Mac Mini or iMac for casual user?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by sinar, Nov 3, 2015.

  1. sinar macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2007

    My mother's old 24" iMac is broken, and she's asked me to advise her what to buy if it's not economically repairable (we are taking it to an Apple Store tomorrow to get it looked at)

    She uses it for basic things (she uses her iPad most of the time). The most taxing thing she does is editing photos, she's quite a keen photographer and has a decent camera, so is editing large files, but she she does not do heavy duty photoshop editing on them.

    I think her best options are the 21" iMac 2.8 quad i5, (i'm not sure she would benefit from a 4K display as her eyes are not great), or a cheaper option of a Mac Mini 2.6 dual i5, and buying a separate screen.

    The main difference on paper i can see, is that the Mac Mini is dual core and the iMac is quad core, the Mac Mini will be about £300 cheaper with screen than the iMac.

    Is there any other differences i should know about? Is the difference in the quad core and dual core processor something she would notice using the included photo app?

    thanks for reading, and thoughts appreciated.
  2. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    To be honest it sounds like it will make little difference processor wise the integrated GPU in the iMac is far better and should give better performance for longer, I would also say that the 4K screen will be much easier on her eyes especially for text and reading online etc, so while she may not see much difference she may well notice less eye strain or fatigue.

    Other than that I can't see it making any real difference to be honest.
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    At an absolute minimum I'd suggest a Fusion drive, or preferably pure SSD if budget allows. The 5400RPM drives in the Mac Mini & 21" iMac are 2.5" laptop drives, which are even slower than their desktop counterparts. Coupled with the latest OS, it'll run horribly slow from new, and you'll have essentially wasted your money.

    I'd suggest a 3TB Fusion, so you get the benefit of the 128GB SSD rather than the tiny (24GB I think) SSD you get in the 1TB Fusion -- or pure Flash. Once you've priced that up, see what the budget allows for the rest of the bits. :)
  4. an-other macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2011
    You can't go wrong either way, however I'd view the iMac as a more elegant solution. You may (or may not need a disc drive depending on how she backs up her pictures.)

    I would suggest looking at options in the Refurbish Section of the Apple Store. it doesn't sound like your mum needs the latest/greatest version, and refurbs are good deals. You can add on Apple Care if you desire, too.

    Don't underestimate the value of Apple Remote access for supporting family computers. It's not their best software for sure and I probably use only a third of its capabilities, but it saves me a lot of time and aggro.

    I also found a time capsule was extremely worthwhile, too (and available as Refurbs.) it kind of eats up your budget for a reasonable replacement. The ease of use and dependability justify its price to me although others could be quick to offer other options.

    My main focus is supporting me mum is stability, ease of use, and my time. It's worth it to me to pay for "full service" stuff in this space as i don't want to get a call "my x doesn't work" when I'm stuck in at work.

    My view is one of many, so weigh my thoughts against the other's. There's no right or wrong. It's all about optimising your situation.
  5. srminton macrumors regular


    Sep 5, 2008
    Sounds exactly like my dad, and if I was helping him to choose a new Mac right now, it would be the iMac with retina display (21 or 27 inch), BUT with the Hard Drive swapped out for either a Fusion Drive or, preferably, pure SSD. If that was outside of the budget, I would get the Mac Mini, but again, with an SSD drive. Even the base model Mini (the one with the 1.4GHz processor) will run smoother and faster than an iMac if you put in an SSD drive. I know this, because that's what I use in my home office - with an SSD drive, it's basically like a desktop version of the base MacBook Air, and runs really fast despite the puny processor. For casual use, you really don't need a faster processor - you just need an SSD drive. But if budget allows, I would get the iMac with retina display, as you say that she enjoys photography and the high-resolution screen will definitely improve that experience.
  6. Ebenezum macrumors 6502a

    Mar 31, 2015
    Since you didn't mention budjet I am assuming your mom wants to use as little money as possible.

    In that case I recommend Mac Mini 2.6 dual core. Purchase external USB3 case and SATA SSD, about 100€ for 250 Gb SSD and case. Consider ordering it with 16 Bg of RAM if your mom intends to use it for long time, RAM cannot be upgraded later. 8 is enough for now but if her needs grow it will insufficient later.

    Compared to Apples internal SSD its somewhat slower but cost much less while being plenty fast for your moms needs.

    Basic model iMac is much more expensive while it's not much faster for light use.

    Mac Mini 2012 with i7 processor might be good alternative if you can find one in good condition and with a reasonable price. Upgrades are much easier compared to Mac Mini 2014 and current iMacs.
  7. sinar thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2007
    Thanks for the replies, we are going to the Apple store today, and if she needs a new computer we are going to check all the options out, particularly if she can see a benefit with the 4k iMac, she has macular degeneration in both her eyes, and can not see the difference between SD and HD on her HD TV, but she can see clearer closer up, she sees her ipad very well.

    Budget is quite tight really, i'm not keen on the slow hard Drives, i have a 27" with a 7200 RPM HD and that is bad enough, personally i'd go with a smaller SSD, but that would take her too far out of budget, i'm less enthused by the fusion option now they have decreased the size of the SSD,

    Its tricky finding the sweet spot, whatever she gets will be so much faster than her old 24", and she has never complained that that is slow, she might only use it an hour or two a week.

    l like the option of going for the 256GB ssd, and storing all her photos on an external drive, but i think that might complicate things for her.
  8. sinar thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2007
    To complicate things a bit further, she is now considering a Macbook (or Air or Pro), i like the fact that would get rid of the Hard drive , i'm not sure 13" screens will be suitable (15" is out of budget),

    Yesterday there seemed to be a lot of Macs added to the refurb store, so that is very much an option, I tend to by my Macs refurbed,
  9. sinar thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 11, 2007
    My mother and I went to the Apple store yesterday, and she has decided on the 4K 21" iMac, they had the entry level iMac and the 4K one side by side, and she clearly noticed the difference in the screen.

    She's going to wait until Black Friday to see if she can get it a little cheaper, thanks a lot for all the comments.
  10. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    If you can order online with the 1TB fusion drive it's not an expensive upgrade but that 24GB of SSD cache will help the speed tremendously.
  11. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    When you get a Mac Mini, you will need to get a monitor and perhaps use your old keyboard and mouse. If you get a somewhat decent monitor (strictly speaking - easy on the eyes and good enough to do reasonable hobbyist photo edits) then costs might be similar to the iMac.

    In your case, I would suggest the iMac for your purchase. It is far more bang for the buck than the anemic Mac Minis (especially if any of the apps really do take advantage of multi-core).

    Btw, I was a hug Mac Mini fan for years. I have shied away from them given the latest round being castrated. The iMac with SSD or Fusion should serve your mother quite nicely for a long time and the footprint would be smaller as an all in one over a Mac Mini plus monitor (though not much smaller).

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