Mac Mini or MacBook Air for desktop use?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by dmk1974, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. dmk1974 macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2008
    #1
    I currently have a 2012 Mac Mini that I upgraded with an internal SSD and have a 2 TB USB 3.0 drive connected to. I had to relocate the machine to a different room that does not have ethernet, so I am now connecting to my router via WiFi.

    I was thinking of getting a MacBook Air and thought...instead of adding the MBA, can I sell the Mac Mini and use the MBA as the desktop replacement while having the option of disconnecting and taking the MBA with me to a different room or out of the house if I need to? The majority of the time I'd be running it connected to the monitor in clamshell mode.

    The primary con is the hassle is connecting and re-connecting each time I move it from the desktop. I'd also have to be disciplined to properly disconnect the external USB drive each time (since it's shared and houses my iTunes library). I'd also have to leave it on all the time (like I do now with my Mac Mini) so files can be accessed.

    The pros though are that for wireless, I'd be connecting AC instead of N. And that I'd have one machine to log into each time instead of two (most files are on Dropbox or that USB drive though). And of course the flexibility of a laptop.

    What do you think? Thanks!
     
  2. dmk1974 thread starter macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

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  3. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 21, 2013
    #3
    You can certainly do it, and the MBA will be about as powerful as the mini. The only possible negative of the MBA is limited RAM. If you are using it for consumer tasks and as a media machine, then you won't have to worry about the RAM for at least 4-5 years. All you will need is a mini-displayport to HDMI cable and an outlet for the charger. As long as you get a system down for the cables, it will be simpler than having two machines. The portability of a laptop is great.

    Matt
     
  4. meme1255 macrumors 6502

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    Czech Republic
    #4
    I use my Air (also) this way and it's fine MOST of the time.. :) Except I don't use it in calm shell, but I use it as secondary display.
     
  5. Jschultz macrumors 6502a

    Jschultz

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    #5
    I think it's a great idea, and it's something that I do, actually. When I need to get actual work done, my air is in clamshell mode with USB mouse/keyboard and obviously, a larger monitor. When I'm done, it easily disconnects and I'm mobile.

    I think desktops serve their purpose for enterprise, but unless you've no need for mobility, a notebook coupled with an external monitor is the best option (professional work w/audio video and need for mac pro not withstanding.)
     
  6. dmk1974 thread starter macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #6
    Thanks for the replies guys! I am definitely looking at my options. Another is to have both machines with the Mini located in the basement and MacBook for my office or elsewhere in the house (when needed). If I can reliably share the iTunes library, it may also solve my problem.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1796049
     
  7. drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

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    Xhystos
    #7
    I have an MBA and a Mini. I use the MBA as the house PC (just move it around to where's convenient) linked to a roving network. The Mini has two roles - it drives a TV and functions as a more powerful "compute server" for when I need to crunch numbers or move BIG files around. It operates headless and I control it with VNC. It's on a timer so it's always on during the daytime.
     
  8. motrek macrumors 68020

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    Sep 14, 2012
    #8
    I would keep and use both.

    For a while, I was using my MacBook Air primarily to drive my TV and also as my laptop.

    I thought this was a great idea at first but realized two things after a while. First, it was kind of a pain to plug/unplug the computer every time I wanted to take it somewhere, even though it was only three cables (power, video, USB hub). Second, switching between screen resolutions means you find yourself constantly adjusting the sizes of all your windows because they're never quite right (this is something Apple could improve with OS X).

    So as long as money isn't too big of an issue I'm on the side of having a desktop for desktop use and a laptop for laptop use.
     
  9. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #9
    I used my MBA like this for a few years but added a new Mac Mini for an iTunes server this summer. Perfect setup for me. The Mini and Apple TV are on gigabit ethernet. I have an ethernet interface for the MBA, but really the 802.11ac wifi is fast enough for almost everything I do.
     
  10. dmk1974 thread starter macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #10
    With this setup, are you able to somehow also sync your iPhone/iPad (assuming you have one) to that server but when connecting the iOS device to your MBA?
     
  11. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #11
    Not really sure what you're asking. I have an iPhone 5s but I manage the library manually. I have not added anything to it since I moved my main iTunes library to the Mini, the last time I did I used the MBA. I have a small library on my MBA which is a subset of the big one on the Mini. Next time I want to change content on my iPhone, I will either connect it to the mini or move the stuff I want to the MBA first and use that.
     
  12. paolo- macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 24, 2008
    #12
    I run a similar set but with an rMBP and I rarely remove the computer from my desk. The only time I remove it is when I use it outside the house. If you don't need your computer for location work, you're probably better off with the desktop. Maybe get a tablet for casual browsing?
     
  13. motrek macrumors 68020

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    #13
    Advantage of the Minis is that they have pretty quick processors and better cooling, so if you do something compute-heavy on a Mini it will run faster and make less noise and in general be less stressed out than a MacBook. (Although it is definitely possible to get a quad-core Mini to become audible...)

    Also, a Mini has space in the case for both an SSD and a hard drive, which is nice.
     
