13" MacBook Pro over iMac? iMacs do give you the best bang for buck, but the current design of iMacs is probably the most failure-proned Mac on the market given that the iMac has a stupidly thin enclosure and DESKTOP internals that generate substantially more heat than the laptop components found in both the MacBook Pros and the Mac minis. Not to mention it's the worst machine to service, which means that if you have a problem, don't count on a reliable solution. Also, once again, given that iMacs are annoying as hell to upgrade anything beyond the RAM, unlike any other shipping Mac, you CAN'T use an aftermarket hard drive if yours poops out after your AppleCare dies out, which is a practical thing to consider.

    Hope this helped.
  15. iCantwait macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    okay, number 1. ****** the "Apple experience". It's not all that exciting in the long run.

    2. Get the mini, When you can afford it put in an SSD and that is more of a new computer than any other point. I can easily afford any mac I want but all I did was drop a SSD into my MBP and BAM new computer experience right there and its one hell of a lot cheaper than anything else.

    I have a mini with a 24" monitor (had 2 24" but it got too cluttered) its a perfect setup. Odds are you're looking at a 1080P HDMI display so you'll have a decent looking screen anyways.

    You really don't need the graphics. I have the dual i7 mini with the 256MB AMD graphics. I don't need it. If you do anything that needs graphics you're not even looking at the right computers. The high end 15"/27" is where you look for graphics.

    Now the iMac is a good computer but you will find it near impossible to SSD it so thats one thing to think about.

    You never really need a CD, if you do buy a cheap 3rd party USB CD drive.
  16. iStudentUK macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2009
    Can't decide between mini or iMac. Mini should be enough, but the iMac would still tempt me.

    If you are a university student you can get 14% off in the UK and a free 3 year warranty? That makes refurbs less appealing.
  17. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Probably not a deal maker/breaker but, since your from the UK, Apple's "UK" keyboards are really US keyboards with the US # sign on the 3 key replaced with a £ sign (you have to do opt-3 for a #). Regular UK keyboards have several other characters (@,",|,~ ) juggled around to make space for a # key.

    So, if you want to use a third-party keyboard on a Mac you'll need to find and install a "proper" UK keyboard layout configuration file (there are several available with a quick Google). Or, your keyboard might come with Mac drivers, but sometimes this involves installing buggy bloatware ([cough] Logitech [cough])...

    I marginally prefer the traditional UK layout (although, otherwise, I love the Apple keyboards), but the real killer is continually swapping between the two, so, if you regularly use other Macs you might want to cost the Apple keyboard into the Mac Mini price... or if you often use PCs then you might not want to use the Apple keyboard that comes with the iMac.

    Also, have you ever *used* an Apple mouse? Its a personal choice but I hate them. I much prefer MS and Logitech mice (just don't install the drivers!) But, then again, I know someone who liked the infamous "hockey puck" mouse...
  18. Medic278 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2012
    New York
    I would recommend the MBP its a plenty powerful machine and as you said it can double as a desktop with an external monitor. iPads are great but they are more for entrainment even with a keyboard you still will not be doing much actual computing. The iMac is great but lacks portability. I have never been much of a fan of the Mac Mini but it is useful if your on a tight budget and want a Mac. I have both my MBP and iMac and to be honest I am writing this on my couch looking at my iMac appx. 20 feet away so I easily get the most use out of my MBP and I think it will serve your needs perfect with an external display.
  19. seong macrumors 65816


    Feb 11, 2010
    Let me tell you something.
    Replacing the HDD on Mac Mini isn't as easy as you would think it is. From what I can remember, the iFixit teardown of Mac Mini 2011 was pretty difficult. Not as easy as replacing a RAM.
  20. DrakkenWar macrumors 6502


    Nov 7, 2010
    San Antonio,Texas
    I would say the mini all the way!!!

    Being that I am typing this from my i5 mini, with 4 gigs of ram, 10.7.2. :D

    I am in the same boat as you for the most part. I use this mini for my studies ( finishing an MBA with a minor in digital forensics.). I have a 24" Handspree hooked up via HDMI, and a Samsung 22" via the DVI adapter.

    On any given day, I have email, pages, opera, safari, adium, hd video streaming, team viewer, vmware and a smattering of other kit up and running. I hate to say it, but this amazing little aluminum box runs circles around the Dual G5/1.8 it replaced.

    Go for the mini, trust me, being that you already have the iPad and the gear, you will not be disappointed.


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