Mac Mini vs Custom Built Desktop

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Jobine, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. Jobine, Dec 9, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013

    Jobine macrumors newbie


    Dec 9, 2013
    Hello, i will sooner or later be replacing my aging desktop, while decent it has become loud, and the case has become damaged due to my own faults, plus some of the hardware is not up to spec.

    So i was debating on purchasing a Mac Mini (with i7, Fusion Drive and 16GB of RAM) for around 1000$ versus another PC desktop which will most likely be custom built, with the following specs:
    - Xeon 1230 V3 (Haswell) Quad-Core 3.3Ghz
    - Cooler Master 212 Evo
    - 16GB (2x8) PNY DDR3-1866 RAM
    - Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760
    - Intel 530 Series 120GB + 2TB HDD 7200rpm
    - Some LGA 1150 Mini ITX mobo with integrated Bluetooth/Wireless (looking at Gigabyte GA-H87N-WIFI)
    - Windows 7 or Linux (possibly dual boot)

    However if new technologies such as Intel Broadwell come out soon i will look into upgrading into those, either on the PC or the Mac Mini.

    Already have my monitor and keyboard picked out.

    Now the dilemma is whether i should switch to Mac, or continue using Windows/Linux, neither of which i am "fed up" with, as i enjoy both OSes, and have never gotten a virus through all my Windows years. I have used Mac OS X before, but haven't used anything newer than Leopard (10.5). I might be interested in Hackintoshing, assuming my hardware is supported.

    I do consider myself a power user. For the games i will be playing, i will be playing either Steam Games or emulators, none of which are too intensive. I will also be doing some video editing (AfterFX) and Image editing (Fireworks) on the machine.

    I am also the owner of a Haswell laptop that i manually downgraded to Windows 7, in case that matters.

    So yeah, if anyone can help me make a decision that would be appreciated.
  2. Pierrel macrumors member

    May 24, 2011
    I was in the same boat at you are, discussing the same topic.
    What I found out was, not really to any surprise, that the custom built PC would kick the Mac minis tiny butt! But, when it comes to footprint, power consumption, ease of use, warranties, plug and play etc the Mac Mini is superior.

    If you like tinkering with software and hardware, I'd go for the custom PC. If your mostly fed up with it (which you does not seem to be), go for the effortless Mini :)
  3. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    push for both. that is what I do. truth is you really can't do it all with one of the two.
  4. Jobine thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 9, 2013
    My laptop has a QuadCore Haswell, 6 hours of battery and GeForce 755M (Lenovo Y410p), so i think i should be set for all my Windows needs, hence why i am tempting to the Mac.

    Power consumption is not an issue either, i don't leave my machines on after i finish working/gaming on them, and thanks to SSD technology i don't have to wait long.

    Apple's warranty is nice, but i live 200km from the nearest Apple Store.

    Any of you guys experienced with hackintoshing? Is it comparable to the experience of getting a Mini?
  5. Schnort macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2013
    There's more involved, for sure, but I don't think it's black magic. I got the latest prior to mavericks runnign in a VMware window, and it was good enough to download xcode and compile stuff.

    It choked when I upgraded that VM to mavericks, though. I'm sure they've got that figured out by now.

    I preferred to go the legal route, though, and buy a mac product to do my iOS app development on.
  6. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    You lost me at Xeon. I popped into this thread thinking that you were considering creating a low-power, quiet, tiny HTPC or something. In which case I was going to tell you that the Mini is actually priced well IMO for all that it offers. I've recommended it to people looking to build an HTPC, even if they want to run Windows and would have to pay extra for a Windows license. Usually their thinking about building something based on the Intel NUC platform.

    In your case, it sounds like what you really want is a lower-priced Mac Pro. In that case, yes, you can absolutely build a much more powerful PC than a Mac Mini. Remember that the Mini's CPU are laptop variants. Where you'd get into trouble is if you wanted to run Mac OS X on a home-built powerhouse. But it sounds like you don't necessarily care that much about OS X.

    All that said, you complain about your current computer's noise level and it sounds like you don't need to play the most graphics-intensive games. So all of this leaves me wondering what your real needs are. You do mention video and image editing, the former especially could require more horsepower. Personally, though, as a bang-for-the-buck kind of guy, I might even recommend that you consider the lowest-priced Mac Mini and install your own SSD and upgrade the RAM.
  7. Jobine, Dec 9, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013

    Jobine thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 9, 2013
    The Xeon 1230 V3 is actuall a Haswell i7-4770 (non-k) without the integrated graphics and it runs cooler. Do your homework :p

    My laptop has a quad-Core Haswell i7, SSD and 8GB RAM, runs very quiet, but unfortunately what do i do with those 20'' monitors i have? Also i want to have a secondary machine, which is what my laptop is for.

