Mac Mini Performance Highly Disappointing

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Gregintosh, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    After reading some of the threads here with people being very happy with their minis, I decided to head down to the Apple store and give it a go.

    I used each of the computers (a Mac mini, Mac Pro, and iMac) for about 10 minutes (which seems like forever when you are in a crowded retail store) doing things I would normally be doing at home.

    The iMac was fine, as expected. It handled just about everything with satisfactory speed, even thought it was the base 24" model with no fancy processors or graphics.


    The Mac Mini though was quite disappointing. To render a 1 minute video in iMovie it took around 4 minutes. The Mac Pro did the job on the same exact movie (sample file found on every display computer) in about 45 seconds.

    Another big difference was apparent, while the movies were rendering, the Mac Pro was completely responsive and I was able to load iPhoto, Pages, Numbers, Safari, and iTunes. Each opened up within seconds, and each interface was running smoothly as if nothing was happening in the background (granted for a short period as the movie finished rendering quickly).

    On the Mac Mini, the computer was choking while even launching one or two additional programs. There was also significant lag moving the mouse around and clicking on stuff.

    Definitely not much of an issue if one is going to render a 1 minute clip every once in a while, but imagine rendering a 45 minute vacation video or other video project. On the Mac Pro, it would probably take around half an hour to 45 minutes, during which you could keep using your computer just fine, while on the Mac Mini that would take 3 hours during which your computer is useless (even for small things like surfing the net and iTunes).

    I didn't get a chance to run the same test on the iMac, but I imagine it would be somewhere in between. I will probably return to the Apple store soon and check it out.

    Other Tasks

    In other tasks, the iMac and Mac Pro seemed identical. Having Photoshop CS4, Pages, Numbers, Safari, Keynote, and Mail open at the same time had no effect on the smooth experience. Both were able to switch between programs quickly, and each program was very responsive. On Photoshop, filters applied to large files took about as long on each computer as well. Loading times and comparative performance in pro apps like Logic and Final Cut were also pretty similar.

    I have no doubt that rendering and hardcore processing tasks would have gone to the Mac Pro, but I didn't test those at this point, just how smoothly I was able to get around programs and perform minor quick tasks with them.

    On the Mac Mini, the computer seemed to choke again once several programs were open (heck, even when just ONE or TWO programs were open like GarageBand and iPhoto, for example). The most notable thing was the Dock magnification pausing for a bit and then not animating smoothly (not sure if I am explaining it right). The display computer didn't even have Photoshop CS4 installed, nor Logic or any other pro apps.

    Obviously the mini is not a pro computer, but my guess is they didn't load it up on it so that people can't see how horribly it performs on them.

    The mini did have Photoshop Elements, which performed like crap. I don't know if its just the program though since I remember during my Windows days Photoshop Elements running like crap compared to the regular Photoshop.


    In any case, I am thinking about upgrading or changing out my Apple hardware by the end of the year or early next year and this experience has definitely eliminated the Mac Mini as a possibility for me.

    I am sure if I upgraded the HD and RAM it would give it somewhat of a boost, but I'd rather put more money and the time/effort into upgrading a brand new machine that is already good into something even better than upgrade a brand new machine that is unusable into something barely adequate.

    It's a shame too because I was semi-hoping to put my money on a 30" ACD and using a mini until I made enough money to buy a Mac Pro a year or so later. As it looks now, once I sell off my current computers I will probably look to upgrade to the 24" iMac, which will make getting a 30" ACD and Mac Pro impossible for at least a few years after that since I don't want more than one system at a time.

    *sigh* If only they made a 30" iMac (even at $2,999)...


    If they revise the Mac Mini in less than a couple of years like last time and put in more decent processing power, more memory, and a better performing HD as standard (for the same price) then I would consider looking at it again.

    I'd say 2.4Ghz should be the BASE processor and either a 7200 rpm (like a 320GB or 500GB) or SSD hard drive (256GB minimum) should be standard. Obviously SSD prices won't allow that in the next year or two, but there's no excuse for the lack of 7200 rpm in a desktop which I feel would help performance plenty (while making the SSD upgrade price slightly more reasonably close to market prices).

    Selling a unit with 1 to 2 GB of RAM as standard is also shameful. The low end mini should come with at least 2GB standard, and in one chip too so that you aren't forced to lose memory while upgrading, while the high end should come with 4GB.

    For Those Who Are Considering Buying

    I would say stay away unless all you will be running is surfing the web, checking e-mail, typing basic documents, and playing movies (and not all of the above at the same time).

    If you are going to put movies together in iMovie or going to use ANY pro apps, I would recommend staying away and either saving up for a pro or getting an iMac.

    I would further recommend anyone in the vicinity of an Apple store or another store that carries the mini and has it on display to go play with it for a bit. Not for a minute or two, but really open up all the programs you see yourself using and get a real feel for how it would be. This will either convince you that it's the computer for you or save you from being disappointed later.
  2. aaquib macrumors 65816


    Sep 11, 2007
    Toronto, Canada
    Are you honestly comparing a $2500+ Mac Pro to a $599 Mac mini?

