Mac Mini 2018 i3 sufficient for Lightroom and Photoshop?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by turnipfarmer, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. turnipfarmer macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2011
    I've got an aging 2011 iMac and just not sure which direction to go, either new iMac or Mac Mini.

    Mac mini seems to have good flexibility in terms of picking spec. The main thing putting me off the new iMac is the traditional or fusion hard drive and not being able to upgrade the ram as easy as it was in a 2011 machine.

    Obviously the downsides with Mac mini is that I would have to buy a monitor (any suggestions?), Mouse and keyboard too.

    Also the i3 Mac mini is base model but does anyone run lightroom and Photoshop on it with no issues?
  2. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    I'd get the i5, if any way possible.
    For LR and PS, I'd get 16gb of RAM installed "straight from the factory", so I didn't have to bother opening it up.
  3. now i see it macrumors 68040

    Jan 2, 2002
    The entire graphics professional world years ago ran photoshop on 200 MHZ machines with 16GB of ram.
    Granted photoshop nowadays is a lot more bloated than it was in the past but high end photoshop use can be done now on ANY semi modern computer. MacMini is fine. The key is 16GB of ram and a good monitor.
  4. turnipfarmer thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2011
    So an i3 version with 16gb would be fine and quick enough?
  5. iluvmacs99 macrumors regular

    Apr 9, 2019
    Since Lightroom and Photoshop (at least in its current form) is still heavily biased towards single core performance, you may not benefit from the added multi-core performance of the i5 and i7 version; I think you will be more than fine. 16Gb is a good base ram to have. You probably won't need to upgrade ram after that unless you are working with 36MP and up files with layering. If you are only dealing with 16MP to 20MP files with modest layering, then even 8Gb is fine. Photoshop does not utilize the GPU performance all that much -- only a few features use them so even the basic iGPU is fine. You do need to use an external USB 3 drive for storing all your photos though and to remove any bottleneck if you have lots of photos to curate in lightroom is to get a Thunderbolt 3 chassis and run your drives in RAID mode. Lightroom is more of an I/O sucker than a CPU sucker.

    In terms of buying a monitor. This is when I will say to you that it's actually more cost effective to buy an iMac 4K or 5K with the same i3 Mac Mini spec, because the monitor itself is very nice, color balanced and sharp. To get the exact external monitor as the iMac with the i3 Mac Mini would actually cost you more. Basically, the best way to get a Mac with a nice monitor is to order an iMac with 16Gb RAM and either a fusion or SSD drive. Then get an external drive as your photo storage drive and scratch drive and leave the boot drive as your application and VM drive. This setup will speed up Photoshop and Lightroom immensely rather than trying to brute force Photoshop through buying a faster CPU and doing everything on just 1 drive.

    I use Photoshop with my old 2011 Mac Mini and it is still fine with it because I have a SSD for my boot drive, a fast SSD for my Photoshop scratch drive, a fast RAID 5 photo storage drive. The only thing that's slowing Photoshop down is my single core performance on the Mini is slower than the i3 Mini when doing layers and plug-ins. My sister is running with a 2014 Mac Mini i5 1.4Ghz and she's doing just fine with Photoshop as well working on her art projects. The key to Photoshop speed is good drive management and then single core CPU speed.
  6. turnipfarmer thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 10, 2011
    Awesome, many thanks. I've not looked at monitors yet but will have a look. I've got currently few external hard drives, 2 X usb 2 ones , FireWire 800 drive and thunderbolt 1 drive, annoyingly all will be pretty much redundant and slow when I get new mac. My photos are stored on one and others used as backups. Probably sell them and then get thunderbolt 3 drive.

    Is there much difference between usb 3 and thunderbolt 3? My thunderbolt 1 port looks very different. Also does a monitor on the Mac Mini connect via USB c?

    Any recommendations on monitors?
  7. flightopsguy macrumors newbie


    Jun 16, 2016
  8. iluvmacs99 macrumors regular

    Apr 9, 2019
    You could probably keep the Thunderbolt 1 drive and buy the USB-C to Thunderbolt 2 adapter to connect to the new Mini and you can get it at the Apple store. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 ports are identical, but Thunderbolt 3 uses USB-C. TB1 drive is still pretty fast, faster than USB 3.0. Thunderbolt 3 is way faster than USB 3.0, so you want that drive to be your scratch/work/cache drive for Photoshop, then the TB 1 drive be your intermediate work drive of most used images that you want to recall quickly from Lightroom and use USB 3.0 as permanent storage. If the USB 2 ones aren't too old and you are a handy man type, then the drives in them should be the 7200 rpm kind and you can take apart the case, strip the drive in the external drive and buy a cheap external USB 3.0 drive case from a PC store and transplant them in the new USB 3 case to save some money. On most USB 2 drives, the drives aren't the limitation but rather the slow USB 2 interface is. That's what I did and you can buy a bit more speed, because you are not going to get very much selling those USB 2 drives used. I use a USB 3.1 HD docking station and just swap photo drives for my Macbook Air, but I use the same docking station to back up my RAID5 photo server drive on my Mini.

    In regards to buying a monitor. It all depends on which color space you prefer to edit in. Look for a monitor that can display the color space you prefer working in; either sRGB or AdobeRGB. You can either connect an external display from the HDMI port or one of the 4 USB-C ports natively if the monitor supports it or through an adapter. Apple sells a few standalone displays so I suggest dropping by a store near you to take a look at the color display fidelity and how your eyes like them.

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7 August 4, 2019