Will a base Mac Mini do these tasks sufficiently

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by garethjparr, Oct 29, 2016.

  1. garethjparr macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2016
    I'm in the market for a mini. I waited for the update but it didn't come

    So, here we are! I need it to hold my iTunes library (<100gb), some photos, sync to some iPhones and act as a server to an Apple TV/AirPlay amplifier to play back music in the lounge. It may also do a bit of internet browsing, word processing and some minor photo editing (Red eye, cropping and straightening).

    People keep warning me off the 5400 speed drive though.

    Is it that bad?I can't justify the cost of the fusion upgrade. How much difference does it make, real world?

    Bear in mind I'm coming from a 10 year old dual core pentium vista PC with 3GB of ram. Will it be quicker than that?

  2. tibas92013 macrumors 6502

    Jun 2, 2013
    Costa Rica
    In 2013 I bought a Refurbished MM(Late 2012), i5 2.5GHz,4GB Ram,500HD and last year I bought another Refurbished MM(Late 2014), 2.8GHz, 8GB Ram, 256 SSD from the Apple On-line Store.

    Both of these MM's have served me well but the one with the SSD "blows smoke" over the other MM. I consider me a light user in that my needs are surfing the web, light correspondence,watching movies, etc.
  3. Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

    Andres Cantu

    May 31, 2015
    Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
    For being a ten year-old computer, 3GB of RAM is actually not too shabby! Still, the Mac mini, even the base model, will blow it out of the water. Sure, the hard drive is the bottleneck, but for the tasks that you listed, it is perfectly adequate. However, I would not buy one at this point unless I were to get it at a discount.

    There's still a chance for an early 2017 or late 2017 update, but depending on your needs, that might be too far away.
  4. now i see it macrumors 68040

    Jan 2, 2002
    5400 rpm drive is HELL. Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it. If it's just a server or storage device, it's doable. But to actually use a mini w a 5400 drive is murder.
  5. Oliverhay macrumors member


    Mar 25, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Agreed - No company should sell non-SSD based devices past 2014!!! Having the SSD will double the useful life of the computer. Where I work, we have some old iMac's (2011) and they were basically unusable. I purchased a small 128gb crucial SSD for one of them and it has completely transformed the computer. The staff member thinks its a brand new computer and brags about how fast it is now. The old hard drive is in an external enclosure for the actual storage. I've ordered another for the second old iMac.

    If you can't afford the upgrade with apple, I'd recommend getting an older MM that has easier upgrade capabilities. Then buy a small SSD (less than 80$) to run your operating system and just put your media on the HD that shipped with the device. I think the last gen MM has two SATA ports so you can have both internally, I can't remember TBH - Need to check.
  6. Boyd01 Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I used a 2012 base Mini as an iTunes server for over two years but recently upgraded it to 16gb and re-purposed it for video editing. Replaced the iTunes server with a base 2014 Mini. It's more than adequate for that (you could certainly argue over-kill). My iTunes Library is on a fast (180MB/sec) 3TB USB 3.0 drive and I use it with two Apple TV's and a MacBook Air.

    Beyond that, my subjective impression is that the 2014 base mini is noticeably slower than my 2012 base (both cost $500 new). I'm not necessarily talking about demanding tasks, it just feels slower in Finder operations and things like System Preferences. Perhaps this is due to El Capitan on the 2014 vs Mavericks on the 2012? The 2014 does have a slower geekbench rating though - 2012 is 6773 and 2014 is 5923. The 500gb internal drive clocks at about 100MB/sec on both machines.

    So I'd say that the base mini will do the things you want, and it will be much faster than your old Windows machine. But compared to other machines in Apple's line up… I'm not impressed. I got a lot more for my $500 with the 2012 Mini.
  7. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816


    Feb 16, 2010
    Dayton, Ohio
    Just gotta weigh in on this: I'm quite happy with a 5400 rpm drive. But then, I understand how to use it appropriately; I batch large transactions together and execute them in the background, and I make sure to always keep my most frequently used apps in memory. (Also, I keep my Minis running 24/7.) As such, I suspect my Minis actually run faster than many of the folks here extolling the benefits of SSDs: in my opinion, if your machine speeds up considerably after installing an SSD, I would argue that you're using your machine wrong.

