Maxed out Mac mini with eGPU or iMac Pro

dohboyfresh

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Nov 16, 2018
2
1
I'm a pro photographer currently using an old Mac Pro 5,1 tower with 3.2 Ghz quad-core xeon. It's starting to show its age and I'm thinking about getting a new computer for my editing. I mainly use it for photoshop and lightroom and process about 1k-2k images with it per month so speed and no lag is important. I also want to use it for some occasional video editing. I have an 2015 MBP 15in as well so I'd want something thats also faster than that.

My debate is going with a maxed out Mac mini with an eGPU vs a base iMac Pro. I'll be doing editing on an Eizo screen so the 5k screen isn't so important.
 

Caspavio

macrumors regular
Apr 18, 2018
242
107
im not a pro photographer, but i did read before somewhere that there is a significant diminishing marginal returns for increasing the cores. so with the mac mini i7 and base mac pro both at 3.2 ghz, i suspect that you will get rather similar performance.

as such, i would say the mac mini is a lot better bang for your buck.
 

F-Train

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2015
1,457
992
NYC & Newfoundland
Having just purchased an external GPU, here are what I believe to be your options on price:

The just released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a high-end AMD Radeon Vega 56 GPU: US$1200.

The recently released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a mid-market AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU: $700.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU, assuming that prices for the RX 580 come down in the next week or so, which is likely: $420-$600, depending on which enclosure you select and whether you purchase a longer Thunderbolt 3 cable.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 590 (a new GPU released yesterday): launch price is $280, so $60 to $80 above the price of an RX 580, assuming that RX 580 pricing comes down and stays down.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Vega 56 or Vega 64 GPU: a fair bit more than the RX 580 or RX 590, but exact pricing is very dependent on currently volatile pricing for the Vega GPUs.

Notes:

You cannot currently use Nvidia GPUs with Mojave; your only choice is AMD.

AMD intends over the next year to replace all of the RX GPUs with a new line called Navi.

The Blackmagic/Apple GPUs, unlike the DIY options, cannot be upgraded in the future.

There is more detailed information on all this in the thread that I mentioned in post #2.
 
Last edited:

Mellofello808

macrumors regular
Mar 18, 2010
167
227
I personally will never buy a imac again. I am planning on going for a mid-range Mac mini, and a mid ranged egpu, for my light editing, and Photoshop/Lightroom tinkering.

I much prefer a modular Mac mini setup for a few reasons.

1.Display
It is undeniable that the 5k screen on the imac is gorgeous. However I use a VESA arm for my computer, and you can mount a imac with it, but it is extremely clunky. I also much prefer a larger than 27 inch workspace. With the Mac mini I can plug in a ultrawide, a 32 inch 4k display whatever fits my use case.

2.Upgradability
Thunderbolt is probably the best upgrade to computing in the past few years. The fact that we can now run drives, and GPUs externally nearly as fast as a internal component is awesome. The way I see it I will most likely be upgrading my storage, GPU, and main system on much different timelines. There are still a bunch of major leaps to be had in the GPU space so I will get a new egpu in a couple years, my Mac mini will probably last me another 6 years before it needs upgrading, my SSD and hard drives will hopefully last even longer then that.

With a imac you will need to buy a whole new system to upgrade any component.

3.Service
I know most people have had smooth sailing with their imacs, but I had a long series of lemons. My last imac had a motherboard issue that apple was hesitant to fix, so I had to bring it to the apple store 5 times. This requires lugging a 30lb computer that is super ungainly to transport through the mall 10 times to, and fro.

I will never buy a all in one computer again after that.
 
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Synchro3

macrumors 68000
Jan 12, 2014
1,946
809
Having just purchased an external GPU, here are what I believe to be your options on price:

The just released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a high-end AMD Radeon Vega 56 GPU: US$1200.

The recently released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a mid-market AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU: $700.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU, assuming that prices for the RX 580 come down in the next week or so, which is likely: $420-$600, depending on which enclosure you select and whether you purchase a longer Thunderbolt 3 cable.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 590 (a new GPU released yesterday): launch price is $280, so $60 to $80 above the price of an RX 580, assuming that RX 580 pricing comes down and stays down.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Vega 56 or Vega 64 GPU: a fair bit more than the RX 580 or RX 590, but exact pricing is very dependent on currently volatile pricing for the Vega GPUs.

Notes:

You cannot currently use Nvidia GPUs with Mojave; your only choice is AMD.

AMD intends over the next year to replace all of the RX GPUs with a new line called Navi.

The Blackmagic/Apple GPUs, unlike the DIY options, cannot be upgraded in the future.

There is more detailed information on all this in the thread that I mentioned in post #2.
You forgot these: https://www.sonnetstore.com/collections/egpu-expansion-systems
 

F-Train

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2015
1,457
992
NYC & Newfoundland
I didn’t forget anything.

