Mini w/ Dedicated GPU i5 vs. i7

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Brenzo, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. Brenzo macrumors regular

    May 1, 2011
    I know it's tough to provide an answer without the i7 CTO Minis being in anyone's hands and available for benchmark and real world testing, however, I was wondering if anyone could provide any buying advice for me based on my typical usage. What's holding me back from upgrading to the i7, aside from the extra $100 cost, is the fact that I could get the i5 model (w/ dedicated GPU) from Amazon for $769 and pay no shipping/tax, which equates to roughly $200 in savings

    I am looking for something that in addition to moderate web browsing (few windows w/ multiple tabs on each open at a time, occasionally streaming some video) and using MS Office, can handle the following tasks:

    -Photoshop CS5 (Mostly light image editing and the occasional superimposing of friends into precarious situations.)

    -Aperture (I have a steadily growing library that is now beginning to fill up with RAW files as I am shooting with a new DSLR. Again, there will be some light editing done in here, the occasional batch change, but nothing too intensive.)

    -iMovie (I haven't used this much in the past, but with my Nikon's ability to shoot in various HD formats, I could see myself putting together short clips here or there.)

    -iTunes (mostly just hosting my files, which are primarily on external HDs, so that they can be streamed to an AppleTV or iOS device around the house.)

    -Handbrake (used primarily for converting to iTunes-friendly format. Speed isn't as big of an issue since I usually will run this overnight or while at work during the day.)

    -Parallels (used primarily for booting Windows 7 to use Internet Explorer for work - don't ask - or remote into my work computer via GoToMyPC, which has a much better interface for Windows than Mac OS X, to do some light work or access files.)

    Also, a few other things. Regardless of which model I get, I will be upgrading the RAM to 8GB. I am not a gamer, nor do I see myself playing anything beyond the occasional App store game, but I am still leaning towards the Mini w/ the dedicated AMD GPU because of the (somewhat limited) multimedia work I do and in an effort to "future proof" as my photography improves and my post-production needs increase. Or would I be better off saving $200+ and going with the entry level model w/ integrated graphics instead?

    My only other concern is the base 500GB 5400rpm hard drive. I really wish they would have at least made the high end Mini (non-server) come with a 7200rpm hard drive standard. Although I have no need for this large of a drive, as I will primarily be using external drives for my iTunes content, will I notice much of a difference? Is it worth a $150 upgrade to a larger and faster drive? I think I should just suck it up and hope SSD prices come down within a year before either upgrading the internal drive or hooking up a (hopefully available) Thunderbolt-equipped external SSD drive.

    Thanks in advance for any help provided.

  2. walterp macrumors newbie

    Jul 5, 2011
    There are plenty of benchmarks available for the CPUs themselves, and there are benchmarks available for Macbook Pros that use these CPUs.

    Bottom line is that the 2.7 i7 is going to give you at most a 10% speed boost over the 2.5 i5. In fact, most of the benchmarks and reviews I have read show that the 2.7 i7 is only about 10% faster, maybe 15% faster at most, than the 2.3 GHz i5.

    In most scenarios the performance boost you'll see between the 2.7 and the 2.5 will probably be somewhere between nothing and 5%. In other words, it's almost inconceivable that you would ever notice the difference in day-to-day use (the only way you'd notice is if you had two Minis sitting side-by-side and watched the screens with a stopwatch in hand).

    Save your money.

  3. Brenzo thread starter macrumors regular

    May 1, 2011
    Well, if we're only talking about a 15% or so performance increase of the 2.7GHz i7 over the 2.3GHz i5, what difference are we talking about in terms of the Intel HD Graphics vs. AMD Radeon based on my needs?
  4. nadaclue macrumors member

    Mar 17, 2011

    I think between a faster proccessor or faster hard drive you would be much better off with the faster hard drive. I upgraded the drive in my 09 mini with a faster drive and it gave a noticable improvement in speed.
  5. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Almost no difference there. You may see a small difference in image processing, but I wouldn't imagine it would be worth the money for light-moderate stuff.
  6. ConnorTurnbull macrumors 6502

    Aug 18, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Is there any evidence (i.e., benchmarks) that show a comparison between the i7 and i5 Minis?
  7. slyseekr macrumors member

    Jul 6, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'd upgrade to a faster hard drive, regardless. If not the 7200RPM, if you have the wherewithall, a DIY SSD will really make up for any concerns in speed you have and save you a ton of money off of Apple's SSD options.

