Long term value of a Mac Mini Server

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by aComicBookFan, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. aComicBookFan macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    Hello out there!

    This is my first post on this forum and I would like to ask for your opinion.

    I believe in the long term value of goods. They ought to last a while. Not only should they be durable to last but they should also be useful. My last Mac purchase was back in April 2005 when I got a base 1.6 GHz PowerPC G5 with a 17" screen. It is running strong and I appreciate it's reliability. Unfortunately, I am starting to come to a point where the machine is unable to run the software I need or want to. An upgrade may be in my future.

    I am seriously considering a Mac Mini Server model and I would like to ask the forum if this machine would be a good fit for me.

    1) I seriously intend to keep and use this machine for at least 7 years if not even more.

    2) I plan to upgrade the memory to the unofficial maximum of 16 GB when the price comes down.

    3) My primary applications are web surfing, iTunes, DVD ripping, and simple photo editing. I also run Collectorz Comic Collector to manage my comic book collection. My database is huge. I would like to get into some simple video editing as well. Of course, like everyone else, I do some simple word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, etc.

    4) I would not use this machine as a server. All I want is its processing power. With that in mind, I am patient and I don't need lightning fast responses. The idea behind the extra processing power is to give me some headroom as applications get bigger, more complex, and require more power. Since I will be on an Intel platform there could be new applications that may interest me which I am not even aware of today.

    5) The Mac Mini Server got a very nice Geekbench score of about 8611. The nearest iMac to this score is the 27" 3.1 GHz i5 iMac which costs significantly more. I understand that I am getting a display, keyboard, etc with the iMac but I have all this in separate components.

    6) Adding to number three above, I do have a large movie library which I would like to load into iTunes. From there I would load movies into my iDevices and maybe stream via Airplay.

    7) I am not a gamer like I was in the 80s and 90s. Now in my older years I like puzzle and retro games. My iPad and iPhone serve me well in this regard.

    8) I am not interested in video conferencing or chatting. That is what I have the iPad and iPhone for.

    *whew* :) If you could read all that then you deserve a medal!

    Your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    -- Boris
  2. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    There are a couple misunderstood things about raw processing power. It can help, and the server is definitely the fastest. For many things I think the base model is a better value, and if you wish to upgrade the ram I'd do it yourself ($50 for the same ram as opposed to $300 from :apple:). All of these machines will eventually go out of date in terms of support. Apple is currently dropping a lot of machines from 2007-2008 in their next OSX revision expected this summer. I expect by the 2013 models we will no longer see dual core versions, but that remains two cycles off as we haven't seen the 2012 revision yet.

    I guess it's a matter of opinion, but considering increasing gpu reliance, I'm not sure that going with the server will drastically extend the life of the machine. Apple isn't so great on gpus regardless (even the imac ones aren't so great). I'd personally buy something that works for you today. If it's still working well you won't lose more than a few hundred if you upgrade again after a couple years. It's just that when I look at this lineup, nothing screams future proofed in any way.
  3. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    I think the 2011 Mac mini server is the better value now and in the long term. The Intel HD 3000 is not as bad a people say, but the Quad-Core Intel i7 is as great as everyone says. The Mac mini server also has dual hard drives which continue to be a good value given market prices and the associated hardware.
  4. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
    Boris, if you are keeping the Mac mini because you have not as much disposable income as some on this website appear to have then it may be a consideration to wait until the Ivy bridge Mac mini comes out.
  5. Lesser Evets macrumors 68040

    Lesser Evets

    Jan 7, 2006
    I have the 2006 MacPro and had a 2003 PowerPc up to a couple years ago as well. These high-end Macs are made to go on average about 7 years before they are just too slow and their hardware is completely outmoded for newer software.

    However, I also have seen plenty of old Macs that are still useful--15 or more years old--that are "locked in time" with regards to software and function. Most of them are used for accounting, text programs, minor document creation, etc. If someone has a software suite that works for them and they don't need or want more, a computer will be indefinite. On the other hand, if you are dependent on pop-culture such as video or internet, the hardware will terminate usefulness within 10 years. Usually far quicker.

