Thunderbolt Display or Dell 4k for Mac mini?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tennisproha, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. tennisproha macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Texas
    #1
    Hi everyone. I'm looking to get a Thunderbolt Display (TBD) or a Dell 4k display and I'd really love some feedback about my setup. Setup will mainly be used for productivity and some online video streaming. Occasional Xbox 360 gaming possibility would be a bonus.

    I have a 2012 Mac mini and an Xbox 360. I'm leaning towards the Thunderbolt Display for the Mac mini, mainly because its the easiest way to get a full system setup with speakers, camera, and mic. I've found a used one that's fairly new and includes AppleCare til 2018 so its a pretty good deal. Price-wise, a used TBD and new Dell 4k will end up costing me about the same. However, as usual with apple, I'm having some compatibility problems.

    The TBD supports up to 1440p. The 2012 Mac mini supports 1600p using Thunderbolt and 1200p using HDMI. Although it can be hacked to run at 4k from what I've read, I'm fairly new to Macs so I'm not too comfortable doing this since it requires a kernal level mod. So with the TBD I'm limited to 1440p and with a Dell 4k using TB I'm limited to 1600p. I know with the Dell 4k I'm likely to get a better LCD and with the TBD I have a full system setup; but is the Dell 4k screen THAT much better...

    The other issue is the Xbox 360. I'd like to hook it up to the TBD. I know its not possible. However I read it is possible with the Cinema Display using the workaround device. However with a Cinema Display I'm getting a REALLY old display with no AppleCare, so is that really worth it? I won't be using the Xbox 360 that much and when I do I can use my old 1080p monitor if I feel like gaming. The other workaround is this Xbox 360 controller adapter. I'm not sure how this works but I know with the Xbox One wireless adapter, you can stream your Xbox One to a Windows using Boot Camp. Will the Xbox 360 controller adapter allow me to stream my Xbox 360 to Windows via Boot Camp as well? If so, that solves that issue.

    Any sage advice appreciated! Sorry this got a bit long:confused:
     
  2. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #2
    4K will play pretty poorly for the mini and not at all for the Xbox 360 they just aren't designed to push that many pixels.

    I would just buy a good quality 1440p 27 inch monitor But that will not work with both machines, the Xbox 360 is just rubbish, To be honest you might be best off with a 4K TV which will work with the Xbox 360 and should run the mini OK in lower resolution.

    Other than that just use a cheap 1080p monitor until you upgrade your hardware to match your resolution ambitions.
     
  3. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #3
    If you're just using it with a Mac then the 27" LED Cinema display (the one that looks identical to the TB display) is a great display - provided you find one at a reasonable price reflecting its age and lack of Applecare (although I'm not aware of any big problems with reliability) then it would be a good match for a Mini. It'll give you the same display, speakers, mic and webcam as the TB Display, albeit over a second USB cable. With a Mini, the ethernet, firewire and "first class" USB controller (c.f. the hub on the Cinema display) that you get with TB aren't as important as when you use it as a laptop dock. The input is old fangled MiniDisplayPort so it should also work with most DisplayPort devices with an adapter.

    However, given the price of these displays (even used) and that the Mini isn't great for 4k I'd go with a 3rd party 1440p display (e.g. a Dell Ultrasharp) - for one thing, they have multiple inputs, often DisplayPort + HDMI or DVI + VGA - so you can plug in multiple devices simultaneously & switch between them.
     
  4. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 24, 2011
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    Texas
    #4
    What's frustrating is the 2012 mini I have is a quad-core i7 so it's very much capable of pushing 4K but just limited by the integrated GPU and Apple capping it. Really annoying.

    So the Xbox 360 is capped at 1080p? I didn't know that. Honestly, is it even worth looking to utilize the Xbox 360 anymore? I rarely ever got any use out of it so I don't quite know what it's capable of or how rubbish it is. Just figured I'd try to use it somehow with the 4 games I have lol.

    I mainly need the display for productivity so it has to have crisp, sharp text. And video steaming at night. From the reviews I've read, the 1440p Dells seem to have some minor compatibility issues which result in picture quality deg, which is why I'm leaning towards the TBD. I tried using a 1080p TV and it results in really poor text readability. So idk how much better the 4K will be?
    --- Post Merged, Jul 6, 2016 ---
    My concern is even the Cinema Display will require that Kanex adapter I think so it won't work straight through. Idk if that'll result in any lag tbh.

    Honestly the Dell 1440p would be the best compatibility choice for the two. But I need really sharp and clear text and I've read they have some compatibility issue which result in some picture quality issues so idk really…
     
  5. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #5
    Are you talking about the Mac Mini or the Xbox - and/or the '27" LED Cinema Display' ?

    The older 30" Cinema Display needs an adapter for the Mac Mini. but the 27" LED Cinema Display uses a MiniDisplayPort plug that plugs straight in to the Mini. The Xbox I don't know about and, as I said, wouldn't recommend any Apple display if you want to use other devices.

    There's a work-around for that problem (if it occurs & hasn't been fixed in newer versions of OS X). See https://gist.github.com/ejdyksen/8302862
     
  6. tennisproha, Jul 6, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016

    tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Oh sorry I meant to connect the Xbox 360 to Cinema Display, I'll need the Kanex adapter.
    So I do know about this however in order for it to work it requires disabling SIP (System Integrity Protection) in El Capitan. And disabling the same SIP is also required to make the 2012 mini support 4k using the SwitchResX mod. This is the kernel change I was referring to in my original post. I'm hesitant to disable SIP b/c it's supposed to be a OS security and protection thing?…
     
  7. theluggage macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    #7
    Hmm - don't rely on me for this, but I think you only have to disable SIP temporarily while you install the patch - the file path has changed in El Cap (there are posts about it on the page I linked to). It doesn't modify the kernel - but SIP won't let you write the file in question.

