Opinions on my 2011 Mac Mini BTO

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by JDLang, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. JDLang macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Hey gang, first post.

    Just wanted to throw down my idea for the Mini I plan on ordering this weekend (Education discount and tax-free weekend). Uses for the mini will be to complete my research in Computational Fluid Dynamics. I do a lot of coding/data editing and my 2008 white macbook is maxed out.

    Here's what I plan on buying from Apple:

    -Mac Mini
    -2.7 GHz i7 upgrade
    -4 GB RAM
    -500 GB 5400 RPM HDD

    Here's what I plan on upgrading on my own:

    -8 GB RAM most likely from newegg or OWC
    -240 GB 6G SSD from OWC

    Here's how I plan on installing Lion to the SSD:

    -I already have a 2008 White MacBook with Snow Leopard and purchased Lion
    -I already made a bootable USB drive with Lion on it
    -I plan on installing the SSD clean and booting Lion from the USB drive
    -I then plan on using the stock HDD for my time machine backups

    So there's my plans. I'd like to hear opinions on any of the decisions that may seem like a bad idea, or any better ideas than the ones I put forth.
  2. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    I would not involve the white macbook or the bootable usb.

    I would pull the hdd from the new mini I would put it in this a
    thermal take n0028usu. then put the sdd in and clone the virgin oem hdd to the ssd using the macbook and super duper I would then install the ssd in the mini. lots of thermal take n0028usu on ebay


    here is my link to do the swap

  3. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Thank you for the response. I will be following your thread very closely for the SSD swap.

    Is there any reason for doing the clone over a clean install from the USB?
  4. mdgm macrumors 6502a

    Nov 2, 2010
    The Bootable USB won't work with the 2011 Mini. You may find cloning the OEM drive is a much better option than using Internet Recovery (download Lion all over again) to install onto the new disk.
  5. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    I made usb clones that did not boot on the mini. As for internet downloads I have 15MB/s down and 2 MB/s up service I never got past 1.2MB/s down and the download was more then 2 hours. Just think of dsl users at 1MB/s ratings the download may be 6 or 7 hours.
  6. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Thanks for the fast responses. That's good information about the mini's not booting Lion from a USB stick.

    Looks like the best option is by far the cloning option. I also have extremely fast broadband in my lab (especially if I am the only one in there), but the cloning option seems quicker.
  7. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Your use sounds like you'd benefit more from the quad core Server model, or does the stuff you use not take advantage of extra cores?
  8. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
    Yes, get the quad-core server model.
  9. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    I may have been misleading in the way I presented the CFD that I do. The actual codes that I run are not on my mac. I write the codes on my mac, but then submit them to massively parallel systems such as Kraken and Jaguar.

    However, the output files from these simulations are then post processed on my mac using software like Tecplot and Ensight. It is these visualization and post processing software tools that are 'maxing out' my mac. These software packages require a lot of writing from disk (hence the SSD), and a lot of RAM (hence the 8 GB upgrade).

    For these applications, I don't think the server model is worth the price increase just for the quad-core.
  10. christophermdia macrumors 6502a


    Sep 28, 2008
    I replaced the drive in my mini and found that it gave me quite a bit of trouble....best option was to put the blank drive in and let it restore from the apple servers and then just reinstall everything....I suppose once reinstalled you can make restore from time machine...I only concern myself with my documents, pictures and music though...
  11. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    You'd be crazy to not go with the server version. It's going to be a $100 increase from what you're looking at. Not only is the processor much more powerful (which you will benefit from), but the HDD's are 7200 RPM. Even if you're swapping one out, the remaining drive will be faster and you'll have all the mounting hardware you need for your SSD already built in. (You'll spend $40-50 easy on the cable and shipping). This equates to a roughly $50 increase in cost in the end, and a much more powerful machine.

    It also won't have to be built to order, you could just walk into an Apple store and pick one up. You mentioned a tax holiday, it's unlikely that will apply to online orders, so you might actually end up saving money by buying the server.

    The only advantage to the model you initially discussed is the GPU, but from what you're describing, you really don't need that anyway.
  12. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    You've got me interested. My only concern was some of the bad reviews I read in other threads about dealing with Lion Server when you're the one and only user.

    Is there a geekbench score somewhere that puts into perspective the difference between the dual and quad core i7?
  13. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    7200 vs 9200
  14. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    The post above mine says 7200 vs 9200. My server with 8GB RAM is doing around 9500. It's a big difference, plus the faster HDD's don't hurt either.

    I haven't had any problems with the server software. You click through a few introductory things in the initial install and forget about it--but at least it's there should you ever want it. You can also just delete it, it's just an app, and it goes away completely. You'll be able to download it on that machine from the App Store any time you'd want it back. There's really nothing to deal with though, other than the initial setup (which you can skip 99% of) it's quite passive.
  15. japtor macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Yeah in Lion the "Server" is basically just an extra set of software on top of the normal install while in previous versions the differences ran deeper than that.

