New to Mac mini, trying to decide which to buy

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by sun surfer, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. sun surfer, Mar 16, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013

    sun surfer macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Hi, before I've always had Mac laptops, but times are a-changing. I now have an Ipad mini that I use when I travel, and my laptop never moves anymore. In fact, a few years ago, I hooked up my Macbook Pro to my tv, got wireless keyboard and trackpad, and haven't touched the laptop itself for years. It just sits there and acts as a desktop computer; I never use its screen or keyboard. So now that I'm cross-grading (wouldn't call it an upgrade or downgrade), I've decided to go with a Mac mini to get better performance for cheaper. It only makes sense.

    But I have some questions I hope you guys can help me with. :) I'm not a techie so some of these questions might be pretty simple.


    1 - The big $200 decision is between the 2.5Ghz Dual-Core i5/500GB hard drive and the 2.3Ghz Quad-Core i7/1TB hard drive. The hard drive size doesn't matter to me since my laptop now only has less than 200GB, so even 500 sounds amazing to me, so it's really between processors.

    How big a difference is there in performance between the two? I've never had a quad-core. I mainly use my computer for normal stuff, internet, word processing and stuff, but sometimes I do need to have a lot of applications running at once, jumping back and forth between them, and I could do with it being a little faster. But also, sometimes I game, and I particularly like Civilization V, and it doesn't work that well on my current laptop at 2.26Ghz Core 2 Duo, so I'm thinking maybe it's worth it to spend the $200 for the quad-core for increased performance? What do you guys think?


    2 - If I do get the quad-core, I also have the $90 option of upgrading 2.6Ghz instead of 2.3Ghz. Is it worth it? I'm leaning towards the upgrade, so from the dual-core mini, I'm looking at a total of $290 for the better processor. Again, I'm thinking 2.6Ghz would make the computer faster all around and games like Civ V work better. So how big is the difference between the 2.3Ghz and the 2.6Ghz?


    3 - RAM. It comes with 4GB but I want at least 8GB (16GB would be amazing too). Here's the thing, I don't want to spend the extra $90 for 8GB RAM if I don't have to. But I'm not techie and have never added RAM on my own before. I *think* I might could do it myself looking around online. Any suggestions/links? Should I just pay Apple to do it or am I better off trying to do it myself?

    I know doing it myself "voids" the Apple warranty or something, but if something happened later on, before bringing it in, couldn't I just open it back up and make the RAM like it originally was and they wouldn't know the difference? I also have no idea on where the best or cheapest RAM is to buy, so any help would be great.


    4 - Connecting to my tv. I see that the mini has an hdmi plug area. So, just to make sure, I'm going to be able to simply plug my hdmi into the mini and my tv, and then I'll be able to see the computer screen on my tv and hear any sound on the tv that I'm playing through the mini?

    If so, then I can't wait! Last time, I unfortunately got the last Macbook Pro that wouldn't connect sound to a tv. So I have to first use that little connector that connects to hdmi for the picture, then using my earphone plug on the laptop, I connect to external speakers which is where the sound comes out when I'm watching movies or playing iTunes or whatever. Ugh, a simple hdmi cord from mini to tv will be sooo much better.


    5 - The "main screen" (home screen?) of the mini. Is it just the same as main screens of laptops? When I turn it on, will what I see on screen be the same kind of thing I'm used to seeing? Or will the screen somehow look all different? Like I'm talking about the screen where everything is, from desktop images, the dock, etc.


    6 - Transferring everything from laptop to mini. I think I have two options. I can just transfer using a USB cord, right? I'm not 100% sure if that's possible.

    Or my other option is getting an external hard drive, transferring my laptop stuff to it, then from the external hard drive to mini.

    The main thing is, I want to "clean up" all the stuff on my laptop as I add it to the mini and de-clutter and delete some stuff, so I don't really want one massive transfer of everything to the mini. But I need to sell my laptop asap after I get the mini so I can't just keep the laptop around forever with the stuff on it. So would an external hard drive with all the stuff on it be the best solution?


    7 - Stuff like Pages and Numbers. I use those all the time. Can I not get them with my mini to save money, then instead just transfer them from my laptop to my mini? I'm not really sure how all that works.