    Aside from that, NO ONE can predict or say exactly what is coming down the line in terms of tech advances. You can buy that MacMini and if some bizarre innovation comes about in the next year, it might be 3 years and that MacMini is unsupported by everyone. However, audio is a locked-in tech these days, video is getting close to being locked in at 1080 and will stay there for a decade at least, and since internet is generally reliant on those and graphics, the internet probably won't leap technical advances in the next decade or longer. Sure, things will advance and polish, but the big developments have passed and now it is cleaning up and presenting.

    A fast MacMini with a 8600 benchmark will probably be good for at least 5 years, but possibly more. My current MacPro has a 5200 benchmark and it will be good for another 2 or 3 years (it's 6 years old now), with the only problems being somewhat slow video processing and no Thunderbolt to speed along peripherals. All that is in a Mini and so the Mini will probably have a long life since TB and 1080 will span the decade.

    I could not have kept a previous "MacPro" so long. A top-line 2000 Mac was pretty much crap by 2006 (I had one and had to ditch it in 2003). A top-line 1997 Mac was completely useless by 2003 unless it was locked into software suites. And top-line 1994 Macs were definitely unprepared for 2000 Internet and video and audio. However, these current Macs (aside from the ancient revision MacPros) will probably still be good machines in 5 or 6 years, maybe of use a little longer to meet your 7-year goal.
  6. gpat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 1, 2011
    If you want longevity, I would go for the base iMac. It has 4 RAM slots (up to 32GB, can upgrade to 12 right away with little expense), the CPU power appears to be less but that wouldn't really matter even in the long run, its dedicated GPU will probably grant more longevity, and the cost of ownership will probably be less, as IMHO if you want to really enjoy OSX you need a magic trackpad (you can get that for free with the iMac instead of the mouse), and you also have a 21" IPS LED screen, which is great even if you already have a screen to use (once you go dual screen, you hardly go back to one).
  7. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    No matter how you slice it, the Mini (any model you buy) probably isn't going to give you the workhorse service record that your g5 has provided.

    Apple was buiding some great platforms with the g4/MDD's and the early (non-water-cooled) g5's. I'm typing this on my g4/1.25dp MDD that I bought new in 2004, and a friend still uses his g5 tower that he bought a year later. They may be "long in the tooth", but they keep on going.

    The mini's simply are not designed for such rugged business, and you better consider that up front.

    That doesn't mean you won't get excellent service from one. When the time comes to replace this g4 (which will be fairly soon), I intend to get a Mini, same as you. But I will do so without the expectation of 8 years of service from it before it becomes either obsolete or breaks down. Four to five years, perhaps, but even that may be stretching it. Technology seems to be moving faster and even Apple doesn't build things like they used to (the Mac Pro towers may be an exception, but they are expensive). And Apple does not seem particularly interested in supporting older hardware platforms any more (if they ever were).

    If you are looking for long-term service, and can hold off a little bit longer, I would suggest that you wait for the re-designed Mini which should be out around summer or fall of this year. It will have improvements worth waiting for (such as USB3), and will be your best bet towards a Mini with the future in mind....
  8. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    I recently transitioned from a 2005 G5 tower to the mid-level Mac mini (the one with AMD graphics). I'm very happy with it, but I have no intention of keeping it as long as my G5. It's such an easy thing to sell on eBay (i.e. it's small and lightweight, so easy to send out to a buyer... and it has no keyboard/mouse to get gummed up, or screen to get blotchy... it's a simple sale). I'll sell it in a year or two, and replace it with the latest mini.
  9. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    The sort of obsolescence you've got with your G5 after 7 years you will see with the new Mini. But you also know that if you keep with the older software it will continue to run.

    My understanding is that the minis have the longest MTBF (mean time between failures) of any Mac and there are companies that use them as servers even before Apple officially released a server version.

    Nothing you stated will stress your system. You can check RAM usage and swapping in Activity Monitor to determine if extra RAM makes sense. The upgrade to 8GB can be done for much less money than 16GB.

    Really seems like you could get by with the least expensive model, however the server would be more "future proof" to use that overused term.

    Any of the Mac mini models would be far faster than your current G5.

