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Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
I have a late 2012 Mac Mini. It was fine a few years ago, but lately, running Mojave, it's been very sluggish. I can wait 60 seconds for a file dialog. Very frustrating.

I do software development (mostly Java, ObjectiveC) and my poor Mini just feels barely adequate. Very slow to start up Xcode or IntelliJ, and slow to build.

Plus, the 23" Acer display is 15 years out of date and my tired eyes are craving a retinal/5K screen.

iMac seems the way to go, but it's damn expensive! I went to apple.com and customized an iMac 27" at $5300. Yeesh! Even if I strip it down to a smaller drive, slower display etc., it's still pushing $4K.

Even a 2020 Mac Mini is over $3K by the time you finish with SSD, memory, and display.

So I think I have several choices:
1) splurge now on the iMac and it'll serve me well for the next 5-7 years
2) wait a few months and suffer, until the new Apple Silicon version comes out, and the current iMacs go on sale
3) get a used/refurbished 27" iMac on Ebay for $2K
4) get a used/refurbished 2019 Mac Mini or similar, for less than $1K

Thanks for any advice or opinions!
 
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Reactions: pldelisle

ADGrant

macrumors 68000
Mar 26, 2018
1,689
1,059
In terms of value for money the Mac mini is one of the most expensive Macs Apple sells (the Mac Pro is the obviously the most expensive in all regards). The 27" iMac is probably the best value for money.

How did you get up to $5300 for an iMac and what do you mean by slower display?
 

MvdM

Suspended
Apr 27, 2005
380
695
Does your current mini have SSD? It's night and day.
When choosing a 27" iMac from the Apple Store, buy your own ram.
 

Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
In terms of value for money the Mac mini is one of the most expensive Macs Apple sells (the Mac Pro is the obviously the most expensive in all regards). The 27" iMac is probably the best value for money.

How did you get up to $5300 for an iMac and what do you mean by slower display?

  • Standard glass
  • 3.6GHz 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
  • 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 4TB SSD storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard - US English
  • Accessory Kit
Based on what people are saying in a neighboring thread, there's not much advantage to getting the 10-core processor. subtract $400.

I could probably survive with the lower price Radeon. subtract $800.


Does your current mini have SSD? It's night and day.
When choosing a 27" iMac from the Apple Store, buy your own ram.

Nope, an old-fashioned 500gig hard drive. (and a couple of USB drives for backup)
So, order one with 8 gigs, then get 64 gigs from Crucial for $309.99 rather than paying $1000 to Apple?

So, if I outsource the memory, and go with the entry CPU and display, I save $1900. This is sounding more affordable.

I can afford the $5300 premium model, but the difference saved is enough to get an iPhone 11 max (also on my wish list though not desperately needed) and have a few dollars left over.

Or, invest $5300 in Apple after the split, and watch it rise over the next 12 months :)
 

wilberforce

macrumors 68030
Aug 15, 2020
2,891
3,164
SF Bay Area
Quote: ”iMac seems the way to go, but it's damn expensive! I went to apple.com and customized an iMac 27" at $5300. Yeesh!“
It is very easy to jack up the price by adding a bunch of options of questionable value, until the total is unaffordable. The i7 with the 5500XT is a very capable and fast machine. Add 1TB SSD plus 32GB third party RAM, and the total cost is about $2,650.
All the other options are nice-to-haves. IMHO
 

ADGrant

macrumors 68000
Mar 26, 2018
1,689
1,059
  • Standard glass
  • 3.6GHz 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
  • 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 4TB SSD storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard - US English
  • Accessory Kit
Based on what people are saying in a neighboring thread, there's not much advantage to getting the 10-core processor. subtract $400.

I could probably survive with the lower price Radeon. subtract $800.




Nope, an old-fashioned 500gig hard drive. (and a couple of USB drives for backup)
So, order one with 8 gigs, then get 64 gigs from Crucial for $309.99 rather than paying $1000 to Apple?

So, if I outsource the memory, and go with the entry CPU and display, I save $1900. This is sounding more affordable.

I can afford the $5300 premium model, but the difference saved is enough to get an iPhone 11 max (also on my wish list though not desperately needed) and have a few dollars left over.

