Mini Server Quad vs Mac Mini for Photography

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by shep, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. shep macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2004
    I would like some opinions here

    1) Price is not an issue (when considering between Minis)

    2) Primary use of computer will be for workflow on RAW images via CS5, LR, Aperture and 3rd party filters.

    3) I want speed when applying filters, etc.

    4) 27" TB Monitor and Wacom Cintiq 12WS will be used along with TB RAID

    I'm wondering which Mac Mini would be best? Will the Quad core Mini Server perform much better than the i7 dual? I will purchase the 8Gb/ SSD options on either Mini.

    Any thoughts? Thanks in advance for any responses or opinions.
  2. Powierski macrumors newbie


    Apr 23, 2010

    I'm a professional photographer and picked up the new Mac Mini Server yesterday. I upgraded the ram to 8GB before I even powered it on for the first time and at some point I will probably upgrade one of the drives to an SSD for OS and apps.

    Today has been my first full day of use and I'm really pleased with the overall speed, Lightroom is pretty snappy and doesn't lag too much when scrolling through photos in the library or develop tabs. Opening files out of LR in to PS takes roughly 2 seconds and the majority of actions I'm using run quickly too although liquify is perhaps a little sluggish but thats more the preview than the actual rendering.

    I've edited approximately 400 raw files with varying levels of complexity some with multiple layers and filters/actions applied and other just basic raw adjustments. At no point have I felt like the mini has been slow or lagging behind at all ...... however ...... there seems to be a strange issue with brush cursors both in LR and PS where they disappear at certain sizes and reappear again randomly ... this only seems to happen when using the [ and ] keys to change brush size. If I use the slider to adjust the brush size then the cursor seems to always show. I have played with various settings and made sure I've updated to the latest versions of LR and PS but can't seem to rectify it. it;s difficult to tell whether it's a driver issue or something that Adobe need to fix in an update. I suppose thats what you get when you take new hardware and a new operating system released less than a week ago and run software that doesn't appear to have had an OS specific update.

    Apart from this one problem which I have found a work around for I'm really pleased with the Mini Server. :D
  3. DarknightX macrumors newbie

    Jul 10, 2008
    A iMac Might be a Better Choice.

    If I had to choose for Daily Work horse out of the Mac Minis. 2.7 i7 with the 256 Dedicated ATi Graphic Card. Personally, would go with a 21" or 27" iMac or 15" Macbook Pro for my photography, all Quad-Core & Minimum of 512 Vram.

    2.2Ghz Quad Core 2011 Macbook Pro, 32GB iPad, 32GB iPhone 4
  4. srf4real macrumors 68040


    Jul 25, 2006
    paradise beach FL
    That's good advice unless you already have good ips monitors and can't always turn off the lights when working..

    I ended up cto the mini server w/ 750GB + ssd and very happy to hear what Powierski is experiencing. For me gpu is secondary to cpu in all cases, not being interested in video processing or gaming. And if I were into video processing, I would get a Mac Pro the obvious choice. I just wish my mini was here already!
  5. qCzar macrumors regular

    Feb 27, 2011
    SFBA, CA
    Same story; I opted for dual 750GB's and will upgrade the RAM upon arrival. Related to photography, I choose the Server mostly for the quad-cores. I leaned against the speedier 2.7ghz Mini because I have no graphics accelerated programs, such as CS5.
  6. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007
    Don't mean to thread-jack but this will likely be helpful for the OP. There is a new PS Speed Test that I just ran. My 2.5GHz i5 Mini (stock ram/HDD) finished in 24 seconds on CS5. Can you guys with the server and upgraded RAM/SDD run the test and report your results? It is an action run in CS5 on an included image. I'm going to rerun the test after I upgrade to 8 gigs RAM next week.
  7. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    I wonder how they'd compare at primarily single and dual threaded tasks. The quad 2.0 can ramp up to 2.9ghz while the dual 2.7 can go up to 3.4ghz.
  8. sporadicMotion macrumors 65816


    Oct 18, 2008
    Your girlfriends place
    Probably neck and neck up until 5+ threads (hyper threading is pretty good)
  9. Powierski macrumors newbie


    Apr 23, 2010
    I just ran the test and it came out at 17.9 seconds. Thats the mac mini server with stock 7200 rpm hd's and upgraded to 8GB RAM.
  10. shep, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011

    shep thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2004
    That's a pretty big difference! Perhaps a stupid question here, but would there be a shorter time with SSD or is this all processor time? Thanks, BTW.
  11. moxxey macrumors regular

    Feb 27, 2011
    Having used a quad core i7 2.0Ghz 15" MBP and now a i7 2.7Ghz 13" MBP, I'd say there's a difference between the two machines, with the quad core edging the performance, for me.

