Stick with 2009 MP or move to Mac Mini 2012

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by propower, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. propower macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Hey All,

    I have a MacPro 2009 quad 2.93 12G ram and 30" cinema display. Been using this for pro audio for a few years and have no issues with it (maybe a little noisier than I would like). I have been trying out a 2012 mini i7 + Apple Thunderbolt Display and now need to decide whether to keep the pro or stick with the mini! I have a great NAS for mass storage and only need a pair of SSDs (already own) for OS and current work files (an internal SSD and a usb3 ssd on the mini works great).

    Pros for the pro....
    1) Can handle any load with little increase in temps or noise. 10% constant to 50% constant load makes no difference.
    2) Can add USB3 if I wish

    Cons for the Pro...
    1) Will loose a lot of resale once new pro comes out
    2) Bigger and noisier than needed
    3) Current i7 quads are 25% faster
    4) almost 4 years old - applecare over

    Pros for the Mini...
    1) Small and cute
    2) USB3
    3) CPU performance better than MP
    4) 16G ram is cheap
    5) thunderbolt
    6) HDMI (though there are issues with this)

    Cons for the Mini
    1) At anything over 10% load runs CPU at 90degC
    2) Over 25% load and the fans really get going
    3) No internal hard drive mods without impacting applecare

    So I guess the thing that really bothers me is the design decision to let the Mini run so hot under load. Pro Audio is ALL about having a constant load (for me 20% to 50%) all day every day! The MP is a workhorse but I do feel the desire to maximize resale. But then again... I could easily just keep using it until Apple makes an OS that wont run on it!

    I know nobody can tell me what is best. Just interested in others thoughts

  2. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Do you think the MP will lose more than a Mac mini's value from its current value once the new one is announced? If not, there seems to be absolutely no reason to switch. If so, it still seems like your current MP does the trick just fine, and even in that case I'd doubt you could sell the MP now for much over a mini's cost difference compared to in a few months.

    If you buy the mini now, you and I both know you will want the new MP and will take a loss selling (or keeping) the mini. The new MP will be out... I dunno, probably by next summer.

    If it were me, I'd keep the MP unless you really felt it wasn't doing the work adequately.

    I love, love, love the minis. I do. But I think you're better off with the MP. Just MHO.
  3. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Did a whole bunch more testing and there is no denying the new mini is faster (CPU - Sata III) and smaller and even quieter (under light load) than my MP. But the MP can take a load - pretty much any load and remain at 60degC hot spot in the CPU. I am a "recovering" engineer and this is the kind of design that says long term reliability to me. The speed difference under load is pretty small between the two.

    For the temp reasons and ongoing uncertainty about what the HDMI issues with the 2012 mini are I am leaning towards keeping the MP a little longer. Since I don't like the imac concept (I keep screens much longer than computers) Apple just isn't making a "must buy" machine for me yet. My audio system is Mac only so a PC build is not in the cards. I have done hacks before and can see the grab but really don't want any bother..... Still thinking though...

    At first I though my MP was worth around $1.5K and would fall below $1K post any new MP launch. After having the MP for sale locally for 3 weeks this may be overly optimistic though. Any thoughts on resale slippage would be appreciated.
  4. Liquidstate macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    MP or Mini

    I discussed these issues at length with my audio guys. Apple has made it difficult (for me anyway) to upgrade with what they are offering.

    That said, the most important advice they gave me was: computers will not make music sound better. Use whatever gets the job done, and focus on songs and gear that will actually make a difference. Not what I wanted to hear. Which is why I listen to them. :cool:

    Anyway, I think it is important to acknowledge that pro audio platforms will soon be changing. Avid has announced its next Pro Tools version will no longer be open interface. The UA Apollo is shaking things up with its OTB DSP. And no one knows what Apple is up to with the new MP.

    These might be important considerations if you need to stay current. So why upgrade until you know what the next system requirements are?
  5. Rob.G macrumors 6502


    Jan 17, 2010
    I was told by an Apple rep yesterday on the phone that installing a second hard drive in the Mini will NOT void your warranty. They just can't cover that new drive, which makes sense.

  6. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Now THAT would be huge! Can you point to more info on this??


