Why a Mac Mini + TBD is a better choice than an iMac

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Poki, May 2, 2012.

  1. Poki macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #1
    As I'm currently selling my 24" Cinema Display, I've gone back and forth from the iMac to a Mac Mini + a 27" Thunderbolt Display (the original reason why I decided to sell my ACD). I just need some opinions as most of the time I forget some important things I should consider. Keep in mind I opt for the next-gen quad-core Mini, which should be on par with the current Mac Mini Server, while the iMac isn't expected to get huge performance gain through Ivy Bridge.

    Cost:
    € 1800 for the Mini + TBD + SSD + 16GB RAM (street price)
    € 1600 for iMac 27" Core i5 2,7 GHz, Radeon HD 6770 + 16GB RAM (street)

    Pros of the iMac:
    - More overall power with MUCH more graphics power
    - €200 cheaper
    - All-in-One
    - quieter fans
    - 2 Thunderbolt-Ports

    Pros of the Mini + TBD:
    - SSD
    - easier replaceable while keeping the display
    - better resell value if needed
    - better design (imho)
    - no keyboard and mouse included (already have one)

    I know that many of the points at the Mini configuration are heavily subjective, but if you consider the SSD it's actually not that much more expensive and it should be fast enough for 1080p video editing in FCP X as well as slight gaming on full resolution (Starcraft 2, Diablo 3).

    What do you think? What have I forgot?

    Thanks for your feedback!
     
  2. BornAgainMac macrumors 603

    BornAgainMac

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2004
    Location:
    Florida Resident
    #2
    I have an older iMac 27 and a Mac Mini SSD + GPU + TBD. I wish the Mac Mini had the same GPU as the iMac. Perhaps make the Mini thicker and better cooling.
     
  3. ng7apoc macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    UK
    #3
    I had a similar decision to make and went with the Mini, I did originally get an iMac but returned it as I realised pretty quickly the Mini was a better fit for me at the time with two reasons standing out above all for me.

    Firstly - screen size, getting a Mini allowed me a 24" 16:10 monitor which I much prefer over the two 16:9 iMac screens, 21.5" is a little on the smaller side and the 27" is too big for my desk.
    And secondly was ease of SSD install in the Mini

    There is also one other huge advantage that the Mini gives and thats when new the new model is released I'll be able to remove my SSD and sell the Mini (with its original HDD) and then pop the SSD into the new Mini.

    I don't regret getting the Mini at all with an SSD and 8GB RAM its a very capable machine, but its one huge disadvantage is the iMac's major advantage, that is of course as you've already touched upon - the graphics.

    Also worth noting the Mini server can get very loud, its fan gets upto 5000rpm :eek:
     
  4. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 21, 2009
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    Among the starlings
    #4
    The iMac also supports far more memory, which will help it remain usable for a much longer period. And what indication is there that the Mini has better resale value?

    But it all depends on what you're using it for and what sort of turnover you consider reasonable.
     
  5. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #5
    @ng7apoc: I love 27" as screen size. It doesn't hammer you into the ground as the 30" ACD but delivers just about enough space and pixels for serious work. That's why I just sell my 24" display.

    Do you have the server model? Could you please tell me a bit more about the fans? (How fast/at which tasks do they speed up, how loud are they then?) I use a MacBook Pro in clamshell mode for years now, and I really hope to get a mostly silent desktop with the Mini.

    @splitpea: At the time I need more than 16GB RAM I think I'll just buy a new computer. And after all, every Ivy Bridge CPU supports 32 GB, so even there's still room for an upgrade.

    Resale value: The display doesn't loose as much value over time as an iMac, and the Mini is cheaper in the first place, which should equal in a bit higher resell price compared to the iMac.

    Yeah, I really don't know if the Mini + TBD is the right decision. I just love the design of this combination, but I don't quite know if it's enough power for the years to come. Well, at least it should be faster than my 2009 2,66GHz C2D MacBook Pro anyways.
     
  6. ng7apoc macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    I only have the base model so please don't take my thoughts on server noise as fact! What I can tell you is my own Mini is generally good noise wise but gets very noisy (5000rpm+) when really pushing it such as video encoding via handbrake or intensive gaming. From what I've read from users here and on Apple's own discussion forums the Server is a bit worse due to increased heat and its fan idles at 2000rpm and the base at 1800rpm, however at that level they are fine and its only really if it gets above 3500-4000rpm the noise is intrusive.

