macmini vs. iMac - my experience

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by macminilover, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. macminilover macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2005
    I suspect that other potential switchers are debating between the macmini and iMac. I obsessed about this for a while before buying a mac-mini, even though I had to buy a monitor as well. Here is what I bought about a month ago:

    macmini 1.42/80+superdrive+512MB+airport+bluetooth (from Apple)
    Apple wireless keyboard/mouse
    Dell 2005FPW 20.1" widescreen
    The total for me (including tax/shipping) was about $1550.

    Most would recommend I should have gone iMac but the price difference
    vs. the iMac 20" (add wireless keyboardmouse, airport, bluetooth, memory, etc.) would have been substantial and was it really necessary?

    I'm not crazy about the all-in-one design of the iMacs, but the biggest
    issue is, of course, performance due to the slower processor and
    hard drive in mini. Well, in the last month I've been doing

    * standard web surfing/e-mail stuff, which of course is not going to tax
    a system and works perfect, but also...

    * heavy garageband 2 work (with Jam Pack 4, 20+ instrument tracks, etc.). Although I have to lock down some tracks when things get complciated it
    has worked flawlessly.

    * web design work with Dreamweaver and Photoshop elements 3.0. I can switch between the two and edit photos several large photos, etc. with no delay.

    * iMovie/iDVD transferring a bunch mini-DV to DVDs with light editing. No dropped frames, and editing has been quick. The only caveat I will say is that importing mini-DVs takes a HUGE amount of disk space. I'm considering a massive external drive to store these.

    On top of that the mac-mini has is virtually silent. A big advantage of the Dell monitor for a switcher like me is that I can still hook-up my old PC to the VGA-input of the monitor (DVI input is for the mini) when I need access to the PC (which is very infrequently, thank goodness).

    Anyway, I'm not saying the iMac G5 is a bad choice but I think the mini is a valid choise for many even if you're going to do more than surf and e-mail. In the end, getting ANY Mac is going to be better than ANY Windows machine so you can't go wrong. This coming from someone who put up with Windows for 15+ years before seeing the light....

    Cheers :D
  2. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    GarageBand, Dreamweaver and even Photoshop should all perform fine on a G4, as you are seeing. I think you'd see a big bump in performance with the G5 in MPEG2 encoding in iDVD. What type of stats are you getting with your mini? How long does it take to encode 1 hour of video in iDVD?

    My current machine is a 17" 1Ghz G4 iMac. I love the machine and the form factor but I'd like more performance when encoding DVDs so I'm thinking about a 20" G5 iMac. Doesn't make sense for me to go to the mini--too little speed gain and I have to get a display.
  3. Lacero macrumors 604


    Jan 20, 2005
    Or you can get the Dual PowerMac G5, it's roughly 3-5 times faster than the mini and the iMac. And since it's upgradeable, it'll outlast either machine and is actually cheaper to own in the long run.
  4. macminilover thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2005
    To be honest since I know it takes a long time to encode a DVD, I've always just started this process before going to be bed at night and then it's done in the morning so I don't really know (or care) how long it takes. In fact, I will probably only create one or two DVDs a month at most so even if it takes many hours it doesn't really matter. Unless you do a lot of DVD encoding where you've got to get it done quickly I'm not sure it should really matter.
  5. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    I kinda doubt that. You could buy a new mini every year for 5 years before you paid for the Powermac. With external FW components you can even "upgrade" the mini quite easily.
  6. macminilover thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2005
    3-5 times faster doing what? ...and who cares? For everything I do the macmini is easily fast enough, and I don't have to wait around for anything. The powermacs are big and noisy (reminds my of my PC) compared to the macmini. They may be important for users doing high-end speed critical stuff, but it's total overkill for what most people do.
  7. feakbeak macrumors 6502a


    Oct 16, 2003
    macminilover - I did almost the exact same thing as you, only difference is I have 1 GB of RAM that installed myself and got the 2001FP. I also have the BT keyboard and mouse.

    My main reasoning was that I can't bring myself to buy and all-in-one. I love the design of the iMac, it has a faster processor, faster system bus and a faster, bigger hard drive. You get another RAM slot, better GPU, etc. I think the G4 processor is still a solid performer, the only downside is the limitation on the system bus speeds.

    I'm not sure why, but I just don't like my monitor tied to my machine. Fundemental rule for me even though I think the iMac is awesome, I couldn't own one. So it was Mac mini or PM for me. The single 1.8 PM configured similarly to how I got my mini with a 1 GB of RAM, BT, AE, etc would have run me almost $2000 without a monitor. I got my Mac mini with my 2001FP, BT keyboard and mouse for about $1500. So going PM would have cost me ~$1000 more once I had purchased a monitor.

