New Mac Mini - first impressions

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by daniel-b, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. daniel-b macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    #1
    Hi all,

    I'm new on this forum, so I thought I'd say hi. I've been lurking for a while, while I was deciding what computer to buy recently, when I replaced my aging PC laptop.

    I bought a base-model Mac Mini about a month ago, expanded to 4GB RAM. I mostly use it for music, but I have other stuff going on it too. The base i5 is pretty powerful - it seems to be about twice as fast as my previous computer.

    This is not my first Mac, but it is my first since a blue iBook that I bought in 1999. It is my first ever experience with MacOSX. I work with computers and I'm a closet Linux geek, so I'm finding my way around pretty easily.

    For music I use Ableton Live and Logic. The MacMini seems to handle both of them quite well. I occasionally get "disk too slow" errors with Logic. I cut these down by putting my projects on an external USB drive. I have an external Firewire drive on order, which should improve the situation further.

    4GB is _easily_ enough for what I use it for. I ran the demo project in Logic, and then tried loading a bunch of other apps while it played the song. I never had less than 100MB of free memory, no page-outs and the song never hiccuped.

    The most impressive thing is how nicely the Mac plays with external hardware. For example the ease of setting up wireless Midi connections with my IPad, printing to a PC printer over the network, or using a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard (both Microsoft btw).

    Anyway, enough for now,

    Daniel
     
  2. Acorn macrumors 68020

    Acorn

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    #2
    I have heard people have noticed a significant speed increase by installing a ssd. The hard drive seems to be the slowest component in the minis.
     
  3. LiesForTheLiars macrumors regular

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    Jan 12, 2011
    #3
    The hard drive is the slowest component in any computer. The transition to SSD is a good step in the right direction on the tech front.
     
  4. daniel-b thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 27, 2012
    #4
    I am waiting for Thunderbolt SSD drives to go down in price and up in capacity :)
     
  5. Lesser Evets macrumors 68040

    Lesser Evets

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    #5
    I've been waiting for 3+ years. It's very slow in coming. Hopefully with all these iDevices being popular and widely manufactured the need for SS memory chips will mean more and more manufacturers and higher output and less cost per chip/GB. To have a drive with just the system on it would be awesome; I'd keep all media and documents elsewhere.

    One day in the next 3 years it will probably seem like the price "broke" and it will get quickly inexpensive for a SSD. Compared to now, I mean.
     
  6. mike pfeifer macrumors newbie

    mike pfeifer

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    #6
    Eventually, solid state will be much cheaper than something as complex as a standard HDD. Kind of like transistors vs. vacuum tubes. Just takes time.
     
  7. philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

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    #7
    intel's 32gb ssd with slc ran over 350. 11 a gb. IMO the best sata II made but at 11 a gb and only 32gb in size not practical. Now ssds go for 1 dollar gb. I would like a 3.5 inch ssd 2tb 3tb and 4tb sizes at good prices.
     
  8. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

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    Aug 24, 2011
    #8
    The limiting factor going to larger format drives (3.5") are the controllers which only support X number of channels and each channel has a limited number of chips it can address. So simply moving to a larger enclosure with a higher quantity of cheap low capacity 2x nm MLC chips does not work. Right now the only way to increase capacity is to increase memory density.
     
  9. QuantumLo0p, Feb 27, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012

    QuantumLo0p macrumors 6502a

    QuantumLo0p

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    #9
    Glad to hear your good experience Daniel. That seems typical and is one of the main reasons why Apple owners love their products. The OS is very solid and has matured nicely. Most every app runs well; the exception for me being cross platform apps that are simply not fully developed which is obviously not Apple's fault. Another example of Apple's user friendliness is when upgrading Mac vid cards. Once I swapped out the vid card in my old PowerMac (back when it was fairly new, lol) and the process was so completely painless. The process involved: shut it down, swap out the card then power back up. Done. It never prompted me with messages such as "new hardware found..." or anything of the sort. OS-X knew what card I had installed and used the proper driver.