    However, I have to say this: I can do this because I always ensure that my machines have sufficient RAM to keep all my apps in memory constantly. I would not be able to do this with a base 2014 Mini; 4GB of RAM is just barely enough to support OS X and one decent app at a time. And since you can't ever upgrade the RAM on this device, your applications are always going to be starved for resources. An SSD will make the machine's constant paging to long-term storage less painful, but it will still be painful...

    One more point: Windows Vista, and the apps created for Vista, will run just fine within 3 GB of RAM! Unfortunately, the most recent versions of OS X consume almost 2GB of RAM just for themselves, and modern OS X apps are a lot less efficient than apps were ten years ago. (I suppose if you installed Windows Vista onto a base Mac Mini, though, it would really fly. If you could find drivers for the hardware...)
  8. robotica macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2007
    Does trim work for third party drives now? I am talking Samsung/crucial Sara drives?

    Thinking of getting a mini to tie me over and have no issues replacing a hard disk
  9. Oliverhay macrumors member


    Mar 25, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    You can use this simple free app to force trim support: https://www.cindori.org/software/trimenabler/

    I can confirm it works for crucial drives from experience :)
    --- Post Merged, Oct 29, 2016 ---
    Oh of course, but loading apps in the first place is a completely different experience with a SSD. Also, with an iTunes library of scale they want to use, you'll have pinwheel action when you scroll through it as it won't store all the album artwork in memory, for example.

    If you're using it as a media server only and not the computer itself, a hard drive would be fine.
  10. Starfia macrumors 6502a


    Apr 11, 2011
    It's sufficient, yes. The real-world difference it makes is pretty noticeable, though – for me (who tends toward frugal and adequate rather than luxurious for Mac purchases), it was completely worth the cost. With a Fusion Drive, startup is a matter of seconds and opening files and applications are much closer to instantaneous the majority of the time. It's subjective whether you think that's "hell" like Oliverhay does, but it seems like it could potentially make a difference hundreds or thousands of times during its life when you talk about wanting to stream from iTunes using it.
  11. Partron22 macrumors 68020


    Apr 13, 2011
    Just buy a 500 GB SSD for about $160, and a USB3 caddy ($20) to hold it.
    Run your system off that, and partition your slow internal for pix, music movies and TM backup.
    MUCH faster that way, without having to pay the Apple premium for a Frankenstein fusion device.
  12. garethjparr, Oct 29, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2016

    garethjparr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2016
    Thanks everyone, I think!

    I'm so borderline. The tech geek in me hears what you are saying, but the accountant says this is going to be on 24/7, sit there doing nothing 95% of the time. Spend Max 4% of the time serving iTunes data and 1% of the time syncing iTunes to iPhones and other, light duty tasks. For that, finance wise, the fusion or ssd upgrades, whilst what the geek in me would do, just seem a price step too far.
    Still thinking of just building a SFF windows PC instead, but really would like to try mac os...

    So undecided...
  13. The_Interloper macrumors regular


    Oct 28, 2016
    +1 for the external USB caddy. My son has the 8gb current Mini with a Samsung SSD in one of these as the boot drive: https://amzn.com/B00OFJ1UK6

    Runs like a dream and without voiding the warranty. Sadly, this will be the last desktop Mac we'll own in my house. I've already completely migrated to Windows.

    The 5400 drive is a joke, a complete disgrace on a machine of this price in 2016. Couple that with the base 4Gb RAM and you're in for a miserable experience. Apple intentionally gimped the 2014 Minis and it's abundantly clear the negative direction they're heading in with regard to Macs overall. Sad to see.
  14. ixxx69 macrumors 65816

    Jul 31, 2009
    United States
    The Mini is a great little computer, as long as it has an SSD (or Fusion would also be acceptable for your usage). The HDD is just unacceptable on ANY computer these days. Oh sure, the HDD will seem okay at first when everything is freshly installed, but will eventually feel slower and slower with each passing month of OS and app updates.

