Mac Mini 2018 vs iMac 2017/19

petew89

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 9, 2018
10
3
Hi all. Looking to get some help specific to my use-case.

In a nutshell, I currently use a 2012 13" MBP with a 27" Thunderbolt display. Apart from standard tasks like email, web, etc, most of my day is spent doing web design/development. Mostly in-browser. I do no video editing and pretty much the only photo editing I do is resizing and optimizing images for the web projects I work on.

I like having 2 monitors, so I'm torn between these 2 options for my next setup:
a) 2018 Mac Mini, plus 2x 27" thunderbolt displays, OR
b) 2017 (or wait for 2019) 27" 5K iMac, plus 27" thunderbolt display as second screen.

My first question is this: if I run a 2018 Mac Mini with 2x 27" thunderbolt displays, am I likely to run into any issues? Will the Mac Mini be able to handle 2x 27" displays? Will there be any lag or anything like that? Would having dedicated graphics make this sort of set up run smoother?

Second question, and forgive my ignorance: following on from above, am I likely to need dedicated graphics? One of the major differences between my 2 options is that the iMac has the Mini has the Intel UHD Graphics 630 while the base model 27" iMac has Radeon Pro 570. As a side note, I notice at the moment that with my 2012 MBP, if I'm watching full screen video (Netflix, Youtube) or sometimes using Chrome inspector while developing, that the fans will really start going. Is this more to do with CPU or GPU?

Third, regarding CPU: based on what I do, is there any reason I should go with an i7 over an i5 for my needs? For me, the quieter the machine runs, the better. I've read about i7 iMacs running hotter and louder than the i5 iMacs. Would this be the same for both the iMac and the Mac Mini in terms of fan noise?

Any help would be much appreciated. If there's anything I've missed, or any additional information needed to make a complete recommendation, please let me know.

Cheers
 

Chancha

macrumors 6502a
Mar 19, 2014
919
790
1) If your Thunderbolt Display is the older 2560x1440 QHD,then it is a cakewalk for the new mini to push, considering the iGPU can handle 5K display at ease (which is essentially 4 times number of pixels as a QHD); even attaching 2 of them is still just half of the bandwidth required to push one 5K.

2a) However, since you mentioned video editing as part of your use-case. The mini without dGPU can push those displays *as is*, that is the GPU almost exclusively only being used to, well, display. But when a video editing or effects task is in play, the app / system looks for GPU to help then it becomes an issue as the iGPU will be taxed on both pushing the display and then sparing cycles to compute. This can be clearly demonstrated if you visit an Apple Store: go to the desktop Macs isle, find the regular iMac, iMac Pro, and mini, launch FCPX on all of them, find that 4K project with flowers and a chef. The mini absolutely struggles to play back the project unless "Better performance" is checked, whereas the iMac fares OK, and the iMac Pro screams. The difference is their respective GPU power. Even the basic iMac has a so-so RX570 which is miles ahead of the UHD 630. Some say the mini has the option of using an eGPU so deal with this issue but then so can the iMac. So if you know you need some amount of GPU power from the get go then it makes more sense to have it internally ready right away.

2b) The case of a rather old Mac from 2012 struggling to play modern Netflix and Youtube videos is more CPU bound, as the resolution and codec together are number crunching tasks that ask for CPU performance first and foremost. Newer generation of Intel CPUs since Kaby Lake also have native video playback engines where certain popular 4K specific video codecs get increased performance (and less power consumption if you do it on a laptop).

3) For the 2017 iMacs it is well known and well tested that the i5 especially the base model is much more quiet than the top i7. However, for video rendering or photo exporting tasks, every ounce of performance helps in lessening time so it depends on how much you value each. Though the iMac i5 is already 4C8T as with the top i7 so the performance gains while significant it is proportionally mild.

