Mac Mini Advice

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by cfs123, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. cfs123 macrumors regular

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    Jul 17, 2010
    #1
    Hi Macrumors,

    Quick question. My 2007 iMac may be on its last year. It was my first Apple product and best tech buy I ever made for many reasons. However, since iOS's birth, it has come a long way and I can do everything on an iPad, which I have been for some time now. The problem I have though is the iMac has about 235 GB of my photos and vids on it. I pretty much use it to hold all of my media. Even if I went to iCloud I feel I would still need something sufficient to hold all my photos and videos as An iPad may not be enough soon due to photo and vid qualities.

    I was thinking of getting a Mac mini as my "desktop storage center" and using my iPad as my main device. Does anyone else do this? At $499 I feel it beats getting a $1000+ computer.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Jal217 macrumors regular

    Jal217

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2015
    #2
    Lots of people do this kind of thing. Mac minis are the perfect server or storage computers because they are so cheap and simple to set up and use. I don't personally but I have a few friends who have them in their closets and just have them set to download and store all their cloud stuff automatically.
     
  3. cfs123 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jul 17, 2010
    #3
    Thanks. Much appreciated. Any idea which ines your friends decided on? Basic or mid range?
     
  4. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #4
    I have two Minis, one is the base 2014 4gb/500gb ($500) model that I use for an iTunes server - it just runs iTunes 24/7 with an external 3TB drive that contains my video and music library. It works fine for such a simple task, and would be fine just to store photos, but you are going to want something larger than the 500gb internal drive, so budget another $150 or so for a big external drive. And, assuming that your photos are important, you will also want another big drive for backup. Then you'll need a monitor, keyboard and mouse. So the $500 computer is going to turn into a $1000 computer pretty soon.

    And think carefully about the future, because the memory can't be expanded on that $500 mini if you later decide to use photo or video editing software. And I find my 2014 mini noticeably slower than my 2012 mini, which has expandable memory and was also a $500 computer. This is "progress" I suppose.

    If you want a faster mini with more memory and a larger internal drive, then you start getting into "real money". Unfortunately, you have to buy the maximum amount of memory you will ever want, since it can't be expanded later.

    There are hard drives that can be used with iPads too. Or so I have read, never had any interest in the iPad myself. :)
     
  5. cfs123 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #5
    Thanks Boyd01. Understood. The reason I was thinking mini is because I have an iMac with Keyboard and mouse. I was thinking about just attaching it to am HD TV and already have a 2TB external. If I want video editing I only use iMovie on a Kac or iPad and it's not complicated. I also have a MacBook Pro I use for work if needed for editing. With this information do you feel it makes sense being a Mini owner? My current iMac is running on 2ghz, 4gb RAM on El Capitan.

    As for your Mini, crazy that the 2014 is slower
     
  6. grcar Suspended

    grcar

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    #6
    It is a 1.4GHz chip!
     
  7. Easttime, Oct 16, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016

    Easttime macrumors 6502

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    Jun 17, 2015
    #7
    I just got a refurb top end late 2014 Mini (had to replace a dead 2011 iMac with something). I had keyboard, cables and monitors left over from other gear. So for a little over $1000 I have a very adequate desktop Mac with 1 TB fusion, 8 gb ram (refurb, I could have paid more for 16 gb ram), speedy USB 3 ports, 27" hi res monitor, second 23" monitor (both monitors running off the Thunderbolt ports) and a 7 port USB hub. I had to spend $100 on a USB webcam/mic combination but the video/audio quality is much better than it was on the iMac. I had thought to use this Mini as a bridge until the new Macs come out, but I see myself keeping it as my desktop for some time. I don't game or do high end video edits.
     
  8. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #8
    Seems to me you have already answered you own question. ;) Based on what you said, you don't need much and it should be fine. BTW, the 2ghz speed of your iMac is irrelevant in this case, since CPU chips from 2007 are a much older technology. The bottom of the line mini CPU is more than twice as fast as your iMac.