    By far the largest overall performance boost of the last 10 years (since the release of Intel's Core CPU architecture) is the SSD.

    Kind of sounds like you're not hearing what you hoped to hear, but sometimes that's just as useful even if you still decide to get the base Mini... at least your expectations have been put in check. Good luck!
  15. Partron22 macrumors 68020


    Apr 13, 2011
    Trim will work on most 3rd party SSDs, but only if they are hooked up SATA.
    USB3 connection is a game-stopper.
  16. robotica macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2007
    Thanks for that :) el cheapo Mac mini here I come
  17. craig1024 macrumors regular

    Feb 15, 2016
    You don't need the third party utility mentioned previously, since Yosemite 10.10.4 you just need to type "sudo trimforce enable" in the terminal.
  18. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "Is it that bad?I can't justify the cost of the fusion upgrade. How much difference does it make, real world?"

    It will make an ENORMOUS difference.

    Prediction: if you buy a 2014 Mini with the 5400rpm drive, you are going to be back here in very short time, asking, "how do I speed this thing up?"

    There's an "alternative", however (will cost you $99):
    Buy an EXTERNAL SSD drive, plug it in, and use that to be your "external booter".
    It's not difficult to do, and will give you both excellent performance, and increase your storage space.

    You could buy something like this:

    The 240gb size will be "large enough" as the boot volume, but even the 120gb version will do just fine.

    On the SSD put your OS, your apps, your accounts.
    EXCEPTION: Leave your large media libraries (music, movies, photos) on the internal 5400rpm drive.
    Then, set your apps to "reference" the libraries. These items don't require "speed", and will reside just fine on the internal drive.

    There's nothing to managing two drives on the desktop.
    You'll grow accustomed to it quickly.

    If you don't wish to do this, you have two choices:
    1. Buy the "fusion drive" version of the Mini (very fast)
    2. Buy the HDD version -- and get used to "the slowness".
  19. hanser macrumors regular

    Aug 29, 2013
    for your use case (runs 24/7, seldom light use) the 5400 drive is OK. your notice the slowness mostly during booting and program start which will be rare events. I also support the suggestion to add an external USB 3 SSD to run the system from it. I just did this to my base mac mini and it is a remarkable improvement. Of course, you can do this later, too.
  20. Oliverhay macrumors member


    Mar 25, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
  21. garethjparr thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2016
    Thanks everyone. The external ssd sounds like it could be of use down the line. I will, at some point want to have a backup of my data anyway and so would end up with an external drive at some point. I'll bear all this in mind.

    As a Mac noob, you have all helped me understand some of the finer points enormously
  22. Nickodemus64 macrumors newbie

    Sep 14, 2012
    --- Post Merged, Oct 31, 2016 ---
    I would buy a older one, drop a SSD in it for the OS and get a thunderbolt unit for storage of you data. I have a 120 GB SSD and a 2TB drive on a thunderbolt adapter and it works well.
  23. hanser macrumors regular

    Aug 29, 2013

    And dont fear the lack of trim for ssd over usb3. In your case you will not notice it.
  24. Midgetinabikini macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2006
    I have base 2014 MM. with HDD. Using it for the same things and Plex Media Server. Works great.
  25. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

    Aug 31, 2012
    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    Several 2014 Mac Mini base model owners have posted their satisfaction with their machine here. Both my Mac Minis have been base models, the 2005 original and the early 2005, and they have fine for my needs, which are somewhat similar to the OP's. I am still using the 2009, now with 5 GB RAM, but still with the original 120 GB HDD. If it failed a workshop could have a new HDD installed, and restored from my Time Machine back up in a day.

    The knockers seem to be dilettantes who have the budget to indulge their desires, thus overlook more modest machines that adequately deliver for the needs of more humble folk.

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27 October 29, 2016