    Why? I use Windows 7 virtually. Being able to allocate two cores to the virtual Windows makes a big difference to performance.

    Plus if you work with photos and other CPU-heavy tasks, the quad core will make a big difference. I noticed Aperture seemed snappier on the quad core 15" than the 13" 2.7 dual core, especially when working with other apps. Same with iPhoto.

    I should add that both notebooks had a super-fast SSD and that makes a huge difference. In fact, you may find the difference between quad core/dual core is less of an argument than HDD/SSD.
  12. shep thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2004
    Server graphics card won't "slow down" aperture performance?

    So, again, a bit of a dumb question. From other posts on other threads, the i7 Mac Mini has a "faster" or more powerful graphics card than the Mini Server- for Aperture and applying filters from 3rd party apps, it's still more important to have the quad core over duo vs. the graphics card choice? The question may have been answered already, but I'm still not exactly clear in my mind.
  13. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007
    What I've learned so far (48 hours with mini)

    I'm using the 2.5 GHz i5 Mini primarily for Lightroom. Also applying Nik filters via the LR plugin. Some PS CS5 work as well. I'm coming from a 2007 Macbook.

    LR is definitely a CPU/RAM hog. I had thought my exporting photos was slow due to upload speed. Now, I see that exporting pushes the CPU use to 95+% and is MUCH faster than before. Syncing develop settings among 10+ photos is nearly instant as is zooming in to 100%.

    I'm going to update my RAM which I think will make a huge difference as well.
    If money was not an issue, I would have gotten the same Mini but upgraded to the i7 processor. PS makes use of openCL and I expect future versions of LR will as well; not sure about Aperture.

    I would also get a good 7200 rpm drive to replace the stock 5400 one. After reading the post below, I'm leaning against an SSD for now.

    My 2 cents after 48 hours with the Mini...
  14. shep thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2004

    Thanks for the link. The article was very informative. It would have been interesting to see test srun on using external RAID HHD with SSD internal drive- my intended configuration. Nonetheless, the article clears up several of my questions. Thanks.
  15. Powierski macrumors newbie


    Apr 23, 2010
    Day 2 and another 300 photos edited ..... I'm still really happy with the servers performance in LR and PS and am confident that I made the right choice to go with the better CPU over GPU. I also like that I have two internal hard drives, one for OS and the other to hold files I'm working on which will then be backed up to a drobo box. I know that the other mini's will likely have mod's for a second hard drive but it's nice to have it officially and be supported by Apple given that my main use is for my business.

    Prior to purchasing the mini I split my work between a mid 2010 13" MBP and a Hackintosh i7 920 overclocked with 12GB ram, OCZ Vertex SSD, Nvidia GTX260 . The Hackintosh was great but I never liked the idea that it could all go horribly wrong by hitting install updates :eek: Technically speaking the Hack is better spec'd than the new mini but I almost feel the mini is just a tiny bit quicker somehow ... but at the very least on par performance wise. I think if anything Apple my well have opened the door to Hackintosh users looking to go legit as the new mini's are so well spec'd and priced it almost seems pointless to go to the hassle of cobbling together a system that will never be as stable as having a real mac.

    Oops ... I seems to have gone off on a slight tangent :D

    Bottom line is from my experience so far the new Mini Server is definitely a serious performer.
  16. cibby macrumors member

    May 27, 2005
    I'm curious how you guys are feeling about your Minis now that you've had a few more days to use it. it's hard to find real world users of both the AMD and the Server models.

    I got the Server model as an upgrade to my 2.4ghz C2D MBP that's 4-ish years old. Both have 4GB of RAM, but the MBP is a 5400 HD. So far there's little difference in day-to-day usage. Boot times are the same (though the MBP is still on SL) after migrating my account. Time to launch apps is quite similar. Indexing is over btw.

    In Lightroom, I don't see much if any speed delta for moving through my library and between images in develop (I was hoping for more zip here). Importing was about 20-25% faster. I did get more than a 2x bump when exporting images which is nice. When I did a filter preset to 43 images, both machines said "task complete" in nearly the same amount of time, but it only took the Mini 8 seconds to render those images on the screen whereas the MBP was about 40 seconds.

    One thing I wasn't expecting was the integrated SD card slot added 2x the amount of time to my imports! Is that normal? I have an old Kensington USB multi card reader I use on the pro. Interestingly when importing and converting to DNG I got:

    Mini SD - 2 mins 10 secs
    Mini USB card reader - 46 secs
    MBP USB card reader - 1 min 1 sec

    Overall it's not the experience i was hoping for. I think I need an SSD to get that wow factor for speedier daily use. I'm debating an upgrade, but that's going to be a $1500 mini which is kind of outrageous. Maybe go to the base model to keep the price points the same?

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