Mac mini Server for graphic design?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by marcelsendrea, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. marcelsendrea, Oct 11, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011

    marcelsendrea macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2011
    Hello guys,
    I was reading other posts but still didn't make my mind.
    I'd like to upgrade my wife's computer. She's a children's book illustrator and will be doing mostly CS5 Applications (IIllustrator&Photoshop) and quite often here files are big like 400MB to 800MB. There are reasons we can't go with iMac so question will be is the Mac mini Server [i7 + ram upgrade 8GB] good for her?

    Your advice will be highly appreciated.
  2. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    You'd probably benefit more from the discrete card than you would from the Quad CPU
  3. marcelsendrea thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2011
    You mean 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6630M [$799.00] will be better for her since she will be doing mostly graphic design?

    Please could you be so kind and underline what may be the benefits?

  4. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    I'm with the 2.5GHz model. Maybe not so much that the graphics card will help (maybe a little, but not a ton), but that it's cheaper and the sever model just isn't necessary for that. I'd say the 2.5 model and a 3rd party RAM upgrade to 8GB.
  5. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    I'd go even further and state that if you're able and willing to replace the HDD, buy the base model and upgrade RAM to 8GB and replace HDD with SATA III SSD.
  6. marcelsendrea thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2011
    Interesting! Have to read about this. Thanks
  7. ecPixel macrumors newbie

    Jun 3, 2009
    I'm a graphic designer myself, I can tell you that video card does not affect speed for graphic jobs. I just upgraded my wife's computer from iMac to Mac Mini. Server version.

    I was going to get a 6G SSD for her, but she didn't think for her need she needs it. I set up the stock 2 x 500gb as RAID 0. Opens photoshop & illustrator CS5 in seconds.

    I haven't done intense graphic jobs on her computer, but the other day I opened a 5D mark II RAW file and did some minor editing and it was enough for my need.

    I debated about i7 server or not for quite awhile. But decided to go with the server. But for a graphic designer use, either or would work.

    I did upgrade the RAM to 8gb though.
  8. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'm not sure you understand how the software listed makes use of the gpu. Any of the minis are fine in terms of OpenGL drawing unless you're working with unusually high resolutions (say A4+ in size). I mean ok the gpu has become a bigger factor than it once was, but there's a lot of misunderstanding here. Up until CS4 the gpus were virtually meaningless as the cpu handled the drawing functions. The OP didn't mention if he makes use of any of the 3d functions in either of these programs. Those lean a little more on the gpu. Regardless the discreet gpu sucks just a bit less than the integrated graphics and both are starved on ram.

    Graphic design has very little to do with what gpu you're using. This is a really common misconception. As I stated the gpu performance from either version is dismal anyway. If you don't believe me check Adobe's site. They list every function that can be delegated to gpu rendering in each program.

    I'd say ram to 8GB would be a good buy. There are cheaper ways to obtain it than Apple considering the OP is obviously on a budget. Consider some of the third party retailers too. They often have better pricing. At this point SSDs are still awfully expensive for what you get out of them in terms of the kind of work you are doing. If you don't have your data files on that drive it'll be a little faster. If you went with an SSD you probably wouldn't have room for them anyway.

    I work in a similar field. I would suggest your wife try illustrator on a mini at the Apple store. It can be significantly more intense than photoshop. With photoshop there's a lot you can do to speed it up. Disk warrior if you're seeing the spinning wheel too much, turn off thumbnails (all of my layers are labeled anyway), test cache levels, keep history set low, blah I could go on with this for some time. I will post more if you like on that matter. I did this stuff on a G5 until maybe a year ago, and my files were were often big enough that they had to be saved .psb. What may suck is that you're up against a wall with ram. I would suggest you might go with a single boot disk and make the second drive a scratch drive for her. That should pretty much alleviate IO concerns. I do really feel an SSD is false economy on a budget machine.

    Really 400MB is nothing. 800 MB is still not that bad. I have files that going into several GB. 800 is well contained within 8G of ram.
  9. Adamantoise, Oct 12, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011

    Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    I understand that they're expensive but I can't think of many applications that won't benefit from a SATA III SSD.

    RAID 0 7200 RPM HDDs yield about 180 MB/s read and write. With SATA III SSD's you're looking at 500 MB/s read and maybe 300 MB/s write.
  10. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    This (Mac Mini Server in RAID 0 with aftermarket 8GB) is by far the best budget route to go for a high performance Mac Mini. Raw file throughput is approximately the same as the Apple (Toshiba) SSD [although seek times are substantially slower].