However for the new 2018 mini, be very aware that the i5 is a 6C6T CPU without hyper threading and turbo, meaning you always only have those 6 cores at the base clock. Only the i7 option gives you a 6C12T CPU with turbo which behaves similarly as the iMac's CPU, with even more cores/threads. According to Geekbench, the top iMac i7 4.2GHz 7700k goes head to head with the mini's i7 8700B in single core tasks. The mini is quite new but judging from user reports and brute tests it seems it runs quieter than an iMac, let alone an i7 iMac. They both have only a single fan but it seems the iMac has to fire it up much more aggressively.
 

Dr. Dr. Evil

macrumors member
Nov 9, 2018
37
17
Munich, Germany
However for the new 2018 mini, be very aware that the i5 is a 6C6T CPU without hyper threading and turbo, meaning you always only have those 6 cores at the base clock. Only the i7 option gives you a 6C12T CPU with turbo which behaves similarly as the iMac's CPU, with even more cores/threads. According to Geekbench, the top iMac i7 4.2GHz 7700k goes head to head with the mini's i7 8700B in single core tasks. The mini is quite new but judging from user reports and brute tests it seems it runs quieter than an iMac, let alone an i7 iMac. They both have only a single fan but it seems the iMac has to fire it up much more aggressively.
The i5 in the MM has 6C/6T vs the i7 6C/12T. So I would expect the i5 is closer to the i7 in terms of perfomance and temps = noise during normal workload.
For me I would go for the i5, if this CPU is really more often low noise in normal work vs. i7 and would dispense the last perfomance peak of the MT and cache perfomance.

I am simply not sure about the fact, that the i7 has only more horse power if needed and it normal workloads the i7 is nearly equal to the i5 in terms of noise and heat - this would be perfect.
But it the i7 si most of the times more dominant than the i5, the I would go for more silence during the workday with the i5.

Your thougts?
 
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Chancha

macrumors 6502a
Mar 19, 2014
919
790
The i5 in the MM has 6C/6T vs the i7 6C/12T. So I would expect the i5 is closer to the i7 in terms of perfomance and temps = noise during normal workload.
For me I would go for the i5, if this CPU is really more often low noise in normal work vs. i7 and would dispense the last perfomance peak of the MT and cache perfomance.

I am simply not sure about the fact, that the i7 has only more horse power if needed and it normal workloads the i7 is nearly equal to the i5 in terms of noise and heat - this would be perfect.
But it the i7 si most of the times more dominant than the i5, the I would go for more silence during the workday with the i5.

Your thougts?
For this you have to ask the actual mini i7/i5 owners, there are threads here that explore the idea. I personally share similar skepticism since the i7 and i5 share the same fans and thermal design, if recent Macs behaviour is anythingto go buy, like the iMac i7 case then it will naturally mean the i5 will run with optimal quietness whereas the i7 probably will push the thermal limits.

I do not know how much you value quietness vs performance. In the case of the iMac 2017 at least the performance difference between i5 and i7 are marginal so a decision can be made clearly. But for the mini, having double the thread count and hyper-threading ability can mean huge difference in some computing tasks. And then the relative quietness or the fan effectiveness are still subject to tests.
 

Dr. Dr. Evil

macrumors member
Nov 9, 2018
37
17
Munich, Germany
For this you have to ask the actual mini i7/i5 owners, there are threads here that explore the idea. I personally share similar skepticism since the i7 and i5 share the same fans and thermal design, if recent Macs behaviour is anythingto go buy, like the iMac i7 case then it will naturally mean the i5 will run with optimal quietness whereas the i7 probably will push the thermal limits.

I do not know how much you value quietness vs performance. In the case of the iMac 2017 at least the performance difference between i5 and i7 are marginal so a decision can be made clearly. But for the mini, having double the thread count and hyper-threading ability can mean huge difference in some computing tasks. And then the relative quietness or the fan effectiveness are still subject to tests.
Thanks a lot, I appreciate your view though your experience is more on iMac.
I would value the quietness during the normal workday without heavy workloads more, than a bit of more horse power and headroom. Only I am not sure, if the i7 is really different to the i5 under normal working conditions. If they are equal during the day work, I would go for the i7, otherwise I would tend to i5.

