Mac Mini 2012 - Which one?

Mac Mini Late 2012 - i5 or i7?

  • i5 - It's cheaper and you won't notice the difference

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • i7 - It's more expensive but it's much quicker and worth every penny

    Votes: 6 100.0%

  • Total voters


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 27, 2018
Bedford, UK
I had a very expensive experiment with a used iMac Mid 2011 (Graphics card issue). I am running on very limited funds at the moment and can just about stretch to a used Mac Mini 2012.

On the basis that the experts tell me that the only iMac to avoid is the 2011 (you live and learn!) I hear that the Mini late 2012 is a very good all rounder with no particular known issues. Anyone disagree?

2.5GHz i5 - Quite plentiful and good prices.

2.3GHz i7 - Harder to find and quite a lot more expensive.

Is the i7 that much quicker / better? Is it work the extra money?

Before my iMac went pop, I had put in a 1TB SSD. Can I install that into the iMac plug and play?

Many thanks in advance!


Oct 31, 2017
Your 2011 iMac appears to have been the top of the line model for that year. As such I would think moving from a quad core i7 to a dual core i5 would be a noticeable step down for you. What was your overall impression of performance for you iMac? What applications do you intend to run? While the dual core i5 Mini is a decent system I suspect, given it's a step down in performance from your iMac, you'd want to focus on the quad core model.


macrumors 68000
Nov 9, 2015
Honolulu HI
I have a 2012 2.6Ghz quad-core and a 2012 MBP 13" which uses the same 2.5Ghz processor as the i5 2012 Mini. If you do video editing or transcoding (Handbrake is probably the most popular app for that), then you should get the quad-core. If you don't have local tasks where you're waiting, say, 10 sec. for something to finish, then given your limited funds, the dual-core will probably be sufficient. You will really only notice the 2 additional cores when there is a demand for more than 2 threads and these additional threads take more than a few seconds to complete. If the CPU is waiting for something (disk, network response) and another request comes in, it can attend to that task and then return to the first request when the disk, etc. comes back with data. It all depends on the type of work you do. For me, I wouldn't trade the quad-core 2012 Mini for a dual-core because I still use it for video transcoding even though I have another quad-core computer a few feet away. Likewise, the decision to get the 2012 dual-core vs. quad-core MBP 13" in 2015 (they produced that model all the way into 2016) was the right one because I never do work on it that can really make good use of 2 additional cores.


Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
New Jersey Pine Barrens
You haven't told us anything about what you will do with the machine, so it's very difficult to make a recommendation. I had a 2012 base i5 Mini and upgraded to 16gb with a 500GB external Samsung t3. That was actually a pretty decent little machine. Gave it to my daughter's family but they started have crashes that were hard for me to diagnose over the phone (they are good at using computers, but not technical). After two years, they gave up on it and I gave them a new MacBook Air this Christmas, which is what they wanted.

I still use my 2012 i7 16gb/256gb quad mini, it is dedicated to video and audio editing. Still happy with this machine and will continue using it for another year, maybe more (if it lasts). There is no question that the quad i7 is a much better machine all around, it is twice as fast as the i5 for rendering video for example. But, depending on your needs and upgraded base 2012 might suit you well. All of 2012 models suffer from the HD4000 video, which is showing its age.

Personally, I would not buy either of these machines today, they are getting very old and could have a limited future - like your iMac experience, in your own words, "bought used and worked for 2 weeks before broken for parts after spending a fortune on it".

Could you work some overtime, or get a loan from family/friends? It's just that the base 2018 Mini is as fast as the top quad 2012 Mini, has a better selection of ports, faster wifi, more RAM capacity, much better graphics and more.... and it has a full warranty with the possibility of extension via applecare. I think it is well worth the extra cost.

Otherwise, if you are so tight on funds, and since you haven't said anything that suggesst you need a very powerful machine, just get the cheapest thing you can find and hope it lasts until you can afford a new one.

I would guess that your SSD will work in the Mini, but really don't know. Realize that you risk damaging the Mini by opening it up however, there are many posts in this forum from people who thought they could do it, but ended up with problems. A safer bet would be putting the SSD in a USB 3.0 enclosure. That works very well on the 2012 Mini, I usually boot my 2012 quad from an external 1TB SSD and although the speed test shows it's a bit slower, it feels just as fast as the original internal Apple SSD.
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macrumors 68000
Nov 9, 2015
Honolulu HI
I forgot to answer your second question - can you just transfer the SSD? Presuming it's a 2.5" (I don't think they made 3.5" SSD's), yes. The OS on the SSD has to be 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion) or higher. If it is, the 2012 Mini should boot. However, as a security measure, some things may not transfer. I can't say for sure how this has changed as the macOS has progressed. But, if you use Safari and you save passwords, the testing I've done shows that the saved passwords won't show up in the new computer. In using High Sierra, in moving the boot disk from one computer to another, my iPad was no longer recognized on the new computer - so if you have iDevices (iPhone, iPad, etc.), there could be issues. I've also seen people have iCloud issues when moving a boot disk from one computer to another. So, if any of these are important in your situation, there are steps you're going to need to take - and if your iMac is no longer working, it would make it a little more complicated. In general, I found that moving a boot disk from one computer to another was significantly more complicated with High Sierra (and almost certainly Mojave).

People have had problems in replacing the HDD/SSD in the Mini. If you did the SSD replacement in the iMac yourself, it presents different challenges - the components are smaller and you have to make sure not to force anything. But in your situation, especially if you have the issues I mentioned earlier, it probably is a good idea to get a USB 3 enclosure and test and make sure your SSD works properly in the Mini as external first before moving it to work as an internal (if you choose to do that). But again, if you have things like Safari passwords, use iCloud or have iDevices, you need to have a plan before proceeding. If you get to this point, I have steps that I believe should be taken to make this work depending on the OS you intend on using and the OS you currently have on the SSD.

UPDATE: You would need Mountain Lion 10.8.3 or later on your current SSD for it to boot on a 2012 Mini.
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