Looking to buy a new desktop, need advice

srgz

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 22, 2010
48
0
Hey all,

I’m looking for some purchasing advice.

Some background...

I’m in need of a new computer, and I’m thinking it should probably be a desktop. I currently have a 2012 13” rMBP (10,2) with an i7 and 8GB of RAM. It’s fine for light workloads and it’s still good for traveling, despite having a 7 year old battery it still actually gets me through most flights, but, using it as my daily driver just isn’t working anymore, it’s really starting to show it’s age, unfortunately.

What I do is mainly multimedia / creative work, mostly audio editing (DAWs like ProTools and Reaper, Logic, Cubase, etc.), also light photoshop and light video editing...every once in awhile I’ll use iMovie to edit clips shot on my iPhone 8. Would be nice if the iPhone version of iMovie had at least 1/2 the functionality as the OSX version, but that’s another thread

I want something that is going to be powerful enough to handle the workloads I’ve got but I also want it to last me awhile...aka, it needs to be upgradeable.

I’m thinking of a new Mac mini, but I have a big reservation...the CPU cooling. It seems to have a very poorly designed cooler, and it seems to thermal throttle very quickly when the cpu is under load....this is just what I've heard from friends.

The nice thing about it though is that it's the most upgradeable Mac Apple sells -- and could last me a long time. I could even get an eGPU if I wanted to. And ThunderBolt3 / USB-C is great. The I/O is just perfect. The RAM is also upgradeable, which is a huge plus...it means I don't have to be price gouged by Apple, and I can maybe get away with buying a small amount of RAM to start, and then upgrade down the line, and hopefully 3rd party RAM prices will be even less then.

But---what’s the alternative...a Mac Pro?

Unfortunately that platform seems to have been abandoned by Apple and I’m not too keen on buying a used or refurbished one, as they have ~4 year old CPUs in them....unless the CPUs can be upgrade to something modern?

I’d rather not switch to windows and I’d rather not get another laptop. I’ve already got a nice monitor and even my current laptop, when I’m using it at my desk, the lid stays closed most of the time. I’m also not interested in the iMacs or iMac pros...

So what’s a fella to do? Anyone have any advice? Are there any aftermarket cooling solutions for the Mac mini? Maybe like a replacement case? Or would it be worth looking at a used Mac Pro and maybe looking into upgrading the CPUs and RAM?

I'd rather not go the "hackintosh" route. I have run Macs in VMs before on an older Windows Desktop PC I built myself, and for the most part it worked OK, but security upgrades and patches, etc didn't always go as planned. Sometimes installing those OS updates from the AppStore either didn't work at all (wouldn't install) and other times they would cause the VM to get stuck in a boot loop.

Any and all thoughts are appreciated, thanks.
I've been out of the loop for awhile, keeping up with new releases, tech news, etc. and tips / tricks and all that this entails, so if I've gotten anything wrong or I'm missing something, let me know!
 

mroy16

macrumors regular
May 28, 2017
149
68
Apple doesn't currently sell "upgradeable" computers. The closest you can get is the 27" iMac, which has easily upgradeable RAM. If you want something truly upgradeable, you can keep waiting and hoping that the upcoming "modular" Mac Pro is indeed user upgradeable and comes out soon, though it's likely to be quite expensive.
 

srgz

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 22, 2010
48
0
Apple doesn't currently sell "upgradeable" computers. The closest you can get is the 27" iMac, which has easily upgradeable RAM. If you want something truly upgradeable, you can keep waiting and hoping that the upcoming "modular" Mac Pro is indeed user upgradeable and comes out soon, though it's likely to be quite expensive.
Yeah, I realize that...which is why I'm looking at the Mac Mini...It's the most modular / upgradeable machine they offer.
 

shaunp

macrumors 68000
Nov 5, 2010
1,741
1,313
Will your apps run on Windows? If so then a PC will be a better hardware option for you - powerful, cost-effective and very upgradable. And contrary to what some on here may think, very reliable too.

If you must have a Mac though, then I would choose the iMac over the mini. They are about as upgradeable as each other (it's actually easier to upgrade the RAM in the iMac) and by the time you've spec'd out the Mini and bought a monitor you are not far off the price of an iMac anyway.
 

Cruciarius

macrumors member
Aug 18, 2013
84
12
Massachusetts
I'd go Mac Mini over an iMac. Both are user upgradable, but the Mini may be cheaper in the long run.

If you go Mac Mini, pick your own display(s), keyboard & mouse/touch pad, etc., when it comes time to upgrade again, you only replace the Mini itself. If you go with the iMac, you're stuck with the display it's attached to, which is a nice display, but you're also limited on ports. Maybe limited on other things, such as if you want to wall mount the monitor (I know older iMacs had optional wall mounts, but unsure of the current generation). Pairing the Mac Mini with a Vega 64 eGPU would dominate the latest iMac as well, according to what I've heard.