    8 - Overheating fan. Sometimes this turns on on my laptop, especially when I'm playing Civ V. Sometimes it will stay on the entire time I'm playing, which can be hours. This scares me and makes me worried it will overheat anyway and just stop working.

    I guess the mini also has a fan for overheating? Can I expect the better performance on the mini to make the fan not turn on when I'm playing Civ V? I'm hoping it will work well enough that the fan doesn't come on, because every time I play on my laptop, the fan on always agitates me and makes me think I'm tearing up the computer.


    9 - Wireless. Does the mini also have wireless connections? I love the wireless or bluetooth connections between my iPad mini and laptop and my phone and laptop. I actually have my laptop plugged into ethernet for faster speed, so I don't need wireless for the internet connection (assuming the mini has an ethernet plug area) but I would like it for cross-device connections.

    :apple: Thanks for helping! :apple:
  2. TrollToddington macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2011
    1. Most certainly any modern processor fits your needs. I have never played Civ 5 but it should run fina, too. Most certainly the performance bottleneck is the lack of dedicated video processor so that the game will rely on the integrated Intel graphics (which they say is not that bad)

    2. Go for it if money is burning a hole in your pocket. The faster the better, but bear in mind I'm doing the stuff you intend to do on a 3 year old iMac i3 @ 3.06GHz processor which has never felt slow. If I were you I'd invest my spare money on SSD

    3. You can install RAM yourself, it looks like a pretty straightforward task. I wouldn't buy RAM from Apple. They say Crucial are reliable for RAM

    4. Yes

    5. No idea as to what you're talking about. If by "home screen" you mean the OS X interface than you're right, it'll look pretty much the save .

    6. I'd use Time machine to transfer my files & stuff

    7. No idea. Do they sell you the mini with Pages & etc. Where I live, Pages are an option.

    8. No idea

    9. It does have wireless connectivity so that you can use your wireless apple keyboard and magic mouse.
  3. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Thanks for the answers!

    Civ V unfortunately is a very computing-heavy game. I don't play much else, but from what I've heard it's about the worst there is as far as how much processing it needs. Right now, I'm playing with the lowest graphics settings on my Macbook Pro and it still lags sometimes, and hoping with a Mac mini, upgraded, that it will at least play well on medium settings (high/detailed graphic settings are too much to hope for) with no lagging.

    The lack of dedicated video processor I'm sure hurts it too, but not much I can do about that. The mini is the same, right?

    Ah, I hadn't thought of an SSD. Ugh, I wish I had the money for it all.

    The problem is, on the cheaper option of 2.5GHz dual-core, there is no upgrade option for SSD or Fusion. So I can't invest the money on that instead. I'd have to spend the money on the quad-core, and then also the money on the SSD, which I don't have.

    Yeah, I just didn't know the right words to use. I mean the main interface that you do everything from, with the apple in the top left, the spotlight and time in the top right, a desktop image behind and a dock on some edge. I've just never had a non-laptop Mac and those already have their own screens so I wasn't sure if something like the mini would have an interface that was in any way different.

    Heh, I wish, but not enough money for one. But isn't Time Machine basically just a fancy external HD anyway? I'd love to have one for its ease of use and automatic saving but it's not in the cards right now.

    Yeah, it's an option to add it, but what I'm asking is, do I have to pay to add it on, or instead couldn't I just transfer the Pages and Numbers I already have from my laptop over to my mini?

    That's great to know. What about with wireless iPad syncing?

    I also use the laptop bluetooth to connect wirelessly with my phone and transfer things back and forth. Does the mini have that?
  4. benwiggy macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    Time MAchine is OS X's built-in automatic backup software. I think you're confusing it with Time Capsule, which is Apple's network hardware drive for using with TM.

    As for your main point:

    1. & 2. If you're unsure about whether to get the i5 or i7 in the first place, then you don't need to get the 2.6. The 2.3 will be fine. I would recommend a Fusion drive, if you can afford it.