    ...best strategy: don't get a display with this problem - ask around when you get a shortlist, it isn't universal (my Dell U2412M worked fine, my HP LP2475w needed the patch).
     
  8. tennisproha, Jul 6, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016

    tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    You are indeed correct about the SIP. Their support page states that it just needs to be disabled temporarily to add/change the system file. Then it can be re-enabled. And reading into SIP in more detail, it seems like it's probably not too big of an issue to do this.

    I guess the only concern I have is if this might over stress the system since it's technically not supposed to run 4K? And also, it looks like since its only equipped with Thunderbolt 1, it'll only do 4K @ 30hz. Is that an issue?

    I'm thinking since I'm getting a good deal on the TBD, I might as well go ahead and get it for now since I don't have a display to run the mini atm. That way I'll get a bit of time to maybe buy a Dell 4K as well and compare the two. It'll also give me a chance to test the mods for 4K. I can always re-sell the TBD if the Dell works better…
     
  9. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #9
    Number of cores has little to do with graphics capability so no your chip with its integrated graphics is not capable of pushing a 4K display these were only a glint in LG's eye in 2012. Also the bandwidth on TB1 is limiting you to 30hz as you state which can show in lag and stuttering etc.

    1440p is pretty damn good (and 1600 a bit better but really hard to find) it is the resolution of 27 inch iMacs until the release of the 5k version and in 30 inch or less screens it is fine for a resolution at standard desktop distances.

    So yes a a TBD is a good bet for that mini if it's a decent price, they are lovely screens just a little out of date.
     
  10. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040

    FreakinEurekan

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    Sep 8, 2011
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    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    #10
    I have the same Mac, like others have said forget 4K. It's the GPU, not the CPU.

    If the Xbox isn't critical and you have a line on a Thunderbolt Display for a good price, it's a great solution. Decent integrated speakers and webcam, plus some USB 2 ports - nice size display and good color & clarity. But it's all about the price. You could hack something together third party for, oh, $500-$600 probably and it'll be not as integrated nor will it have Apple warranty, so for me, that's worth at least $100, maybe $200. So if you can get into a TBD for say $700 or a bit more, IMO you could certainly do worse.
     
  11. shaunp macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    #11
    There are plenty of good 1440p monitors out there that have plenty of inputs for both the mac mini and xbox. Currently on my desk I have 2 Dell monitors a 4K P2715Q and a 1440p U2711. They are both excellent, but I would look more at a 1440p monitor for gaming as the refresh rates are typically higher.
     
  12. jamisonbaines macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Location:
    CA
    #12
    i've been very happy with my tbd but i've had it for 4 years. the magsafe/thunderbolt wire is kind of clumsy and as a hub it is only usb2 (i also wish it had one or more extra usb ports).
    i suppose i'd buy another in 2016 if i needed a monitor and the price was right but at this point i'd rather have a 5k iMac.
     
  13. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 24, 2011
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    Texas
    #13
    Okay. Why must Apple include crappy integrated graphics in an otherwise great mini?! Argh! I guess it's not worth the hassle to get 4K then even with the mods if it's still gonna result in a sub par experience. I would've probably tried it if the TB port better supported it.

    Thanks for the help. I appreciate it.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 7, 2016 ---
    Thanks for the input. That's too bad. It's a great machine except for the integrated graphics. I just don't get why Apple would skimp out on the GPU. And the Xbox 360 is probably just not worth the hassle of having a 4K with limited performance on the mini.

    So the TBD is about a year old and I'm getting it for $600 including the AppleCare. The only issue is it had faulty cables and Apple replaced them under warranty. I called Apple and they said everything else checks out with it so it seems like a good deal.
     
  14. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040

    FreakinEurekan

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    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    #14
    It is a 4-year-old design, after all. Nothing Apple released in the 2012 model year supports 4k, not even the Retina MacBook Pro. For my part, I run dual 1600x1200 displays on that Mini and it does a great job.

    $600 for a TBD with AppleCare coverage seems quite reasonable. I would insist that the seller transfer the AppleCare plan into your name, https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202712 shows how - the seller must do this by phone. While you'd still be able to get service without that, if it isn't transferred then the seller could cancel the plan and get a pro-rated refund, leaving you with no coverage.
     
  15. tennisproha thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 24, 2011
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    Texas
    #15
    Thank you for the heads up. I'll make sure it gets done sooner than later.
     
  16. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 603

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    Oct 24, 2013
    #16
    Because discrete graphics wouldn't fit in a mini computer.....
     
  17. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #17
    Some thoughts...

    DON'T waste your money on the Thunderbolt display. It's old and outdated. Apple has even pulled it from the market.

    Get something else instead.

    You realize that the current Mac Mini can't really support 4k @ 60hz, don't you?

    If you want FULL 4k support from a Mac -- at least for the current lineup -- you'll have to get either a MacBook Pro or an iMac.

    The Mini's aren't going to support 4k until THE NEXT VERSION is released -- IF it's to be released at all...
     

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