    Just be clear on your intended use - that you are fine with a slow 500gb hard drive, don't plan to use any intensive software and won't ever need more than 4gb RAM. The RAM is a real frustration for many people. My 4gb 2012 base Mini cost $500 and I spent $65 to take it up to 16gb. A 16gb 2014 base Mini costs $800. :eek:
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #9
    I wouldn't buy a Mini UNLESS it came with 8gb of RAM.

    I wouldn't buy a Mini UNLESS it came with either a fusion drive or "straight SSD" inside.

    If you can hold out a little while longer (4-6 months), I wouldn't buy any of the current Minis, until new ones are released (IF they're going to be released, still an unknown).
     
  10. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #10
    What makes you so confident that the next version will be better? There are plenty of ways it could be worse… fewer ports, USC-C that requires adapters for all our existing peripherals, no fan, thinner design that makes it impossible to open. Hey, I hope you're right because I.m going to be in the market for a top of the line mini in the future. But after seeing what they did in 2014, it's hard to be optimistic. :(
     
  11. cfs123 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jul 17, 2010
    #11
    Hi Boyd and Fishrman,

    I really appreciate the time you've taken to write back. What I'm really trying to find out about the mini is if you would do what I need is it to do which is to hold in store data. Sure, they may come a time where I use it to edit a very short 20 minute video or due some keynote presentation for wordprocessing. With this in mind do you both for see the basic model being OK? The reason I ask is because my family can function on iPads and I feel like it's a bit silly to pay 1000+ for a computer that won't be used. I do however need something to back up all of my iCloud stuff.

    Maybe there is a better solution? When I say better I mean not too expensive.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 17, 2016 ---
    Just wondering what does amount of ram matter if I am only using one or two applications? Such as iPhoto and I am movie? Again I am not a professional editor at all it is more for quick work things and quick HomeMovies. I actually use my iPad for this but sometimes I movie is easier and anything real intense I have an MacBook at work.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 17, 2016 ---

    Just out of curiosity he, why the fusion drive? I heard that the one terabyte fusion drives only have 24 GB of SSD. If I am only using this for iCloud back up in the storage would fusion at all being meaningful to me?

    Thanks.
     
  12. Boyd01, Oct 17, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016

    Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #12
    I answered that awhile ago...

    Almost any computer can do what you describe. The $500 mini is more than capable of being a file server right out of the box. I get about 100MB/sec by just turning on filesharing and using it as a network disk over gigabit ethernet. The current mini also has the very fast 802.11ac wifi. If your iPad supports that, you can get about 60MB/sec for wireless file transfer of photos, etc. I use a program called iMazing that lets me directly access my iPhone and transfer files over wifi, I think there are other programs for this too.

    FWIW, my daughter's family has the same iMac as yours, I gave it to them. They are probably similar to you, they use their iPads and phones for everything and the Mac gets very little use other than storing pictures and video when the mobile devices fill up. Have been thinking about giving them a Mini this year, it would be a huge performance increase over that iMac (which seems unbearably slow to me). However, I would not give them a base model Mini. Just seems too limited to be the "family computer".
     
  13. jpietrzak8, Oct 17, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016

    jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    Dayton, Ohio
    #13
    Let me throw in my two cents.

    Well, this is the thing; in my opinion, if all you want to do is store data remotely, you don't need a full-blown general-purpose computer for that. It's a heck of a lot cheaper to just pick up a "network attached storage" box, which is pretty much just a hard drive with enough additional electronics added to it to allow all your other devices to access it over your home network. Apple sells one (Time Capsule) that is easy to use, and you can get much less expensive models from manufacturers like Western Digital or Seagate.

    It seems inefficient to me to purchase a full desktop computer (especially an expensive one like a Mac), and then just plunk it down in a closet somewhere. If you only rarely need desktop computing, it might make more sense fiscally to borrow / rent a PC those few times you need one.

    RAM matters! :) For one thing, the resource demands of the OS X operating system have increased continually each year; it has reached the point now where a Mac with only 2 GB of RAM basically has no room left when running the latest OS X version. Some day, 4GB may not be enough... For another thing, many apps demand a great deal of RAM; video editing, for example, is one such application. In some cases, the way you use an app may require more RAM as well -- if you open a lot of tabs in a browser, you will find that you can consume a lot of RAM very rapidly.

