Is this overkill? Mac Mini buying advice

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Jaguar619, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. Jaguar619 macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2012
    Lurker, but first time poster here. I'm currently using a first-gen 15 in. MacbookPro from 2006 (2.0 Ghz Intel Core Duo, 1.5 GB RAM) as my main hub; however, it is on its last legs. Which means it is time for a new computer.

    Since the MBP has not left my desk since about 2009, I figure a desktop is appropriate for my needs. I have an iPad that I use most often (e.g., on the couch, when traveling) and a work laptop that I use if I need to do work while traveling. These factors lead me to believe a desktop is in order.

    I will be using the machine mainly as a media hub (running Plex, itunes etc.), remotely accessing work's system (likely through virtual machine like Parallels), and as a base system to be accessed remotely from my iPad (using Splashtop). I'll also do some basic video and photo editing, but nothing major.

    As evidenced by my prior usage, I tend to keep computers for a really long time, and like to future proof them as best as possible. With that in mind, I'm currently thinking of getting a 2.6 quad core mac mini with Fusion Drive.

    With regard to the processor, is the 2.6 worth the upgrade compared to the 2.3 with my planned use-case?

    Also, with regard to the Fusion Drive, I know i can get a SSD cheaper and swap it in but it seems to me that after the cost of the SSD, an external enclosure for the 1TB HDD, and the tools, plus the hassle of opening up the machine and the potential risk involved, it makes sense to pay the approximate $100 premium to apple to have it already done and case integrated and backed by warranty. Am I wrong?

    I will also upgrade the RAM to 16 GB from Crucial because RAM is cheap and in my experience given significant boosts to the performance of machines.

    I should also mention that I'll be able to get the Apple friends and family discount on the machine, so costs are lessened by about 15%.

    All in all, is this machine overkill for my needs? Will these planned upgrades help eek out more life on my machine years down the road? Am I foolish for choosing the Fusion Drive?

    Your knowledge base is much appreciated.
  2. teohyc macrumors regular


    May 24, 2007
    If Fusion Drive works as advertised, you should be able to use it for as long as the Mini doesn't break down.

    Just for comparison sake, I've a 2006 Mac Pro Quad 3Ghz, and it's still blazing fast today - I added an SSD but it was still fast before that.

    The 2012 Mini is faster than that Mac Pro, so I'm guessing it can last even longer. I've already ordered the 2.6Ghz Quad Core + Fusion Drive model.

    The only disadvantage I see is the lack of graphics card. But if you don't do 3D work, then it's not a problem.

    As for the extra money to upgrade to 2.6Ghz, I think it's worth it. It's not too much anyway.
  3. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    All of the Minis are overkill for your needs, so you should buy the base at $599. The money you save can buy you a new mini in 2017-2018 which will smoke anything you can buy now.
  4. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    My co-worker literally just booted (minutes ago) a mini with those specs (she had it shipped here and installed the RAM she'd purchased elsewhere; she is taking it home but couldn't resist starting it up). It is absolutely stellar.

    I cannot speak for your needs, but that is the mini I'd buy if (when) I buy one, and having opened up minis of similar form factor, I agree that buying the fusion drive now is much better than adding it later and not a lot more expensive.

    Faster CPUs are usually worth it over time unless the price premium is huge (it's not in your case). Also, with a mini, RAM is the only easy thing to swap. Drives are a nightmare.

    With the discount you get, and the timeframe you're looking at for using it, I think what you've described will be ideal.
  5. k.alexander macrumors regular


    Jul 14, 2010
    I have an exact same MBP as you, which I've had since 2/2006 when they came out as my primary machine. My wife has an old Compaq laptop with similar specs to my MBP but of course it runs like absolutely garbage even though I did a clean Win7 install on it some while back.

    We do most of our web-browsing on the iPads and iPhones for a while now.
    I wanted a desktop to use for Aperture/PS (photography is a hobby, my Aperture library is about 50k photos), to act as a server for our iDevices (although most of that stuff is handled by iCloud now) and my music collection (again iCloud now), and to have as an always on family computer.