    Hmmmm :p
  3. Gregintosh thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    Well obviously there's going to be a big difference, and while I did not for a minute expect the mini to handle what a pro can, I DID expect it to handle rendering a movie in iMovie and run Safari at the same time.

    I also did expect the mini not to choke while running one or two programs at a time (like GarageBand and iPhoto), fully knowing that the pro can probably run a several dozen.

    I am also comparing the mini to the iMac, which is also a difference of night and day. With upgrades, the mini approaches the cost of an iMac anyway (and still doesn't beat the iMac in processing power as the maximum is 2.26Ghz while the iMac's MINIMUM is 2.66).

    For that matter, I'd compare it to even MacBooks. My Aluminum 2.4Ghz MacBook could run circles around the Mac Mini, even without the aftermarket upgrades I performed a few months after purchase.

    At the present time, I think they should've made the $799 model with the 2.26Ghz upgrade be the standard $599 model.
  4. iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    No, something isn't right then. We use the previous Mac Mini's at work which has lesser specs than the current models and no we don't have CS4 or any Adobe product installed, it runs pretty much everything else fine at the same time. Even with a Mac Mini, you should have no problems running 2 applications at the same time even if iMovie is rendering. I wouldn't base my decision on your experience. The Mac Mini isn't an iMac or a Mac Pro, but it is a HIGHLY capable machine for it's size and should be able to do more than what was done on your visit.
  5. lamerica80 macrumors 6502a


    May 22, 2008
    Somethings not right here. Im on a one year old whitebook with 2gb ram, and im running garageband, ms word, iphoto, safari, firefox AND playing a movie with VLC and the thing is running as smoothly as ever. Only thing noted is scrolling on flash intense web pages is not as smooth as it should be, but besides that its fine.
  6. ADent macrumors 6502a

    Sep 9, 2007
    The MacPro had 4 or 8 cores? If 8 then it should render stuff at least 4 times faster (plus MHz differences).

    My 2007 mini is snappy - but I have 4GB of RAM. 1GB is not enough for Leopard unless you are running just one app.
  7. maverick72 macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    30 inch display on a mac mini.....

    So .... let me get this straight ... you want to put formula1 tires on a 72 pinto?

    Just brilliant :confused:
  8. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

    Jul 22, 2005
    The new mini with Mini Display Port is capable of running a 30" display, as is the iMac, MacBook and MacBook Air.
  9. DELTAsnake macrumors 6502


    Jul 18, 2008
    A Mac Pro has 8 cores and up to 32gb of ram, the Mac Mini has 2 cores and up to 4gb of ram. Do you really expect a Mac Mini to be just as fast as a 8 core 32gb monster?
  10. Gregintosh thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    Screen real estate is more important to me than raw computational power due to the tasks I usually use my computer for. As long as it runs smoothly on the programs I use the most I am happy. Render times for videos and other encoding things are last on my list of priorities as long as I can use the rest of the computer smoothly. Eventually I would like to have a nice Mac Pro and just have the best mac money can buy in every category, but for my business needs it is more important that I get as much resolution as I can afford as a first priority.

    I am thinking based on what some of the other posters said that the mac mini I was using was the 1GB model which probably would explain the different experience (I'll have to go back and double check). If that's the case I wonder if they have any fully specced models on display and how they would work.

    I know the Apple stores in the US (at least the ones I went to) had the top of the line models on display (for example, the MacBook Airs with SSDs). The Apple Store here in Sydney appears to have all the base models (all the iMacs I used had the 9400m, all the Airs had regular HDs, and even the Pro I was using was the base model with 3GB of RAM).
  11. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

    Jul 5, 2008
    Thule GL @ the TOW
    #11 don't buy it, get something better suited to your needs:eek:
  12. TheReef macrumors 68000


    Sep 30, 2007
    NSW, Australia.
    With the mini the good thing is you can run apps/scratch disks or even boot from a FireWire 800 drive to speed things up.

    Most likely the low ram, mine should arrive tomorrow (2.0Ghz, 4GB Ram) looking forward to a nice boost in speed for Aperture. :D

    I'll let you know how that it goes with Apple 20" ACD (1650x1080) + 19" (1440x900) - Expecting to prove you wrong :p
  13. Gregintosh thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    Can't wait to hear your report, hopefully after you play with it a bit.

    I honestly wish it works very well because the mini was my ticket to justifying the 30" ACD. I can't afford $4,000+ for a Mac Pro & 30" ACD combo setup, at least not straight away in one shot.

    The only chance of that is if I get lucky and catch another 30" ACD for $1,199 deal like they had on NewEgg about a week ago (for open box), but even then it'd be tough.

    And yes, J&J, that is what I will likely do. Unless I can get my hands on an upgraded mini and test it out to my liking, I will probably end up getting the 24" - or whatever is the largest available - iMac (probably after the next revision, since I am not planning on buying until closer to the end of the year or beginning of next year).
  14. synagence macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2008
    I agree that your mac sounds badly performing .... i had a 2008 mini with 2.5gb ram and i could easily run a handbrake encode, photoshop and itunes at the same time without any problems...