    I can say that iPhoto generally doesn't require a lot of RAM, and watching video media is also quite conservative with memory resources. So at least those two tasks shouldn't be problematic.

    But again, let me ask -- if you've got access to a MacBook, maybe it'd be easier to just use that if you only require PC access occasionally? I ask this because unlike classical general purpose computers, Apple has really made the Mini inflexible. If you buy the low-end model, you're inevitably going to find that it can't do everything that a normal general-purpose computer can do, and since it cannot be upgraded or modified, you will never be able to do those things. As such, I would argue that you would do better either to bite the bullet and purchase a higher-end model, or simply get a product (like a NAS) that is cheaper and designed specifically for network data management...

    Yeah, I've gotta agree, the modern Fusion drive is fairly useless. :)
     
  14. krause734 macrumors 6502

    krause734

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    #14
    I got the mid range model and I am happy with it. Hooked up to a 1080p LG 42" TV. Great for music and videos. The low end model seems slow if you read Amazon reviews and probably won't last as long or hold it's value.

    1. The low end model has 4GB RAM and is not upgradeable.
    2. The hard drive is a slower 5400 RPM (Fast drives are 7200 RPM) unless you get a fusion drive (highest end $999 model) or custom order a SSD (fastest).
    3. All processors (dual core) are slower than previous high end models (quad core).
     
  15. cfs123 thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jul 17, 2010
    #15

    First off, thanks to all of you for the time and the education. Much appreciated. This is why I come here instead of heading to my local Apple Store.

    As for the quotes text above, I never thought about Time Capsule but I weill have to look into it. What I am looking for is to use iCloud to manage my photos and video from my iPad but I am also want to have a hard copy of these as a backup. This is why I thought some sort of "computer" was necessary.
     
  16. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #16
    I have a Time Capsule and it's great for constantly backing up my Macs (although it's only one of several backup methods I use). Also provides nice high speed 802.11ac wifi. I would not buy it for what you describe however, it's not a file server. It's very slow for one thing. The disk spins down almost immediately when not in use which makes it slow to wake up to copy files to it. A mini is much, much faster if you want a file server.

    But a bigger problem is backing up the data on the Time Capsule. It's intended as a backup device, not a device that can be backed up. The only way to back up data on a time capsule is to use a computer to mount it as a network drive, then copy its contents to another disk. This is very slow and it requires a computer. You need to do regular backups of your important data, regardless of where it's stored.

    I mentioned earlier that there are disks you can use with an iPad. No experience at all with these, but a quick google search found this: http://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/i...your-iphone-or-ipad-external-devices-3579792/

    Really, you have been very clear with your requirements and have said you are not interested in future capabilities. The Mini will do what you want, and you can just keep running whatever operating system it comes with, no need to upgrade that every year since you don't want new features. If you like the mini and it fits your budget, go for it and don't look back. :)
     
  17. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #17
    Well, it isn't intended for use as a file server; it was basically made to work with Time Machine as a backup device. But I think you can still use it that way if you want. In any case, you can get cheaper and more flexible NAS drives from other providers.

    Well, sure, you can tell the Mini to not allow its drives to spin down. However, if all you plan to do with the poor device is have it sit somewhere waiting for a file transfer request, I think forcing it to continue to spin its drives continually is (a) a waste of energy and (b) reducing the ultimate lifespan of the drive for no significant benefit. :)

    Moreover, other than the startup time spent spinning up the disk, there is absolutely no difference in speed between a Time Capsule and a Mini when transferring data. The ultimate rate of data transfer is limited by your network bandwidth, which is always going to be much much slower than what the Mini or the Time Capsule can handle internally.

    Well, actually, no. :) The point of a file server is that it, well, serves files. If you want to create a backup of those files, it's kinda obvious what to do -- just serve those files to the device you want to back them up onto. Over the net. Just like how you access the files for any other purpose.

    Of course, there are NAS devices that function both as file server and backup device -- "RAID" drives can do this.
     
  18. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #18
    Don't get the 24gb SSD drive used in the "1tb fusion" iMacs confused with the Mini product line.

    ALL the 2014 Minis that have a "1tb fusion drive" have a 128gb SSD portion, and a 1tb 5400rpm HDD portion...
     