Or, invest $5300 in Apple after the split, and watch it rise over the next 12 months :)

The big mistake is to buy the RAM from Apple. Are you sure you need 4TB of SSD, I went with 2TB and even that seemed a bit excessive to me. I would stick with the 10 core CPU and 5700XT, its two extra cores and an extra 8gb of VRAM. Those are substantial upgrades.
 

scottrngr

macrumors regular
Dec 1, 2015
178
259
I put an SSD in my 2012 mini a few years ago, and still use it today. It makes a world of difference. I use it as a backup to my 2013 Mac Pro. I was lucky and got one of the ones with the bottom hard drive slot open, so the SSD was pretty easy to put in. I left the spinner alone, and it comes in handy to boot into Mojave to open old files and programs that don't run in Catalina.
 

Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
I put an SSD in my 2012 mini a few years ago, and still use it today. It makes a world of difference. I use it as a backup to my 2013 Mac Pro. I was lucky and got one of the ones with the bottom hard drive slot open, so the SSD was pretty easy to put in. I left the spinner alone, and it comes in handy to boot into Mojave to open old files and programs that don't run in Catalina.

This is not a bad idea, actually. Back it up, and swap out the hard drive for a new 1TB SSD which is about $170. Copy all the files back after installing the OS. Will Time Machine automatically restore?
 

glenthompson

macrumors demi-god
Apr 27, 2011
2,983
844
Virginia
Unless your workflow can make use of all the cores you may be better off with a CPU that has fewer cores but a higher clock speed. Definitely get the base memory and add your own. When considering the size of the SSD, remember that it's quite easy to add external drives to an iMac. I like having my most used items on the internal but don't mind putting infrequently used fees on an external.
 

scottrngr

macrumors regular
Dec 1, 2015
178
259
This is not a bad idea, actually. Back it up, and swap out the hard drive for a new 1TB SSD which is about $170. Copy all the files back after installing the OS. Will Time Machine automatically restore?
I wouldn't even swap it out. There are two slots for hard drives. Put the SSD in the unused slot. Leave the original as is, so you can boot to that drive if needed. There are cloning programs you can use to clone your original drive. Time machine would work too.
 

pldelisle

macrumors 68020
May 4, 2020
2,248
1,505
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Standard glass
  • 3.6GHz 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
  • 64GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
  • Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory
  • 4TB SSD storage
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard - US English
  • Accessory Kit

Rule #1 : never buy Apple RAM.

2. I doubt you really need 10 core. I'm software developer too, data scientist/ML engineer. I'm in the profile of "more cores the better", but for simpler software dev, no need for it.

3. The GPU is overkill just for software dev. If you want to drive the 5K iMac + 2 other 4K, the 5700 Non-XT is well more than enough and might be a better long-term choice., but even the 5500XT can suffice.

4. I don't think you need that much storage for storing code.
 

wilberforce

macrumors 68030
Aug 15, 2020
2,891
3,164
SF Bay Area
When considering the size of the SSD, remember that it's quite easy to add external drives to an iMac. I like having my most used items on the internal but don't mind putting infrequently used fees on an external.
I looked back at how I configured my 2014 iMac (the first 5K iMac): I spent an extra $800 to get the 1TB SSD option. (Which is equivalent to about $1,000 now.) I don't regret it at all; the only stuff I stored externally is videos and backups. Having a decent size SSD is a great convenience and very fast.
Now, in 2020, the 1TB option is only $200. So I agree an external SSD is a great and easy and cost-effective option, especially if you have multiple TB of storage (don't we all), but I would also suggest don't skimp too much on the internal SSD size. The 1TB internal SSD for $200 is a great deal. IMHO
 

pldelisle

macrumors 68020
May 4, 2020
2,248
1,505
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I looked back at how I configured my 2014 iMac (the first 5K iMac): I spent an extra $800 to get the 1TB SSD option. (Which is equivalent to about $1,000 now.) I don't regret it at all; the only stuff I stored externally is videos and backups. Having a decent size SSD is a great convenience and very fast.
Now, in 2020, the 1TB option is only $200. So I agree an external SSD is a great and easy and cost-effective option, especially if you have multiple TB of storage (don't we all), but I would also suggest don't skimp too much on the internal SSD size. The 1TB internal SSD for $200 is a great deal. IMHO
Exactly.
And if you have a personal file server, even 512 GB is fine.
 

CWallace

macrumors G5
Aug 17, 2007
12,205
10,973
Seattle, WA
I will echo what others have said - coming off a 2012 Mac Mini you really should be looking at the $2299 iMac 5K with the i7 and 5500XT. That will be significantly faster than what you have.

