Okay, it's decision time. Mac Mini, or...

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by dh2005, Feb 2, 2010.

  1. dh2005 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    #1
    ... should I consider the apparent PC alternative, as so many people around here have advised?


    The only impressively spec'd nettop PC I can find is the Dell Zino HD. The key question for me is, which is the better video card?

    The 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4330 in the Zino...

    ... or the Nvidia 9400M taking 256MB of DDR3 from the main memory of the Mini?


    It seems like the answer would be obvious, but I've made incorrect assumptions before. Does anyone know of their respective benchmark scores? Or better still, can anyone find a head-to-head?

    In all other respects, I favour the Mini. Yes, the Zino has more RAM, but it's slower RAM. The Zino has a larger hard drive, both in terms of capacity and physical size - but what I have in mind won't really use the internal drive, and the 3.5" profile will increase the noise and heat output, which I assume is what the fan is for. It's got an HDMI socket, but I don't need one. It's cheaper, but I don't care. And the CPU seems to be appreciably slower.


    Any views and advice gratefully received. Thanks,



    DH.
     
  2. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

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    Cedar City, Utah
    #2
    I went the low end Mini and upgraded it to 4gb of ddr3 and a 500gb hd.
    It is fast as heck now. I was fast before too. I favor the Mini. Plus
    you get OSX. =)
     
  3. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #3
    Sure. I'm pretty much certain that the Mini is for me. But I thought I'd ask around, before finally making the commitment.

    I want to be able to run some games on my machine. Not top-end stuff. But I've been having a look at Steam today, and there are a handful of older 3D games (like the original Half-Life) that I'd like to buy, and run on my HDTV.

    In short, I'd like to be able to run whatever games I can; recognising of course that I'd hit a performance ceiling if I tried anything too ambitious.


    Does anyone know to what extent the CPU/GPU balance matters? I mean, I'm assuming that the Mini has the poorer video card, but its processor is much more grunty. Which would win out, in a 'game off'...?
     
  4. quadG5guy macrumors member

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    Jan 26, 2010
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    Richmond, VA
    #4
    Tough to answer your question if you don't tell us what you intend to do with it...
     
  5. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #5
    That would be true, if I hadn't told you precisely what I wanted to do with it in my previous post.

    [clears throat]

    I want to be able to run some games on my machine. Not top-end stuff. But I've been having a look at Steam today, and there are a handful of older 3D games (like the original Half-Life) that I'd like to buy, and run on my HDTV.

    In short, I'd like to be able to run whatever games I can; recognising of course that I'd hit a performance ceiling if I tried anything too ambitious.



    I'm sorry if you deem the sarcasm unnecessary... but it's right there.
     
  6. panzer06 macrumors 68030

    panzer06

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Location:
    Kilrath
    #6
    My early 2009 mini with nvidia 9400m 2.0,4gb,500gb played titans quest, and company of heroes ok. I had to keep the res down around 720p but they were playable with med to low settings.

    I've since upgraded to nvidia 8800gs based iMac. Wanted the 24" not the big27" also the 8800gs is really good for my games. Wifehas the mini.

    Cheers,
     
  7. MacMini2009 macrumors 68000

    MacMini2009

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    May 22, 2009
    Location:
    California
    #7
    Mac Mini hands down. Dell Zino's are fatter and have a weaker processor.
     
  8. bkspero macrumors regular

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    Dec 19, 2009
    #8
    I presume that small size is a critical factor?

    If you are focused on small, though, I agree with the others that the mini is the best option.

    I don't see it mentioned explicitly, but from your options it looks like you are limiting your options to ultra-small form factor computers.

    If that is an incorrect interpretation, then you have lots more and better choices. You can get a quad core PC desktop running Windows 7 in a case about 2x the size of the mini in each direction for less than the cost of a Mini. It will do all that you require and much much more. Lots of safety margin if your ambitions expand in the future. And a slot or 2 for a new graphics card if you want to game more intensively. Win7 and OSX each have their strengths and weaknesses, and in my opinion both are similarly good overall.
     
  9. jeremyblevins macrumors member

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    Jan 29, 2010
    #9
    Another thing is i was just watching hd nation and they said that the Zino HD is very loud.
     
  10. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #10
    Thanks, everyone. Some great advice there.


    bkspero;

    Good points, but gaming "intensively" is not really the plan. I have an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a Wii; so, I've got new releases covered, or close to it.

    I'm buying a small form-factor computer so that I can pop it underneath my HDTV, and play older stuff. To give you a feel for what I'm planning to buy; I've identified Halo, Half-Life and the Opposing Force mission pack, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the early Command & Conquer games, Doom II, Doom III... ya know. Stuff from two or three generations ago.

    If a 2.53GHz/4GB/9400M Mini can achieve this comfortably (I don't want choking, stuttering framerates...), then I think that's the machine for me.


    If anybody pro-PC out there wants to make their play, please do so.
     
  11. bkspero macrumors regular

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    Dec 19, 2009
    #11
    I'm probably about as pro-PC as you'll find here...

    ...and with your plan to tuck the computer (I am presuming unobtrusively) under your HDTV and use it for light gaming and possibly some home theater purposes, then then I concur that the mini is your best option. The only thing that you are (and may continue to be) giving up is blue ray support (unless Jobs has a change of heart and supports it on the Mac). With your PS3, that does not seem to be an issue. So get the 2.5 GHz mini and 4 gig of memory, and enjoy. You might also consider a small form factor firewire (or USB...but firewire is, IMO, preferable) external hard drive. Partition it into 2 virtual drives. Use one for Time Machine backup, and the other for storage (streaming video files, if you ever get a USB tuner stick use the external drive for spooling and storing the DVR files, etc.).

