Real world use/benefits of Mini configurations

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Sammy's, Nov 15, 2018.

  1. Sammy's macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    Started a thread about upgrading an old Mini vs. buying a new one and got some great replies where I feel confident that upgrading is the way to go.

    Looking at the Mini configurations again (and this is where my inexperience is showing) and having a hard time judging the utility and cost benefit of the many upgrades. Has somebody here done a chart or something similar?

    For example the base model i3/8gb/128gb ($799) - I know some members are saying that this shouldn't even be the entry level but what would this be good for and what would it's limitations be?

    With each individual upgrade (RAM, Storage, Cpu) what would the benefit to real world use be?

    I hope this question makes sense and I'm not asking too much but would appreciate any and all thoughts the more exhaustive the better.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. F-Train macrumors 65816

    Apr 22, 2015
    NYC & Newfoundland
    If you spend a couple of minutes doing the arithmetic that will tell you how many potential versions there are of this computer, you might conclude that it makes sense to say what your needs are and ask which version will meet them.
  3. Cashmonee macrumors 65816


    May 27, 2006
    What do you plan to use it for?

    Remember, most of us (all of us?) are enthusiasts. So, we will want the fastest and most souped up thing we can get, whether we need it or not. In general, I think most the objection to the entry level is the idea the an i3 usually is reserved for sub-$500 computers in the Windows world and 128 GB of storage is pretty slim. Having said that, this i3 is essentially the previous gen i5 (I believe), and is no slouch. I have it myself in a PC I built this summer and it works great. For the majority of users, the i3 will be fine and will serve you well for a long time.

    As for upgrades.

    More RAM will allow your computer to have more apps, tabs, etc open at once without having to use the SSD for memory. 8 GB is fine for most people, but 16 GB would give some head room that will help the machine age a bit better. If you do photo or video editing, I would consider getting the RAM to 16 GB sooner rather than later.

    Storage is all about whether you plan on keeping a lot of large files (think photos or videos again) locally. If you don't have a lot of large files or anything like that, then the 128 in the base should suffice. Having said that, I personally would upgrade the internal storage up to 256 GB. The larger drive will be faster and is less likely to fill up, which is not ideal for SSDs. You can also use external storage using the mini's very fast Thunderbolt 3 ports. The options there are another can of worms, but suffice it to say that there are lots of cheap options that will be fast and expensive options that will be very fast.

    Upgrading the CPU will allow you to do things faster while also helping the computer age more gracefully. The speed of any of the 3 processors is plenty fast for web browsing, email, word processing, etc. You would be unlikely to notice the difference. If you start to look at things like photo and video editing, the differences will become more prevalent. The i5 and i7 should feel "less slow" in 5 or 7 years compared to the i3, though again that depends on what you are using it for.

    I think either the i3 or i5 with 256 GB storage and 8 GB of RAM is a solid machine. I personally am probably going to go for an i7/512/16 because I do edit a lot of photos, want the fast internal storage and plan to keep this as a main machine for more than 5 years.
  4. Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    Didn't want to bias the answers.

    Thanks for this - was trying to figure out what the main differences of the CPU's were and then when the cost benefit starts to kick in for example the i3/16/512 is $1,399 but the i5/16/512 is $1,499 that seems like the $100 jump is worth it. But then the i7/16/512 is $1,699 and I'm not sure if that $200 is...

    Right now my current Mini is mainly used for web browsing, email, word processing (writing apps) and iTunes. I do like to have multiple web pages and apps open especially when doing research. Would like to get into some Lightroom/Photoshop tinkering as well as experiment with some light video editing in the future. But to be completely honest with work/family obligations this will probably be a year or two off.

    So the dilemma I'm looking at is should I get something that would serve my current and possible future needs like a i5/16/512 for $1,499 or save some money by getting a base model in the near future when it is hopefully slightly discounted and keep the internal SSD as lean as I can by putting iTunes on an external SSD (say a relatively inexpensive 256GB - my iTunes is only about 30GB) as well as work files, etc. and then maybe buy the machine I need in a couple years if/when I can start pursuing those other interests?

