Mac Mini mid level (2014): any upgrade needed for photography?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Mais78, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. Mais78 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #1
    My employer has decided to block external hard drives on our laptop so I am in the market for a new computer (my first mac!) for my photography hobby.

    I don't do any gaming or very heavy duty stuff. I need to run Lightroom and the Nik Collection (I use the latter as a smart filter in Photoshop even though I don't use PS as such, so no layers etc). At decent speed, that's all I need. So far I used a laptop with windows7 64bit, i7 1.7ghz quad, 8GB RAM and 128 SSD so I would like the new mac to be approximately as fast.

    Questions:
    1) Is the standard configuration of the mid range Mac Mini good enough for that?
    2) Do I need more RAM? I am happy with how those programs run with the 8GB on my laptop but of course it is a different OS and system.
    3) Do I need the SSD (or Fusion)? The pictures (c. 500GB) are all on an external hard drive, will the SSD make any difference in the editing or I will just get a faster boot time? Will LR be faster?
    4) If i go for the standard config can I add a pcie ssd later? And RAM?

    I live in the UK and prices are 25%+ more expensive vs US (mac mini mid is £569/$900 here) so adding options gets expensive ($250 for either SSD or RAM), would like to get only what I need.

    Thanks!
     
  2. corvus32, Dec 1, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2014

    corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Location:
    USA
    #2
    You can't add more RAM later to the new Mini, and adding a SSD later on isn't as simple as it used to be either.

    It's basically an expensive throwaway device.

    A mini PC like the Gigabyte Brix Pro that uses the same quad i5 that's in the $1299 iMac offers a lot more performance, value, and upgradability. You could reuse the RAM and SSD that's already in your laptop, and save a ton. Unlike the new Mini, the Brix Pro has two hard drive bays, so you could keep your SSD to boot from and add a 500GB or 1TB HDD later for storage.
     
  3. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    #3

    1. Probably. Since we are talking about a Hobby vs Profession
    2. 8GB is probably enough. Mavericks and Yosemite use RAM compression so that more can be stored into RAM. However, RAM is soldered in with the 2014's so what you buy now is what you get.
    3. There are a lot of advantages of getting the SSD than just booting time. Working with images and what not should be faster (reading, writing, etc). Whether this matters or not to you is at question. You can swap the mechanical hard drive for a standard 2.5" SSD, but you will need some special screw drivers to access the inside. You can also boot off of an external SSD.
    4. I assume at some point yes. Many companies are working on Mac compatible PCIE SSD's, but they haven't been released yet (although you can buy Apple ones thru ebay). The other issue is that you need the PCIE "cable" for the PCIE SSD that you will have to buy extra and I'm not sure anyone has found an easy way to buy these. For RAM, see #2.
     
  4. Mais78 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #4
    Thanks

    1. Yeah, a serious hobby though
    2. Working with images and read/write will be faster with SSD even though the images are on an external drive?

    If you had to pick one between 16GB RAM or SSD, which one would you go for?

    Thanks!
     
  5. Jambalaya macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    The 8GB of RAM is enough and with USB3 you can add drives externally easily including an SSD which will run fast, there are folk on here who run USB3 enclosures with SSD's as their boot devices (this is easy to configure on a Mac). You can change the drives inside the new Mini but it is supposed to be more tricky (I changed the one inside my old 2009 machine).

    If it where me I'd just buy the middle model as you are proposing - the RAM upgrade is £160 which IMO is too much money for the benefit for you. Run the machine as is and if you want you can add an SSD in an external caddy and make it the boot drive. The longer you wait the cheaper it will get. If in time you want to put it inside the machine for neatness you can (it voids the warranty do wait a year). If you just let the Mini sleep it re-starts very fast, it uses very little power when asleep.

    EDIT: I do have to say that stock drive at 5400rpm is a bit rubbish, I put in a 7200rpm Western Digital drive 18 months ago and it was about £70 back then, I really don't understand why they used such a poor disk.
     
  6. Mais78 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #6
    Thanks, another factor is that I managed to order (even if they don't have it in stock for 2 weeks) the middle model on amazon for £515 vs £569 of Apple Store, so the upfront RAM/SDD upgrade with Apple would cost me £160 + (569-515)= £214 which is 42% of the base price.

    You are saying I can move the OS onto an external SSD drive? And also LR? I guess will be fast but not as fast as internal SSD as one is USB3 vs PCIe, right?

    I don't really care about boot time as long as LR is fast and responsive, I guess for that the RAM is more important then SSD?

    thanks
     
  7. Jambalaya macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2013
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    Yes you could move the OS and LR onto an external drive and boot from there (there are various boot modes accessed via holding the cmd key and once set the machine will boot from there until you say otherwise)

    I would try the internal drive first and see what you think. I think once LR is loaded for the first time it should run fine with 8gb ram and the standard disk. The OS "remembers" which apa you use regularly and preloads them so that should help LR startup. Have a search on here, there are various posters who have external ssd's as their boot drives.
     
