Which Mac Mini is best for me?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by fccardiff, Nov 29, 2016.

  1. fccardiff macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #1
    Hi there!

    I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out exactly which Mac Mini I should get. It seems there's quite a bit of debate regarding the 2012 vs. 2014 models, and then even after choosing 2012 or 2014, there's a lot of discussion on which processor to get.

    So, essentially, I plan to use this Mac Mini solely for programming. I currently have a 13" Retina MBP, but I'd like to keep that to use as more of a personal laptop, while using this one as a work computer. My 13" has the 2.6GHz i5 and 8GB of RAM.

    I guess my question is, which Mac Mini should I buy? I program in NodeJS, so I use Brackets and Visual Studio Code a ton, while also having Chrome and a Terminal window open. I also plan to be doing some app development with Xcode and some Android development with Android Studio (but I'll be using real devices for testing, rather than running VMs). I do not plan to do any gaming on this Mini (I'd rather keep that to my Macbook Pro).

    Previously, I had been looking into 2014 Mac Minis with the i7 (3.0GHz, turbo to 3.5) and 16GB of RAM, as well as either a fusion or SSD drive. But now, after seeing some posts, I'm thinking more of the 2.8GHz with 16GB of RAM.

    What do you think would be the best Mac Mini for me to purchase? It seems to me that it'd be a good decision to get higher-end specs, but maybe that's not the case.

    Thanks so much for your input! :)
     
  2. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #2
    Ok, it sounds like you don't need extreme GPU power, which simplifies things. A faster CPU will certainly help you get through an edit / compile / test loop more quickly, but even a slow processor will eventually get you there, so I generally consider CPU speed a matter for consideration of your budget and your patience. ;)

    (Note, however, that only the 2012 has the option of a quad-core processor. The ability to parallelize tasks may provide a significant advantage to some of your workload. Not sure how to measure that without having you test it directly, though. :( )

    Neither the 2012 nor the 2014 is very much fun to deal with when installing internal drives. However, both have Thunderbird and USB3 ports, so external drives (even SSDs) are quite feasible. I've given up worrying about whatever drives are inside a modern Mini, and instead concentrate on having a good external drive enclosure holding whatever storage options I feel appropriate for the task at hand.

    Which comes to the most important point, I suppose, when considering a 2014 Mini -- if you do ever want it to have 16 GB of RAM, you've gotta go for 16 GB right up front. If you go for a 2012, you could just start with 8 GB (and it sounds like you've been able to get away with 8 GB on your MBP). But yeah, the 2012 is upgradable, and the 2014 is not.

    Honestly, I really like the quad-core option on the 2012 myself. I think the biggest improvement in the 2014 Minis was the GPU, and if you don't need that, there isn't all that much difference between the two models...
     
  3. MickeyVee macrumors member

    MickeyVee

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #3
    I have a 2012 Quad Core i7 and upgraded the HD to a 1TB Samsung 860 SSD. It was extreme easy tup upgrade. Didi it in less than 1/2 an hour. Just look at fixit instructions.
    I can see this machine going for at least two more years :)

     
  4. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #4
    I thought about getting the 2014 3.0 ghz 16gb with the 256gb SSD recently, it was $1400. Just couldn't pull the trigger for a machine at that price with rather unimpressive specs - it is only about 15% faster than my 2013 i7 MacBook Air. I ended up getting a 2012 2.6ghz i7 quad with 16gb and the original Apple 256gb SSD for $1250 from OWC (they offer a 90 day warranty and 14 day return/exchange).

    Really happy with this machine, it's almost 50% faster than the 3.0 ghz 2014 Mini. Now I got this machine specifically for editing video, so my priorities are different from yours. Specifically, I wanted to improve rendering times with a fast machine. I use big external drives, so the 256gb SSD is all I need inside the Mini.
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #5
    Even though I have a quad-core 2012 Mini as my "main Mac", I wouldn't advise buying one today. It's design is past four years old, going on five.

    Get a 2014 Mini, AT LEAST the midrange model (for best graphics option), and get either a fusion drive or a "straight" SSD.

    Get either 8gb or 16gb of RAM (your choice).

    The "top-line" model comes standard with 8gb of RAM and a 1tb fusion drive (128gb SSD portion + 1tb HDD portion).
    If I was buying a Mini today, that's what I'd get.
    You might want the RAM "bumped up" to 16gb.

    Check pricing at portableone.com.
    (no financial interest, just a satisfied customer)
     
  6. now i see it macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2002
    #6
    Thing is... As nice as the 2012 mini is/was, it's 4 years old. Apple discontinues support for all their computers after 5-7 years.

    Get the 2014.
     
  7. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #7
    2012 quad-core has the most CPU power, upgradeable RAM, and supports two 2.5" SATA drives.
    2014 has a better GPU and supports one SATA drive + one Apple custom SSD blade.

    Otherwise, they are fairly similar. I feel the 2012 is better for your stated purpose.