    What strategy makes more sense - is the base model too expensive as is like some members say? Would waiting a couple years to ensure the need for more machine benefit me in that something truly better would be out there?
  5. Cashmonee macrumors 65816


    May 27, 2006
    Honestly, only you can answer these questions. To get the most life out of the machine, now or in the near future is the time to buy. I would suggest not going to 512 GB if budget is a concern. Whether or not you go i3 or i5 really depends on how likely you are to pick up photo editing, and how much better you think the i5 would age over the i3. Like I said, the i3 is a pretty good processor with an unfortunate name.
  6. FrontierForever macrumors newbie


    Nov 10, 2018
    i7/8/512 is $1500. Wait for RAM prices to drop and upgrade later.
  7. archer75 macrumors 68020

    Jan 26, 2005
    That's what I bought. And upgraded the ram to 32gb myself.
  8. pl1984 Suspended

    Oct 31, 2017
    My only objection to the base model Mini is the pathetic 128GB SSD. Otherwise I think it is more than a capable enough system for a lot of people. If you were able to get by with a 2012 quad core system the base model 2018 Mini is likely more than sufficient for your needs.
  9. tedson macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2002
    The base model is fine for law offices, accounting firms, medical offices, banks, etc that have all their client files stored on a shared file server and are doing typical office workloads. For an individual where all your files are on stored on the machine itself it might be tight unless you supplement it with external storage or pay more upfront to get more storage.
  10. Spectrum macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2005
    Never quite sure
    The sweet spot is the i5 with external storage for large files and third party RAM (if you need it).

    Equally, if you can manage with 128GB internal, the i3 will be a very capable system. Best used as a boot only drive with external USB3-SATA-SSD for cheap, but fast home folder. This would make a very fast and still cheap system.

    If you are doing video encoding, or editing, or other heavy CPU work, get the i5 or i7, and more RAM, and consider needing an eGPU now or down the line.
  11. Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    It is actually a late 2009 Core 2 Duo.
    --- Post Merged, Nov 16, 2018 ---
    Thanks - Curious as to why you chose 512 over 256? At what price point would you consider pulling the trigger on the RAM?
    --- Post Merged, Nov 16, 2018 ---
    Thanks - What would the indicators be that the you would need the extra RAM?

    When you say boot only drive for the 128GB internal do you mean just containing the OS X? Do you have any recommendations on an external?
  12. FrontierForever macrumors newbie


    Nov 10, 2018
    Longevity. I want my machine to last longer than 10 years. SSD is not upgradeable. Predicting future needs over the next decade make the $200 a minor gamble.

    I just upgraded the RAM in my 2012 i7-quad to 16GB. (for $100)

    8 GB is enough for right now for my needs... the next OS update or the next, maybe not. I'm hoping RAM prices fall before things like browsers, streaming video, etc. become more demanding.
  13. Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    Thanks. Couldn't you just go to external for future storage needs? Or is there a reason you would need the internal space?

    For your new Mini when you upgrade the RAM do you think you'll jump to 16GB like your last machine or go to 32GB?
  14. FrontierForever macrumors newbie


    Nov 10, 2018
    Perhaps the SSD wear concerns are overblown... but everything I've read indicates SSDs run faster when they aren't near full capacity. An external drive is just one more thing to clutter the desk.

    I am in no rush to upgrade the RAM... really, it's a matter of available cash, price, and necessity. Someday I would like to mess around with virtualizing instances of other operating systems. (so maybe 64GB)
  15. Stuurman macrumors newbie


    Nov 3, 2018
    I have the base model (i3/8gb/128gb) for two days, I am a retired editor and have 25 years experience with numerous NLE's, started with Avid on a PowerMac back in the 90ties. The base model is more than adequate for light editing, especially in FCPX (but also Davinci Resolve performs pretty decent). I used some 4K clips shot with my iPhone. For my needs the mac mini performs fine, I don't need extra RAM (yet) nor an eGPU. To be honest I am pretty impressed so far.
    Only minus I can think of is indeed the limited storage but instead of paying Apple an additional $200 for an extra 128GB I would use that money for a 1TB Samsung T5 to hold my projects and media.
  16. wdwpsu macrumors member

    Dec 20, 2017
    Reports are that the GPU is going to take up 1536MB of that memory, so you may want to update sooner than later.
  17. Amazing Ox Space Monkey macrumors regular

    Sep 21, 2015
    I respectfully disagree with you and in my opinion This is more or less wishful thinking. Just compare the technology of 10 years ago to what’s available today. Back then there were 10-12 MP cameras (Mind you, the Nikon D90 had only just been introduced and until then the photo cameras could not shoot video).

    I think in 10 year’s time the peripherals of the mini will have been long obsolete. In 10 year’s time the computer may not be in its present form and we may have switched to iPads or something else.
  18. macdos macrumors regular


    Oct 15, 2017
    Ten years is reasonable. I just scrapped my MacPro 3,1 from 2008, and replaced it with a Mac Mini. The latter is (typically) 2.5 times faster, which is rather mediocre considering the time span.