    Discrete graphics does not help much for Photoshop, Illustrator, Aperture, etc. They may help with FinalCut Pro, but not all aspects [limited to import]. Discrete graphics definitely is utilized for CAD programs, however, the AMD 6630M in the mid-range Mac Mini may not add that much boost. The i7 quad-core can probably pull up the slack. The integrated Intel HD 3000's Intel QuickSync is great for transcoding video [not sure if its available under OSX, but definitely works in Windows 7 x64 bootcamp].

    Basically, for $200 more you get a second hard drive and much better processor over the mid-range Mac Mini. The second drive ($60) plus cables ($35) and mounts ($32) [not to mention time, skillset, risk] take up a good portion of the $200 delta.
  11. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Yes you get really fast reads and writes. I suggested that he wants to hold as much in ram as possible. 180MB/s sounds a little low but it shouldn't be overly taxing the disk constantly. I'm still a fan of either dedicated scratch or tons (I mean tons) of ram. You do need some free space on an SSD to get that kind of performance. I wouldn't go any lower than something like the 256. To me $400 is quite an increase for a low budget machine. I don't think he's going to be terribly starved for IO anyway with the uses described. If he is separate scratch would be ideal as opposed to a lot of disk skipping. It seems a little old school but it still works well. On opening/closing large files the only bottleneck to a boot drive would be if it has to write a lot of data to scratch while opening without a dedicated scratch drive. At 8GB of ram and file sizes capped around 800 MB, this shouldn't be an issue.

    The SSD would open applications faster. If his wife is an illustrator though and is spending potentially hours within a specific program at a time, seeing said application open faster isn't a huge productivity gain.

    I don't really consider the lower ones personally. It's like buying a stationary macbook air. What is the point of that? None of the options seem to run faster than the top macbook pros. They're definitely not up with the imac in terms of specs. I'm not sure if they run cooler than the laptops or not. The main point of a mini is low cost of entry. GPU performance can help slightly in final cut pro. The ones in the mini aren't enough to show you a significant difference in a cad program or even FCPX. If he was using FCPX he'd actually have to buy the one with discreet graphics just due to lack of OpenCL on the integrated version until next year. Actually the only possible reason for going with the lower mini would be if you need OpenCL, but it would make more sense to go up a couple hundred and just buy a quad imac unless the display isn't suitable.
  12. marcelsendrea thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2011
    Thanks allot for stepping in. Your ideas and thought are extremely helpful and push me to think outside of the box.
  13. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_5 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8L1 Safari/6533.18.5)

    The Mac Mini Server has more processing power than a 21" base iMac. The iMac does gain the screen and extra RAM slots.

    Alternative to installing SSD is to RAID 0 the servers 7200RPM drives and spend the $400 on RAM instead. Newegg has Kingston 8GB sticks for around that price. It's been tested in the 2011 Mac Mini (myself and others, I'm even using them in a 2010 27" iMac).
  14. Buckeyes1995 macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2011
    Do you know what the disk read/write performane is with the 2x 500GB drives in Raid 0?
  15. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    Approximately 180 MB/s
  16. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    The base Mini is more than your wife needs for illustration. Put 8 GB RAM in and you're done.
  17. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Interesting thread. I don't want to hijack it, but I'm in a similar position - trying to choose a Mini as a dedicated photography machine. Mainly to be used for Photoshop, but also PhotoMechanic, RAW Developer, and PTGui.

    I work with large, layered 16 bit files (500Mb to 1.5Gb). I like to save often, so speed of saving is important. And I want fast, responsive brushes (cloning, healing, dodge/burn etc).

    I'm coming from an ageing G5 tower (2.3ghz dualcore, 12 Gb ram), so anything is going to seem fast! (I recently bought a 13" Air, and it runs rings round the G5 - about 3 times faster in all respects - opening and saving files, and running complex actions etc.)

    What I've gathered from this thread is that the GPU is not that important, and that an upgrade to 8Mb of aftermarket ram is essential.

    But given that, I'm not sure of the pros and cons of the following 2 options:

    Option 1. - Base Mac Mini, 8Gb ram, stock drive exchanged for a 128Gb OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G

    Option 2. - Base Mac Mini Server, 8Gb ram, stock drives set up as RAID0.