    If only we knew when a new one would come out, it might be even better to wait for that. But it could be quite a while.
     
  8. Boyd01, Nov 30, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016

    Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #8
    True, but I decided to take that risk and will be happy to get a couple years from my 2012 quad. As discussed in another thread, Apple just updated their list of supported machines yesterday. The 2009 and 2010 Mini were just addewd to the "Vintage" category, which means they won't provide hardware support (with a few exceptions). Anyway, that would imply the 2012 Mini should still be supported for another two years.

    There really is no comparision for CPU intensive tasks like video rendering. The 2012 2.6 quad has a geekbench 3 score of 12567 vs only 7308 for the 2014 3.0 duo. I just did a 16 hour export in Apple Compressor on my 2012, it would have taken 8 or 9 hours longer on the 2014.

    I don't know… in your application, would compile times also benefit as much from the quad?

    Here are the full specs for the 2012 2.6 quad and 2015 3.0 duo. There is also a 2.3 ghz 2012 quad which should be a little cheaper and performance is pretty close to the 2.6.

    http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-2.6-late-2012-specs.html
    http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-3.0-late-2014-specs.html
     
  9. fccardiff thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2010
    #9
    Thanks so much everyone for all the input! It's really helped me out a lot.

    So, I guess now it's down to the newest model - the i5 2.8GHz, upgraded to 16GB of RAM, versus a i7 quad 2.6GHz with 16GB of RAM. Either one will have either the fusion or an SSD.

    As for CPU intensive tasks, with NodeJS there isn't a lot of compiling - much like HTML, all you're doing is saving the file and then running it on the command line. I'm not exactly sure how to tell if there's a difference without actually trying it.
     
  10. macmikerw macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #10
    You could install both an SSD and SATA drive into the 2012 model. Or any combination of any two drives.
     
  11. Kaida macrumors regular

    Kaida

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Location:
    Singapore
    #11
    The 2012 in the market now are "used" at least for 2 years now. With the 2014, you can pay $99 more for 2 more years of Apple care.

    Having both systems, I would say the 2014 feels snappier due to the blade SSD along with the better GPU and faster dual core speed. Get a 2012 i7 only if your daily tasks are using a lot of CPU processing.
     
  12. bingeciren macrumors 6502a

    bingeciren

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #12
    I have two 2012 i7 Mac Mini servers. They are incredibly easily to upgrade. I have installed 2TB HDD + 512TB SSD on both and upgraded the memory to 16GB. I also have connected an 8TB shared USB 3 disk to be shared as a centralized TM backup to one of them and backup all the other Macs wirelessly. So far so good, BUT...If I was going to buy a new Mini today, I'd either go for a 16GB 1TB fusion model and upgrade the blade SSD from OWC or Transcend, or get the 2TB version and live with it. Blade SSD will ultimately be much snappier than the SATA SSD and I agree with @Kaida on post #11.
     
  13. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #13
    Curious…. what kind of applications do you think benefit from the faster SSD? I have a 2013 MacBook Air and I think it has the same SSD, very nice, it clocks around ~700MB/sec. My 2012 quad Mini Server has the original Apple SSD that clocks around 500MB/sec.

    So where would that make a real world difference? Certainly not in your application of doing time machine backups where wifi or even gigabit ethernet is the bottleneck. Maybe there would be a slight improvement working with big video files - assuming that you have enough room for them on the internal SSD.

    If you get into a situation where the Mini is swapping, it could help some there I suppose. But with 16gb RAM, that probably isn't an issue for most people.
     
  14. bingeciren, Dec 20, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016

    bingeciren macrumors 6502a

    bingeciren

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #14
    Mostly running VMs. They load a lot faster from a fast SSD and depending on how large they are (I have one Windows 7 VM which is over 130 GB for example) they also run much better if the disk is fast. The other benefiting scenario is when I edit AVCHD videos using iMovie. Generally I keep the edited ones on an external volume but when I edit them, I do it on the local SSD.

    Last but not least, since I keep the entire OS and programs on the SSD, everything loads and runs much faster. This is why my m7 12" MacBook seems almost as fast as my 2013 i7 Mac Mini, at least for loading programs, and feeling as snappy as the Mini. My Mini's SSD has 480W / 520R speed whereas the 12" MacBook has close to 890W and 950R speed. And these speed differences are noticeable.

    Also I noticed for some reason, no matter how fast the SSD on a Mini, SATA SSD equipped Macs boot slower than the blade equipped ones.
     