    I believe you are right here.... but, these are a bit tricky and very fragile to work in. If one breaks anything whilst installing a drive it is their thing to fix. Also if there are problems and they want to be picky, they can blame the new drive. Most people avoid the whole thing by putting the original drive back in if they need to take it in. That means risk of damage one more time.

    I am a total tech by nature and have built many machines. The mini is not the easiest thing to work on. - just saying ---

    Regardless, my niggles with the 2012 mini is not about storage. It is about thermal design and HDMI issues.
  7. Liquidstate, Nov 23, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012

    Liquidstate macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    Pro Tools will no longer be open interface...

    Sorry to the forum readers for the audio tech lingo, it's the only way I can explain this. It correlates to the OP's decision to upgrade a Mac that is used for audio production.

    Avid has announced in its FAQ that Pro Tools 10 is not full 64-bit, but supports their new 64-bit proprietary plug-in, AAX. Beyond PT 10, the 32-bit RTAS plug-in will no longer be supported. Thus, Avid has stated that PT 10 will be the last version that will be compatible with 32-bit interfaces. As far as I know, that includes all current interfaces.

    Avid says the next PT version will be full 64-bit. From there, it gets confusing. What does Avid mean when it says it will no longer support interfaces that are not compatible with whatever it is going to be offering? We know that means all current and past versions of HD, TDM and Digi interfaces. Due to this transition, we won't know more until Avid releases its next PT versions and the support data. We know Avid systematically purged the Digi name from all its products (after they bought Digi). So all we know for sure is Avid did a great job of dead ending PT 10.

    You can confirm this on the Avid PT 10 FAQ, the searches, and the discussions on the cantankerous audio sources (start with PT 11, which obviously doesn't exist).

    I'm not saying any of this as some sort of audio expert. I'm just a dumb musician who tends to nerd out on research before I buy stuff.

    Anyway, thanks for the ongoing reviews of the MP versus the Mini for audio production. It's an important audio survival topic.
  8. flatfoot macrumors 65816

    Aug 11, 2009
    Upgrade the '09 Mac Pro with a W3680 6-core 3.33GHz and sell the original CPU.

    That will make you much happier than a Mac Mini.
  9. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Again--- apologies to all for the audio specific tangent :)

    Thanks for your explanation. I am fully aware of all you brought up. I started with card based ProTools systems in 1998. When PT10 came out I decided to sell all my card based HD stuff and move to PT10, AAX and a native based system (Metric HAlo ULN8). THe worry you have about non compatible interfaces is referring to the now discontinued Blue ones from Digidesign HD. Although they originally drew a hard line on this there are recent comments that the 192's and such actually will work with PT11.

    Regardless, I am now FW based for audio and whether PT goes 64bit or not (and if I even upgrade to PT11 or switch) it wont have any bearing I believe.

    So... back to the MP!
    1) Upgrading the MP is intriguing but unnecessary. I have no performance qualms with the 2009! My audio needs are small compared to video transcoding and all. I have no audio cards or PCIe cards so need no slots.
    2) the move away from the MP is all about
    a) Selling aging tech at a good time to recover $$
    b) Moving to a smaller form factor
    c) adding thunderbolt (for all the upcoming connectivity issues)
    d) joy of speed - internal sata3, usb3,
    e) Its cute --

    It is still very tempting to just keep using the 2009 (nothing wrong with it) and wait and see. The real problem is I don't see Apple actually making a machine that would knock me out. I don't like the imac concept- screen and computer all in one - (though maybe) and the new MP wil probably be serious overkill for my needs and cost $3K!

    I am going to do some thermal experiments today to see about modified cooling on the mini.
  10. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    No. If you install the drive correctly ( as per their service guidelines ) then they'll cover it. If you bend, snap, crack ,etc because do it the wrong way, they won't.

    Either you know what you are doing or pay someone ( look up 3rd party Apple Service Tech shop on their site) who knows what they are doing. The Assumption, of "yes we'll cover a 3rd party drive" is that it is some fault on some other part of the machine. Very similar thing if you wreck you laptop by tossing off building. They aren't going to fix that.
  11. Mac_Max macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2004
    Don't take this the wrong way but it seems more like you're just in the mood for a new toy. As it currently stands, Thunderbold isn't really taking the market by storm (and no, DP monitors don't count) so I wouldn't really worry about that.