    I have a 2010 15" Macbook Pro with an 2.66Ghz i7 and this past thursday purchased the 2.5 Ghz i5 mini. Both now have upgraded SSDs (the Pro has a 128GB Intel 320, the Mini a 128GB Crucial M4), the MBP has 8GB RAM and the mini still has 4GB (my RAM upgrade should arrive from Newegg tomorrow). They both boot up ~10 seconds and start apps like Photoshop within 3 ticks! To boot, I'm a UX/UI Designer working with 30MB+ Photoshop CS5 files with 500+ layers and haven't experienced any slowdown.

    FYI, My MBP benchmarks (Geekbench 64) at 6452. The mini benchmarks at 7120!!
  8. OutGolfn macrumors regular


    Aug 8, 2010
    I was in the same situation as you and I went with the 2.5 i5 for the $769. I added the 8 gb of ram and it runs great. Have fun you'll like either one!
  9. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    not yet only indirect comparisons. you need an i7 with the same gpu as the i5 and no one has one. so a true test has not been posted.
  10. xheathen macrumors 6502

    Aug 5, 2010
    I think I'll end up buying the stock i5 2.5 and waiting to see if there is any advancement to get a hold of one of those new connector cables. My first temptation would be to use the $100 to buy a scorpio black 750gb drive instead of upgrade the processor.

    But what I'd really like to do is only have to open the mini up once. So if I can get a 2nd connector cable, I'll probably pull the trigger on a 64gb SSD for boot and add a 750gb or 1TB 7200 RPM 2nd HDD.
  11. Brenzo thread starter macrumors regular

    May 1, 2011
    I'd definitely prefer to do an SSD upgrade (my own, not paying the Apple tax) because I've seen what it can do for performance in my 11.6" i5 Air that I've been playing with nonstop since last week. I've definitely tinkered around inside computers before, but never anything as cramped and meticulously put together as a Mini. I feel pretty confident in my abilities so I would probably upgrade to something in the 120-256 GB range (but will likely hold off until the holidays in hopes of some good deals and/or reduced prices.) The idea would be to boot the OS and all applications from the SSD and perhaps create a dedicated Aperture library on a portion of the SSD to work on recent projects for faster read/write times.

    That's pretty nuts. Again, I keep wondering what kind of performance improvement I'd see with the AMD GPU over the integrated option of the lower mini model. Again, this is based on my needs. I am definitely not working on 30MB+ PS files with hundreds of layers, but as I start to learn my way around Aperture and Photoshop some more, I will be editing RAW files that are 20MB+.

    Basically, my real question is, if I'm not gaming, how much does this better GPU improve or speed up the type of tasks I will perform? If I knew for sure that I would be upgrading to an SSD at some point in the future, I'd say the GPU matters even less.
  12. HawtTuna macrumors member


    Oct 30, 2010
    If I recall correctly, Aperture does use some GPU acceleration although it only gives a slight boost, something to think about though.

    I think you'll be fine with the entry level mini, my friend used to work with raw images on an old G4. That must have been a nightmare.
  13. Brenzo thread starter macrumors regular

    May 1, 2011
    What is really frustrating about the higher level mini is that I have to pay the Apple tax for 4GB of RAM that will be swapped out within a week. I think I am leaning more and more towards this mini for the dedicated GPU, if for no other reason than to protect my investment if/when I start playing around with larger and more complex media files. It would be nice if it was possible to order with minimum RAM and save the extra $100 or so. Nothing I can do about that, it just sucks to feel like I am basically paying $200 (over the base model) purely for the benefit of having a dedicated GPU that may or may not help me, especially when the difference between the 2.3 and 2.5 Ghz i5 chips is even less significant than the i5 and i7.

    Still unsure of what I'll ultimately do. I'll probably wait another week or so to read some more reviews and check out additional benchmark scores when it comes to programs like Photoshop, Aperture, and Handbrake.

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