  15. Kaida, Dec 21, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016

    Kaida macrumors regular

    Kaida

    Joined:
    May 28, 2016
    Location:
    Singapore
    #15
    I think you are not feeling the difference from the 2 machines is that MBA uses a slower processor and a faster SSD, while your mm2012 uses a faster processor and slower SSD. Maybe it will feel snappier with a faster processor together with a faster SSD. A colleague's Alienware boots so fast with UEFI/NVMe Samsung 950 Pro that I didn't even see the Alienware logo with the spinning dots.(Usually Windows with spinning dots but UEFI is supposed to show the Alienware logo)

    You certainly brought back the memory of back when people are comparing HDD 5400rpm vs 7200rpm vs Velociraptor ;)
     
  16. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #16
    Just timed my 2012 mini. It took 14 seconds from the time I pressed the power button until I was on the desktop and ready to rock. Really, I don't need a mini that boots faster than that. And I especially don't need it when mine has a geekbench score 50% higher than the top of the line 2014 model. The other day I did an export in Compressor that took about 15 hours. No matter how wonderful the graphics card is or how fast the ssd is, I don't want to spend an extra 7 hours rendering. ;)

    Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against fast SSD's - the faster the better (although price is a consideration). Better graphics cards are also good. But I also need a decent CPU speed and the 2014 Mini fails at that. Of course, that is just me and I can understand why others have different priorities.
     
  17. macmikerw macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2016
    Location:
    England
    #17
    I think that is the point. Why oh why on earth did Apple bring out a mini with a much lower CPU speed? Not to mention the lack of possible expansion.
     
  18. bingeciren macrumors 6502a

    bingeciren

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #18
    Because they intend to kill Mini completely. Tim's idea of a Mac desktop is the iMac, and even that is like an excess baggage for him that he wants to get rid of it.

    Tim needs to watch the Lost Interview of Steve Jobs again for a refresher.
     
  19. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #19
    Well this thread is titled "which Mini is best for me?" and if you're buying one today then I think the point is that you must decide whether an older design with a faster processor is a better choice than a newer design with other advantages.

    But yeah, it's sad that we even have to discuss whether a 2012 or 2014 machine is better when it is going to be 2017 in a few days. :confused:
     
  20. Neodym macrumors 68000

    Neodym

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2002
    #20
    @OP: Why does it need to be a mini? If you consider a 2014 mini, which is barely upgradeable, you could as well consider a MacBook(Pro) or iMac. Both are available much younger (i.e. with more up-to-date hardware and longer support windows) and even new, which may be interesting for you, as you intend to use it for business (tax deduction, warranty etc.).

    Heck, if a used computer would be okay for you, you could as well go for a used MacPro (recommended: 4,1 or 5,1). Those are pretty affordable now, are fully upgradeable, offer internal drive slots (no cable mess) and still compare to or exceed the latest Mac mini in terms of performance. Drawbacks (compared to a mini):
    • Bigger footprint.
    • Higher electricity bill.
    • No Thunderbolt.
    • USB3 needs to be added by you (PCIe card).
    • A little louder when idling/low load (but significantly less loud under load, where a mini acoustically transforms into a jet engine).

    Depending on use case, there are two more important improvements:
    • Second Thunderbolt port on the 2014.
    • PCIe-based blade SSD in the 2014, which can be significantly faster than any SATA-based SSD.
     
  21. IndyLions macrumors newbie

    IndyLions

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brownsburg IN
    #21
    This is a really nice thread - it really helped me pick out the Mac Mini that I think will be best for me. My application is as a Whole Home server in my basement. I have a couple of extra 2007 iMac's around - so I strongly considered using one of those - but in the end decided on a Mac Mini due to the form factor. I have a 19" rack in the basement with all my networking gear - and the mini form factor will just work perfectly.

    When it came to picking out the mini - my debate was between a 2012 Quad-core used, and a 2014. I'll mainly be using the Mini to manage Time Machine backups (for 4 MacBooks and 3 iMacs) and as an iTunes Server. I ended up deciding on a 2014, with the following specs:
    • 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core (Haswell)
    • 8GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 RAM
    • 1TB Fusion Drive
    • Intel Iris Graphics

    For me, the deciding factors were:
    • Being able to stay on the latest Mac operating systems for a couple more years
    • Second Thunderbolt port - as I will definitely be using Thunderbolt for storage and backup
    • Faster SSD.
    The faster SSD probably isn't that important, but I love the extended usable life that SSDs have given my 2007 iMacs, so the faster the better as far as I'm concerned. And since I'm using it "headless" - it will be difficult to take advantage of the GPU improvements in the 2014. Although I did get one of those NewerTech HDMI plugs so at least the GPU will be operating as I manage the Mini from one of my other machines.

    Again - thanks to everyone in this thread for their two cents. I would have been happy with a Quad-core as well, but I feel like I made an educated decision based on experienced advice!
     
  22. EightyTwenty macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2015
    #22
    Use the HDMI port on your retina MacBook.

    No need for a Mac mini at all. It will just be a big waste of money.
     
  23. IndyLions macrumors newbie

    IndyLions

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brownsburg IN
    #23
    The computer that acts as my iTunes and Time Machine server won't be connected to a live display - that's what I have other computers and AppleTV's for. The Mini will be an "always on" file server located in a 19" rack in the basement.
     

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