My post includes the cost of an enclosure and reflects the fact that enclosure costs vary; hence the stated range in paragraph #4 of $420-$600 to put together an external GPU using AMD’s Radeon RX 580. Sonnet’s Breakaway Box, to which you refer, is just one option. Razer’s Core X and Asus’s XG Station Pro are others.

There is a good deal of discussion about enclosure options, and the related issue of GPU power draw, in the thread referrred to in post #2.
 
Last edited:

Do365

macrumors newbie
Nov 15, 2018
7
0
I'm a pro photographer currently using an old Mac Pro 5,1 tower with 3.2 Ghz quad-core xeon. It's starting to show its age and I'm thinking about getting a new computer for my editing. I mainly use it for photoshop and lightroom and process about 1k-2k images with it per month so speed and no lag is important. I also want to use it for some occasional video editing. I have an 2015 MBP 15in as well so I'd want something thats also faster than that.

My debate is going with a maxed out Mac mini with an eGPU vs a base iMac Pro. I'll be doing editing on an Eizo screen so the 5k screen isn't so important.
I will go for the iMac Pro, best processor, Vega 56 GPU, ... for about the same price. I had the same doubt here:

https://forums.macrumors.com/posts/26812007/

and I think I will wait for the new Mac Pro
 

NaimNut

macrumors member
Oct 28, 2017
88
38
Toronto
Im buying a mac mini but if I was a professional photographer, the iMac Pro would be my pic or better yet the new Mac Pro when released.

A professional needs reliability above all else. If the add on eGPU is rock solid reliable for all your software then maybe go the Mac Mini route.

imo
 

macdos

macrumors regular
Oct 15, 2017
213
291
Im buying a mac mini but if I was a professional photographer, the iMac Pro would be my pic or better yet the new Mac Pro when released.

A professional needs reliability above all else. If the add on eGPU is rock solid reliable for all your software then maybe go the Mac Mini route.

imo
iMac Pro is totally overkill for photography. A Mac Mini is perfect for that purpose.
 
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thevidus

macrumors newbie
Oct 9, 2012
6
0
I’m also a professional (wedding) photographer currently working on a (maxed out) 2012 mbp (2.7ghz i7, 256 ssd). I’ve ordered the mac mini (i7, 512ssd, 32gb (3th party) ) yesterday because I think it’s the perfect machine for a photographer. 99% of the time I’m using Lightroom and all that software needs is CPU and RAM and that’s exactly what the mac mini is. I already own a great monitor, external storage etc. And if I ever need a GPU because of Lightroom is gonna make a better use of it later I’ll buy an eGPU.
 

apolloa

macrumors G5
Oct 21, 2008
12,243
7,697
Time, because it rules EVERYTHING!
Having just purchased an external GPU, here are what I believe to be your options on price:

The just released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a high-end AMD Radeon Vega 56 GPU: US$1200.

The recently released Blackmagic/Apple external GPU that uses a mid-market AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU: $700.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU, assuming that prices for the RX 580 come down in the next week or so, which is likely: $420-$600, depending on which enclosure you select and whether you purchase a longer Thunderbolt 3 cable.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Radeon RX 590 (a new GPU released yesterday): launch price is $280, so $60 to $80 above the price of an RX 580, assuming that RX 580 pricing comes down and stays down.

DIY external GPU with an AMD Vega 56 or Vega 64 GPU: a fair bit more than the RX 580 or RX 590, but exact pricing is very dependent on currently volatile pricing for the Vega GPUs.

Notes:

You cannot currently use Nvidia GPUs with Mojave; your only choice is AMD.

AMD intends over the next year to replace all of the RX GPUs with a new line called Navi.

The Blackmagic/Apple GPUs, unlike the DIY options, cannot be upgraded in the future.

There is more detailed information on all this in the thread that I mentioned in post #2.
Sounds to me either buy the new Mac Mini or wait to see what the new Mac Pro is like. You’ve already got a monitor keyboard and mouse, why pay for that again with an iMac?
 

fastlanephil

macrumors 65816
Nov 17, 2007
1,114
182
A cheap but limited upgrade would be to replace the CPU with a 3.46GHz six-core 5690 Xeon server pull off of eBay for about $75 plus some Artic Silver. It might get you by until the next Mac Pro release.
 
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monokakata

macrumors 68000
May 8, 2008
1,861
382
Hilo, Hawai'i
I have an iMac Pro (8 core, 64 gb RAM, Vega 64, 2 TB disk) I pick up a few bucks from photography, but more to the point of the OP's question, I shoot every day, therefore I'm using LR and sometimes Photoshop every day. Also, a few times a year I have big event jobs with 800-1000 images to process under time pressure.

Numbers: in October I shot an event with my D850 (50+ mb RAWs) and came home with 1,088 images. After I got them on the iMac, I imported them into LR with two presets and 1:1 previews. The import took just a few seconds under 1 hour, and I was editing while it was happening. All 8 cores were usually at 100%, temps rose into the low 60s, and although there must have been fan noise, I didn't notice it.

In my daily work on 6-20 images, LR is fluid and responsive.

I'm satisfied.