Replacing office computer with Mac Mini. Need advice...

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by triple-tap, Nov 3, 2015.

  1. triple-tap macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    Hello all,

    I am an member of a smaller law firm (5 attorneys and 10 paralegals). I have recently convinced the other attorneys that to alter our case management software away from antiquated old Lexis (aka Windows only) software and into a browser based software called Practice Panther.

    This new software works wonderfully on iPads, iPhones, laptops of any type, etc. We can now bill for our Court appearances before we ever leave the Courthouse at the end of the day, and everyone can access their files, internal notes, etc. from anywhere.

    My questions is whether a Mac Mini like this work for my main office computer? For those who don't want to click the link, it is a 2014 2.6ghz dual core model with 8gb ram, and a 1 tb HDD.

    My current computer is a Dell Optiplex 3010 with a 3.4ghz i3 and 4 gb ram. The current Dell drives 3 21" displays. The Dell can also handle the combination of Internet Explorer with 5-10 tabs open at any given time, 2-3 Word documents open, 2-3 pdf's open in Adobe (free version), OUTLOOK open 24/7, and my sync folder open 24/7.

    Will the Mac Mini be able to handle a similar workload? Will I run into trouble with driving 3 monitors? I will likely be paying for this computer out of pocket. However, if all goes well, I expect to move toward iMacs as part of an incentive program next year. (i.e. for each attorney who bills at least 1950 hours in a 12 month period, that attorney and their paralegals will be provided with iMac computers; 21.5" + an external monitor to paralegals, 27" to attorneys).
  2. oneMadRssn macrumors 601


    Sep 8, 2011
    Boston, MA
    First, hello fellow attorney! I wish the firm I work for would let us use Macs. Man, that would be awesome... But I doubt it will happen anytime soon.

    It should work fine for you in terms of the apps you use, but it won't drive 3 displays out of the box. It can only drive 2 displays natively (1x Thunderbolt/MiniDisplayPort and 1x HDMI). You can drive a third display using a USB adapter (such as this) but I wouldn't expect super smooth video or animations or anything like that.

    Good luck!
  3. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    Thanks for the response.

    I should have clarified in my original post. I am currently using this adapter (USB 2.0 to VGA) to run 2 of the 3 monitors

    I don't have any issues with lag at the moment, but I don't watch videos on these monitors either.

    I expect to use the two adapter in 2 of the 4 USB ports on the Mac Mini and a HDMI-to-thunderbolt adapter I own to drive the 3rd display.
  4. dwig macrumors 6502

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL
    My one comment would be that you need to very very carefully examine the way you use MS Office. The Mac version is not 100% compatible with the Windows version, primarily in the area of graphics placed in documents. You will also need to be sure that all fonts used on the "old" Windows system are exactly replicated on your new Mac or moving docs back and forth between Windows and Mac will require user intervention to manually replace any fonts with even very slightly different names.

    Even if you move the whole office to Macs you will still have the occasional issue with docs brought in from clients or other law firms. I work for an art gallery as the "Chief Photoshop Jockey" and also function as the primary go-to for any document or image file "translation" issues. We are Mac based except the accounting and shipping departments. I can usually deal for issues using my main PowerMac workstation, but I have occasionally had to rely on a Windows machine running a copy of MS Office to fix issues and "translate" the file to one that will display properly on the Mac version of MS Office. Even using OpenOffice or LibreOffice on either a Mac or a Windows machine has failed to handle some issues with placed and modified images in a Word DOCX created on a Windows machine. I haven't run the latest MS Office for OSX to see if it can display one of the problem docs. It's possible that MS has improved things. Just be cautious.
  5. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    I appreciate the words of caution, but our office is on Office 365. Fortunately, Microsoft has done pretty good job in recent years of make cross-platform compatibility a non-issue (especially with Office 365). I use my personal rMBP (2015, 13") when I am on the go or when I need to take my screen into our law library for research, and I haven't had any issues with compatibility.
  6. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    I would go for 16GB right from the beginning, as you can't upgrade it.
    The HD vs. SSD is probably a question of choice.
    I've got a 2012i7 with a Crucial SSD, while my mother has a 2012i5 with the stock HD. Both upgraded to 16GB RAM. It's noticeably slower, but with 16GB of RAM, it's actually surprisingly OK-ish. So, I would imagine the 2014 i5 to be similar. As the 2014 has two Thunderbolt ports, you can drive two displays right from those and only the 3rd one will need to be driven by USB.
    I haven't tried using an USB adaptor (happy with 30"+24" so far), so I can't comment on how (un-)usable it actually is.
    Anecdotal reports from this forum suggest that there's only a very, very slightly noticeable lag on the USB display.