    I still use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II from 2008. It is 21 Mpx, full frame, and I don't see that newer cameras take better pictures, other than in extreme low light settings. Newer cameras have better connections, faster memory and such, but are not *essentially* better. Your 2018 iphone "camera" is a joke in comparison.
  19. FrontierForever, Nov 17, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018

    FrontierForever macrumors newbie


    Nov 10, 2018
    Photography can be a pretty expensive pursuit. I just want a computer that can browse the internet, log into my bank's website, play streaming video, etc. ... and not break driver compatibility from an OS update like Windows 10.

    This is why I pay a premium for MacOS / OSX. I don't worry about things breaking.

    If fixing driver compatibility issues becomes a part-time job, I'm installing Linux or FreeBSD on cheaper hardware.

    Our household has owned smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, and laptops. I HATE the disposable nature of these things.

    Try comparison shopping for a new car or buying a new house with 15 open tabs on a cell phone or tablet.

    Try doing something creative with multimedia -- it is possible, but hamstrung.

    Try dealing with creative children who are messy and destructive. Wacom tablets are cheap. Keyboards are cheap.

    Peripherals are cheaper to replace. In fact, I am still using the same model Logitech trackball that I was using 10 years ago... I wish they would update it or offer a premium version.

    Respectfully, iPads are the PC for the people wearing plastic clothing in Idiocracy.

    When I desire to express myself in writing -- glass screens with suggested words are no replacement for tactile keys. It is a sedated and straightjacketed method of expression.

    I want to live in a future where individual people are content creators
    -- and own the means of production to create content
    -- and not a future where individual people are just mindless consumers of schlock churned out by corporations
    -- and not exploited by the giant corporate suck of copyright.

    Cue the 1984 / Think Different ad. ;)
  20. leo-tech macrumors regular


    Sep 23, 2017
    In addition, it is easy to determine how much RAM you may actually need in your new Macintosh, for that in your old Macintosh start Activity Monitor, choose tab Memory, then launch whatever programs/apps you usually use, and do whatever work you usually do, and when doing it, keep an eye on Memory Pressure parameter.
  21. ccprstuff macrumors newbie

    Nov 6, 2008
    Austin TX
    One factor that MIGHT sway me to an i7 instead of a perfectly suitable (for me) i5 or even an i3 is consideration of the used computer resale value, and perhaps a quicker sale, a few years down the road that an i7 might bring for me over an i5 or i3.

    The future's uncertain, but paying more now could lead to enjoyment of a better specked mini for several years, until I'm ready to move on to something else, and then I could possibly recoup a greater percentage of my investment later on.

    Before the 2018s were announced, I was looking at 2012's on Ebay and Craigslist, searching only for the i7 models, ignoring the i5s.

    Based on just a casual observation, the 2012 i7s with high-capacity SSD internals seemed to sell the fastest, with the highest prices on Ebay.

    But, then again, I tend to keep my Macs until they drop dead. Never sold one used. Just donate them to Goodwill.
  22. Sammy's, Nov 18, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2018

    Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    Think I've narrowed it down to these configurations:

    1) i5/16/256 - $1,299
    2) i5/16/512 - $1,499
    3) i7/16/256 - $1,499

    Leaning more towards the first option - with this new Mini I would like to keep the internal lean and mean and only have the OS X, apps, and maybe my current work files on it. Everything else on an external including iTunes, etc. Is this what most of the users prefer?

    Which externals would be the best options? SSD worth the money, etc.?

    If I went with the second option I would probably keep everything on the internal - is there a hard and fast rule with how much of the internal ssd should be used - like say 50% etc.?

    Any other thoughts and considerations would be welcome - thanks.
  23. Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
  24. wdwpsu macrumors member

    Dec 20, 2017
    I went with option 3. I feel 256GB for an "OS and Apps Drive" is plenty. All of my active data will be on an external SSD drive (Samsung T5) and all of my library data (Photos, Video, Music) will sit on an 7200RPM USB3 drives.
    I felt I can always add more RAM down the road, but 8GB was too limiting to start.
    I knew I could never upgrade the CPU, so that's why I went with the i7 over the i5, for futureproofing.

    I haven't received my MM yet. And I am still doubleguessing the 256GB option. For future proofing, I'm "hoping" 256GB is plenty, but as OS's and Apps grow and Cache needs too, I may regret not going with the 512GB option. So... If I do go back to the Apple Store to do a return, that would be the reason why.
  25. Sammy's thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 13, 2018
    Thanks, this makes sense. What are you going to be mainly using this Mini for?

    Sorry for the noob questions but what do you mean by active data and library data? And why the preference for active data to be on an ssd? Will your iTunes live on the other library drives?

    Is this a trend with OS's and Apps and Cache needs to take more internal storage? Don't OS's take about 30GB's - do other Apps and Cache really have the chance to take up 256GB? Is there a rule of how much free space (percentage wise) that should always be on internal storage if this is where your OS is and you boot from?

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