    OS X is what i mostly care about. Is OS X worth the performance loss?

    **Or should i just get an USB 3.0 dock for my laptop?
  8. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Well, that might be my suggestion. Nowadays, I look at desktops as being great for server and/or HTPC purposes. If it's a computer you're actually going to be making active use of, I think you want to have the best laptop that meets your needs.
  9. blanka, Dec 10, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013

    blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Just make it a Hackmac. The only thing to be careful with is whether Mavericks or ML supports the Nivia. Check osx86 for that. Older OS is impossible as those don't support Haswell.
    Haswell: ML/Mav
    Ivy: L/ML/Mav
    Sandy: SL and up

    But I'm glad I have a Mini now after years on a Hackmac (back in the days, the 24 inch Core2Duo iMac was a horrible priced product compared to DIY boxes). It is the best computer ever made, just throw in a 256+ GB SSD and a 7200RPM HD, 16GB and swallow the fact that its GPU is under par. Get a PS4 for games.

    What really makes the Mini shine IMO, is that you just throw it in your bag, even easier to take with you than a MBA. I love to be able to take a Power User workstation in my bag to clients/hotels/friends whatever.
  10. corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    I've prepared a more thorough components list:

    - Lian Li PC-Q28A Mini ITX Tower
    - ASUS Z87I-Deluxe Mini ITX motherboard
    - ASUS GTX 760 DirectCU II OC
    - Intel Core i7-4770S 3.1GHz (3.9GHz Turbo / 65W TDP)
    - Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD (OEM)
    - G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) PC3-12800 CAS 8
    - Seasonic SS-660XP2 660W modular ATX PSU (80 plus Platinum rated)

    Total: $1226.43 (+shipping)

    It's a shame Apple doesn't offer such bang for your buck.

    Instead, they have a $3000 workstation that is quite useless to most people and a $800 neutered desktop with basically no graphics.
  11. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Actually they do offer bang for the buck with the Mini. Only, don't compare initial costs. If you compare yearly costs, the Mini will win of most custom built systems.
  12. Schnort macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2013
    If you're driven into the form factor of the mini, then there are very few comparisons, and the wintel BYO solutions aren't that much more cost effective (or even cost more).

    A beige box mini atx system, though? Much more bang for your buck, now and in the future, particularly if you're into even light gaming. The 2012 mini came out with passable performance, but it doesn't take much to surpass it with discrete add in cards.

    I don't think that a Mac has any particular staying power w/regards to hardware vs. a custom built PC, considering they use essentially identical parts, so I find this 'intial cost vs. yearly cost' argument pretty empty. You're either doing something you don't need to upgrade the system with (which applies to both systems) or you're doing something that exceeds the hardware capabilities of either system (3d/gaming) and if you don't have a PCIE addin slot, you're simply boned.

    You might say MacOS has better staying power, alleviating the need to upgrade, but my experience has been the opposite. I have a 2006 mini (which I upgraded the processor and ram and HD on) and I can do whatever I want computationally in windows 7/8 in boot camp. I can't load mavericks on it, however, and thus can't do ios6 or 7 app development which forced me to buy a new mini simply to legally do iOS app development.
  13. Kentuckienne macrumors regular


    Sep 19, 2013
    Wait, what you said ... I never thought in terms of toting a mini around like a laptop ... mostly because of the need for a monitor/ there a way to use an iPad, say, as a display and keyboard for a mini? How do you use this mini in the hotel?
  14. JoeRito macrumors 6502a


    Apr 12, 2012
    New England, USA
    A somewhat jaded response, but with a lot of truth. If one is not invested in the Apple environment, I'd go with your set up. That's bang for your buck!
  15. ybz90 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2009
    Honestly, why get the Mac Mini? I'm a lifetime Mac user, but if budget isn't an issue which it isn't for you and you're not concerned about power consumption/physical footprint, there is really no upside to the Mac Mini compared to your alternative setup.

    Besides, Mac OS X that is, but again, you have problem with Windows or Linux, so from a price/perf analysis, your other set up all the way.
  16. DeSnousa macrumors 68000


    Jan 20, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    As you have your laptop, if you are keen on trying a Mac go and buy one. I am ready to stop wasting my time with custom rigs and will be going with a Mac, but that is me personally. If you care about gaming at all I would not bother and go with the custom rig.