The Mac Mini 2018 is, in my opinion, a superior machine, when compared to the iMac 2019.

Not to mention those horrible bezels around the iMac screen.
 

MRrainer

macrumors 65816
Aug 8, 2008
1,170
629
Zurich, Switzerland
What does an out-of-warranty repair of the 27" iMac display cost?
What does the logic-board exchange cost, in case your SSD gets fried in year 4?

Is the iMac SSD also soldered?

Does it cost more to replace the logic-board of a Mini with a large, soldered SSD than a smaller SSD or does it not matter?

With the Mini, you can BYOD (bring your own display). You can buy a cheap one, if you don't need 5K, or you can buy an expensive one with very narrow bezels (good for a dual monitor setup), like high-end EIZO or HP.

The iMac is great, especially the 2019 27" version with i9. I just wish it had more narrow bezels so it could work better in a dual-display setup.

I'd look at the potential costs of repairs, too.
 

960design

macrumors 68030
Apr 17, 2012
2,841
839
Destin, FL
Will your apps run on Windows? If so then a PC will be a better hardware option for you - powerful, cost-effective and very upgradable. And contrary to what some on here may think, very reliable too.
Yes, we are bit opinionated here; but, for the most part, we try to assist the best way we can. Windows10 has become quite good over the last year or so. I would agree with shaunp about a Winbox. Windows would probably best serve your very specific needs. Best price per pound and all.

Remember the MacMini doesn't have any GPU acceleration beyond what's on the CPU die. You would have to purchase an external GPU to power through your multimedia needs.
 
Last edited:

giffut

macrumors 6502
Apr 28, 2003
376
85
Germany
You describe your workload/routine mostly as deskbound. Why not extend your machines capabilities with an eGPU and external monitor for another year or so. Your macbook has a thunderbolt 2 port. Choosing a case, an AMD RX580 and a solid monitor will get you a reasonably cheap powerhouse upgrade of a machine, bringing it on par with todays macs regarding video editing. This could be had for under US500,- easily, way less than the cheapest entry to a new mac.

The eGPU can be further used with any future thunderbolt equipped machine, be it pc or mac, when you are ready to choose. At the moment, in my opinion, no currently sold mac is future proof regarding cost effectness compared to reliability and upgradability.
 
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blesscheese

macrumors 6502a
Apr 3, 2010
692
170
Central CA
While I'm not a big fan of the latest versions of the Mac OS, Win10 is even worse, in my opinion.

If the OP has workflows that they are familiar with on a Mac, having them "save a little money" only to upend years of familiarity is an awful trade.

If the OP can hang out with their current rig, I would do that. If they want an upgrade "now" and they really do a lot of multimedia work, the eGPU idea is a pretty good one. That can buy them some time to see what the next iterations of Mac hardware will be, and let them dip their toe in the water with the eGPU.
 
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marioman38

macrumors 6502a
Aug 8, 2006
885
69
Elk Grove, CA
Personally I’d get a MacBook Pro with a hengedock. I have a vertical henge dock and it’s sweet. Pop the MBP in and it’s connected to my display, printer, Ethernet, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. All my data is there and I can just grab it whenever I want to go portable. Apple just doesn’t sell “upgradable” anymore. I have a 2009 Mac Pro that I keep upgrading for years. But with thunderbolt 3 it’s so easy to add storage, egpu, displays. Etc. Just get the processor and ram you need. I use photoshop and VMware frequently and honestly never utilize the 16GB RAM I have in my laptop. If you got the 32GB that should be plenty for years to come.
 

SkiHound2

macrumors regular
Jul 15, 2018
164
111
I don't see the Mini as all that much more upgradeable. You can't upgrade the cpu or SSD, only ram. I'm using a 2012 Mini that has served me well but it's getting kind of sluggish with some of the software I use and I think the fusion drive is failing. Once you start adding a nice monitor, decent sized SSD, perhaps the i7, keyboard, mouse, etc., they get pretty pricey. And there is only integrated graphics. Its nice that you can add an eGPU, but they are pretty pricey and they do cost a little performance. If you have peripherals with which you're happy and don't need discrete graphics, the Mini might be the best choice. But add an eGPU and a nice monitor and they don't look like such good values, IMO. I also wouldn't recommend a 21.5" except for persons who find the 27" screen too big or have very limited space. Or for someone who needs relatively little computing power and would be happy with a lower end (the lowest configuration is awful) configuration. Personally, I think they highest tier 27" ends up offering the best price to performance ratio.
 

MRrainer

macrumors 65816
Aug 8, 2008
1,170
629
Zurich, Switzerland
While you can add an eGPU to the Mini, I don't consider that a really sensible option - at least financially.

The Mini is for people who don't need a dedicated GPU (because they don't play games and don't have any other use-case where a GPU might be beneficial) and would like to choose their own display(s), for whatever reason.
Cost is almost certainly not among those reasons, unless you already have a decent display that you want to re-purpose.