Regarding the power advantage there are some other threads here where I hope for a competition test in real life benchmark (like handbreak) between this two CPUs
 

Chancha

macrumors 6502a
Mar 19, 2014
919
790
Thanks a lot, I appreciate your view though your experience is more on iMac.
I would value the quietness during the normal workday without heavy workloads more, than a bit of more horse power and headroom. Only I am not sure, if the i7 is really different to the i5 under normal working conditions. If they are equal during the day work, I would go for the i7, otherwise I would tend to i5.

Regarding the power advantage there are some other threads here where I hope for a competition test in real life benchmark (like handbreak) between this two CPUs
I can add one more point from my experience: the iMac being an AIO, the fan exhaust is right behind the display which is like 2-3 feet away from your face, this means the fan noise is constantly also in your face with no real way to reduce it unless you wear some ear plugs or drown it with music.

With the mini, unless you use Thunderbolt displays which limits your cable length to 0.5 to 1m, for other regular DisplayPort or HDMI connections you have some more freedom in putting the actual mini away from you, or even employ some sound proofing or noise reducing solution.

I used to work in a recording studio, and for the reasons above, we only employ iMacs when the seat is of no acoustic importance like a 2D graphics / video editing machine. For any seat that involves listening with open sound field from speakers, there is always a fanless monitor attached to a computer far away, sometimes in the next room.
 

Dr. Dr. Evil

macrumors member
Nov 9, 2018
37
17
Munich, Germany
I can add one more point from my experience: the iMac being an AIO, the fan exhaust is right behind the display which is like 2-3 feet away from your face, this means the fan noise is constantly also in your face with no real way to reduce it unless you wear some ear plugs or drown it with music.

With the mini, unless you use Thunderbolt displays which limits your cable length to 0.5 to 1m, for other regular DisplayPort or HDMI connections you have some more freedom in putting the actual mini away from you, or even employ some sound proofing or noise reducing solution.
.
You are absolutely right.
Only I would prefer to see my new good looking baby standing on my well organized desk and shining, not covered with noise reduction stuff :D
 

petew89

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 9, 2018
10
3
However, since you mentioned video editing as part of your use-case.
Thanks so much for your detailed response. Super helpful. Only important thing to mention is that I actually said "I do no video editing" so kinda feel bad how much detail you went into for that answer!
 

Chancha

macrumors 6502a
Mar 19, 2014
919
790
Thanks so much for your detailed response. Super helpful. Only important thing to mention is that I actually said "I do no video editing" so kinda feel bad how much detail you went into for that answer!
LOL.... well I hope someone else read what I typed and find it fitting into their use case.

Well since you have no immediate need for GPU power, my advice for you is to get the i5 mini:
1) keep using the old Thunderbolt Displays
2) guaranteed to be quieter than the iMac

I feel that your rather light web-delvelopment use-case a pretty well fit for how the new mini is designed. The CPU while not a beast, it is modern with an abundance of cores, even without hyper threading it is enough for light use. The i7 is a pretty huge step up from the i5 thread-wise, but if the utmost concern is noise and heat then staying with the i5 is a safe bet.
 

G4-power

macrumors 6502
May 29, 2004
259
13
Vaasa, Finland
3) ... However for the new 2018 mini, be very aware that the i5 is a 6C6T CPU without hyper threading and turbo, meaning you always only have those 6 cores at the base clock. Only the i7 option gives you a 6C12T CPU with turbo which behaves similarly as the iMac's CPU, with even more cores/threads.
Just wanted to kindly correct you in that the i5 actually has Turbo Boost up to 4.1 GHz, but no Hyper-Threading.
 