    Since this is my first Mac I figured I'd ease myself into it. I've been very happy with my Mac mini. I'm sure my next Mac will be a PM - but that won't be for at least a couple years. Next on the list is my aging PC which is long overdue for an upgrade - nearly four years old.

    One other thing macminilover, does the lack of audio line-in bother you on the Mac mini since you use Garageband frequently?
  8. macminilover thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2005
    Yes, I'm with you there. I didn't care for the all-in-one design either and this way I can reuse the 20" screen if I upgrade in the future. The wireless keyboard/mouse is wonderful especially when I'm jamming with GB and have a keyboard and Mic in front of the computer. :)

    I already had an M-Audio Audiophile-USB that I used with my PC and it hooked up to the mac-mini just fine and gives me high-quality line in/out as well as MIDI. The sound difference of the audio-out with the mac-mini vs. the Audiophil-USB is very noticable. Since I knew I would use the Audiophile with either the iMac or macmini it wasn't a factor in my decision.
  9. SteveZissou macrumors newbie


    Jan 23, 2005
    Cambridge, Ontario Canada
    I am slightly disheartened to hear this quasi-imac bashing. (at least in my opinion)
    You can't compare a Mac Mini to an imac it just isn't close.
    The imac is lightning fast compared to the mini, especially in processor intensive tasks like video and audio work. I was planning on buying a mini just as a kind of entertainment centre (so to speak), that was until I put one through the paces. I mean my G4 500 tower (souped up a bit RAM maxed out etc) is comparable for most tasks with the mini.
    I myself was never sold on the all-in-one form of the imac but once I saw the 20" I was sold, and I have no regrets, the machine makes literally NO noise at all (except for the DVD drive, that sounds like a jumbo jet), and it has handled everything I've thrown at it.
    I don't know people... I think buying a mini and souping it up is a tragic waste of money, (its like buying a hyundai accent and putting floating rims on it, sure the extras are nice but the original machine is lacking) for basically the same cost you could get an imac with a G5! I mean sure the G4 is alright but there is a massive difference.
    Anyways, enough of my ranting, just remember people don't get caught up in the hype...sure the mini is cool but why buy outdated techhnology, especially when tech goes the way of the dodo fast enough.

    P.S. I work on a G5 tower as well and In no way is it 3-5 times faster than the imac, no way.
  10. feakbeak macrumors 6502a


    Oct 16, 2003
    I didn't mean to sound like I was bashing the iMac. I honestly think it is a great machine. The design is phenomenal and looks awesome. The specs are better than the Mac mini, no doubt. I had thought I made it clear that I fundementally do not like the all-in-one computer concept and therefore, cannot bring myself to buy an iMac. Therefore previously my only Mac option in recent years was the PM which was too pricey for me "test drive" the Mac platform. The Mac mini is a budget/consumer machine - I beefed it up to get the best performance I could for the money, while avoiding the all-in-ones. I've had the mini for about two months and love it and if/when I upgrade my Mac I'll get a PM.

    So, the iMac is a great machine, it's just not for me. If you poke around some of the other iMac vs. Mac mini threads you will see I have recommended the iMac over the Mac mini to others more than once. It depends on what you are looking for in a computer.

    Oh, BTW, while it is very clear that the iMac G5 is technically a better system than the Mac mini, but I would disagree that it is a "massive" difference. Checkout these benchmark results. I'm not a big benchmark buff, but I think it clearly shows that the iMac G5 doesn't blow the Mac mini away in terms of performance.

    Personally, I don't think computing power has made any huge leaps and bounds in the past two years compared to some previous periods. Hitting the 90nm mark slowed things down and it seems like there is a lull while they are figuring out new ways of doing things like Hyperthreading, hypertransport, multi-core processors, etc. The only significant developments have been the increased system bus speeds and GPUs are still advancing nicely.
  11. clayj macrumors 604


    Jan 14, 2005
    visiting from downstream
    For me the decision to go with a Mac mini was clear, and was motivated by a single, overriding reason: It doesn't have a monitor attached to it. The last thing I wanted was yet another monitor on my desktop, especially one that could only be used by a single machine. The Mac mini integrates in with my (mostly) PC-oriented setup very cleanly, and with no muss or fuss.
  12. macminilover thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2005
    Sorry, I didn't mean to bash the iMac either. I would have easily paid more $ for a mini-G5 in fact (but not for a Powermac). My main points were that for me having a separate monitor was important and the fact is that I do a lot of processor intensive things such as DVD and GB work on my Mini and I've found no performance problems at all so I think many users would find the Mini's performance more than acceptable.
  13. Spectrum macrumors 6502a


    Mar 23, 2005
    Expose effects?

    I'm toying with recommending a mac mini to my parents to replace their aging PC, but when i tried it in the AppleStore i was very disappointed by the poor quality of the OS-X expose effects, and general sluggishness.