    But saying that a mini too 4 mins and macpro 1 min is a bit daft to compare
  15. TrapOx macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2008
    Buy 6 minis and you'll have about the same performance as the Mac Pro you were comparing it with. :rolleyes:
  16. azdunerat macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2009
    I am confused as well. What spec mini did you buy??? If you bought the 1 gig model and are disappointed then I would not be surprised. I have last years 2.0 maxed out on ram (only 3.3) and I can use handbrake for encodes while still running multiple apps. Something isnt right here
  17. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    I didn't read any of that, but I'll still sum it up for everyone

    Conclusion: Mac Pro's are better than Mac Mini's. Thank you.

    Also, OP, could you explain why you thought the Mac Mini would perform better than a base model Macbook, they are essentially the same exact machine?
  18. Gregintosh thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    As I've mentioned in the beginning of the thread, I did not buy anything, I just tested them out at the Sydney Apple store for a while. I spent around 10 mins on each computer.

    I personally own a MacBook 2.4Ghz with 4GB of RAM and SSD (both aftermarket upgrades), and back home in the US I have a 20" Aluminum 2.4Ghz iMac with HD 2600 Pro 256MB, 4GB RAM, and 320GB HD (which I will be reunited with when I return in a few months).

    The point I was making wasn't that a mac pro is faster than the mini (duh) but that the mini, in addition to taking longer (which is fine), was also virtually unusable during the rendering. I was simply pointing out how weak the mini was, to the point where it really doesn't hold up on its own merits.

    I wasn't expecting anything, I was simply making observations about what happened.
  19. HereComeTheBugs macrumors newbie

    Jul 15, 2004
    Thanks for posting your results Gregintosh.

    I also have been trying to decide what my upgrade path is going to be (current Mac Mini owner). I'll probably take a page from your book and run similar tests on the Macs at my Apple store. That's a great idea by the way, rendering the same movie in iMovie, I'm not sure why I didn't think of that.

    I'm curious though, the Mac Mini you tested, was it the 1GB or 2GB RAM version?
  20. belltree macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2008
    Tokyo, Japan

    I would attribute the performance issues you experienced on the mini to:

    - 1GB RAM (likely in the showroom model).
    - 5,400 rpm drive.

    Upgrading to 7,200rpm or SDD and 4GB of RAM would make a world of difference in terms of system responsiveness during rendering and other multitasking.

    The CPU itself, of course, is quite the limiting factor for the rendering work but sadly there is no upgrade path beyond 2.26 Ghz in the current gen Mini :( (hopefully 2010 ver!).
  21. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    Rendering on my 2GHz C2D isn't the quickest but with sufficient RAM you should be able to do lots of other things at the same time. I wonder why the store puts the lowest spec mini out on display? The should have put the 2GB model out.
  22. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    You're joking, right? Video encoding is processor dependent, so this is precisely what is to be expected. There is no "disappointment" with the Mini's performance. It is your expectations that are unrealistic.

    How much RAM was in the Mini? 1 gb, I bet. Also completely expected.

    It would have been approximately proportional to processor speed, as expected. You don't know much about OS X, do you?

    Again, a limitation of RAM more than anything, and 5400 rpm drive to a lesser extent.

    One would never have guessed based upon your ill informed diatribe.


    I don't understand why anyone would buy a 30" ACD right now. It's pretty antiquated.

    You won't get any of that if you expect the same form factor. One of the Mini's hallmarks is its size. Try getting yourself a PC that's 6.5" x 6.6" x 2" with this much performance. Ain't gonna happen.

    How are you going to deal with the heat?

    Depending on the platter density, it may or may not significantly impact the performance. Again, this will also introduce more heat. How will you deal with that and preserve the current form factor? Put a big ole fan in there like every single Windows box? Sorry, that's contrary to the Mini's design.

    You've just described 80% of the Mini's market. And you could do all of those things concurrently even on the previous generation Mac Mini. I ran Photoshop CS3 and Aperture on a Mini for a couple of years. It wasn't blazing fast, but it wasn't annoyingly slow, either.

    Again, nonsense. You don't know what you're talking about. Your entire "experience" with the Mini was based on a few minutes and you made all these gross generalizations, most of which are completely untrue. Your post is utter BS.
  23. DannySmurf macrumors 6502a

    Jul 7, 2005
    @Gregintosh: If you're going to test a mini, make sure it is not the basic configuration, low-end model. That model comes with 1GB of RAM. That is, emphatically, not enough.

    I bought my girlfriend a last-gen mini a while ago (which also came with 1GB of RAM), and when doing anything at all, the computer would start to sputter if you started a second task (if Time Machine was running, Calendar opening and populating took almost 5 minutes). This improved DRAMATICALLY once I upgraded the machine to 2GB of RAM.

    Just something to keep in mind.
  24. maverick72 macrumors member

    Apr 10, 2009
    I'm not against your explaination but that quote pretty much sums it up.
  25. polya80 macrumors member

    Apr 13, 2009
    Cambridge, MA

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