    And the monitor size is very subjective really I'd absolutely love a 27" screen but unfortunately this small room and cramped desk I have to fit it on won't support it :(
     
  7. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #7
    Hmm.. that sounds bad. The Mini 2011 uses double the power of the Mini 2010 which means double the heat and double the noise. I doubt Apple will come up with a bigger fan or a smarter solution in the next Mini, so I'll just have to live with it. I may try it out in a store before buying though.

    But hey, it can't be louder than my MacBook Pro at 6200 rpm 'cos it has two of the Mini-fans, so it should be okay I guess.
     
  8. Snips macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Suffolk, UK
    #8
    I opted for the mini + TB display purely because if one fails I don't want be without (or have to replace) both.

    This set-up is great, except the cabling between the display and the mini is cumbersome, is difficult to arrange tidily, and without putting a strain on the tiny TB / Display Port connector, and needs a rethink, imo.
     
  9. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #9
    Thanks, Snips (did you get the name out of Star Wars: The Clone Wars? :D), very good point indeed, as I'm not going to buy Apple Care.
     
  10. MiltonThales macrumors member

    MiltonThales

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Location:
    Suwanee, GA
    #10
    OWC options

    Since you aren't planning on Applecare, have you considered Other World Computing upgrades ? http://www.macsales.com They just announced a DIY upgrade for the 2011 Mac mini that allows adding a second drive, which could be one of their SSD 6GB drives. They also offer memory upgrades: $55 for 8 GB and $200 for 16 GB. Since you quote prices in Euros, I'm not sure they are an option for you.

    But they also offer turnkey upgrades, at least for iMacs, where you can ship the computer to them (instead of you) and then they ship the upgraded machine to you. Whether this can get through customs is something I can't answer. But it may change the economics of your choices.
     
  11. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #11
    200 for 16GB RAM seems way overpriced - you can get that upgrade for half of that. But I have to take a look at the upgrade kit, although I don't really need the standard hard drive to stay in the Mini. Thanks for the tip!
     
  12. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 1, 2012
    #12
    Yeah, that's the downside of an all-in-one. If the monitor goes bad, you're without a computer until it's fixed. And it would suck to have to do a full system restore just due to a bad LCD screen.

    I'm still using my old Dell 24" panel with my new Mini Server, but later on this year I'll probably get a TB display. The problem is I still plan on firing up my old Windows tower for gaming, which won't work with the TB display, so I may get Dell's 27" monitor instead which has every kind of input you can imagine-- except TBolt. It does have DisplayPort though.
     
  13. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #13
    I don't know where you read that. The Apple website says 13/85 (idle/max) for the 2011 mini, 12/85 for the 2011 mini with Lion Server, 10/85 for the 2010 mini and 11/85 for the 2010 mini with Snow Leopard Server. So maximum power consumption is the same, just the idle power has increased (but not doubled). Note that a 27" iMac is 310 watts maximum while the Thunderbolt Display and a Mini will be about 250 watts maximum, so the mini is more economical to run.
     
  14. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #14
    That's what Apple says. I had to search a bit, but here it is, the review from cnet which says the Dual-Core i5 needs almost twice as much energy as the predecessor, so the quad-core server-model should be even worse, right?

    http://reviews.cnet.com/desktops/apple-mac-mini-2/4505-3118_7-34850078-2.html?tag=continue;page2

    Power consumption is no problem for me, but as it is with such small enclosures, you get more noise with every watt additionally consumed.
     
  15. NMF macrumors 6502a

    NMF

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2011
    #15
    I can only comment on two things.

    One, my wife has a 21.5" iMac from 2009. The display recently went bad on it. We had AppleCare, so we took it to the local Apple Store on a Friday. They called us on Monday to pick it up. Brand new display, nothing else changed, only took a weekend.

    I on the other hand have a 27" iMac. It is freaking loud. Well, I suppose it's not really loud, but you can definitely hear it. I switched to this iMac from a tower PC that I had wired about 15 feet away so I wasn't used to hearing any sound whatsoever coming from my monitor. 6 months later and I'm still not used to it. I'm patiently waiting for a Mac Pro refresh so I can go back to my blissful silence.

    If you have any noise concerns whatsoever I'd go with the Mac Mini and just wire it somewhere out of sight to minimize the noise. The low hum of the iMac drives me crazy.
     