  19. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #19
    Yes, you can use it that way. I have used it that way and found it unacceptable. Using 802.11ac wifi, which is probably what you'd do with a device like an iPad, here's how the Time Capsule performs

    [​IMG]

    Here's what I get using wifi to access a network drive on the mini which is on the same LAN

    [​IMG]

    The mini is twice the speed of the time capsule. As I said, the time capsule is just slow - surprisngly so. I guess they made compromises to keep the cost down or something. It's fine for automatic backups where speed doesn't matter much, but terrible for sharing files.

    You may not have understood my point about the disk spinning down. It happens almost instantly, like maybe 15 or 30 seconds after you copy a file.So it's constantly starting and stopping. You can set a Mini's disks to spin down, but they keep running for a more reasonable period before that happens.

    Have you actually used a time capsule like this or are you just "theorizing"? Try using one for yourself, maybe you will be happier with it than I was? But it certainly wasn't intended for the OP's use.
     
  20. seismick macrumors member

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    Oct 14, 2013
    #20
    Not quite. In fact, transfer speeds to and from a Time Capsule, when measured on my wired home network (Cat 6) showed the following:
    • Mac mini <==> Time Capsule: 34 MB/s write, 33 MB/s read
    • Mac mini <==> Mac mini: 99 MB/s write, 105 MB/s read
    The bottleneck for the Time Capsule is the disk and its interface, rather than the network bandwidth, even if you're talking 802.11n. Probably not a concern for the OP if the intention is to serve small files, but a limitation of the TC all the same.
     
  21. cfs123 thread starter macrumors regular

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    #21
    You are all way over my head at the moment but yes, I may use mini attached to TV to watch videos or listen to music but most of the time it won't actually be on and when it dies turn on it will then be grabbing my photos and vids out of iCloud and put then on the hard drive. That's the plan at least.
     
  22. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    #22
    Whoa. I stand corrected; I do not use Time Capsule myself (a bit too expensive for my tastes), but had assumed that it would be similar to any other NAS drive. I don't understand why Apple would be throttling these things down; there's no hardware-related reason why a NAS device should ever be that slow. :(

    (Man, that's really terrible performance. At this rate, I may never buy Apple hardware again...)

    I tend to use my network drives for streaming media or for batched file transfers, so I don't usually allow the drive to spin down at all. Perhaps that's why I don't mind as much. (Also, given that Apple targeted the device for use with Time Machine, they probably also don't deal with the spin down issue much either.)

    Yeah, if you're working with the device in a more interactive manner, a rapid spin-down would be annoying. And yeah, that's not a setting that Time Capsule allows you to modify, so far as I know. :(

    My sincere apologies. I'll just stick with non-Apple NAS devices from now on.
     
  23. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #23
    Cool. I did the same tests on gigabit ethernet but my Time Capsule was a bit faster. Here's the Time Capsule

    [​IMG]


    And this is the Mini on the same gigabit network

    [​IMG]


    Just like the wifi tests, the Mini is twice as fast. As I think about it… I believe the time capsule writes all its data in Apple's "sparse bundle" file format. If you removed the drive and put it in another enclosure, it would not be readable from what I understand. Anyway, maybe there is some overhead involved with compressing/decompressing files and that's why performance is so bad?

    BTW, the time capsule also has a USB 2.0 port you can connect an external drive to. It's even slower - about 1/2 the speed of the internal time capsule disk!
    --- Post Merged, Oct 17, 2016 ---
    To put it simply, a time capsule won't do what you want. And it certainly can't "grab photos and vids out of iCloud". :)
     
  24. fricotin macrumors regular

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    #24
    So do the 2012 mini...
     
  25. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    #25
    If you really have your heart set on a Mac Mini, consider the fact you can use it for storage and if you need more, ADD more externally. You have at least on the present anemic models USB3 and TB along with 802.11ac.

    I was a fan of the Mac Mini for years until Apple came out with these castrated models but in fairness they can make a decent file server. As for NAS, yep use them too. In my case 4 and 5 drive NAS appliances that hold multi-media libraries along with some typical files and a photo library.
     

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