  8. carheu macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2014
    #8
    I am also an amateur photographer with similar needs and moved recently to a MacMini.

    Regarding your questions:
    2) If you use Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik software tools, I think 8GB are enough. I went for 16GB because I need also a virtual machine and because the memory is soldered (no possibility of upgrades in the future).
    3) Lightroom will be much faster if the catalog and the previews are on a SSD. I went for the SSD option. OS, applications, the LR catalog (with more than 250K photos!) and previews occupy ~140GB on the SSD. Photos are stored on an external hard-drive.

    My previous computer had a faster CPU (i5-3570k quad-core) and SSDs. The MacMini has just a dual-core CPU. I did not notice any big difference in performance. You could have decreased performance when exporting photos, a situation in which LR uses multiple cores.
     
  9. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #9
    You need to tell us what camera you use (pixel count) and if you plan to edit raw files.

    I don't know about Lightroom, but Aperture is perfectly fine on my 1.4 gHz i7 dual core MacBook Air. I can edit Canon 5D mark II files with real-time rendering of the raw images. But Aperture makes extensive use of the gpu and Lightroom doesn't, which probably accounts for its speed.

    Eight is probably fine. That's what my MBA has.

    If you can afford the fusion drive, that's the way to go. Otherwise, get the SSD and buy yourself an external USB3 spinning drive. You lose portability, but that's one of the compromises.
     
  10. Mais78 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #10
    Thanks, I have a Canon 6D and only shoot raw (approx. 20MB files). Files get considerably larger (tif of 100-200MB at least) if i do black and white in Silver Efex pro.

    Thinking about SSD but not sure at £729 vs £515 (+42%) is good value. I am not constrained by money but I'd like to get good value for what I pay. I think I will give a standard config a try and return to amazon if too slow. Hopefully i can also add an internal SSD later on.
     
  11. magbarn macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #11
    Since you're working with raw files and LR get at least the 256gb ssd option or better the 512gb. It will make LR much faster and snappier even if you're using an external hdd. One of the main advantages of the 2014 over the 2012 mini is the pcie ssd over regular sata and you're giving that up going with a base config.

    Also if you're planning on keeping the mini for at least 5 years do yourself a favor and max out the ram. Cameras are not going down on megapixels any time soon

    BTW ram compression only helps on ram that is being used by apps in the background so for photo editing its limited in its uses
     
  12. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    #12
    I will point out that if this Mini will work for 2-3 years, instead of spending a bunch of money to get one from Apple with a special config, you are probably just better off saving the money and then selling this one in 2-3 years, use the savings from this one plus the money you sold this one for to buy what should be a considerably faster Mini (since it is 2-3 years newer). Yes you could spend a lot of money on one now, but in year 4-5 the CPU is probably going to be less than ideal as will the GPU. I always think it is silly when people try to "future" proof their computer.
     
  13. Mais78 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #13
    Paul, this is exactly my thinking, if i buy more RAM + SSD it will cost me £889 vs £515, i.e. 73% more. Not sure I will get much credit for this when I will sell it in 2-3 years time. With the £374 I save + resale value (£350?)=£724 I can get a new one in two years vs trying to future proof this one.

    Nevertheless I would like to undertand whether the standard config is decent enough for my needs ("present proof"!).
     
  14. corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Location:
    USA
    #14
    Then stay away from high profit margin niche products like Macs.

    One SSD, and without native TRIM support.

    You could buy a standard config, return it, buy another with maxed out RAM, add a SSD, and after all this you will have spent how much time and money? And, still only have a dual core netbook CPU.
     
  15. Mais78 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    #15
    I looked at your Gigabyte Brix Pro (£415), but once you start adding the price of a copy of windows, the RAM, the hard disk etc it costs more than the Mini? And connectivity isn't great with only 2 USB (I need one for mouse, one for keyboard, one for monitor and one spare - true there is bluetooth buy then I would have to buy new mouse, new keyboard etc.). Am I missing something?
     
  16. corvus32, Dec 2, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2014

    corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Location:
    USA
    #16
    There are 4 USB3 ports (2 front, 2 rear).

    In the US, the i5-4570R Brix is $415 ($385, after rebate) from Newegg.

    16GB of RAM is about $135, and a 1TB HDD is another ~$80.

    That's $600. Add another $100 for Windows 8.1, and the total is $700.

    Mini with 16GB of RAM and 1TB HDD is $900, and you only get a dual core CPU with slow graphics.

    The Brix is using the same 2.7GHz quad core CPU that's in Apple's $1299 iMac and has Iris Pro graphics.
     
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #17
    No, but they're not really going up, either. Fortunately, the sensor manufacturers are finally focusing on dynamic range and noise, which have no impact on file sizes.
     

Share This Page