    Too bad the Mini can't use pci ssd's, they can easily xfer twice as much data than an Intel ssd. Also, their price/GB is even worse than conventional ssd's. As for very large capacity ssd's I'm afraid a drive of that size, at a decent price/GB, is still far off. In the mean time I wouldn't mind 1, 2 or 3TB 3.5" version of a Seagate XT that has at least a 60GB ssd cache.
    :)
     
  10. jackrv macrumors 6502

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    Jul 14, 2011
    #10

    Same. I saw your post and thought about an external Thunderbolt PCI adapter, but it is only 1x. The OCZ Revodrive uses an x4 :(
     
  11. daniel-b thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 27, 2012
    #11

    Hi again,

    Updated first impressions:

    I finally found an application that demanded more memory than I have so I splurged $50 on 8GB. I ran Windows 8 preview in Virtualbox, and obviously VMs use loads of memory. I have also now added the Firewire external drive, and Logic Pro seems happy.

    Finally, I've been tinkering with Blender. I am new to 3D graphics and it is absolutely not what I bought the Mac for, but it seems to work very smoothly.

    I ran a rendering benchmark to compare the Mini's performance with other systems, and it came out very respectable, while not being blisteringly fast, as you'd expect.

    The latest i5 and i7 computers are extremely quick (my quad-core i5 PC at work is faster than some very expensive servers with Xeon processors), and the base Mini is no exception, as long as your task is CPU rather than GPU based. It kind of makes me laugh when people on this forum ask if it's fast enough for browsing the net and listing to music. . .
     
  12. ipsychedelic macrumors 6502a

    ipsychedelic

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    #12
    Hey thanks a lot for sharing daniel-b.
    Say, have you loaded Ableton with a lot of VSTis or something...
     
  13. nkawal macrumors regular

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    Jan 12, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    #13
    i recently purchased the mid-range 2011 mac mini and upgraded it to 8gb ram and a samsung 830 ssd. This thing flies, no hiccups what so ever. The mac minis are great machines.
     
  14. daniel-b thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 27, 2012
    #14
    I've got a few plug-ins running in Ableton and Logic - Sylenth1, Korg Legacy M1 and Wavestation, Alchemy, DCAM Synthsquad and a few others.

    Everything seems to working very well :)
     
  15. ipsychedelic macrumors 6502a

    ipsychedelic

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    #15
    Nice, thanks for sharing :)

    I suppose Diva will run pretty well too...
    And you "only" have the Core i5 right?

    Heheh yeah. Unfortunately they seem to get a rep of being just "Good HTPCs", I guess most people get turned off by the lack of screen and peripherals, but when you have those three already, what's left to buy...
     
  16. Acorn macrumors 68020

    Acorn

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    #16
    the cost of the mini has dropped so much since they dropped the cd drive im almost tempted to buy one for my sister and stick windows on it for her. it would be a pretty sweet 500 dollar machine. no chances of converting her to mac though. not yet anyway.

    sure i could build a better low end for 500 but it wouldnt be that cool and small.
     
  17. ipsychedelic macrumors 6502a

    ipsychedelic

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    #17
    Is this small enough? But yeah, probably wouldn't be as cool.
     
  18. daniel-b thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 27, 2012
    #18

    Diva has a reputation for being CPU intensive, but then so does DCAM Synthsquad...

    "Only" an i5 ;)

    It's at least twice as fast as my previous Core 2 Duo based Windows laptop, which was _also_ capable of running Ableton Live and all of the above-mentioned plug-ins. I actually wrote a demo with (ISTR) 13 tracks of DCAM Strobe, on the old laptop.

    So all in all, it seems to be capable of running anything I ask of it. For CPU-intensive tasks, there is essentially no difference between the 2.3Ghz i5 and the 2.5 Ghz i5-based models, as long as you upgrade the memory on the base model

    Apparently if I was a gamer I would not like the graphics card, but I'm not.

    D.
     
  19. ipsychedelic macrumors 6502a

    ipsychedelic

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    #19
    Alrite! Thanks daniel once again for sharing your impressions.
     

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