new mac mini vs refurb trash can

blenditall

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 6, 2011
22
4
Anyone have thoughts on this comparison? For about $3k (Canadian) I can get a trash can with:

3.5GHz 6-core Intel Xeon E5
16GB memory
256GB PCIe-based flash storage
Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

The new mac minis are tempting but I fear the integrated gpu might be a problem. eGPU will be at least $500. So the price comes out similar but I would have two things sitting on my desk and worse graphics performance.

On the other hand, how much future support (and hardware integrity) can I reasonably expect for a used 2013 mac pro? I've had my 17" macbook pro since early 2011... would like to use my next machine for at least four years.

Thanks in advance.
 

What's a computer?

macrumors newbie
Nov 15, 2018
5
5
– I think Apple officially supports their computers for 5 years after a model is discontinued. The 2013 Mac Pro will almost certainly be discontinued next year (2019), as Intel has already stopped orders for the processor, and will discontinue shipments in a few months. Also, Apple is introducing a new Mac Pro.
So the new mac mini will likely have a year or two longer support than the Mac Pro.
– Technologicaly, the processor on the 2013 Mac Pro is slightly dated now, as well.
– The 2018 Mac Mini has TB3 ports with USB C sockets, making them more compatible with recent external devices than the 2013 Mac Pro TB2 ports.
– It's questionable whether the GPUs on the 2013 Mac Pro can be upgraded in a way that you'd like, while the TB3 ports on the 2018 Mac Mini will probably allow better eGPUs in the future.
The 2013 Mac Pro does have a few "pro"s (groan) relative to the 2018 Mac Mini:
– probably _much_ better cooling (the new Mac Mini has severe overheating problems due to its small form factor and inflexible power management; it has a desktop class CPU in a short enclosure with room for only a tiny heat sink and small heat exchanger)
– greater average lifespan than the Mac Mini due to better cooling, a server-grade (Xeon) CPU, and better repairability.
– no T2 chip (a huge plus in the 2013 Mac Pro's favor)
– ECC memory for fewer soft errors (not relevant to most users, but may be to some doing unusual tasks)
– The SSD and CPU can be swapped out for repair or upgrading (if you can find compatible parts), while on the new Mac Mini they can't.
Anyway, that's what I an remember at the moment. People correct me if I'm wrong on some of these points!
 
Last edited:

jtara

macrumors 68000
Mar 23, 2009
1,826
432
You can't run MacOS legally on the "trash can", and you can't just install MacOS "out of the box". You will need to constantly keep up with Hackintosh tricks for each new version of MacOS, and follow the Hackintosh sites and forums constantly for advice.

If you mean to run Windows on the "trash can", you are comparing Apples and.... What's the point? If you're going to run Windows, don't get a Mac. (It's fine, though, to run a Windows VM on a Mac when you have to run some Windows software. I've found it sufficient when I've had to do that.)

If you're thinking of a very high end Mac Mini, consider iMac Pro, which is what I did.
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,471
24,219
You can't run MacOS legally on the "trash can", and you can't just install MacOS "out of the box". You will need to constantly keep up with Hackintosh tricks for each new version of MacOS, and follow the Hackintosh sites and forums constantly for advice.

If you mean to run Windows on the "trash can", you are comparing Apples and.... What's the point? If you're going to run Windows, don't get a Mac. (It's fine, though, to run a Windows VM on a Mac when you have to run some Windows software. I've found it sufficient when I've had to do that.)

If you're thinking of a very high end Mac Mini, consider iMac Pro, which is what I did.
Dude he means the 2013 Mac Pro when he says trash can. :)
[doublepost=1542328743][/doublepost]
– I think Apple officially supports their computers for 5 years after a model is discontinued. The 2013 Mac Pro will almost certainly be discontinued next year (2019), as Intel has already stopped orders for the processor, and will discontinue shipments in a few months. Also, Apple is introducing a new Mac Pro.
So the new mac mini will likely have a year or two longer support than the Mac Pro.
– Technologicaly, the processor on the 2013 Mac Pro is slightly dated now, as well.
– The 2018 Mac Mini has TB3 ports with USB C sockets, making them more compatible with recent external devices than the 2013 Mac Pro TB2 ports.
– It's questionable whether the GPUs on the 2013 Mac Pro can be upgraded in a way that you'd like, while the TB3 ports on the 2018 Mac Mini will probably allow better eGPUs in the future.
The 2013 Mac Pro does have a few "pro"s (groan) relative to the 2018 Mac Mini:
– probably _much_ better cooling (the new Mac Mini has severe overheating problems due to its small form factor and inflexible power management; it has a desktop class CPU in a short enclosure with room for only a tiny heat sink and small heat exchanger)
– greater average lifespan than the Mac Mini due to better cooling, a server-grade (Xeon) CPU, and better repairability.
– no T2 chip (a huge plus in the 2013 Mac Pro's favor)
– ECC memory for fewer soft errors (not relevant to most users, but may be to some doing unusual tasks)
– The SSD and CPU can be swapped out for repair or upgrading (if you can find compatible parts), while on the new Mac Mini they can't.
Anyway, that's what I an remember at the moment. People correct me if I'm wrong on some of these points!
Excellent post. What this bloke said.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AngerDanger

walm0022

macrumors newbie
Jun 15, 2005
2
0
I've had the trash can since early 2014 and was looking at a i7 six-core mac mini with external Vega56 as an upgrade option. The only downside is the heat issue right now. I think that can be solved with some DIY cooling (leaving the bottom of the mac mini open and having a low RPM fan blowing upward from underneath it).
The Mac Mini processor will be faster than the Xeon in the Mac Pro trash can. A Vega56 will be faster than the D500's. The RAM and SSD are faster in the Mac Mini too. Thunderbolt 3 gives you much faster external storage options along with future video card upgrades. More and more applications are taking advantage of the computing power GPUs have. Being able to upgrade that easily seems important. I don't believe the trash can will ever have a GPU upgrade option.