  14. paolo- macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 24, 2008
    #14
    I think we're on the same page. By desktop, I did include the mini :)
     
  15. imaccooper macrumors regular

    imaccooper

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    North Carolina
    #15
    In response to your original question, i would offer one of two solutions depending on your needs. I have an air and it works great for everything I do at home, but it would not perform some of the heavier tasks such as media editing and other ram intensive projects that i perform at work (with an imac). So I would suggest assessing your possible needs and if you will rarely if ever require more computing power than the air can handle (which is surprisingly decent), i would suggest selling the mini in favor of the air. The other option would be to buy a macbook pro which will most certainly give you all the computing power you will need but offer the same portability. Obviously it all comes down to your usage and habits but those would be the two options i would suggest.
     
  16. octothorpe8, Oct 6, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014

    octothorpe8 macrumors 6502

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    #16
    I've got an Air (11") and a Mini and find it great to have both because they each do things the other wouldn't be as good at.

    - the Mini functions as a media server to send music and video to my living room and kitchen. It also has a nice big monitor for video editing and graphic design, and being able to generally have a nice big canvas for at-home projects. It's maxed out on RAM and has a nice keyboard and mouse attached, and is ready to use any time, no docking/undocking/mess of cables required.

    - the Air is minimally loaded with stuff and is mostly a general writing/email/internet use machine. It's highly portable and I have it with me most days without any significant bulk or weight. It's not as well-equipped as the Mini but it also doesn't need to be because it has no big storage or processing burdens.

    Files between the two are kept in sync with Dropbox and it works pretty great and seamlessly.

    I *could* get by with just the Air, but I'm pretty spoiled being able to use my laptop freely anywhere at home while the Mini is busy streaming music or converting video or whatever else. Also, like I said, I get to bypass the whole PITA docking process and just sync files wirelessly. I'm already able to jump back and forth between machines very easily, and I suspect Handoff will make this even easier when Yosemite launches.
     
  17. dmk1974 thread starter macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #17
    Well, I just bought an open-box base 11" MacBook Air from Best Buy today ($675 after coupon pre-tax and RZ certs). I'll probably go with the same setup where the Mac Mini is the media server for desktop use and the MBA for everywhere else in the house or elsewhere.

    I had my previous MacBook setup with my name for the profile and the Mac Mini as a "server" profile. For my new MBA, I can just restore via TimeMachine from the old MacBook. Or I was thinking of setting it up from scratch with the clean install of Yosemite. My question is, can I name my MBA the same "server" profile name just in case someday I ditch the Mac Mini and just connect to the MBA? Or does that cause problems when I remotely connect to the Mac Mini to access the media files? Another option would be where I backup the Mac Mini via TM and then restore it as well to the MBA so they are setup exactly the same. Thoughts/concerns with either path?
     
  18. octothorpe8 macrumors 6502

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    Feb 27, 2014
    #18
    I'd do the clean install of Yosemite and then fire up Migration Assistant to pull in your old user account, and install your apps fresh.

    You mean just the user account name? I don't know if that really matters. My user account on my mini is named the same thing as the one on my Air.

    Not sure what you're trying to do, but I find that Dropbox installed on both machines keeps them pretty well in sync as far as the documents I work on on both machines. I don't think you can restore from a backup of one machine onto another. I'd just set up each one as new and keep whatever files you want to have synced inside Dropbox or the new iCloud Drive maybe. Can definitely vouch for Dropbox.
     
  19. dmk1974 thread starter macrumors 68000

    dmk1974

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #19
    That's good that both machines can have the same user account name. I wasn't sure since I'd like to be able to access the files on the Mini over WiFi from the MBA. In the past, I've had some file restriction errors with the different names.

    The only reason to restore the Mini TM to the MBA is so both are set up identical. I do plan to use Dropbox for syncing most of my key files (not media though...those remain on the USB connected to the Mini). I'll just setup the MBA as new.
     
  20. iAppl3Fan macrumors 6502a

    iAppl3Fan

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    #20
    How do you put it on a timer so that it turns on and off?
     
  21. sergiobaschi macrumors regular

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    Gothenburg, Sweden
    #21
    These things always confuse me. How BIG are the files your MBA can't move around? And how exactly do you "move" them?

    Thanks.
     
  22. sflomenb macrumors 6502a

    sflomenb

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    Jul 22, 2011
    #22
    At college I have an external display set up and use my 2013 MacBook Air in clamshell mode. Works great.
     
  23. drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

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    #23
    System Preferences>Energy Saver>Schedule>

    ----------

    I have 2 NAS units. One for use and one for back-up. I mirror one to the other once a week. Typically if I have added video files to the main NAS then I'm moving 40GB files from one to the other. With a LAN link (via the Mini), then they go at a decent data rate - if I used the MBA then I would have to go via WiFi (less than half the data rate)

    I also don't keep any data files on the MBA anyway as I never take it out of range of my home WiFi. So all my in-use files are on the NAS and are linked-to at startup.
     
  24. markusbeutel macrumors regular

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    Sep 26, 2014
    #24
    No. Just no. The MacBook Air can't touch the 2012 quad i7 mac minis. The low level 2012's and the 'new' 2014 minis? Sure, get a MacBook Air as these Mini's are dual core, and you won't notice much difference between them and an Air.

    If you want the best performance and bang for your buck, track down a quad i7 Mac Mini from late 2012.
     
  25. drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

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    #25
    I agree, that's why I have both.
     

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