New to Mac - Mini or iMac - Advice please


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 16, 2015
I’m a new user here and am about to take the plunge into buying a Mac. Never owned one before so this is a big deal for me. I’m debating between a Mini vs an iMac. Here’s my situation:

- Heavy Adobe Lightroom work. Want fast performance for import, preview generation, module change, and going from photo to photo.
- Very occasional Photoshop work. It’s a non-factor.
- Don’t do much video work but will begin to. Even then it should be limited to basic splicing, simple edits, and exporting to lower resolution for sharing.
- Don’t play games, won’t be watching movies on this machine.
- Have a 27-inch monitor running 1920x1080 and my photography work has outgrown it so it’s time to upgrade as well
- All data in a Lacie 2TB USB 3 external drive, backed up to another drive of same.

I consider a Mini (upgrade to i7, 16MB, 1TB fusion = $~1399) primarily because a computer will only last 3-5 years before you don’t want to use it anymore, whereas a good display will last 10 years or more and not get obsolete. So decoupling the desktop from the display seems to make sense. I can get a Dell 4k (very good monitor) for $700, and when it’s time for the Mini to go, I will still have the display.

iMac Retina 5k is of course beautiful but when it’s time for the desktop to go, you throw away the display as well. So will this option entail upgrading to i7 (+$250) to maximize longevity? Money is a factor of course, but making the right decision is more important.



macrumors 6502a
Feb 17, 2013
I can't speak for everyone, but IMO - the 27 inch iMac is a Lightroom match made in heaven. Doesn't matter if it's the late 2012 to the current model.

Only rules I would apply is SSD (No fusion) and Max Ram (3rd party)

Much has been posted about the current 5k iMac and Lightroom.
General consensus is Adobe needs to update the app for GPU usage on the 5k.
I agree, but a 2012/13 runs the app in fine form. With memory maxed, you'll use PSCC right along with it and be very happy with performance.

Good Luck


macrumors 65816
Sep 3, 2014
The new Mac Mini's are bad buys for the money because you are forced to pay Apple tax for RAM which is extremely high % for a computer that cheap....not to mention the SSD(fusion) drive tax.

For example I purchased a refurb 2012 quad i7 mini for $589 a few months ago.

2012 quad i7 mini - $590
Third Party 250 GB SSD - $130
Third Party 16 GB RAM - $130
Total - $850

They are going to charge you $1400 for a system which would be slower in some tasks then the above system I posted which is $550 cheaper. $550 can but put towards something actually extremely useful like a top of the line monitor.

27" iMac is the better buy if you are buying new. There is an issue with Lightroom though I believe with the 5K iMacs still. Adobe has not full optimized Lightroom 5 for Retina so there is some performance issues I've read but Adobe is working on updates from what I read. Lightroom 6 is supposed to come out in a few months which i'm pretty certain will perform well on Retina iMacs.

I'd either get a used Mini or go for an iMac. i couldn't justify spending over $1k on a Mini which is basically a Macbook Air. I personally have the base 5k iMac and the system is amazing.

FYI no need for fusion is you are using external drive. Go for 256 GB SSD for max performance.


macrumors 6502a
Nov 11, 2012
I wish I could suggest an ideal Apple system for you, but Apple makes it difficult.

If $$ is no object, you can certainly meet your immediate needs with the retina iMac. Spec the CPU and GPU based on your performance demands, buy your own RAM to supplement the base offering and definitely get the SSD, either 256 GB or 512 GB, to use with your external storage.

The downside of that, of course, is that you lose the flexibility of using your external display and flexibility for future upgrades and enhancements.

I understand your thoughts about the Mac Mini as a solution, but unfortunately it has been been pretty much crippled in its latest iteration as a flexible expandable product as you don't even get user upgradeable RAM.

I, too, have been wanting some kind of Apple product that would meet these needs so that I could upgrade my own display and GPU as the technology evolves. Even looked at the Mac Pro. But the Pro goes completely overboard in that you have to buy TWO GPUs which drives the price up.

Ideally we would want either a "Pro" version of the Mac Mini - larger physical size and more user upgradeability, or a cost-reduced version of the Mac Pro with one GPU. My guess is that we will get neither.
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