Mac Mini or iMac for hobbyist photographer

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by LuminousFX, Feb 11, 2019 at 6:35 PM.

  1. LuminousFX macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2014
    #1
    After the Aperture was discontinued, I moved on to using the Photos app. I am by no means a professional photographer, I am mostly a hobbyist, taking photos of my family and events around town.

    I am currently running a hackintosh (Mojave, i5 Ivy Bridge with a GTX 650, 16 GB RAM) and am looking to upgrade to a proper Apple computer. I don't really have a time to tinker with hackintosh as much as I used to. With my current system, the Photos app is rather sluggish, I have about 20,000 photos.

    I'm thinking of getting the mac mini but I'm afraid that the lack of a proper gfx card might affect the performance of the photos app.

    What would you guys recommend?
     
  2. Kuskah macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2019
    #2
    I'd say go with the Mac Mini. (mind you, that's the machine I'm planning to get so I might be a bit biased)

    I know benchmarks don't tell the whole truth but the i7 Mini beats everything but the best iMac Pros, which are also about 5 times more expensive and even the i5 Mini is better than a lot of Macs.

    Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 (4 of them!), you can get an external GPU if you find that the integrated graphics is too weak for your workflow. You can upgrade the RAM yourself, so basically at purchase you only care about CPU and SSD size, which doesn't need to be too large, since you can use external SSD/HDD for photos.

    The only reason I'd go with iMac is if you don't have a decent monitor, mouse and keyboard.

    In the end though, for your use case they both have Thunderbolt 3 for eGPU, so in case the graphical power seems limited, you can bump that up.
     
  3. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #3
    What sort of display do you have, and do you want to keep it?

    The "unique selling point" of the iMac is that you get a 5k wide gamut display - the only near equivalent display is the Apple/LG 5k display that costs about $1200. If you want that sort of display, it makes the iMac almost a no-brainer.

    On the other hand, you're getting a last-year's model CPU with two less cores than you'd get in a comparable Mini - if you can wait, it seems likely that there will be an upgrade sometime this year, but nobody knows if, when or what any new iMac range will offer (and may well lose features like the easily upgradeable RAM). Also, although the display is wonderful, it lives and dies with the iMac and you can't connect anything else (laptop, console, old PC etc.) to it.

    If you're happy with your current display, then the Mac Mini will almost certainly let you continue to use it. It offers better CPUs than the iMac - although the real advantage only comes with multi-core optimised software - but the deal breaker is that weak iGPU - which will probably do what you need (esp. if you go for 16GB or more RAM - the iGPU doesn't have its own VRAM) but doesn't really offer much "headroom" for the future.

    eGPUs are an option if the Mini's iGPU can't cut it - although IMHO they are an expensive way to solve a problem that only exists because of Apple's limited hardware options - especially when all you want is a modest desktop GPU with just enough grunt and VRAM to smoothly drive 4k displays and cope with scaled mode. If you want to use the Apple/LG 5k display via an eGPU properly you're currently limited to the rather expensive Apple/Blackmagic eGPUs.

    Unless you fancy completely dismantling your new Mini on day one to install 3rd party RAM you'll have to pay Apple prices for 16GB or more RAM - whereas the 27" iMac allows you to very easily add 16GB of third party RAM for less than Apple want for an extra 8GB.

    I think it comes down to how you feel about all-in-ones vs. being able to choose your own displays.

    Also, if you do go for an iMac remember (a) friends don't let friends buy 1TB fusion drives (the 2/3TB options may be debatable if you really want all-in-one, but the 1TB only has a tiny flash component - having the system and apps on an internal SSD and your photo libraries on externals makes sense in other ways, too); (b) with the 27" get the 8GB RAM model, plus a 16GB (2x8) kit (or larger if you prefer) from Crucial or someone.
     
  4. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    #4
    As others have said if you already have a good monitor then the Mini is perhaps the way to go, but if you are likely to need an external GPU then look again at the entire price. Even if you already have a good monitor, as you are past the tinkering, perhaps an iMac with your existing display as a second monitor.

    Just give it until the end of March before ordering anything. See what goodies Apple is planning on launching.
     
  5. nitropowered macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2003
    Location:
    Ohio
    #5
    The iMac display is soooo good. Unless you already have a display on par, then i would lean toward the iMac.
     

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