    I use a 1Ghz imac at work with a 64Mb graphics card and it performs the expose/genie/etc effects great.

    I know this is just an eye candy, and probably doesn't really affect use of the mini that much - but it certainly makes the mini look like it is already stretched when it cannot even display default OS-X features of today.

    I think my folks might constantly think something is wrong with it.

    And am I right in thinking that it is the 32/64Mb difference that is causing this?

    so anyway, macminilover and feakbeak: does this shortcoming bother you? Do you even notice it in day to day use?
  14. AP_piano295 macrumors 65816

    Mar 9, 2005
    Me too

    id like to do keyboard hook ups to a mini or an ibook
    hows it work for u
    what will i need?
  15. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    I hear both sides of the debate. Just as a few of you will never own an iMac due to the integrated screen, I don't think I'll ever own a PowerMac. PM's just are too much for my needs, the current PM's are huge, and they are not cheap. I'll probably always be an iMac user.

    We all know about G4 vs G5 in normal apps. They real benefit of the G5 is going to come in encoding. Video editing is not a very intensive task--it's the encoding that's the bear. Pismo's were mobile editing workhorses back in the day. There are still plenty of people running Final Cut on 1Ghz and less G4s.

    The mini is a great machine, and I'm glad that apple released it but...we are stillmissing a machine. Steve billed the mini as the "headless iMac" in his keynote but it really isn't. There still seems to be a market for a smaller tower--single G5 with a bit of expansion. The single 1.6 PM isn't it--too big and not a good value next to a G5 iMac. They need a mini tower, or even a PM G4 type case, with a G5 in there for $899. If they can sell refurbished G5 iMacs for $1099 with a 17" LCD they can make this new machine and still make some margin on it.
  16. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    Nice little article :)

    I am going to show this to my friend who is on the fence about what Macintosh to buy.

    WordMunger is correct, the G5 Powermac will cost you the same as multiple Mini's and if you are not a Power user, you will not really see the gains that the Dual 2.0 will give you.

    of course, if you like you can buy a Powermac and join Macrumors Folding@Home team and let your extra CPU cycles help find cures to diseases :)
  17. feakbeak macrumors 6502a


    Oct 16, 2003
    I do not notice any sluggishness using Expose and my mini is driving a 20" LCD. I used the Mac mini at an Apple Store and after opening more than two apps it was sluggish and Expose was a little glitchy. I think this had more to do with the 256 MB standard RAM than the 32 MB 9200 GPU. The GPU is certainly short of impressive, but if you get 512 MB or better yet 1 GB I don't think you'll notice any problems with Expose or having many applications open. Most reviewers criticized Apple for having 256 MB standard, OS X needs at least 512 to run smoothly.

    The 512 MB upgrade is reasonably priced from Apple, IMO. If you want a 1 GB stick buy it elsewhere, Crucial seems to be the preferred brand on MR - that's what I got although I bought it via It's not hard to install, even if you pay someone $25-$30 you can still save yourself about $100 off Apple's crazy price.

    I completely agree. Here is my suggestion:

    Mac Midi:
    Single 1.8 GHz G5
    512 MB RAM (4 slots total)
    80 GB 3.5" 7200 RPM (BTO upgradable capacities)
    Combo Drive (BTO Superdrive)
    nVidia 5200/ ATI 9600 (BTO upgradable to any GPU offered in PM lilne)
    This GPU card would be AGP or better yet, PCI-E (come on, Apple)
    BTO Airport Express and Bluetooth
    Have at least 2 PCI/PCI-E slots open for expansion.

    The case shouldn't be as big as the PM case, they are nice but just monsters. Make a mid-tower styled after the PM case, or go for a completely new mid-size case.

    Charge $1199. ($1299 max, $999 min) for the basic specifications.

    I don't think this will happen because the PM line is already suffering from poor sales and this would cut into those sales even more. This 1.8 single proc PM is currently just about what I envision of the Mac Midi. The only problem is that those PM cases are huge and that's a turn off to some people, myself included. The dual proc PM's are overkill for most people - it's for pros and enthusiasts.

    The middle ground of Apple's desktop line is the iMac, plain and simple - that's your only choice. If you want a headless desktop you are getting a Mac mini or PM, would be nice to have some middle ground. Although, I must, again, thank Apple for offering the Mac mini. We now have twice as many headless Mac options... and so many of you said nobody would buy them. ;)
  18. R.Youden macrumors 68020