    I also am not really a fan of the concept of resell value. Maybe in this instance you could sell the MacPro for more than the purchase price of the Mac Mini but it looks like 2009 models are going for ~1000 and under on ebay. I think you'd just end up doing a lateral side grade more than anything.

    I'd probably throw a nice Vertex 3 SSD closeout at it and enjoy the speed boost.
  12. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    If you can replace a Pro with a Mini based on CPU alone you didn't really need the pro to begin with. At least a Macbook is portable and it is faster than the Mini's. Maybe even better thermal headroom. 16GB limit is a real limit as well. I couldn't do it. Of course if you are a weekend warrior with small projects most anything can deliver on that front these day's. Your 25% faster i7 will, in a matter of minutes, throttle down to worse performance due to heat and will loose it's "edge" anyway.
  13. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    The mac pro was the 4th Mac tower for me. I needed every one of them because I was using PCIx then PCIe audio dsp cards (Protools HD). At no time did I ever tax the CPU more than 25% on the 2009. Now that I don't use these dsp cards anymore and use native power any i7 in the last 3 years will be the same or better. 16G ram is a lot for most audio people (unless you extensively use orchestral libraries) and is seriously more than most have had. Not to mention that 32G will be supported in the current Minis just as soon as the 16G sticks are available.

    By any 2009 standards the current mini is a great computer and only bested by hex and dual CPU machines.

    I have also just done a test where at my typical use (25% load on the CPU) simply removing the bottom cover and adding a quiet fan kept my CPU temps all in the 60's or less. No where near the 105degC throttle limit!
  14. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    You are not wrong!

    But it is a reasonable sideways move I think. At about = $$ I get the newer smaller faster upgradeable enough machine for what I do. You may be right about resale. May have to get a whole bunch closer to $1K on the MP. No worries, I bought it used, got totally reliable performance and recover 1/2 of investment. All in all a good day. And PS> have been booting and running programs off SSD's since 2008 - today I only use SSDs for everything except mass NAS storage and archives.
  15. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    I put a hex in my 2009 and it's been wonderful, but I'd be out of business if I had to trade my MP for a mini.
  16. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    I totally understand ... was there for 15 years!
    If one needs a mac pro then it is the only thing that will do!
  17. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    PCI is a big need indeed.
    When you/ they do a test that shows the Mac mini i7 being 25% faster than the Xeon you are seeing a very small window of pure turbo bin biasing. The chip and it's thermals are not designed to run at top bin at all times. It will throttle to lower bins way before a thermal shutdown throttle limit. But it sounds like any deterrent we give you is met with a reasonably logical reason to go forward. So do it. You want to anyway. The limits will become apparent or they will fall by the wayside as we move to smaller and more competent consumer offerings. Maybe post back on how it is working out for you.
  18. rGiskard, Nov 23, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012

    rGiskard macrumors 68000


    Aug 9, 2012
    This cannot be emphasized enough.

    Expandability and upgradability are the primary reasons for a Mac Pro, so use them! With a 3.33 GHz hexa-core, your Mac Pro will be good for another 3-4 years. USB 3.0 and eSATA can easily be added to your Mac Pro as well.

    A Mini is not an upgradable machine. Maybe you could add some RAM or another 2.5" drive, but that's it. Thunderbolt is severely overpriced for what it does, and to match the storage capacity of your current Mac Pro, it would cost over $1000 in Thunderbolt BS. Upgrade your Mac Pro to a W3680 Xeon, and even three years from now it will stomp any mini Apple sells.
  19. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    I hear you, and though I admit to wanting the mini to work out I don't need it to! The mini certainly has performance limits when compared to even my 2009MP. As you allude, if I run it hard, the MP will sail but at some point the mini will bin down. Being an audio guy I rarely use all the headroom but am more of a steady additive load guy. If I do take on an ambitious project though that uses a lot of what we call "virtual instruments" then the limits will become closer. But it is almost always possible to manage with workflow how I do this.

    But of course I love powerful computers :). Owned Mac Towers for 15 years (way before MPs). PCI... maybe once again in the future for me but right now am not seeing it.


    It is intriguing. Turn my 2009 into the equivalent of a top of the line current MP. Looks like a ~$700 exercise (is there a place for better prices??). I can't say I think I need any extra power in the MP but it has an appeal.