    3. Installing RAM does not void the warrantee. RAM is user-installable. Apple provide instructions. It's very easy.

    6. Use Migration Assistant on the new Mini. It will talk you through migrating stuff from your old computer, or from a TM backup. You can migrate as much or as little as you like.

    7. If you have bought Pages, etc, then you can install them on your Mini. You don't have to buy again.

    8. The fan comes on when the computer needs to cool down. Having the fan on is not a bad thing. In fact, it's better than the alternative. You don't need to worry about this.
  5. Nate392 macrumors member


    Dec 28, 2012
    First off, (In reply to your response) I think that the Mini should fare at the very least reasonably better than your MBP as far as gaming. Depending on how old you laptop is, the integrated graphics of the mini could be equal to, or better than what you have now.

    Second, though SSD's are nice, you may not notice too much benefit if most of what you do is just word processing and Internet browsing. If you were say, opening lots of photos or doing things that required a lot of memory recall, that's when you'd notice the most. You first stated that you wanted to be able to switch applications quickly. The best solution to this is actually as much RAM as you can get, as that's where the temporary files are stored, and that's what the program works off of. Believe me, it's worth it. BUT! you'll definitely beyond a doubt want to add the extra RAM yourself, as it is super easy, does not void any warranties, and best of all, it's cheaper than what Apple charges up front.
    (On these criteria, I recommend that you get an i7, either model depending on your budget, and then put 16 GB of RAM in yourself.)

    OS X, between laptops and desktops is no different. The main desktop is the same, etc. It's just like windows on a desktop and windows on a laptop, they're both exactly the same. (Hence you don't have to buy/download desktop specific app and programs as opposed to laptop software, they're both exactly the same.)

    Time Machine is the backup software that comes with every Mac. All you have to do is hook up any Mac compatible external Hard Drive, and set up Time Machine to back it up. It's really easy, and relatively inexpensive. (You're thinking of this When al you need is this)

    Yes. You can transfer any apps that you have purchased through Apple store simply through your account. You could A. do the transfer from your time machine backup, as long as both computers are logged into the same account, or B. Simply go into the Mac App store, look at "your account" and look at "Purchased(Or downloaded, I forgot which) apps" there you will see what you have, and you can download another copy onto your new Mac. (up to 10 times per app is the max I think, not sure though.)

    Yes! Any computer with iTunes can sync over wifi with your iPad if you so choose. That is no problem for the mini. As far as Bluetooth? The mini will be able to sync faster than your laptop with your phone, due to Bluetooth 4.0.


    As far as point 8 and overheating. If your laptop hasn't died yet from the heat, the mini shouldn't either. It seems that Macs have a high heat threshold, as they're normally hot to the touch after extended use. (Though that may be due, in part, to the aluminum body that Apple uses.) Yes, I can almost guarantee that the fan will turn on, and it is loud, but it shouldn't have trouble cooling the computer, and will work out fine. If anything, I'd expect the fan to kick in later than what you're used to with the MBP, and probably shut off sooner.
  6. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Thanks for the helpful posts!

    LOL, oops! So I guess then he was saying I should just connect the laptop to mini with a USB or something and use Time Machine to transfer? The thing is though I kind of don't want to just do a mass transfer because I want to clean out and clean up stuff as I transfer and only transfer what's necessary. So I'm still thinking an external HD is the best option?

    Honestly, the main reason I'm considering upgrading to 2.6 if I get the i7 is that Civ V suggests a "minimum" of 2.5GHz for the game (my current laptop being 2.26), and also that to go from 2.3 to 2.6 is only $100. I would love to save the money, but truthfully I'm not even sure what GHZ is and what exactly it makes better.

    Thanks, I hadn't heard of Migration Assistant. I'll try to use it, sounds like it will be helpful!

    I guess my thinking has always been, the fan coming on means the computer is working too hard and taxing itself too much. One old laptop (an ibook I think) just went kaput one day while the fan was running and the genius guy said I taxed it too much, so I've been extra aware of the fan ever since. Luckily though computers have gotten better since then and the fan doesn't come on this laptop nearly as much as the old ones, but it does come on non-stop for Civ V which is why it worries me.