    The first option is slightly cheaper, but requires cracking open the Mini (and presumably voiding its warranty). I'm thinking it will be faster than option 2, but with the inconvenience of there being much less space for working files.

    What else should I be considering?

  18. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    depending on your location usa vs overseas. I suggest the server model look for secondary sellers if you are usa based. some solid ebay sellers will sell the server with 8gb ram installed either the 2 x 500 gb model or the 2x 750gb model. amazon has the server at a discount and you can get ram for about 50 bucks.

    the 500gb model at amazon is 973

    the ram is 48

    so you are at 1021 way lower then apple store..

    or look for a 2011 server with 2 x 750 gb hdd with 8gb ram on ebay some sellers have it at 1200 no tax it is 1300 plus tax at the apple store.

    the 750gb hdd is much faster then the 500gb hdd in the servers. If you ebay you may get ebucks discounts.

    but I would think getting a server with 2 x 750 gb hdds and 8gb ram will be very good for your needs. all of these are usa prices.

    some where I read that the 750gb 7200 rpm hdds are 10 to 15 percent faster then the 500gb rpm hdds. i will look for the tests.
  19. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Thanks for the reply. It's interesting to know that the 750gb drives are faster than the 500gb drives.

    I'm based in the UK. I've just checked Amazon UK, but their price for the Mac Mini Server is only £15 less than the Apple Store. A bigger discount of £60 can be had on Ebay UK, but I'm wary of eBay.

    So I'm looking at the Mac Mini Server, upgraded to 750gb drives, for £929 at the Apple Store. And then 8gb of ram from Crucial for £43. Total £972. (I know, it's much cheaper in the US.)

    At the moment I'm siding with the server option, rather than the base model + ssd, because:

    - the extra capacity will be useful (I shoot about 1tb a year, so a 750gb working drive will allow me to have the last 6 months of work close to hand.)

    - 2ghz quad-core i7 (server) vs. 2.3ghz dual i5 (base) - I don't really understand this stuff, but I'm thinking the quad-core might run photoshop faster (?). And I'm fairly certain PTGui (photo-stitching software) will be faster with a quad-core processor. And maybe whizzing through hundreds of images in PhotoMechanic will be faster (?)

    - I can always put SSDs into the server model at a later date.
  20. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
  21. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    I've almost decided on the Mini Server, with the 2 x 750Gb HD upgrade.

    - Assuming I want to buy it from Apple, can I pick one up from a physical Apple Store? Or does the HD upgrade mean I need to order it online?

    - Also, how simple is it to set up RAID0? I've never used RAID before. I guess I set it up using Disk Utility. Will I need to clone stuff back and forth to an external?
  22. Adamantoise macrumors 6502a

    Aug 1, 2011
    I may be wrong but I believe all build to order models must be configured at the Apple store.

    RAID 0 is great but keep in mind that if either drive fails your data is lost. Fear not though, the failure rate of hard drives is pretty insignificant. I've never had one fail on me ... But just thought you should know nonetheless.
  23. elliotn macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2011
    Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm quite good at making backups. I've been using SuperDuper for years, and more recently I've supplemented that with Time Machine. (My only anxiety with backups in general is that I might be backing up data that has already been compromised in some way.)
  24. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Files in the neighborhood of 500MB to 1GB are nothing. It makes zero sense saving to your boot drive. If you're using an SSD it makes even less sense. Yes I get the RAID 0 double chance of failure thing. SSDs are also not 100% reliable. They're newer technology and their advantage is speed. You still need to allow for some free space if you want them to go fast.

    Consider the issue of saving a 1GB file. At 180MB/s that's a little under 6 seconds. Say you get a really fast SSD at 300MB/s write speed and it will drop if it's too full. Well that one saves in 3 1/3 seconds. This is assuming your scratch is set to another volume and that the machine can fully saturate the bus. If you're lacking enough ram, time increases. If it's hitting the scratch drive and has to read from that while writing, save time increases. If you lack enough ram and start getting too many pageouts, time really increases.

    An SSD boot is not a solution to all of your problems. It's just the trendy thing right now. The point being if your system isn't balanced out your benefit is limited. I'd say ram > cpu > ssd > gpu for the applications you mentioned. If you're saving to that SSD, the lower capacity/cheap ones may not cut it.

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