    Apr 1, 2005
    Can I just say something here. Everyone is saying, oh do i get an iMac or mac mini and buy monitor, mouse and keyboard. I thought this and came to the conclusion. If you have to buy a monitor, keyboard and mouse for a mac mini then I dont think that it is that good value for money, OK is is cheaper than the iMac bt everyone is forgetting something. The eMac. Ok I know it is only a 17" CRT but it is not much more expensive than the mac mini and you get the monitor, keyboard and mouse thrown in. Also I belive it is one of Apple's most reliable computers. Anyway I am just worried that the eMac is getting forgoten and want to remind people about it.
  19. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Dec 25, 2003
    Northern Virginia
    Considering that at the Tyson Apple Store, they did not have a single eMac on display that I saw in a quick look around. This is sad. The eMac is the unsung hero in the Mac world of late.
  20. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    Thankfully the education market still has a high regard for this chassis. I have shown this option to my friend, and he likes the idea better then the Mini because of lots of reasons listed, and he liked the picture quality. I think he is leaning to the Mini now, because I showed him how easy it would be to hook up to his Sony TV to become a mini Multimedia device, and he can watch streamed internet video on his TV.

    The little CRT in the eMac is quite a high quality piece, as far as the CRT monitors go, It has a nice precise clean picture, and is actually better then some low end LCD monitors that people buy with their Mini.

    it is totally an unsung hero.
  21. _pb_boi macrumors 6502

    Feb 25, 2004
    The original post was considering two consumer macs, including the mac mini. Tbh, anyone seriously considering the mac mini is unlikely to take into account a power mac opinion; be this due to cost considerations, or, as in macminilover's case, the fact it's total overkill.

    In addition, if macminilover had to buy a monitor for the Mac Mini, he was gonna have to buy a monitor for the Power Mac - bumping the price up even further beyond the cost of a Mac Mini.

    Had the thread title been 'iMac vs Power Mac' this might have been more relevant, I guess.

  22. Yvan256 macrumors 601

    Jul 5, 2004
    A lot of people (myself included) find it hard to buy an all-in-one computer, because when the time comes to "update it" (i.e. buy a new one) it only means the upgrade is more expensive, because of the fact that it's all-in-one. You have to pay for the new built-in monitor every time.

    I was hoping for the internal boards of the iMac G5 in the Mac mini (could've cut some costs in the manufacturing stage, cut design-to-market time, cut in testing and QA time, etc), but I guess redesigning everything every single time is the Apple Way (tm).

    I love my Mac mini but I'm sure it could've cost a lot less (12" iBook internal boards in a white plastic shell instead of an expensive aluminium one, tray-loading drives must cost a lot less than slot-loading ones, etc).

    I'm pretty sure Apple could've made a "same specs, different pcboard+casing" Mac mini for about 350/400$US. It wouldn't look as nice, but even the "price-compare only" naysayers would have a hard time bashing it.

    ... what was the topic, again? Oh, right.

    I love my Mac mini, couldn't justifiy to pay for an LCD screen at every computer update. :D
  23. Yvan256 macrumors 601

    Jul 5, 2004
    With my Mac mini (see sig.) in 1024x768 (limit of my poor 15" CRT) I have no problems at all with exposé and the génie effect.

    Your store experience may be related to:
    1. only 256MB RAM
    2. display resolution too high

    My bet would be point 2. I've heard the Radeon 9200/32MB (iBook/Mac mini) doesn't work so well above 1024x768 (or was it 1152x870).
  24. Yvan256 macrumors 601

    Jul 5, 2004
    How about this:
    - PowerMacs have dual-core, dual-processors, 3 PCI-X slots, 3 PCI slots, 8 memory slots, 2 serial ATA bays, FireWire 800, optical audio in/out + analog audio in/out.
    - "PowerMac mini" have a single dual-core processor, 2 PCI slots, 4 memory slots, 1 serial ATA bay, FireWire 400, analog audio in/out.

    This would keep a nice distance between the two systems but still make an very attractive choice for iMac/PowerMac mini buyers (do I go all-in-one with a nice LCD or headless with more power and expansion room?).
  25. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    I understand you point, but for me I made a comparison to laptops. A few years back many people moved to laptops as their primary machine. Maybe they don't upgrade them as often but each time they do upgrade they are purchasing a new LCD with the new machine. And odds are the "new" LCD they are getting is no different than what they had. They just want a faster laptop.

    So this is how I've kind of come to terms with being an iMac user/purchaser and the fact that if I want to upgrade I'll either have to sell my current machine to recoup costs or I'll have to milk my current machine for years, until it is not worth selling and I can just keep it as an internet/iTunes machine.

    The other argument is in how long you will keep the display that you purchased. I'm looking at going from a 17" iMac G4 to a 20" G5, so that is an upgrade of both the computer and the display. How long will the Mac mini server you? If in 3 years you want to upgrade the computer do you think you'll still be ok with your 20" Dell LCD? In 2008 20" LCDs will probably be pretty standard. Are you a person who wants to upgrade often? Will you want a 23" LCD?

    I agree that I'd rather not buy a new LCD with *every* computer purchase but I'm the type of person that probably would like to upgrade my display along with my computer.

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