As for RAM, always buy third-party. You can install it yourself and save hundreds/thousands over Apple.

As for storage, you might be able to get away with the 512GB on the $2299 model and then use external storage for the rest. Apple's 1TB upgrade for $200 is not terrible, but 2TB-8TB upgrade prices are onerous. You could buy a TB3 enclosure and multiple terrabytes of SSD storage for a good bit less and not lose much performance over internal storage.
 

Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
After all these suggestions, I priced out an acceptable iMac at $3300 with a 2TB drive (and 64 gigs of RAM from Crucial.com).

Then I talked myself down to earth. Scott's idea of a $200 SSD for my Mini might extend its life another year or two, and I can just continue to save my pennies and put up with what I have.

If the SSD doesn't get rid of the horrific delays (Finder can take a full minute to populate a file open dialog or a file save dialog), then I won't be out much cash, and anyway I'll have more disk space since I've maxed out my 500GB as it is.

Thanks to everyone for your help!
 

Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
Just to follow up, I ended up ordering a new iMac, and it arrived a couple of weeks ago (early Feb.).

It. Is. Awesome.

I ended up getting the 2TB, 27", with the low end graphics and chip speed - figured I didn't need / wouldn't notice the higher speed.

32 GB OEM RAM - originally wanted to get 8 GB and order 64 GB or 32 GB from Crucial, but they're out of stock, as was another supplier they recommended. Yikes! Finally I bit the bullet and settled on Apple memory; it cost me an extra $300 but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Total: $3800 delivered.

I had gone through every option - should I get a used PC and install Linux? A used iMac? A new MacBook Pro? A used Pro? A new Mini? A used Mini? A new Dell high end PC?

Well, a comparable Windows PC actually prices out pretty close to an iMac, surprisingly, maybe a few hundred bucks less, but then you have to live with Windows (plus maybe Linux in a VM).

The thing is, I have to occasionally build iOS apps for work, and I would like to build iOS apps for hobby/side gigs, so a Mac it is. A used iMac would be okay, faster but not dramatically faster than my 2012 Mac Mini (esp. if I do swap in an SSD on the mini). It didn't seem worth spending a thousand or two for something only slightly better -- and out of warranty. Another reason to stick with Apple: I need the music and video tools that the Mac excels at.

The bottom line is, I need a workstation that doesn't make me wait. I hate waiting; I want something that works as fast as I think. My Mini was taking 30 seconds, a minute, even several minutes to do basic operations, and over the last year or two I got to avoiding certain operations like opening Finder because it was so annoying and frustrating. And running Xcode or IntelliJ... snore...

This beast is going to last me for the next 5 years. The only thing I anticipate maybe doing is bumping the RAM up to 64. It's got two open slots. A 5 TB USB drive takes care of time machine backups for a while.

Cheers!
 

mdgm

macrumors 68000
Nov 2, 2010
1,665
406
Nice. The 2012 Mini is still a good machine. Booted off an internal SSD or a USB3 SSD it would be a good machine. It'd make a great backup machine (in case you have problems with the iMac just when you have important work to do) or as a Home Theater PC or a fileserver etc.
 

admwright

macrumors regular
Sep 11, 2008
243
53
Scotland
Keeping the 2012 Mini for a backup is a good idea. With the SSD it is like using a totally different machine. I added the SSD into the second slot and kept the HDD. I use the HDD to clone the SSD so I have an internal backup and use it to test OS upgrades before doing them on the SSD.
 

PBG4 Dude

macrumors 601
Jul 6, 2007
4,320
4,568
I bought an external 2TB USB-C SSD for ~$180 and kept the internal to 1TB to keep costs down. I also bought my own 64GB RAM upgrade for ~$300 at the time.

SSD prices have increased by way of all sales having been eliminated (Best Buy used to sell these for $100 off MSRP all the time but no one has them on sale now). This may be due to the chip supply shortage affecting the semiconductor industry at the moment.
 

Blisterpeanuts

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 25, 2011
10
12
Nice. The 2012 Mini is still a good machine. Booted off an internal SSD or a USB3 SSD it would be a good machine. It'd make a great backup machine (in case you have problems with the iMac just when you have important work to do) or as a Home Theater PC or a fileserver etc.
Definitely am keeping the mini as a backup. If I can swap in an SSD, I'll bequeath it to my wife who needs to upgrade from her awful Win7 flakey desktop.
 
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