I don't know what the downside of the T2 chip is (as someone above said) ....
 

phairphan

macrumors 6502a
Sep 21, 2005
593
214
Reject Beach
It looks like a Mini similarly spec'd to the nMP above + $500 in an eGPU is still ~$600 less than the $3000 listed. Unless you're running projects 24/7, I see very little to recommend the nMP: TB2, flakey GPUs, slower processor, slower storage.

I haven't yet had a chance to read all of the throttling testing, but from what little I read, it appeared that the Mini was running above its advertised all-core speed when under sustained load. While a better cooling solution would allow it to run closer to its advertised boost speed, I'm not sure I'd qualify running above its advertised spec as "throttling."
 

yoak

macrumors 65816
Oct 4, 2004
1,483
41
Oslo, Norway
Was just looking at the benefits of a Trashcan (second hand) over a new mini. Found this thread. Great points all along.
Can you run an eGPU over TB2, to is it too slow? Or is it other things that affects an eGPU as well?
 

blenditall

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 6, 2011
22
4
Thanks for all the replies. This seems like a tricky comparison....further thoughts and questions:

Processor, storage, RAM

I am willing to give these less weight in the comparison. I figure no matter what I do I'll experience a massive improvement in performance as I currently have spinning hard drive, 8gb ram, and a processor from 2011.

Graphics

Isn't eGPU over TB3 a less-than-ideal graphics solution? I can understand it if you are using an ultrabook (or anything that needs to be mobile) and then get a graphics boost at your desk. Best of both worlds.

But if my setup is to be completely stationary it seems like onboard discrete graphics is the way to go. Sure, Mac mini allows upgrades but won't TB3 become a bottleneck anyway?

Maybe I just start with the mini and see if I really need discrete graphics at all. Which brings me to the next point...

Cooling

I'm mostly doing lightroom and photoshop work (maybe some light video editing) so I don't expect sustained loads that often. I have seen some tests which show that the mac mini doesn't throttle much. Anyway, I'm sure it's cooled better than any mac laptop, which is what I'm used to.

Other

@What's a computer? -- What's the big advantage of the T2 chip?

Summary

I guess the main consideration is graphics in the end. Perhaps this is the question to ask:

GPUs will certainly improve in the coming years, but will this matter if I am running them over TB3? I don't have a great technical understanding of the bandwidth and latency limitations.
 

mylittlepwny

macrumors member
Apr 5, 2018
40
17
Thanks for all the replies. This seems like a tricky comparison....further thoughts and questions:

Processor, storage, RAM

I am willing to give these less weight in the comparison. I figure no matter what I do I'll experience a massive improvement in performance as I currently have spinning hard drive, 8gb ram, and a processor from 2011.

Graphics

Isn't eGPU over TB3 a less-than-ideal graphics solution? I can understand it if you are using an ultrabook (or anything that needs to be mobile) and then get a graphics boost at your desk. Best of both worlds.

But if my setup is to be completely stationary it seems like onboard discrete graphics is the way to go. Sure, Mac mini allows upgrades but won't TB3 become a bottleneck anyway?

Maybe I just start with the mini and see if I really need discrete graphics at all. Which brings me to the next point...

Cooling

I'm mostly doing lightroom and photoshop work (maybe some light video editing) so I don't expect sustained loads that often. I have seen some tests which show that the mac mini doesn't throttle much. Anyway, I'm sure it's cooled better than any mac laptop, which is what I'm used to.

Other

@What's a computer? -- What's the big advantage of the T2 chip?

Summary

I guess the main consideration is graphics in the end. Perhaps this is the question to ask:

GPUs will certainly improve in the coming years, but will this matter if I am running them over TB3? I don't have a great technical understanding of the bandwidth and latency limitations.
Current max TB3 speeds only push about the power of a GTX 1060 before the link becomes a bottleneck. It’s basically running a GPU meant for PCIe x16 through PCIe x4 lanes. This will improve eventually as PCIe lanes become faster but the hardware in the Mini and other current gen eGPU capable systems will not change. The best AMD currently has to offer is barely enough to hit the bottleneck, but don’t plan on being able to upgrade to twice as fast gfx in a couple years with a 2018 Mini.
 

blenditall

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Mar 6, 2011
22
4
Current max TB3 speeds only push about the power of a GTX 1060 before the link becomes a bottleneck. It’s basically running a GPU meant for PCIe x16 through PCIe x4 lanes. This will improve eventually as PCIe lanes become faster but the hardware in the Mini and other current gen eGPU capable systems will not change. The best AMD currently has to offer is barely enough to hit the bottleneck, but don’t plan on being able to upgrade to twice as fast gfx in a couple years with a 2018 Mini.
Thanks... if this is true (upgradeability is negligible) then it seems kind of silly to have this piecemeal setup -- especially as the Mini would be stationary on my desk.

Which leads me to think I might as well get an iMac with 8GB VRAM and have a sweet 5k display too. Seems like the best value computer Apple makes. But they're so overdue for an update and the cooling sucks. And I can't afford an iMac Pro!
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: mylittlepwny