    And I agree the mini is not upgradeable. But since getting a nice NAS I have exactly two drives in my MP (both SSDs). All the rest is either a sata dock for loading things in and out or NAS. My USB3 external drives are pretty much equal to the internal SATA II bus of the MP.

    TB is a wild card I also agree. But in audio there is a major player (AVID) that has a TB interface to run their HD Native system). If I was to change audio interfaces that is the one I would want.

    So... still not totally clear. I like new things (if you couldn't guess). But I am also a veteran EE design engineer that appreciates that the Mini is a true consumer design and the MP well really is a "pro" design. Which will still be running in 3 more years? -- probably both :)
  20. Liquidstate macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks for my upgrade path!

    If nothing else, this thread has given me my upgrade path. I was waiting for the new iMacs, but after I saw what was being offered, I passed. And then the Mini was intriguing. But I don't want a hair dryer under load in the studio. And if I am going to fab a sound enclosure, why not make it for a used MP?

    I need to move (arrrg), and then rebuild my studio, so nothing is going to happen for awhile. But this thread is where I will start when I spec out a retro but stable machine. If I need to know more, I'll post to the MP forum.

    So thanks to the thread posters for the right solution for me!
  21. Siderz macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    I'd say stick with the Mac Pro until Apple stop supporting an OS on it.

    The Mac mini is for someone who doesn't really do anything strenuous on a computer, or for someone with less money (Like a student) but needs a Mac.
  22. propower, Nov 25, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012

    propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    So here is where I have gotten to....

    I have tried to convince myself that the Mini thermal design is fine but as of today I have rehooked up my 2009 MacPro and 30" cinema display. The mini is a smudge quicker to launch and load but the Mac Pro handles everything I do just fine and keeps like 45degC on the CPU. I really thought the mini would be a nice upgrade but I can't abide the thermal design as a good thing.

    Crazy as it sounds... I actually don't see a reasonable Apple computer coming down the pike for me! The 2013 MacPro (assuming of course there is one) will no doubt be serious overkill and very expensive (I am assuming the base model is at least $2500). I don't like all in ones (and the imac will just be the same thermal design I believe). Lastly the Retina looks like a possibly better thing but there is no way I will work on a 15" screen all day no matter how gorgeous so would be paying quite a bit for something I don't need.

    Modding the 2009 with a hex core, 1333 RAM, PCIe SSD and others would sure improve performance but I don't really see the need in my case (though my inner nerd wants to just cause!). I already have all SSD's so Upgrading to silent fans and a silent (fanless) video card would be much more interesting today. I have to admit there is a small attraction to going back to the hack route (did a couple of these in 2008). But although it worked GREAT it never worked 100%.

    Will be intereting to see what comes next but for now.... I think the MP is here for a while :)
  23. scottrichardson macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2007
    Ulladulla, NSW Australia
    I too thought about a similar change, but in the end I have stuck with my 2009 8 core 2.93Ghz Mac Pro.

    The quad mini was appealing. But the XEONs and ECC RAM in the MP really do make a difference - the thing _never_ crashes. Like you I do audio (for a hobby) but also do web design, graphics, virtualisation, coding, lots of browsing etc. It never _ever_ has an issue. Never feels like it is struggling.

    My MP has 3 x SSDs, a PCIe USB3 card, 32GB RAM (1333 just in case!). The only thing I MIGHT upgrade is the graphics card. I run dual 24" cinema displays and they are the real sweet spot in screen size I think. Dual 27" is a bit of a stretch (physically).

    So for now, I am content - although when the two new fully maxed out iMacs arrive in the studio, I WILL be slightly jealous as I am certain they will be generally faster for most things (games especially).
  24. Bubba Satori Suspended

    Bubba Satori

    Feb 15, 2008
    "Small and cute."? Yes, that's critical.

    And that my friends, is exactly why Apple sees no need to update the Mac Pro.

    Time to move on.
  25. propower thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2010
    Can I ask which USB3 card is working for you. I bought two usb3 SSD cases for the mini and they are much faster than FW800!

    Also, the mini was sadly a little quicker but rest assure the MP is the work horse. I think in a nutshell that's where I ended up!

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