Retina MacBook Pro & Mac Mini combo?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ForeignAidPro, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. ForeignAidPro macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2013

    I am a looking to switch from PC to Mac. At present I am faced with the dilemma of whether to purchase a two mac setup. Tradtionally I have been a desktop and a laptop person. In undergrad that is what I had and now that I am in gradschool(and working full time) I find myself both at my desk and in class. Since my desktop is about to die ( 7 years old), this is going to be a decision that happens soon.

    What I am contemplating is the following set up

    rMBP 15"
    - i7 (2.7ghz)
    - 256GB SSD
    - 16GB Ram
    +Mac mini
    - i7(2.6 ghz)
    - 1TB HDD+ 256GB SSD (installed by certified tech)
    - 4GB Ram (upgraded post purchase to 16GB
    Apple's Georgous display (I have a left over monitor I will daisy chain at the end)
    Superdrive & some external storage.

    I am also a photographer so I run photoshop and lightroom, but I have heard that the mac mini would be smoked by the rmbp. To complicate matters I need to run windows in parallel so that I have access to MS Access, ESRI's ArcGIS mapping software, and some coporate apps for work when I telework.

    So what should I do. I have play around with the idea of getting the bigger SSD on the rmbp and dropping the mac mini, but I love having computer redundency and have a boat load of data so regardless something is going to be left on my desktop. In an ideal world I would have the option of picking a MacPro, but they are so out of date now that I don't want to invest in that.

    Any advice you provide would be most welcome.
  2. Pharmscott macrumors 6502a


    Dec 13, 2011
    Sacramento, CA
    If you can afford that setup, it sounds like you'll be very happy. The rMBP does have more horsepower than the mini but the mini is still a capable machine.

    I had dual computers for over a year: Mini plus MBA. I consolidated to just a rMBP and I'm super glad I did. I don't have to do updates or sync data or maintain two machines. Whatever I need, it's always on my (one) computer. I don't lug around tons of data so the 256gb SDD is fine for me. For other folks, an external drive solves the rMBP's only "shortcoming" (I use that word very loosely because this thing is 100% awesome).
  3. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    I've always preferred a single computer. I hate trying to sync what I'm working on between different machines. For desktop work I connect my MacBook Pro to a large monitor, full size keyboard, and use a mouse. I also have access to large amounts of storage on my network if needed to offload something.

    If you're buying a thunderbolt display to go with the Mini, it won't drive a monitor out of its port. You will need to use an HDMI connection to connect it.

    If the laptop is for classroom use, why not consider the 13" or the Air which is lighter and easier to carry around.
  4. LeandrodaFL macrumors 6502a


    Apr 6, 2011
    first of, you dont need to max out everything. There is no diference in the extra 0/3ghz on the macmini. simply get quad-core..Do yourself the SSD upgrade and memory, its easy, there are instructinal videos step-by-step at

    Let me give you some further insight, if you get the retina Macbook, no need for the Mini. It seems to me you have a high budget and like Apples design of display, tehrefore, I would get one of the folloiwing options:

    1) Retina Macbook + Pegasus J4 Thunderbolt SSD storage 2TB (4x 500GB in RAID 0)

    2)iMac 3TB fusion drive + Macbook Air

    3)MacMini 1TB + Macbook Air

    I know letting gof of the optical drive may seem hard, but trust me, you never use that thing again or miss it. If you happen to have the need of burning DVDs for your photographer work, you may get the superdrive, or replace the Macbook Air for a Macbook Pro with optical drive.
  5. ForeignAidPro thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2013
    Thanks everyone for the insights.

    My budget for this upgrade is pretty high at about $4,000. I will have to mull all this over some more. The one thing that freaks me out is that the SSD in the rMBP is not user serviceable so if it dies I am stuck until I can get it replaced.

    I also don't suppose you can point me in the direction of a decent external DAC or know if the headphone tack out on the rMBP is toslink compatible? I have a 5.1 connected to my PC system currently and while I can matrix sound it from a stereo input, I don't want a speaker replacement to be part of this (there one of Logitech's 5.1 systems).
  6. utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    I have a base 15" Rmbp and i7 mini both bought discounted.

    Rationale on base Rmbp was that the 8gb shouldn't be a huge issue with swap file drawing from a 400+MBs ssd, plus the mini runs any long duration program via screen sharing.

    I7 mini, DIY 16gb and ssd.

    The mini is located in home office, also pulls duty as media server, encoding, time machine, etc.

    Very happy with the combination. But don't have any professional/corporate requirements either.
  7. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Yes they are; easy as easy can be. Just not super cheap:
  8. Giuly macrumors 68040


    The Mac Mini is the exact same thing as a MBP without a screen, hence it doesn't make any sense to have both of them.

