Which 2012 Mac Mini for music production / photo editing?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by rainydays, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. rainydays macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    As the 2012 minis seems to be the best bang for the buck right now I'm getting one while they are still some left. I have a hard time deciding which one though. It's either the 2,5 i5 dual core or the

    The most CPU intensive tasks I will be using it for on a regular basis is music production in Logic Pro and photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

    My main reason for buying it is because I'm tired of the constant fan noise from my MBP when connected to my thunderbolt display, even when just browsing the web.
    I know the Mini isn't silent under heavy load, but it seems like the threshold for the fan kicking in is much higher.

    So low noise is the no 1 priority. But I wouldn't say no to a performance boost either. Especially not in the photo editing department.

    I know the i7 is almost twice as powerful at multi core tasks, but it's also almost twice the money. And if it will run hotter and be more noisy then I'm not sure if it's worth the performance gain.

    Does anyone have any experience of both the i5 DC and the i7 QC when it comes to heat and fan noise?

    I've only used the i5 and I know that it can run at mid load for quite some time before the fan ramps up. Not sure about the i7 though.
  2. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Get the quad. It will speed up operations in lightroom and logic. Most of the time the quad will be silent or near silent. Moreover, if you want a Mac Mini, there's no other better solution for the money. An iMac might make less noise, but it's more expensive, and you might not want the screen, or want an all in one computer.
  3. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    I've got a quad core and it's noisy when building previews in Lightroom. Any CPU-intensive task really spins up the fans. But you won't be doing that 24 x 7 and the rest of the time it's very quiet.

    I've now switched over to a nMP (needed loads of RAM for VMware) and I wouldn't say there is a staggering amount of difference between the 6-core nMP and the quad-core mini. I'm sure if you benchmarks would show a big difference, and yes the nMP is generally quicker all round, but when I was using the mini I wasn't disappointed with the performance. It's a great little machine which is why I'm hanging onto it rather than putting it on eBay.
  4. rainydays thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    Thanks for your input!

    I decided to stress test the 2.5GHz i5 Mac Mini at work. And maxing out both cores for 30 minutes was no problem. The CPU temp was below 90C all the time and the fan never exceeded 1950rpm.

    I guess the i7 QC would not be able to do that without the fan ramping up then?
    Realistically I would not put such load on the CPU for an extended period of time, except for when I render video which is rarely. So it might not be a problem. But if the fan speed raise quickly at 50% load it might be an issue.


    Yeah, I had the old 24" iMac and I loved that machine, but the new ones really turn me off with the glued on parts. I want something that is easy to open and fix/upgrade. Besides, I'm happy with my Thunderbolt Display.

    I'm leaning towards the quad, but I'm still a bit worried about the heat/fan noise.


    Have you guys ran CPUTest on it? If so, how long will it stay below 2000rpm with 8 instances running?
  5. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    Like the other poster said, you'll hear it when you import a lot of files and generate previews in Lightroom. Mine is not loud during this, but the fans do ramp up. I don't use Logic, but I'm sure a google search would help there.

    My quad i7 2.3, however, is nothing like my 2008 laptop for noise. For example, if I play a 1080p video, the fans won't ramp up on the quad, even if I play a 2 hour movie. On my laptop, as soon as I start any video, regardless of resolution, it sounds like a jet engine.
  6. rainydays thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    I actually ended up buying a used 27" iMac. It's a quad core 3.4GHz i5, only six months old and I got if for half the price of a new one. Should arrive here tomorrow.
    If it's as described I will sell my TB display and I'll end up paying as much as I would for the base Mac Mini, for a much more powerful machine.

    I think that's a pretty sweet deal.

    Now I just need to open it up to install an SSD. :eek:
  7. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    rainydays wrote above:
    [[ Now I just need to open it up to install an SSD...]]

    Save yourself a lot of trouble.
    Use an EXTERNAL SSD drive (mounted in either an "enclosure" or a USB3/SATA docking station) to serve as your "external booter".