    From what I can find, it looks like both Tecplot and Ensight take advantage of multiple cores so the quad should be a nice boost. Notebookcheck.com has some Ensight test for GPUs...and both appear to suck, but I don't know what the specifics of the test or the systems used.
  16. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Thanks for the responses Mak47 and japtor.

    I'm working on a total cost of the upgraded mini compared to the mini server model. Y'all were right in assuming the prices are a lot closer than I had originally thought. This is even the case if I go for the Apple SSD in the mini server.

    Also, I like hearing that the Lion server is not a major difference to the user.

    Before tonight I was dead set on the dual core i7, however, I think the server may be in first place as of now.
  17. indg macrumors 6502

    Feb 7, 2007
    unless you absolutely need the AMD 6630M gpu for 3d graphics, your $100 towards the cost of i7 upgrade may be better spent towards a mini server. with the 2x500GB 7200rpm hard drives, you can raid stripe them and get much faster speeds (up to 3x) than a single 5400 rpm drive, not to mention get 1TB of total storage.

    see this post for sample read/write speeds of raid 0 with the server:

    geekbench 64-bit with 8gb of ram:
    2.7ghz dual i7: 8280
    2.0ghz quad i7: 9660 (17% faster)

    lion server is just like lion with some extra services you can enable. you'll never even notice they're there unless you need them.
  18. OTACORB macrumors 65816


    Jun 21, 2009
    Central, Louisiana
    Clearly you are not actually getting that kind of throughput. I have the exact same download/upload you do and I have downloaded Lion now 3 times, one time after installing my SSD in my new 2011 Mac mini. Download time was 30 minutes.

    Clearly if you are on a slow connection you may want to consider options, but anything above 8mb download you can probably get this done in an hour or so.

    Exactly! Since all my documents are stores on Dropbox, I don't have to worry about backing up documents. So, installing the SSD, booting with Com-R the internet recovery popped right up. 30 minute download via my 15mb wifi and 20 minutes to install and I was up and running. So basically this gives you a totally clean install, which is what I wanted.
  19. Mak47 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 27, 2011
    Harrisburg, PA
    You may be right on the BTO SSD upgrade. It looks like about $100 difference between doing it yourself (with the OWC drive) and letting them do it. If they do it you also get bumped to a 750GB HDD and you don't have to hassle with wipes, clones and reinstalls etc.

    Even with the stock 7200's you'll be quite pleased with the server. Don't forget about the option to upgrade to two 750GB 7200 HDD's for $90 (edu discount). If you set them up in a striped RAID they'll move pretty quick and you won't have to mess with the insides. Between that and the quad core you're going to see a massive speed improvement from your current machine.

    My strategy is as follows, and it might work well for you too. Stick with the stock 7200 HDD's for now. I went with the 500GB, you might opt to bump up. In the next few months, we'll see the Lacie Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt come out (external SSD), this will be a bootable drive and Thunderbolt is technically faster than SATA 3. I'll set that up as a boot drive, then reconfigure the internal dual drives in striped RAID to operate as one fast internal drive for storage.

    Whatever you decide, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the quad core. It's a surprisingly good value. I've never left the Apple store feeling like I got a good deal before, but the day I got the mini server I did.
  20. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Thanks for all the advice!

    The mini server has been ordered along with a trackpad. I'll report back on how I like it.
  21. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    Well I got the Mini earlier this week, however I was away and haven't had a chance to start it up until now. Unfortunately, I can't give anybody any opinions on it because I am typing this from my White MacBook as my Mini won't start!!!

    It simply will not recognize my wireless keyboard. And it's an Apple wireless keyboard! So I have been sitting here, staring at a grey screen telling me to turn on my wireless keyboard, while my wireless keyboard is blinking green telling me it is searching for something to accept its keystrokes.

    Anybody know how to get my mini to recognize my keyboard?
  22. JDLang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2011
    That's not my problem. In order to get to that screen, I would have actually had to have turned my computer on successfully. That still hasn't happened.

    The process goes as this:

    1) Brand new Mac Mini. Never been turned on.

    2) Power button is pressed.

    3) White screen with apple on it comes up.

    4) Grey screen with picture of a keyboard and/or mouse on it comes up.

    5) Nothing else happens.

    6) Mac Mini is turned off and Steps 1-5 are repeated.
  23. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    what mouse? I have found that a cheap mouse like this


    plug the mouse receiver into the mini and try to get the mini to find the keyboard. what do you have for the mouse?

    target has the mouse above on sale for 12 bucks. my new mini works with a wireless keyboard but says f u to an apple mouse. works with the logitech m305 mouse
  24. Mr.C, Aug 14, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2011

    Mr.C macrumors 601

    Apr 3, 2011
    London, UK.
    There is a separate thread on this issue here ...


    I and a number of others had the same problem. I'm not sure why and I couldn't get it to work. In the end I ended up going to one of my local stores to buy a USB keyboard as I didn't have any lying around at home.

    It was annoying having to spend £9.99 on a brand new keyboard but it was the only way I could progress. That said the USB keyboard may come in handy in emergencies along with my Apple USB Mighty Mouse which I also had to use as the Mini refused to connect to my Track Pad or Magic Mouse.

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