    What you want is a rMBP and an Apple Thunderbolt Display, which gives you the abilities of a desktop, and maybe a LaCie Little Big Disk to extend the storage while on the Thunderbolt Display, and as it's quite small, also on the go.
  9. utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008

    They absolutely overlap directly in terms of specs,

    but with the <15 watts the ivy bridge mini idles at it has a lot of potential uses offloading duties from the laptop and as a media server.
  10. Giuly macrumors 68040


    Turn off the screen, same effect.
  11. utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    not at all

    Sure the laptop technically can handle encoding, serving a media library, being a backup source for the other machines in the house and any other duty without a hitch.

    But do I want to sit in the living room with the fans at full blast and laptop turning to a hot plate when i can just screen share the mini and handle encoding there and have 0 effect on the machine i'm actually using?

    Do I want to worry about what large platter drives or external disc drive are externally connected to the laptop as it is brought from the porch to living room to garage to workshop, or what happens to the media serving when the laptop leaves the house?

    There are many ways the mini can be used in a household to not be redundant with a laptop, it basically can be utilized as a nas that pulls double duty as an extra no compromise (minus gfx) desktop with a barely noticeable effect on the power bill.

    Price wise, done smart (refurb/academic/diy) it actually costs barely more than upping the specs on the mbpr and will give a 2nd machine to be resold down the road.

    Op has the budget.
  12. ForeignAidPro thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2013
    Thanks again for the feedback. Part of the reason I was looking to have a mac mini also was to serve up media in the house.

    I also was specing them to overlap is that I was concerned that going el cheapo on the mini with the i5 and going a ram and SDD upgrade myself was that the i5 was going to leave a sour taste in my mouth and leave me regretting the decision to get the mini.
  13. Aries326 macrumors 6502

    Dec 28, 2007
    I've got a 2011 MacMini and a 2012 rMBP i7. Awesome combo. All of my older material I keep on the MacMini. The MacMini is hooked up to two Guardian Maximus Drive FW 800 (one is 2TB and the other 1.5TB). On the MacMini, I have multiple Aperture Libraries. The vaults are stored on one of the Guardian Maximus drives with my home movies. The other Guardian Maximus drive houses my iTunes folder with all my media.

    Connected to the MacMini is also a MiniStack with 2TB HD. So I've got my libraries backed up in TimeMachine as well as Vaults on the Guardian Maximus. I should be safe.

    My rMBP is used for all the newer stuff. Whatever I shoot for 2013, will go into the rMBP. When 2014 comes around, I'll just move the library to the MacMini. Another thing, I back up the libraries from my rMBP onto the Maximus Drive with the other vaults.

    The drives are older. I probably won't upgrade to lightning drives for another 2 years but they do the job.

    Another thing, the MacMini is on all the time as it serves as a media server for the iPads and AppleTV. Don't go cheap on the MacMini if you do any encoding. You've got the budget for it so get what you can afford and make the hardware last a few years. Prior to the rMBP I had the MBP 2009. It was time to upgrade and I was able to get $800 for it.

    Definitely editing is faster on the rMBP compared to my older MacMini. With the pictures on the laptop, I can edit photos anywhere in my home or out somewhere else while having coffee.

    Goodluck with the decision.
  14. Giuly macrumors 68040


    It's the exact same thing, but with a screen and better graphics even.

    Have you seen the new fancy asymmetric fans on the rMBP? It's even quiter than the Mini.

    If you leave the house, chances are you won't watch TV in it at the same time.


    OP stated a high-end rMBP.

    And if he happens to be smart, he tries to keep as much as he can of it in his savings account.

    Bottom line: Do you want a laptop and a Mac Mini as a desktop? A rMBP and a Thunderbolt Display is a wiser choice. Do you want a media center, too? Then get a HDMI cable or Apple TV to AirPlay (yes, it works in a different room with a iOS device as the remote over WiFi) and install InsomniaX. Do you want to use your laptop and consume media at the same time (I know I can't, and I happened to be concerned with this particular topic a lot)? Still AirPlay works fine because converting is a minor task which shouldn't even raise the fan speed. Have a wife/kids who want to consume media independently from whatever it is you're doing on the laptop, then by all means go for both the rMBP and the Mac Mini.
  15. utekineir, Feb 26, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

    utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    Since you're clearly a contrarian and want to nitpick every point for no reason here we go.

    I think we we should have a beer and maybe spend a night in an awkwardly small bed.

    That was stated, thanks for restating it.

    It is, its also in my lap in an environment where background noise usually is attempted to be minimized.

    What makes more noise, the fans in your lap, or the ones several rooms over?

    I take it you live alone?

    Not all of us do.