    The 16GB version will last you a long time. If you buy good displays (EIZO, NEC, Dell U-series), people will rarely think about upgrading to an iMac, IMO.
    Well, at least you don't have to rush it.
    The best thing is, the Minis are very silent during normal office use. They're like thin-clients. Just not crappy ;-)
  7. 8281 macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2010
    Should work pretty well for what you're doing, but I would opt for the SSD. Since you are all cloud-based, internal storage shouldn't be a big deal. The speed difference between a SSD and HD is very noticeable. Not sure I could use a computer with a HD anyore...
  8. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    I am not even contemplating the SSD / HDD issue. The computer will be on 24/7 Monday - Friday, and most apps will be running all the time as well. I don't think the benefits of an SSD will outweigh the cost involved in getting a large enough drive. Even though we use a lot of cloud software, I keep many files on my desktop (currently at 280gb). We are stuck with Comcast in South Florida, and we lose internet for ~ 30 minutes at least once a month. Its not a huge problem, but I like to have templates and docs available so I don't waste time in the office.

    I am also not convinced that I need 16gb of ram. For what my described usage, I don't see the benefit. After a 6-12 month run with the Mac Mini, it will be relegated to my home media server. Given these facts, would others still recommend the upgrade?
  9. brofkand macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2006
    8GB will be fine for a year or longer. I run Photoshop on my iMac with 8GB of RAM and it runs extremely well. Apple still supports 2GB of memory with El Capitan. People saying you'll need 16GB of RAM to run Office and a browser are a little delusional I think.

    If you're OK with a bit of lag when opening a new app, and rebooting the machine, a HDD will work fine. I would at least choose a Fusion drive just to get the speed benefit of an SSD plus the mass storage of a platter at a lower cost, but that's your choice.
  10. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    My thoughts were leaning towards using a thunderbolt SSD as a boot drive if it became unbearable. If the refurb store has a Fusion drive, I may opt for that. I am just not wanting to spend more than $550-600 for the mac mini
  11. brofkand macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2006
    I would do the spinning drive if you don't want to spend more than that. An external SSD would be OK, but when you add a Thunderbolt enclosure + an SSD, you've spent pretty close to what the Fusion upgrade costs if not more. There's something to be said for paying a little more up front and buying what you need, rather than being penny wise and pound foolish.

    My advice is to get the middle-tier Mac mini as it is, no upgrades. If you find the spinning drive unbearable, return it within the grace period and re-buy with the Fusion upgrade. and Apple retail stores give you 14 days no questions asked, no restocking fee returns.

    FWIW, I was in your position when the new iMacs were released just a few weeks ago, and decided it was worth it to me to get the Fusion drive in my iMac.
  12. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    Get the "top-level" Mini model.
    It comes with a 1tb fusion drive as standard, along with 8gb of RAM. That gives you both "speed" and "storage capacity".

    If you wish, "bump up" the order with 16gb of RAM (probably unnecessary).

    It will cost a little more.
    But we're talking five lawyers here, right?
    C'mon, you guys can afford it...!
  13. 8281 macrumors 6502

    Dec 15, 2010

    If it's going to be a server, then I think the fusion drive would be sufficient. In modern computers the bottleneck is most often the hard drive, so if you're spending the money on a new machine you don't really want something that's slow right out of the box.
  14. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    The 8GB "better" model is 699 USD in the online store (without tax).
    I don't know how easy it is to buy larger quantities of refurbished units.

    I'm a bit of a RAM-fetishist, I admit. But I live in server-land normally, where RAM is king.
    RAM is a thousand times faster than an SSD, which is again a thousand times faster than rotating rust (AKA HD).

    See this image taken from Brendan Gregg:

    OS X should use most of the RAM you don't use as cache, improving performance when working with larger documents and multiple applications at the same time.
  15. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 601

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    With RAM compression (OS X 10.9+) 16 GB is like 16 GB + 8 GB = 24 GB. This is a bit excessive for office applications, even with 3 displays (Display Port daisy chaining).

    All current Mac Minis can be used as 24/7 HandBrake encoding stations, so they should not have a problem with office applications.
  16. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 601

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    Yeah, smaller and usable SSDs (256 GB, 512 GB) make the work process everyday more enjoyable.
  17. MRrainer macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2008
    Zurich, Switzerland
    Maybe, yes. If it was a 2012, I wouldn't bother with 16GB, as you can always upgrade it.
    But as the 2014 can't be upgraded...