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smbu2000

macrumors regular
Oct 19, 2014
245
103
However for the new 2018 mini, be very aware that the i5 is a 6C6T CPU without hyper threading and turbo, meaning you always only have those 6 cores at the base clock. Only the i7 option gives you a 6C12T CPU with turbo which behaves similarly as the iMac's CPU, with even more cores/threads. According to Geekbench, the top iMac i7 4.2GHz 7700k goes head to head with the mini's i7 8700B in single core tasks. The mini is quite new but judging from user reports and brute tests it seems it runs quieter than an iMac, let alone an i7 iMac. They both have only a single fan but it seems the iMac has to fire it up much more aggressively.
The i5 in the mini does have turbo. Base clock is 3ghz and it can turbo up to 4.1ghz. It's the quad core i3 that lacks both HT and Turbo at 3.6ghz.

https://www.apple.com/mac-mini/specs/
 

fhturner

macrumors 6502
Nov 7, 2007
489
312
Birmingham, AL & Atlanta, GA
I like having 2 monitors, so I'm torn between these 2 options for my next setup:
a) 2018 Mac Mini, plus 2x 27" thunderbolt displays, OR
b) 2017 (or wait for 2019) 27" 5K iMac, plus 27" thunderbolt display as second screen.
Do you already have the 2nd TB Display? If not, I think I'd lean strongly toward a 27" 5K iMac. Otherwise, you're buying a Mac mini— which already is far less of a value proposition than previous generations— AND a display. Once you tally that up, I'd guess that the 5K display you'd be buying w/ an iMac attached for $1800 or so would be quite a bit better deal. Maybe no 6 cores if you get 2017, but I'm sure 2019 will be...
 

petew89

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 9, 2018
10
3
Do you already have the 2nd TB Display? If not, I think I'd lean strongly toward a 27" 5K iMac. Otherwise, you're buying a Mac mini— which already is far less of a value proposition than previous generations— AND a display. Once you tally that up, I'd guess that the 5K display you'd be buying w/ an iMac attached for $1800 or so would be quite a bit better deal. Maybe no 6 cores if you get 2017, but I'm sure 2019 will be...
You make a good point. I don't have the 2nd TB display, so I'd need to look at buying one secondhand. The way I see it, the 2018 Mac Mini will save me AUD$1160 (I'm in Australia), minus $300-500 for an additional TB display. So purely from a dollars point of view, it seems the Mac Mini wins. The Mini also has 6 cores vs the 2017 iMac's 4 cores and seems to be outperforming the iMac in CPU benchmarks (though I'm expecting 2019 iMacs to also have 6 cores). On the other hand, the 2017 iMac has the 5K display (nice, but not 100% needed) and dedicated graphics (again, nice, but not 100% needed for what I do).

Having said all that, I'm very curious to see what the 2019 iMacs look like and how they will be priced, so I will likely wait for those to be released before making a final decision.

Assuming the 2019 iMacs are priced the same as the 2017, the question is... is the 5k display and the dGPU worth the extra AUD$700-900?
 
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ElectronGuru

macrumors 65816
Sep 5, 2013
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Oregon, USA
Assuming the 2019 iMacs are priced the same as the 2017, the question is... is the 5k display and the dGPU worth the extra AUD$700-900?
When the first 5K iMac debuted there was a running joke that the entire iMac cost less than just the screen by itself. The separate price has come down over the years but if you're going to build an iMac type configuration anyway (cpu+screen+kb), its hard to beat the iMacs value, at least one paper.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,160
5,520
There's no way to measure the performance of the 2018 Mini vs. a "2019 iMac". I'll reckon the design of the 2019 iMac hasn't even been finalized yet.

Having said that, I'll predict that the 2019 iMacs will probably be "as fast or faster" than the 2018 Minis. The iMac will have CPU's that are at least the equal of the 2018 Mini and perhaps "more". And the iMacs will have dedicated GPU's, as well.

The 2019 iMacs (regular) will probably come close to the overall performance of the [base level] iMac Pro's. If 2019 brings the new "Mac Pro" model as well, we may see the "iMac Pro" model fade away (having been a one-time product entry to "fill the gap" between the 2013 and 2019 Mac Pro's), supplanted by the new iMacs...