Which Mac Mini is "better"?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by GlobalRaymond, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. GlobalRaymond macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2013
    Between these two:

    Refurb: 2011 i7 2.7GHz w/ 8GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
    New: 2012 i5 2.5GHz w/ 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (Costs $20 more)

    Both have hard drive that is a 500GB 5400-rpm
    The 2011 has dedicated graphics card (AMD Radeon HD 6630M)
    The 2012 has Intel 4000 graphics card.

    Which one should I get? Which one is "faster"? Any thoughts?
  2. RoastingPig macrumors 68000


    Jul 23, 2012
    if your going to do very light gaming i would go with the amd one due to the gddr5 memory over the 4000 but the 4000 is no slouch and with the 2012 one you get usb 3.0 and the newer ivy bridge processor
  3. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009

    The AMD 6630m is marginally better than the HD4000 for gaming (neither are going to wow in the gaming, but the AMD 6630m is a little faster). Otherwise the big gain of the 2012 is the USB3.0 which means cheap fast storage.

    So OP, if you aren't going to game go with the 2012, but if you feel like you are going to do some light gaming then the decision becomes a bit more difficult.
  4. GlobalRaymond thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2013

    Thank you for the responses so far.

    I doubt that I would be doing any gaming. So the basic consensus is that the new Ivy Bridge processor (even an i5) is better than an older i7 processor?
  5. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    Totally agree. I bought the 2012 purely for this. Although yes, people use Minis for other reasons.

    I have both GPUs in the Minis I have and really don't notice any difference.
  6. dapitts08 macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2009
    my only advice here is to pull the trigger as soon as you can because those refurbs are going fast.

    i waited and the one i wanted was gone but luckily another one came up about 2 weeks later or so.
  7. GlobalRaymond thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2013
    Totally agree. I've already missed out on a couple that I wanted by waiting too long. But, I'm still not sure that a Mac Mini is exactly what I want. I am waffling on it.

    We have always had a laptop (MBP) but we're considering going away from that and toward the Mini as our only "desktop computer" option. My wife has a 32GB 2nd gen iPad and I have a 16GB iPad mini. We are moving to Europe soon and looking to do something other than drag the 2006 MBP with us. It has 2GB RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and OS X 10.6.8. The battery life on it isn't great, it can't be upgraded in any way (can't even get the latest OS X), and is just really starting to show it's age. It has been a great computer for many years but we will retire it soon. So, we are trying to come up with a replacement for it. In general, we use our iPads for the majority of our computing. But, you know, there comes a time when you want to sit down at a computer and do stuff you just can't do (at least not easily) on an iPad. We also use our MBP as our TV/DVD player. And, we'd like to spend $1000 or less. This is why we have been leaning toward a Mini. Seems like it could meet all of our demands without breaking the bank.
  8. RoastingPig macrumors 68000


    Jul 23, 2012
    they got a bunch of mac minis on the refurb store rite now too
  9. stchman macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    How much are they charging?
  10. Brian Y macrumors 68040

    Oct 21, 2012
    Personally, the i7 seems like better value to me. I'd sum it up like this:

    If you want USB 3, go for the 2012. If you can live without USB 3, get the 2011. The CPU and Graphics will be faster on the 2011 (albeit marginally for graphics). The only real-world advantage of the 2012 is USB 3.
  11. dapitts08 macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2009
    i did the same thing.

    i bought the mini instead of upgrading my 2010 macbook pro

    i bought this one except it is was the 2.3 ghz version so it was a little cheaper:


    added this ssd along side the internal:


    and it is the fastest computer i have ever used

    i did end up upgrading the ram to 16 gigs but that is because I use adobe fireworks which seems to be processor heavy

    but it think an upgrade to 8 gigs would be perfectly fine for most people

    so you could possible get the set up a little over $1000
  12. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    The ivy bridge i5 has almost the exact same geek bench score as the i7 sandy bridge. The Difference is 6600 and 6700. So basically it is slightly faster GPU in the 2011 vs usb3.0 in the 2012.

  13. Brian Y macrumors 68040

    Oct 21, 2012
    Beyond geek bench scores, depending on what you do you will notice better performance with the i7 since it has hyper threading, and a few other thing.

    And even if marginally - my point stands - the i7 is faster, better graphics and its cheaper. If you need usb3 get the 2012, otherwise get the 2011.
  14. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Yeah the i7 has hyperthreading, but so does the i5:


    See 3210M (it's what's in the base Ivy Bridge Mini).

    3210m - http://ark.intel.com/products/67355/
    2620m - http://ark.intel.com/products/52231

    1 MB of Cache difference and 200mhz more base clock and 300mhz faster turbo. And most of those differences are made up by the fact that Ivy Bridge is about 10% faster than Sandy Bridge mhz for mhz.

    In the end, about the only real difference is 1MB of Cache because everything else ends up being equal in benchmarks.