    That said, for a single box, 8 GB vs. 16 GB isn't that much money - but for an office full of them, it looks totally different.
    Anyway, in the OPs case, the 16GB version is financially pretty much out of the question...
  18. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    I'm not sure where I implied the idea that mac mini's for the entire office was on the table. I am only contemplating buying a SINGLE Mac Mini for under $600.00 to test for my own personal office. If successful, we will expand to everyone else with iMacs

    I am not interested in 16gb of ram, and I just don't see it as a good investment for the limited purpose of this machine. I was really just asking for some feedback from others who may have a similar use pattern with a similar machine.
  19. ActionableMango, Nov 5, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015

    ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    Keep in mind that the HDD is a particularly slow HDD (5400 rpm). It's really bottom of the barrel. So even if you are used to standard HDD speeds in your PCs, this will be worse. I would definitely opt for the fusion drive if you can fit it in your budget.

    If the refurb store doesn't have what you are looking for, check out B&H Photo. They have similar discounts off of MSRP. Not quite as deep a discount as the refurb store, but close, and they keep standard, current models in stock instead of the refurb store's hit & miss inventory.
  20. triple-tap thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 18, 2013
    Thank you for the Heads-up. After tax, the Refurb prices are pretty close to the B&H prices. I'll keep my eyes peeled for some Black Friday goodness.
  21. Cape Dave macrumors 68000

    Nov 16, 2012
    For any occasional MS Office quirks, you could run Windows in a Parallels VM and get them handled :)
  22. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    You should be. You came here looking for good advice. The #1 thing you can do to ensure consistently good performance is get an SSD. You'd be fine with 4GB of RAM and the lowliest i5, but the HDD is going to tank performance on the Mini.

    You're reasoning for why you don't think it's warranted indicates a misunderstanding of the technology.

    It's hard for a lot of us reading this to not scratch our heads that you're in a 15 person law firm and can't rationalize $200 extra dollars so you're computer will work better while you bill out how much a year?

    And while I won't rehash the "why are we even having this discussion, just spend the money and get the larger SSD", if you have over 280GB of files on your work computer, you're storing them in the wrong place. You guys aren't using a file server? If for whatever reason you need the files to be on your computer, get an external hard drive - 1TB is like $60.

    Best of luck!
  23. Micky Do, Nov 7, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015

    Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

    Aug 31, 2012
    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    Why should the OP be looking at SSD? It is not a case of a geek after bragging rights to the best performing Mac Mini around. The firm is looking for adequate, cost effective performance within the budget available, and the OP has given sound reasons for not contemplating the SSD / HDD question.

    On 24/7, so boot time is not an issue.

    Apps used will be open most of the time, so a few seconds there is not an issue.

    With a large number of files, storage capacity is of higher priority than saving a few seconds when accessing a file.

    A law office will not be processing large amounts of photos, video or audio, where the benefits of SSD and extra RAM come to the fore. They won't even have large numbers of files and apps open at one time, so 8 GB of RAM is unlikely to be challenged.

    A bog standard, off the shelf mid range Mac Mini may not be a geek's dream, but it would be more than adequate for the task described.
  24. JeanLCP macrumors newbie

    Sep 16, 2015
    Don't know, whether my info will help You:

    I'm running a MacMini Late 2014, the high-end model: I7 core, 3,0 GhZ, 16GB, SSD 512 GB.

    It's running 24/7, just "going to sleep", normally not being switched of.

    3 Screens (HP Pavillion 23xi; 1 on HDMI, 2 via USB-HDMI-Adapters)

    Normally I have simultaneously open:
    Contacts 1x
    Calendar 1x

    OpenOffice Spreadsheets: 4 x (rather large Sheets)

    PDF: Preview : 6 x, Acrobat Reader 2x
    Safari: 3 x

    According to Activity Manager: Memory usage : 8,16 GB, Cache 6,9 GB.

    Maybe this will help You decide on the amount of Memory You might to need. My guess: You might be well of with 16 GB.
    SSD is great: at least no noise at all!!!
  25. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    Yes, because nothing screams "geek bragging rights" more than someone who suggests he'd be "fine with 4GB RAM and the lowliest i5". :rolleyes:

    I'm not going to rehash the SSD vs. HDD debate, which is ridiculous that we're even discussing at this point. It's been explained a million times. Users who think SSD's are just about boot times and launching apps do not understand the overall system performance ramifications of an HDD and what a bottleneck that is.

    If the OP doesn't care about performance, I don't know why they're bothered to start the thread. Any computer on the market (and any computer of the last five years) is perfectly capable of running basic office apps.

Share This Page