    That's great! And what I'm hoping for. To be clear though, I don't know for sure, but reading on Civ V forums, apparently it's not exactly the graphics that overtax computers but all the processing of the internals of the game. But, if your computer's not good enough then enhanced graphics will not work right because of the processing already being so heavy, so hence my graphics being turned down to minimal on all settings for my current laptop. So I'm hoping a better processor makes a big improvement too.

    I have heard that a lot about (besides gaming) what I do not being "too taxing" so the cheapest computer should be fine, but yeah, I think the main thing is that I often need to keep a lot of applications (and internet) open at once and switch back and forth. All that at once seems to slow it down for me, sometimes really bad. On my "Activity Monitor" my System Memory, when it gets slow, always shows as all used up, all red and yellow and no green/free. Honestly, I don't know what that means exactly but I know it's not good, heh. And making my computer slow even though everyone tells me for what I'm doing it should be fast.

    So, I think part of it is the RAM like you said? And yeah, you guys have convinced me, whatever I get, I'll get the 4GB and then try to upgrade myself to either 8 or 16 (I'd definitely prefer 16 but depends on difference in price).

    Now between both of these posts I'm understanding Time Machine and will use it for an external HD, sounds perfect.

    Well, I don't think I bought it through the App store. I had Pages and Numbers pre-installed on my Macbook Pro when they sent it to me. Could I still transfer it over? Maybe manually, through the external HD or something? Between the two applications, that'd save me I think like $40 or $50 if I can.

    Perfect! Sounds awesome.

    Heh, I've definitely noticed that Macs seem to get hot easily from experience with previous Mac laptops burning my legs after using them too long. Thank God those days of using a laptop on my lap like that are gone; that hurt! And it wasn't just me. Back then my friends with Mac laptops said the same thing. Thankfully iPads seem to stay much cooler (or maybe I just don't use it as intensively as I did my laptops).

    The fan will probably still worry me if it comes on on the mini, but you guys have helped make me feel better about it not tearing the machine up.
  7. Nate392 macrumors member


    Dec 28, 2012
    Yes. As far as I know though, Time Machine only works when connected from your Mac to an external drive. I think what you would use by connecting one Mac to the other is called migration assistant.

    Then a 2.6 may be a good idea. I'm not sure how the processor Turbo speeds factor into that though. You may want to look into whether or not the Turbo boost speed in the 2.3 i7 is enough.

    You should be okay, I mean, there are 24/7 servers running using minis, so you should be safe as far as heat.

    Then that quad i7 will likely do wonders for you. Using the 2.6, even restarting Firefox with 30 tabs open, I have yet to take it over ~20% doing routine things like that.

    You're absolutely right there. The "System Memory" in that instance is more commonly known as Ram in other settings. So have more Ram, means that you won't run into that problem. I upgraded my own Ram, and while I had to wait for the Ram and then swap it, the difference was night and day. It literally made my computer much faster.

    That's interesting. You technically did get it from the Apple Mac App store though, so it may help just to check the "Purchases" icon in the App store to double check to see if it is accredited to your account. If not, the apps should come across in migration assistant or from a Time Machine backup.

    It really seems that you'll be happy with a Mac mini. They're great little machines.
  8. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "The big $200 decision…"

    …is easy. Spend the extra $200 for the i7. You will NEVER regret having done so.

    "If I do get the quad-core, I also have the $90 option of upgrading 2.6Ghz instead of 2.3Ghz. Is it worth it?"

    I got it. It was worth it to me. Whether or not it will be worth it to you, is your own decision. If you plan on keeping the Mini for 3 years or more, I'd recommend it.


    Get 4gb from Apple. Add the rest yourself. About the only thing you should be concerned about is being VERY careful with the retaining clips that hold the memory in. Do not spread them apart any more than is necessary to "sneak out the old RAM".

    I recommend the following as THE BEST source for RAM (regardless of what others here say):

    "Transferring everything from laptop to mini. I think I have two options. I can just transfer using a USB cord, right?"

    Won't work unless you copy to an external drive first.
    Instead use ethernet or firewire if the laptop has it. You can use "Firewire target disk mode".

    "Wireless. Does the mini also have wireless connections?"


Share This Page