Mac Mini vs iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Dj64Mk7, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. Dj64Mk7 macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2013
    I'm looking at the two desktop Macs for my next computer.

    Things I'll be doing include:

    - using all the built-in apps heavily
    - lots of work with iPhoto, GarageBand, and iMovie
    - some light Pixelmator usage
    - a huge amount of work with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote
    - small amounts of development with Xcode (a learning developer here)
    - HTML/JavaScript/CSS work with TextMate

    Taking into consideration what I listed above, do you think I'd be better off with an iMac or a Mac Mini, and which configuration? I don't currently have an external display, but I do have a Magic Mouse and Wireless Keyboard. Also, I am eligible for the education discount. For reference, my budget is about $1500 max.
  2. mentaluproar macrumors 68000


    May 25, 2010
    Ohio, USA
    If you don't have a display, get the iMac. Either computer will do what you need just fine, but if you need a display as well, get a system that includes it.
  3. andycho7 macrumors member

    Dec 2, 2013
    I've posted few times on the forum about how great the refurbished iMacs are. I cannot recommend them enough. For $1500 budget, I'd go for Refurbished Late 2012 27-inch base model for $1399 + AppleCare, so that you know you won't be hosed with unexpected surprises later down the road. Yes, with the AppleCare it's slightly over your budget of $1,621.98 total with tax(at least where I am), but it's such a nice thing to have and you know you cannot go wrong with your unit for 3 years. Of course, if budget is super tight you can always take off the AppleCare for now and decide within 1 year period which would set you for $1,494.83 today.

    Reason why I recommend this unit: Most bang for buck. Yes I know this is last year's model but I think this model would be a better choice over newer 21-inch models because...

    1. User replaceable/upgradable RAM. #1 and biggest deal breaker for newer 21-inch models.

    2. Bigger screen size. I was told bigger is always better :cool:

    3. CPU performance difference. Late 2013 21-inch base model's CPU is i5-4570R, which is bit weaker compared to 3470S. Although performance difference between the two won't be significant, faster is faster.

    4. Hard drive speed. I don't need much explanation about this. 7200 rpm >>>>>>>>>>> 5400 rpm.

    5. Dedicated GPU. This is #2 deal breaker for base 21-inch model in my perspective. I know that Iris Pro isn't so horrible, but I think many of us can agree that GTX 660M is better than Iris Pro. Even if we're talking about the model with GT 750M, it would be out of budget(including tax) plus graphical performance between the two is so minimal that it won't be worth sacrificing everything I listed above.

    and yes, there is a refurb Late 2013 high end 21-inch model with the Fusion Drive, but for me that won't make up for #1 and 2. This turned out to be more like 27-inch iMac vs 21-inch iMac, but considering that you don't have an external display, probably better to go with iMac instead.

    However, the ultimate choice is up to you ;)
  4. Dj64Mk7 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Sep 15, 2013
    How about models with Fusion Drive? One of the reasons I'm looking to but any new Mac is because of increased performance/storage space (my cMBP has a 160GB 5400RPM drive right now).
  5. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    Note that the GT750M actually outperforms the GTX660M, because Apple uses the GDDR5 variant of the GT750M.

    GTX cards are always GDDR5.

  6. mentaluproar macrumors 68000


    May 25, 2010
    Ohio, USA
    You could always add the SSD of your choice to a mini if you want. They really are much more versatile than the iMac.
  7. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA
    This is less about which will do the job, they both will. This is more about you and what kind of computer you prefer: clean and closed vs loose and open. The iMac really is the iPad of computers were the mini offers flexibility you may prefer or never use.

    For example, 3 years down the road when it's time for a new one, would you want to 1) sell the computer outright or 2) move it into some less important role like file server or HTPC? One of the reasons minis have such a good resale value is the lack of supply - people tend to keep them, one use after another.
  8. blanka, Feb 6, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014

    blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    For 1500$, grab:
    2.3 quad Mini 799$ (prob 719$ or so as student)
    Dell U2713HM 600$
    Samsung 256GB 840 pro 210$ (the 128GB is also great, just don't settle for an EVO!)
    20$ SATA cable for SSD
    Total 1550$ (1460$ with the 128GB SSD)

    You can expand RAM later when the prices are normal again.

    This machine outperforms ANY NON BTO iMac in the programs you plan to use
    You have a slightly better screen than the 27 inch iMac, which is out of your budget
    You will be able to upgrade to an even faster machine in 2 years for roughly 200$ (new Mini minus second hand money for current one), which will be a machine that outperforms ANY current mac (sans 12 core Pro) both on CPU and GPU.

    A slight different approach could be:
    Grabbing the 2.6 quad (maxing out the CPU) for 810$, for another 15% speed gain.
    Go for the Dell U2412M monitor. This is a 24 inch 1920x1200 screen, still one of the nicest resolutions to work on as the slightly higher vertical dimension is very welcome for coding. This screen is about 280-300$. This approach also leaves money to max the RAM.

    So with a Mini for 1500$ it is either a
    2.3 quad, 128GB SSD+1TB HD, 27 inch 2560x1440 IPS screen, 4GB Ram
    2.6 quad, 256GB SSD+1TB HD, 24 inch 1920x1200 IPS screen, 16GB Ram
  9. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    Why? An iMac is like Mini Price + Screen Price + Slick looking all-in-one APPLE TAX.
    With the 2008 iMacs, it was still like
    Mini Price + Screen Price - Combination profit and slightly better specs, but that is no longer the case.
  10. andycho7 macrumors member

    Dec 2, 2013
    I myself have a DIY fusion drive with 250GB SSD + 1TB HDD in my mid 2011 27inch imac and it feels like having just straight up SSD. Probably because SSD is big enough that it can store most of my important files excluding media files and etc. I don't know how much and what kind of files you have so I have no idea how well 128GB fusion drive would work for you. It is however, better than straight up hard drive and that is, if you can afford that little extra. Only if that higher spec'd 21 inch with fusion drive had 16 GB of ram it would be perfect for you, but the fact either you're stuck with 8gb of ram or tear out everything and void the warranty(if within the warranty period) made me think twice.

    Additionally, lot of people think that 8gb ram is plenty and that is right for most case. If you're planning on changing your machine often then it doesn't matter I guess but at least the way I'm using the base 15 inch rMBP , 8 gb isn't enough. Even when I just have safari with 4-5 tabs, iMessage, pages, iTunes, and eclipse(java sdk) the memory cleaner app is working overtime. I get around 1-1.5 gb of free ram at the most when I do my basic task.

    I just completely forgot to mention the Mac mini, but sounds like what others are saying aren't too bad if you have the external monitor(which you don't in this case). It is true that you can upgrade more easily. But you probably have to decide whether if you want an apple branded monitor or something else to fit your budget.

    You're correct. But like I said, the difference isn't night and day.

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