Mac Mini - i5 or i7?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Stephen Valente, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. Stephen Valente macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2012
    Thinking of buying a Mac Mini to replace my ageing, and currently disabled MacBook Pro.

    Is there a lot to be gained by getting the more expensive Mac Mini over the cheaper model? Apart from the i7 over the i5, and the bigger hard drive (would get a cheap, high capacity network drive instead), would it be better to get the cheaper model?

    Want to have RAID storage to back up iPhones, an IPad and a Nexus 7, plus usage as an XBMC hub, etc. Would the best option from a cost per Tb issue be to buy an external hard drive such as WD Mybook Live model?

    Whilst I'd love another iMac, don't think it'd be practical in terms of cost, and as a multimedia solution.
  2. chrise2 macrumors 6502

    Sep 17, 2012
    If you're just using it as a backup server, the i5 is fine. If you'll be doing processor intensive tasks like video encoding or virtualizing Windows, I'd get the i7. The processor is the only thing you can't upgrade. Keep that in mind.
  3. Stephen Valente thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2012
    I agree in that sense. Just can't get over the feeling that the hard drive gain is a little meagre, but that's Apple for you!
  4. slickadam macrumors member

    Nov 6, 2012
    Germany & Hungary
    if you don't want to do anything very CPU intensive (XBMC could run on my alarm clock too :D), then there's no need to spend extra 200 $, just because some says that the base mini can't do anything (which is bullsh...).
  5. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    The base mini is a fine machine. As already stated, unless you are doing a lot of encoding or VM's or what not, just go with the base.
  6. Drharrington macrumors member

    Jan 1, 2012
    Agreed... The base mini packs enough punch for most anything.
  7. costabunny macrumors 68020


    May 15, 2008
    Weymouth, UK
    Yep for most uses the i5 is plenty - I have the i7 and its only when i have my virtual machines or handbrake running that the cpu is taxed.

    If you aren't using power cpu intensive apps the the i5 base plus a 3rd party RAM boost to 8 or 16Gb would be good value. Coupled with something like the Western Digital MyBook Studio II RAID external would make a pretty awesome setup.
  8. 53x12 macrumors 68000


    Feb 16, 2009
    Or even a 128/256GB SSD to run OSX and apps off of.
  9. OTACORB macrumors 65816


    Jun 21, 2009
    Central, Louisiana
    I got the mid level to sort of future proof myself a bit. I do occasionally do some video ripping and the difference is very darn noticeable in terms of rip time even doing 1080P.

    I'd say make the investment, future proof yourself and enjoy the heck out of a really fast machine.

    Oh I did add a SSD as my primary drive, then moved the included 1TB as my secondary drive.

    Freaking sweet setup!
  10. Toucansma macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2001
    I have the same issue. I got a deal on an i5 Mac mini 12 for 480 which i plan to run windows 7 via parallels or virtual box. However now I'm second guessing the i5. I won't be gaming on either Mac OS or windows. It's mostly business software so nothing hardcore. Occasional handbrake rip. I plan on getting an ssd. Thoughts? Also debating about pure ssd vs a DIY fusion.
  11. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    my diy fusion is really good. 500gb samsung ssd plus 1tb oem hdd used a refurb 2.3 quad

    this pops up every once in a while
  12. Vix02 macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2013
    I'm in the same boat. Buying a mini tomorrow or Tuesday and not sure what to get still ( i5 vs i7 ). I have the aftermarket RAM bought and have a SSD for it. So whatever version I get will run to the max BUT I'm going to run a Win7 VM full time.

    Will running 1 VM all the time kill the performance of an i5?

    My guts are telling me i7 just to be safe

    Sorry for the thread jack
  13. macman05 macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2007
    Get the i7.
  14. Captnroger macrumors regular

    Aug 12, 2002
    Nothing you are likely to do on the Mini will tax the i5 processor. Take the extra money and throw in a SSD and an external case for the hard drive. And bump the ram to 8gb. The ram will be a better performance improvement than the jump to i7 in most cases.
  15. 7thson, Jan 27, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013

    7thson macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2012
    Six Rivers, CA
    Unfortunately Apple doesn't allow hard drive upgrades in i5 configuration. My bad if you meant he could upgrade to ssd himself after he bought it.
  16. Toucansma macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2001
    So i5 should be plenty then if its only 1 virtual machine (again no games)? Just up the RAM.

    I keep going back and forth on SSD vs fusion. I have a 256gb SSD, but it looks to be a pain to put it in as a second drive (I have taken apart many laptops though).
  17. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    It's really not that much pain. I did it this weekend in about a half hour (and part of that time was spent figuring out where I left off because I was called away in the middle). You just need to have the right drives for the different screws. I had done it in October 2011 on my 2011 Mini, but hadn't done it since (and really couldn't remember the entire process) so I just pulled up ifixit and followed their guide step by step. My SSD is just "floating" above the mechanical drive in mine (just like it did in my 2011) with no issues.

    The other alternative, is that I believe you can just swap the mechanical for the SSD without even removing the logic board, but someone else will have to speak to that as I haven't tried it. You could then put the mechanical drive in a USB 3.0 enclosure and just use it as an external (cost was should be a push since you will have to buy the extra SATA cable if you want to run two drives).

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