    So again, the only difference, slightly better GPU in the AMD 6630M vs USB3.0 because both CPU's are virtually the same.
  15. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

    Aug 31, 2012
    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    "Which one is better?" is the wrong question.

    The question you need an answer to is, "Which one would best suit my needs?"

    If so, just what are your needs (or wants)?

    Basic communications and storage? Processing information, photos, and/or video? Gaming? Bragging rights to the best geek-bench score?
  16. linds15 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2012
    Great White North
    id go with the 2012 because it doesnt seem like you will be reaching the limits of either CPU (also others have said the difference b/w them is marginal at best) and USB 3.0 is where you would probably get the most benefit in the long run
  17. GlobalRaymond thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2013
    Very true. So what are my needs? Hmmm...
    Not gaming. Not massive storage space (I still haven't filled my current 160GB hard drive after owning it for over 5 years). Not bragging rights.

    I basically want a nice Apple product that is going to do all of the basics efficiently and quickly. Yes, basic communication. Photos. At this point, not much more. So perhaps the price is what I should be looking at. There is a... Refurbished Mac mini 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    Originally released July 2011
    2GB memory

    500GB hard drive

    Thunderbolt port with support for up to 2560-by-1600 resolution
    HDMI port with support for up to 1920-by-1200 resolution
    Intel HD Graphics 3000

    .....that is priced very well. That would probably suit my needs just fine. Hmmmm.....

    Of course, just like any person out there, I get sucked in by more, more, more....the temptation to get more than needed is always there just because it is cool, right? =)
  18. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Then go with that one. I had one of those for awhile. Unfortunately it wasn't enough for my needs, but it is enough for many people. You can still use the USB2.0 ports should you need more storage space (just not as fast is all). It's a great machine (just be sure to upgrade to 8GB of RAM which is simple in any 2010 or newer Mini). 2GB of RAM is not enough.
  19. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "Which one is "faster"?"

    Graphics _might be_ a little faster on the 2011, depending on what you're doing and using.


    As far as "speed" goes, 2012 has USB3. Way, WAY "faster" with external devices that can support such speeds.

    I would get the 2012 and spend a little more to get the i7 instead of the i5. My opinon only.
  20. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    To add to the thoughts on the table, the 2011 will likely stop being supported by OS X before the 2012, but that only matters if you plan on keeping it for several years.

    I'd lean towards the 2012 myself.
  21. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    I doubt that, as it is basically the same architecture, only different process size: 22nm instead of 32. In software support they are comparable.

    Besides, the 2011 will have better resale value. It is the last machine to run Snow Leopard, and thus allows all software from 2000 - 2020 or so to run.
  22. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Ahh no it isn't. Different support chipset, different graphics option. So yeah the 2011 may be dropped from OS X before the 2012. It is something to keep in mind.

    And as for the resale value, that depends on how long the person plans on keeping it. If they plan on keeping it long term, OS X support would be my greater concern. If it is only for a year or 2, then resale value might take a consideration.
  23. MajorPain macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    Intel HD 3000 was weak. Strongly advise against it.
    The AMD 6630M is probably better than the Intel HD 4000. For example:


    There are rankings that give the 3D Mark and synthetic benchmarks:


    Notebookcheck.net rates the 6630M as #181, and the HD 4000 as #239.

    As long as you can live with 256 MB of VRAM for a few years, then get the 2011 core i7, unless you really need USB 3.0. 2011 has Thunderbolt, so I'm good. Basically, I know too many people who bought products with Intel graphics and saw those products become obsolete way too quickly.
    I am persuaded that AMD has preserved the knowledge base at ATI (which it bought in 2006) and renders graphics better than Intel.

    I plan on limiting myself to AoE III and Civ IV for the life of my 2011 Core i7. That will save me from getting addicted to Civ V anyway. I may actually have a life these next few years!
  24. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    The Radeon 6630 in the average notebook is a DDR3 one, not a GDDR5 one like in the mini.
    The HD4000 is different from processor to processor too. The quad i7 HD4000 is a bit faster than the i5 one.
  25. mentaluproar macrumors 68000


    May 25, 2010
    Ohio, USA
    I have a 2011 AMD-equipped mini here and it's performed like a champ. It runs 24/7. Installing an SSD really helped with iphoto and itunes abysmally slow performance, and 8 gigs of ram gives my apps more room to breathe.

    I have it running BOINC all the time, taxing the hell out of the CPU and GPU. I've played mostly old games, like portal 1 & 2, bioshock, some playstation games, and batman arkham city and asylum, and its kept up just fine. Batman would be better if I weren't so stubborn with my graphics settings, but it was definitely capable. Media remuxing and transcodes are fast.

    And I never had any of the problems the 2012 users had with graphics under mountain lion. ;)

    If you need USB 3, go for the 2012. Otherwise, there is absolutely no practical reason to skip the 2011. This thing is very capable.

    If you ever want USB3 on a 2011, you could probably get it through thunderbolt with an adaptor. Personally, I'm happy with FW800 for bulk storage.

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