  16. McGilli macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2008
    #16
    I just jumped on the Mini train this past week.

    I picked up a couple TB displays for it, and I'm glad I went this way instead of buying an iMac with a 2nd display.

    I like to see my 'above desk' setup here (monitors/speakers etc) and know that I won't had to upgrade any of this for a long, long time.

    The Mini is under the desk, and I love knowing that if I want to sell it it's that easy. Then buy a new mini and you would never know I upgraded.

    Plus all my future computer purchases will now just be $500-700 for a mini. I've taken care of the big purchases (displays).

    Any additions I do like RAM or SSD I will just swap out into my future computer and sell this one with its stock parts.
     
  17. JasonR macrumors 6502a

    JasonR

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2008
    #17
    My 27" iMac was pretty damn silent.
     
  18. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #18
    The article measures power consumption for a particular application. It would appear that they consume the same amount of power for the same amount of work, but even CNET thinks that is strange since the newer processors are more efficient. The new ones do use more power at idle, but maximum power is the same and is basically limited by the maximum power rating of the processor.
     
  19. NMF macrumors 6502a

    NMF

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2011
    #19
    I think I'm just more sensitive to it than most. I have an isolated man cave and I don't like to have the fan on. You could literally hear a pin drop back here when I'm on the computer at night, and I can't stand ANY noise coming from what I see as my "monitor." My old PC was literally 15 feet away in a dedicated entertainment unit (not to mention an insulated sound-proof mid-tower case), so any fans at all drive me insane.
     
  20. OTACORB macrumors 6502a

    OTACORB

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    #20
    You think? :rolleyes:
     
  21. NMF macrumors 6502a

    NMF

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    Oct 27, 2011
    #21
    Hey, I'm just saying that it's a fact that it is not "silent." I think people are so used to the noise of computer fans that they accept the iMac's low hum as being as good as it gets. Maybe that's true, but you can't say that it's silent. It definitely makes a lot of noise.
     
  22. CausticPuppy macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 1, 2012
    #22
    My mini server is not silent, but very quiet. My Macbook Pro (2.66GHz C2D) spools up much louder when under load.

    Considering that the mini is replacing my Windows tower that I built a few years ago, with 4 case fans, P/S fan, CPU fan, and GPU fan, it's a definite improvement in noise level.

    It doesn't hurt that my little Mini significantly beats my old Core2Quad 2.83GHz system in cpu-bound tasks.
     
  23. paulrbeers, May 3, 2012
    Last edited: May 3, 2012

    paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    #23
    Also the fact they are comparing the previous ENTRY level model to the current Gen's Mid Model makes it pointless. The 2.4ghz Core2duo was the entry level model for 2010, so this entire comparison is bunk. They should have either compared the 2.66ghz core2duo model from 2010 to the mid-model 2011 or taken their 2.4ghz core2duo model from 2010 and compared it to the 2.3ghz model from 2011.
     
  24. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #24
    The one thing I do know about power consumption in "real life" is that there was a noticeable drop in my electric bill when I replaced my old Dell server with a Mac mini server. And it's much quieter, too! I never hear any of our minis (we have three) except for the disk seeking of the external drives on the server.

    We've had four iMacs since our first (a G5) and each one has been quieter than the one before. Again, it's really the disk drives. The fans are very quiet.

    Partial disclaimer -- these are all 2+ years old and don't represent the latest models.
     
  25. Poki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Poki

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    #25
    Thanks for this statement! I used the MacBook Pro 2,66GHz 2009 in clamshell mode for several years now, and I'm VERY happy with just how silent it is when doing nothing more than listening to iTunes music while browsing non-flash websites, but when watching a YouTube HD-video or doing some work, it's just way too loud for me. When the Quad-Core Mini really is QUIETER than that, I should be happy with it. ;)

    @talmy: Did this really make an impact? I mean, modern computers don't use too much power anyways (except the big screens)?

    @NMF: Thanks also for your statement. I never thought it would be silent under heavy load, but it should better be under light load? I listen to music most of the time anyways. :)

    @all: I just sold my 24" Cinema Display for 529 Euros on ebay, so I've to pay about 350€ for the upgrade to the Thunderbolt Display. That's okay I think. So I'll get it together with the next Mini as soon as they're available. The only problem: I have to live without a big screen for some weeks now. :eek:
     

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