    You will not know if it suits until you try a Mac for a few months. If it does not work cut the your loss, sell it and build a custom rig.
  17. boast macrumors 65816


    Nov 12, 2007
    Phoenix, USA
    Could you just get a cheap mac mini now? Then in the future setup a desktop with steamOS? Maybe have the ability to submit render jobs to the desktop (not sure how locked down they would make steamOS)?
  18. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    You can use the iPad with Remote Desktop
    Most hotels nowadays have flat-panels with HDMI. They even let guests borrow HDMI cables, but I take one with me (HDMI-cable + DVI adapter).

    On a business trip I also fill it with some movies. That way I have a good movie collection for the nights with my language subtitles and without hefty hotel fees for crappy on demand services.
  19. corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    I'm not sure what one could be doing in a hotel room that requires more oomph or quad-cores, but for the price of a Mini and an iPad, you could buy a MBA... and an 11" MBA can travel just like an iPad. I'm also not crazy about leaving expensive items alone in my room. I freak out if I just leave my Oakley's behind.
  20. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    No one has mentioned the resale value of a Mac Mini vs. a home-built PC.

    I cannot say anything about the PC never having built or owned one. But Macs retain a surprising amount of their value if you time it right. In the past I would hang onto computer hardware until its useful life was over. But in recent years I have found that I get the biggest bang for my computing buck by upgrading approximately every 2-3 years.

    If you purchase extended AppleCare at a discount from the L.A. Computing Company it is reasonably priced. Sell the Mac at 2.5 years old and the transferable AppleCare warranty provides six months of protection for the buyer. It can be a strong selling point when you can offer a free six-month warranty on the used Mac…

    While I always buy extended AppleCare for my portable Macs I won't be doing so for my Mini. Being a desktop it doesn't experience the handling that may affect a laptop. And if it needs repairs I can do many of them myself since the inside is relatively easy to access. If the worse happens and I should experience a motherboard failure (unlikely…) then the Mini will still have some resale value on eBay and I can afford to eat the difference.

    Now that I have moved from iMacs to a Mac Mini I anticipate upgrading the Mini and having enough money from the sale of my old Mini to almost cover the cost of a base model i5/i7 before RAM upgrades, etc. I won't incur any additional cost because my current peripherals should serve me for at least three Minis, if not longer.

    In the OP's case, I don't know why he is considering a Mac since he is satisfied with Windows/Linux. If he wants to get his feet wet in the Mac ecosystem the no-brainer way to go is a base-model i5 Mac Mini. If he winds up enjoying OS X and the Mini he can use it for several years and upgrade at a reasonable cost. If it doesn't work out he can resell the Mini at a minimal loss within 1-2 years.
  21. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    It was the hidden message in #11.
  22. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    I wanted to explicitly mention resale value because I suspect that many PC users aren't hip to the Mac advantage in this area. I read a lot of posts in which PC folks rant against the initial cost of Macs without taking account how well Macs generally hold their value.

    I have sold a number of used Macs; in recent years all my sales have been done via CraigsList. I keep my hardware in excellent condition and I price items near the top of the range. I am a patient man and I am willing to wait for the right buyer to show up. Since I often buy Macs at a good discount the CraigsList proceeds often come close to covering the cost of my new Mac.

    I think that the Mac Mini is the best value in the Mac lineup. If a Mini meets your needs (I think that includes many computer users…) it's a heck of a deal. After many years of using various desktop Macs and iMacs the Mac Mini is a welcome addition to my desk. It is tiny, looks good, produces no perceptible heat and it is essentially silent during normal operation. (I have yet to hear the fans rev-up after a year of daily use…) And it is surprisingly powerful; I've done some very heavy lifting computing-wise on the lowly Mac Mini. It's become my fave Mac and I have been a Mac Fan since 1984.
  23. CrazyNurse macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2012
    I have been using my Mac Mini as my family's main PC for over a year. It has been an excellent all around computer having replaced a very long-in-the-tooth iMac.

    I really wish it had a high-end GPU, but that's not gonna happen with this form factor, or price point. Not the best choice for games or longer HD video rendering.
  24. scbond macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2010
    Nottingham, UK
    Mac vs. PC...which should you get? Well, we kinda aren't the ones to answer that, you are.
  25. corvus32 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    That's more of a product of Macs being locked down and having a higher than normal retail price to start with. If people could buy Mavericks and install it on a computer of their choice, my little Mini wouldn't be worth squat.

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