    I doubt you will notice any speed difference in day-to-day usage, even for audio work.

    There are Thunderbolt enclosures out there that will work as well, but my prediction is that you'll be just fine using USB3.

    Try one of the above alternatives BEFORE you pry open a new(er) iMac.
    It won't really cost much (cost of the enclosure), and as I said above, you may find this to be a perfectly usable solution.
    You -will- have to find room for the enclosure on the desk. I've seen some arrangements where guys have velcro'ed the enclosure to the back of the iMac stand...

    Here are the speed results I get, using a Crucial m500 mounted in a plugable.com "lay-flat" USB3/SATA dock, booting and running a late-2012 Mac Mini:

    Attached Files:

  8. rainydays thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    I have considered this option. It would indeed save me some trouble, but the idea of having the system disk connected with an USB cable doesn't feel very comforting either.
    What happens if I unplug it by accident? Will it unmount immediately?

    I have installed HDDs in the previous iMac models several times, which is no biggie. But these new ones that are taped together seem like much more of a hassle. Especially if I need to switch them back for whatever reason.

    I will give it some thought. I'll need an external HDD enclosure anyway, so perhaps I'll get one of those dual boxes and try it out. If it doesn't feel good I'll open the iMac up and replace the stock drive.
  9. realuseless macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2014
    Just to pile in. I use a 2012 i7 2.3 as my studio computer (audio/midi work plus very light photoshop and final cut pro) and its perfect. I don't ever hear it, ever... in fact my external drives (timemachine + offline backup) make more noise by spinning up and down on occasion.

    But do get the i7 quad, it makes a difference for the type of apps you are using, and the amount of load you will be able to put on Logic.

    If you are only tracking a guitar and a mic with some reverb and compression, you would be alright with the i5 (you'd probably be alright with a 2009 mini then to be fair), but if you wanna do some serious work with lots of audio/midi tracks and lots of AU plugs you will max out the CPU very quickly...
  10. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    Do the Quad-Core i7. I set my best friend's mother up with one of those (back when they were newer). The speed difference in terms of multi-core performance between Dual-Core i5 and Quad-Core i7 is noticeable. Otherwise, you'd might as well go with one of the newer Haskell-based models if you're leaning more towards dual-core.
  11. rainydays thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    Thanks for the input! As I wrote above, I decided to go for a slightly used 27" iMac 2.4GHz QC i5 and sell my Thunderbolt display. I'll in all it will cost me the same as the dual core Mini.
    It's faster than the QC Mini and it has a way better GPU, double the RAM, two TB ports. The only downside is that it's an AIO, but for the price I think it's the best deal.

    That said, I think you can do a whole lot in Logic with a fairly modest CPU. I've been running pretty large projects on my 2.4GHz DC i5 MBP.
    Sure, there are some pretty CPU intensive plugs out there these days. But it's not like you can't make good music without them. :)
  12. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    I've been booting and running my 2012 Mini from a plugable.com "lay-flat" USB3/SATA dock since January of 2013.

    The dock sits in an out-of-the-way area on my desk, and is connected to the Mini using a 30-36" USB cable.

    Not once in the passing 21 months have I ever dislodged the USB cable between the Mini and the dock. This includes picking up the Mini by which to make connections in the back.

    Your fears on this matter are unfounded.
  13. rainydays thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 6, 2006
    Oh well, the guy sent it in the iMac box UNPADDED! There was damage to the casing, the screen and the HDD.
    I managed to make a deal with him, and I kept the computer and will fix it myself. Not as sweet of a deal as it was originally, but I'm ok with it. The computer itself is still working great, and the screen is usable though not pretty to look at.

    But now I have to open it up anyway. So I can just as well install an SSD :)
  14. magbarn macrumors 68000

    Oct 25, 2008
    What a freakin idiot!. You can purchase a used screen on ebay for about $300-$500 or so. I hope you got another 50% discount for your troubles...

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