Secondary home Mac or USB-C dock?

PadforPrad

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2017
1
0
Hello all, first post here.

My primary driver is a 2016 Retina MacBook, but I'd like either a second Mac or a full-fledged USB-C dock for the home primarily for iTunes media management - maintaining my music library and iPhone backups and possibly for some Windows use.

While I know that iCloud has come a very long way, I consider myself a bit of a pack rat and I still prefer having an offline backup for my iPhone. As unintuitive as this sounds, I still find joy in manually making playlists from my iTunes library and syncing them with my iPhone or iPod.

Having said that, I'm also aware that I can create and maintain an iTunes library on an external hard drive. In fact, given that my MacBook is the one with the 256GB SSD, an external hard drive was an absolute must. However, the MacBook has only one USB-C port, and while I've used certain hubs that sit flush with the MacBook and have USB-C passthrough for power and a couple of USB-A ports for peripherals, I found those hubs to be somewhat flimsy and easy to disconnect.

Now obviously, there is the OWC USB-C dock, which costs less than half of a brand-new, entry-level Mac Mini. I also have a spare 23" monitor capable of DVI, VGA and HDMI input, a couple of keyboards and mice.

However, a second system is also attractive to me because I'd like a Windows machine for some apps I need that are exclusive to Windows. These are not games or any heavy-hitting multimedia software like the Adobe suite, but in-house productivity software and ActiveX-enabled IE-only websites that run well enough on my Intel Atom-powered Windows tablet.

So herein lies the question: should I opt for a USB-C dock like the one made by OWC, or should I go for an entry-level Mac Mini? Money is not a problem - I have set aside a little over $600 for this, and my workplace can provide me with a free copy of Windows.
 

mpConroe

macrumors regular
Feb 14, 2017
199
128
Arbroath (UK) / Wroclaw (PL)
Hey. I would go with Mac mini but don't buy 4GB version, go with 8 or even 16, if you think about future. In current lineup of Mac mini you CAN'T upgrade the RAM, it's permanent just like in MacBook and MacBook Pro.
The good option is used Mac mini with i7 processor from 2012 which is actually faster than current maxed out 2014.

To be honest, I would never buy a dock for $300...
 

smallcoffee

macrumors 68000
Oct 15, 2014
1,575
1,963
North America
Hello all, first post here.

My primary driver is a 2016 Retina MacBook, but I'd like either a second Mac or a full-fledged USB-C dock for the home primarily for iTunes media management - maintaining my music library and iPhone backups and possibly for some Windows use.

While I know that iCloud has come a very long way, I consider myself a bit of a pack rat and I still prefer having an offline backup for my iPhone. As unintuitive as this sounds, I still find joy in manually making playlists from my iTunes library and syncing them with my iPhone or iPod.

Having said that, I'm also aware that I can create and maintain an iTunes library on an external hard drive. In fact, given that my MacBook is the one with the 256GB SSD, an external hard drive was an absolute must. However, the MacBook has only one USB-C port, and while I've used certain hubs that sit flush with the MacBook and have USB-C passthrough for power and a couple of USB-A ports for peripherals, I found those hubs to be somewhat flimsy and easy to disconnect.

Now obviously, there is the OWC USB-C dock, which costs less than half of a brand-new, entry-level Mac Mini. I also have a spare 23" monitor capable of DVI, VGA and HDMI input, a couple of keyboards and mice.

However, a second system is also attractive to me because I'd like a Windows machine for some apps I need that are exclusive to Windows. These are not games or any heavy-hitting multimedia software like the Adobe suite, but in-house productivity software and ActiveX-enabled IE-only websites that run well enough on my Intel Atom-powered Windows tablet.

So herein lies the question: should I opt for a USB-C dock like the one made by OWC, or should I go for an entry-level Mac Mini? Money is not a problem - I have set aside a little over $600 for this, and my workplace can provide me with a free copy of Windows.
If money is no object send me some :)

If you aren't talking yourself into these Windows apps, it sounds like a Mac mini may be fine. I'd wait until WWDC to see if they upgrade though.
 

ignatius345

macrumors 68020
Aug 20, 2015
2,327
3,089
I did the "dock my laptop at home" thing for a long time and in the end I finally decided to go with a very modest laptop (MBA 11") and a desktop Mac at home. For years, I used a Mac Mini and it was very solid. Mine had 8GB of RAM and an SSD I put in there, and honestly it felt quite fast. I ran Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro X, and a bunch of other stuff and it all worked quite smoothly. In fact, I had a Mini at my last job and it ran two monitors at 1600x1200 very smoothly with all that Creative Cloud stuff cranking away all the time. Impressive little machine. If you're open to going with a used Mini, I think you'll get a better deal for your $600.

I just find it a lot less friction to have a desktop Mac with lots of storage sitting there, on, ready to go. You mentioned using iTunes, and for that, a desktop is great -- I've got a 3TB media drive plugged in at all times, and plenty of storage (and backup storage) that I don't need to mount/unmount, etc. The iMac I upgraded to also functions as a media server to AirPlay audio and video to an Apple TV and another set of speakers -- not everybody needs/wants that setup, but for me, it's a function I couldn't easily replicate with one laptop, futzing with external drives. When I did the docking thing, there was always just that extra bit of friction when I was leaving or coming home: ejecting or mounting external drives, plugging it in, etc.

With the desktop doing all the heavy lifting, the MBA is just a low-end Mac that is sitting in my bag ready to go at any time. I don't need it for anything but lightweight writing stuff, web stuff.

As far as syncing goes, between iCloud and Dropbox, that's all gotten so good now that I don't give it a second thought. I try to remember to open up my MBA before I go out, while I'm at home and on fast wifi, to let it get all caught up on stuff, then I'm good to go. And of course the iMac is on Ethernet and serves as the home all my files.