    I was waiting for the iMacs to come out, but really didn't like what was announced. I then ordered a 21.5" 2011 Refurb model which is on its way to me now. While waiting for it, I picked up a 2.3 i7 Mini to see how it will do Aperture/PS without dedicated graphics. I can't decide which one of these to keep. Like the OP I tend to keep my computers for a while and I am worried that last gen's (Sandy Bridge) iMac is not going to let me do that. On the other hand, the Mini is better in every respect other than the dedicated graphics card. That, and I actually really like the all-in-one design of the iMac, but on the other hand, I can get a bigger screen for the Mini than the 21.5".

    Well I've had the Mini for a few days, testing it out. I've got 16GB on order already as I'll be able to put it into either machine. The Mini is very fast (the CPUs barely ever got to 40%, and not even all of them) but when doing Aperture it clearly needs more than the 4GB of stock ram. I am waiting to see how it will do when more RAM arrives.

    I also plan on putting an SSD into the machine as a second (well really first) drive, thereby keeping both the SSD and the current 1TB HD in there. One of the reasons I'm thinking of going with the Mini over the iMac is that it's very easy to take the Mini apart (I've upgraded the HD on my MBP a few times, and you've gotta take half the thing apart for that), whereas the old iMac is much more involved.

    To the OP, I think the 2.3" is more than enough even for years to come. The CPUs are not going to be hitting 100% use 99% of the time that you'll own the machine (and definitely not for the purposes that you've described). And by the time the machine is too slow b/c it's too old, the extra few Mhz aren't going to make a difference, what will make a difference is a whole new (multiple) generations of CPUs that will be out by then.

    Re the Fusion Drive, I just don't think it's worth it. For about $100 or so I can put an SSD in the machine, and honestly, considering how fast it is, I may not do this for a year or so, at which point I'll be able to put a bigger SSD for the same money. When combined with an internal 1TB drive that should be pretty good for a long time to come. However, if you don't want to mess with it yourself, get the FusionDrive and call it a day.

    I would say that although the base mini is more than fast enough for what you want today, I wouldn't buy it as I think it would not future-proof you at all.
  6. StevenT42 macrumors 6502

    Jun 9, 2010
    I am using a quad core i7 mini with Fusion Drive and 16 gig of RAM and the performance boost over a 2010 mini is very noticeable. My philosophy has been to get the most computer that you can afford, and max it out. In the case of the 2.6GHz CPU, it is a $100 premium over the 2.3, which is entirely affordable. The Fusion Drive costs $250 over the price of a 1TB drive to deliver that extra 128GB of flash--a little steep, but since only Apple knows how to fuse the two together seamlessly, it seems worth it. And I got 16 GB of RAM from Amazon for $76--a great price.

    I think if you get this model, you will have a computer that will last for years to come.
  7. MacSignal macrumors regular

    May 8, 2010
    In general, I think this is a good strategy for a lot of Mac owners that lean towards "future proofing". IMO, the best future proofing is to buy less now and upgrade more frequently. I agree with this poster that a base Mini is likely to work well for what you expect to do. Good luck with your purchase!
  8. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    The 2.6 increases the speed no more than 10% which isn't noticeable for the kind of things you are doing.

    I tend to agree that the $599 is all you need. I have the 2.3 but frankly I would be fine with the i5 myself...
  9. lamerica80 macrumors 6502a


    May 22, 2008
    The beauty of being on the mac train is the few options. So, every couple of years or so your presented with a new model and given the choice of the top of the line one or the slightly less expensive mid range model.

    This makes it very easy for you. Just max it out dude. I went full on with the fusion drive and ordered 16 gb ram on the side.

    The extra money spent i save by not going to the pub for 3 thursdays.
  10. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    TOTAL COMPLETE WASTE OF RESOURCES. You do not need fusion you do not need a quad 2.6 . that is 350 saved. you should get the mid for 799 buy 8gb ram for 40 that is all you need in the mini. what to do with the extra money buy a usb3 empty case and a 500 gb ssd cost under 400 use it to boot use the internal to back up. read my threads on external booting with usb3 and or thunderbolt
  11. dasx macrumors 65816


    Jun 18, 2012
    I don't understand why people keep making up these kind of stats.