    Have fun
     
  12. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #12
    Thank you. What a well-informed "newbie" you are...!


    As a final question, does anyone know of a website that compares video cards from previous generations? I remember when the first 3dfx cards came out in the '90s, they were the dog's bollocks. Nowadays, they're just plain bollocks.

    Given that I'm looking to play games from five/ten-plus years ago, it'd be really helpful to know where current technology stands in the timeline.

    For instance, is the 9400M as powerful as a top gaming card from five/ten years ago...?
     
  13. chrfr macrumors 603

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    Jul 11, 2009
    #13
    I recall that when the 9400M was announced in Macs, it was shown to be on par with the ATI Mobility X1600 from the 2006-2007 era Macbook Pros. I'd think it would easily outperform a 5-10 year old graphics card, also keeping in mind the CPU blows away anything from that era.
     
  14. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #14
    Ah, yes. I suppose modern CPUs can handle a lot of the graphics work by themselves.

    Provided my chosen pre-2004 games run nicely on it, the Mini will make me very happy... although I forgot that the final installment of my tuition fees fell due today, so I've had to pay out £1,075 on that. Which means the Mini will now have to wait until after Easter.
     
  15. evilcat macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    #15
    Here you go, a rough guide.

    Been debating a Mini alongside my Quad G5, and had wondered how the 9400 compares to my > 4 year old 7800GT, and according to the linked page the new card is equivalent to an old FX 5950, an HD2400 pr an X1550, and sits 6 levels below my 'ancient' card.
     
  16. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #16
    That's perfect. Thank you.


    Looks like that 9400M's a bit on the timid side. But then, provided I don't ask it to do anything difficult, it'll probably do me alright.
     
  17. JJC80 macrumors member

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    Apr 30, 2004
    Location:
    California
    #17
    The Mac Mini versus a PC competitor? This is more of a mac vs pc question, and I can't honestly recommend any PC over an OSX machine. Why would you go PC? "throws up in mouth a little"

    Seriously, however, the Mini would do just fine with any task besides gaming. I think the answer is pretty obvious.
     
  18. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #18
    Thanks for your input.


    It's not that at all, mate. I know what I'm favouring, and I know why. But I've been getting it in the neck from certain folks over the past week about how I shouldn't neglect the apparently "cheaper" PC alternative that exists for every Mac. If this is so, and the identified alternative in this scenario is the Zino HD, I can't say that I'm overly moved.

    Because I'll be using this computer partly for legacy gaming, the respective video capabilities of these two machines are of particular interest to me. This is not an OS X vs Windows 7 debate, because I'll end up running them both even if I buy a Mini.
     
  19. prodigee macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    #19
    I am definitely a PC guy when it comes to desktops but for what you need a Mac Mini should serve you well.

    However if you went down the PC road. DO NOT BUY DELL. In the past they really did build quality machines, but now their products are really REALLY awful. Get an HP, ASUS anything but Dell I cant tell you how many times I have had customers buy a Dell only to return it 2 weeks later to get another machine.
     
  20. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #20
    Thanks for that view, also.


    Yeah, I've been told by other people that Dell's machines have gone to crap over the past few years.

    Looks like there's really no contest. The Mini, it is...!

    (last call, PC folks...)



    ... ooo! Before I go, I notice that you're running an MBP with a very similar spec to the Mini I plan to buy. Have you ever attempted any legacy gaming on it? Has it stood up reasonably well...?

    Thanks again.
     
  21. prodigee macrumors 6502a

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    Brooklyn, NY
    #21

    Have I?! Hahah of course it holds up quite well. I can even play Borderlands on Low settings on here no issues., Legacy games run very very well even on high. GO GET IT!!!
     
  22. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #22
    Thanks, man. You've been a real help.


    Now I have another question, but it probably requires a new thread...
     
  23. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #23
    Awww, man...

    ... a Higher Power called my bluff. I got a £3,225 rebate on my tuition fees from the NHS today. I have the money for the Mini, and a whole two months earlier than I was expecting.


    My plan had been to see whether or not a new configuration was released in the meantime, and make my move in April. But now, the money is here... burning a hole in my consciousness... talking to me whenever I close my eyes... daring me to strike...!


    Ugh! What do I do...?!
     
  24. archipellago macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    #24
    re- quoted for truth

    Mac Mini

    Apple's no-frills desktop just got a spec increase and added a server model in late October. It shouldn't be getting any more updates any time soon, which is a shame, because it's still not a very competitive product for the price. Check out the Acer AspireRevo R3610 as a more than viable alternative. Recommendation: DON'T BUY unless you insist on Apple, even when it flies in the face of all logic

    http://gizmodo.com/5432507/when-to-buy-apple-products
     
  25. dh2005 thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jan 25, 2010
    #25
    Okay, I'll look into that alternative. Hopefully it can do a better job of impressing me than that Dell.

    ...

    Okay. I've looked it up. Seems to me to cost half as much, but have a rubbish CPU and no optical drive. So, yeah, ostensibly "better value" for those with simpler needs, but clearly less powerful and less versatile than the Mini.

    I still need someone to show me something that's "the same, only cheaper". So far I'm not convinced by the comment that there's always a cheaper PC equivalent to any given Mac.
     

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