    Geekbench scores are misleading since they don't represent real-life usage. I don't have any current models, but have minis and iMacs about 3 years old. The minis are very obviously slower than the iMacs. The iMacs have better graphics, faster hard drives (speaking about more than just rotational speed), and desktop processors in at least some of the models.

    Any mini with external drives would do. Two of my minis are used as entertainment centers and are base models with no add-ons. My third mini is the server model that I do use as a server. It has four external firewire drives attached. My three minis have had only one failure (a disk drive) in 2+ years of use. I buy refurbs to save money.
  10. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
    I'd like to thank everyone for their replies! There's a lot of good perspective coming from all of you and I do appreciate it. :)

    I am somewhat familiar with GPUs and their potential. Here at work I am managing a joint research effort between my company and a local university. We are using Matlab to crunch through huge matrices and nasty integrals. A big majority of the work is done in GPUs but we had to use code and libraries that specifically engage the GPU. Otherwise, the standard functions would be used and the operation would be performed in the CPU. Are most applications nowadays written to leverage a GPU?

    Here's another twist in my purchasing path. I have $250 of Amazon gift certificates that I intend to use for the new computer. Amazon only has the standard Mac offerings but that's still plenty to choose from.

    A new Mac Mini server is $955 on Amazon and a used one is $899. I don't mind buying used and letting the first owner pay the price of depreciation. In this case, the difference is only $56 (not counting S&H for the used one), about 6%, and I am willing to pay it The mid-level mini is $763 new and used ones start at around $700 which is a difference of 9%. That gets my attention but I would still probably get new in that case.

    A new base iMac is about $1133 and used ones run from $900 to $1000. The price difference is enough (absolute value and percentage) where I would consider a used machine. However, I never seriously considered the iMac because of the lower Geekbench scores, smaller drive capacity, etc.

    What is a better benchmark to use when comparing a Mini to an iMac?

    The nice thing about the Mini is that the update cost would hopefully be lower compared to an iMac. I simply budget for $700-$1000 every 7 years vs $1200-$1400.

    -=- Boris
  11. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    From my experience - no.

    Insufficient discount! A refurbished Mac mini server from Apple is $850, includes shipping, and carries the same warranty as a new unit.

    There's always MacWorld's Speedmark which is based on a a number of application benchmarks. You can look at the individual benchmarks to see what applications apply to you.

  12. aComicBookFan thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2012
  13. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
  14. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Go to the site http://refurb.me where it is easier to see what is and isn't available at any point in time. The $850 server was last available 5 days ago.

    IMHO, for real server use that $750 Snow Leopard Server is a better deal. Lots of problems with Lion Server and servers don't need the extra CPU speed (at least mine doesn't).
  15. Lesser Evets macrumors 68040

    Lesser Evets

    Jan 7, 2006
    I think the better and more realistic way to think of Mini is not to compare it to a MacPro for longevity, but for convenience as a "throw away" device.

    A MacMini is, say, $699 for a 4-year device while a Pro is $2500+ for a 7-year device. So you are doing about $1400 to $2500+ for 7 years. Almost half the cost.

    Now, it might make you whine, since it means getting a new computer every four years, but it actually is wiser to do the mini every four years because any tech innovations that drift down will be in the new computer while the old Pro will remain stuck in the past. Just in case anything arrives which makes a new Mac far better. Ex.--Thunderbolt.

    Let's say Lightning Bolt matures within the next 5 or 6 years (and it might): you'll be stuck with that sickly slow Thunderbolt stuff for a while.

    I never saw the practicality of iMacs since you purchase the screen with everything else. Great for something with limited term of use, like college years or in libraries or kiosks, etc. Better power than a Mini, but also far more trouble if a drive goes south or there are other troubles within.
  16. fourthtunz macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    Its 2016 and my 2011 mac mini is still going strong!
    When you look weak performance of the newest mac minis and their non upgradeability along with some
    of the other macs..macbook airs, the old mac minis perform well at at great price.!
  17. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I'm still using two of my base 2009 minis, in fact I am typing this on one now. My third 2009 (the server) I sold and replaced with a 2012 quad core and added a base 2012 as well. But for all the complaints about the newest 2014 minis, the base 2014 benches twice the speed as the base 2009 and costs $100 less.

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