    Actual results:


    Can you enable TRIM in an external SSD connected through USB3.0? Do you think speeds will be the same as with an internal SSD? Just asking. :rolleyes:


  12. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    1)no .2) no.

    and the op's needs don't call for trim, fusion or top speed ssd's.

    he needs a big cheap ssd like this

    along with this

    but hey it just my opinion. it is not like I own buy or test them.

    Attached Files:

  13. knarzie macrumors regular

    Aug 5, 2008
    Fusion drive premium in the UK is £200. For 220 I can get Samsung SSD, the needed kit, and 16GB of RAM
  14. dasx macrumors 65816


    Jun 18, 2012
    I can't tell what the OP needs. You might be right and maybe he'd even be fine with the regular 5400rpm.

    My point being, if you recommend something to someone don't act like if it is the best option for everyone. You method is very good, I myself got a bootable partition in an external SSD that I use from time to time for some stuff (I took the SSD out of a broken MBP), but losing TRIM and getting lower speeds is a deal breaker for a lot of people who just don't know it and would find out too late.
  15. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    trim can be important for some.

    One of the problems with posting is that to write a long answer to fully explain the pros and cons is not always possible. So it can look like the answer is wrong.
  16. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "you should get the mid for 799 buy 8gb ram for 40 that is all you need in the mini..."

    I'll be picking up a 2012 Mini server eventually (may wait until the first refurbs hit the market).

    I would like to see at least five years' use from it, hopefully a little more (I'm typing on an 8-year-old PowerMac g4/MDD). I don't use this Mac for heavy video, and I have no interest in "computer games".

    Having said that, will 8gb RAM be enough for that long into the future?
    I was thinking of just spending about $40 more, putting in 16gb, and be done with it.

    What say you?

    (Aside: I have 4gb in a "stock" configuration in my MacBook Pro. I remember when 4gb seemed like a lot, but now it's pretty close to the "minimum"!)
  17. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    a lot depends if you are going to use a ssd as a booter. not knocking 16gb ram over 8gb ram if you don't have an ssd as your booter. if you have an ssd as your booter the 16gb ram is less important . this used to be a big choice when ram was 1300 for 2 8gb sticks. now that ram is under 100 for 2 8gb sticks you can get 16gb ram.

    here is a long answer 2 stick set of 4gb = 8gb kingston 1600 plug n play ram has tighter timings then any set of 16gb sticks 2 x 8gb. So if your use is under 8gb you will be faster then any set of 2 x 8gb = 16gb ram on the market.

    there is more when you go past the 8gb and swap to your booter if you have a stock 5400rpm drive the swap will be 100x plus slower then the ram. If you have a ssd the swap will be 10x slower then the ram. the 100x and 10x are rough guess but not that bad.

    So if you have 8gb 1600 kingston plug n play and an ssd you will be better off in many cases. Then if you have any brand 16gb ram and an ssd. The only way to have an idea is go to your activitiy moitor an clock your ram use. if you are under 6gb ram most of the time the 8gb option is cheap and faster. the speed differences are not great if you put in an ssd booter. I have found 95% of my ram use is about 6gb ram or less I alsmost never go past 8gb ram. So for now I have a few sets of kingston 1600 plug n play and added benefit is this ram works in 2011 mac minis at 1600 speeds.
  18. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Didn't "Make Up" Anything...

    Recent Geekbench results and the Macworld comparison of the 15" MBP models that use 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz i7 processors indicate an average speed difference of at best 10%. And that isn't something that people will be able to notice...
  19. drno9999 macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2005
    OP here

    Realized I had an old account from 2005, might as well keep it going for consistency.

    Ended up buying the base i7. Upgraded the RAM to 16 GB through Crucial, and could not be happier with the total performance. Next step will be to upgrade the base HDD to an SSD, but that can wait until later.

    Now the question is do I use the money saved to upgrade to iPad 4 from the OG iPad...decisions decisions (though likely for another forum).
  20. skillz1318 macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2006
    Congrats and enjoy! I felt like I was reading my own thread (thanks you!). I have a 2006 1.86 MBP that I'm finally upgrading. Also hasn't left my desk in years so a desktop is my next machine. I'm leaning towards your original post specs 2.6 and fusion drive even though like you it's my media server and likely accessed via my ipad mini. I know it's another $350, but as it will last me another 6 years I think it's money well spent. It's also my only machine.

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