    Op also was looking for input, I offered my explanation of why I chose the base model without worrying over wether the supposed short comings would have a tangible effect on my life. I could have bought any, however in my situation only the base was justifiable.

    I agree, notice the repeated attempts at suggesting refurb/academic and the above bit of explaining why I chose to cheap out.

    With the exception of external storage hanging off the laptop ports this is all you needed to say.

    This is fun.
    Lets do more.
  16. Giuly macrumors 68040


    You don't seem to comprehend the idea of putting the rMBP in another room and streaming the video via AirPlay to an Apple TV.

    Also, you don't seem to have ever used a 2.6-2.8GHz rMBP. You throw a 1080p WMV at one and have it convert in realtime to something AirPlay streamable - it yawns at you and chugs along without any noticeable noise whatsoever. It's not a 2007 Mac Mini which cranks up the fans to 100%.
  17. utekineir, Feb 26, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

    utekineir macrumors 6502

    Feb 20, 2008
    1) Ssd drives are not ideal for large amounts of media storage

    2) Neither is wifi.

    3) Not everyone prefers to transcode every file they watch, some prefer to encode at first and be done with it. On the same lines, not everyone likes to keep the laptop tethered to the power cord on the couch because it gets half the battery life than it would if it werent transcoding.

    4) Laptop not stick in the other room where i cant hear it on a desktop.

    5) This is the song that never ends.

    6) Why are you still arguing? The op said he wants a mini for a media server.

    7) I'm working on 250 posts, kinda want to have access to marketplace.
  18. Essenar macrumors 6502a

    Oct 24, 2008
    I would say a Retina with external devices for storage/drives. You get the horsepower, mobility and flexibility of the combination and you're only a thunderbolt adapter and bluetooth combo away from having a Mac Mini anyway.

    Why have two machines when one of them is just an inferior satellite of the other?

    There's more than one way to stream videos to your HDTV as well.

    I don't even have a Retina 15". I have a Classic 13" and the only reason I'm thinking of getting a Mac Mini is so I can use the price difference to buy an iPad Mini 4G.
  19. smetvid macrumors 6502

    Nov 1, 2009
    To the OP have you considered perhaps going the opposite direction?

    Getting a 27" iMac for at home and a cheaper laptop like a MBA for the few moments you are at school? Keep in mind you will not always be in graduate school and at some point a desktop as your main system may become more desirable.

    I currently have a 17" MBP which I love but now that I have been promoted to a great new position with lots of internal security I am not allowed to use my own laptop at work anymore. I basically have a laptop that sits on a desk all day. I do need it to be portable every now and then but in those moments I don't exactly need a monster machine either.

    This is why I am considering selling my 17" quad core to buy a 27" iMac and either a 13" MBP retina or a 13" MBA which have really come down in price.

    I also agree with you about having two machines. Only having one is great until it needs to be serviced and it may take a week to get fixed. Just having a second computer can be a life saver. I also have an iPad but it just isn't the same and can only stand using it for a short period of time.
  20. ForeignAidPro, Feb 26, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2013

    ForeignAidPro thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 25, 2013
    Thanks everybody for the responses. They mirror the struggle I have been having in my own head.

    To fill in some blanks I realize I left of use to stream my audio via an airport exrpess that was hard lined to my router. I was fortunate enough to receive an appleTV for christmas so now I am repurposing the extreme for desktop audio duties as the only way to get 5.1 out a mac appears to be via a toslink air airplay to an express toslinked to a receiver. I also have the (new) iPad that they made only after about 3 months.

    Going back to Smetvid's posting, I concur in the years between undergrad and grad school I did more heavily reply upon my desktop and my laptop took on a living room role. I had considered the imac+air combing, but by the time I start stacking up the components, I quickly overshoot my budget as I want the 15" laptop without a the optical drive (I really don't like to compromise performance). To elaborate a bit, for the laptop I need to be able to run VM fusion for the MS office full suit (Access and OneNote are my life blood) and have a reasonable battery life. I don't think the Air could pull that off with its dual core i7. Plus coming from the PC world, I had a 14" which perfectly straddled the line on size vs. portability. I have also worked on a 12.5" screen so 13" is not going to cut it either.

    I had considered a macpro but couldn't justify it given where it is in the product life cycle. The kicker for me is that my work requires to me travel overseas from everywhere from a couple week trips to lets say more extended stays, at which time my life line is my laptop.

    Also I am not pulling anyone's leg on how crazy I sound with the work, travel, & school stuff. I really am a full time grad student, that works full time on data, that travels overseas for work, and that does photography as a side business when I am not dead of exhaustion/going to start it back up after I am done with the program.

    Again to everyone thanks for the feedback!!!

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