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Mac mini against best MacBook Air

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I currently own a Mac mini (2.53 GHz core 2 duo, with 4 GB ram, NVidia's 9400M GPU, 340 GB HD at 5400 RPM), and I'm extremely tempted by the new 13" MacBook Air (2.13 GHz, 4 GB ram, NVidia's 320M GPU, 256 GB flash storage).

How do you think the MBA should perform, compared to the mini ? I'm using the computers to do various type of works : from basic 3D creations (using Cheetah3D), to space exploration using Celestia, maths calculations (Mathematica or Maple), PDF creation, video watching and music listening while working on other stuff, email and internet navigation, etc... I'm also playing some old games (Quake1 and Quake3, and a few new arcade style games...)

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

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Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #2 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali View Post

I currently own a Mac mini (2.53 GHz core 2 duo, with 4 GB ram, NVidia's 9400M GPU, 340 GB HD at 5400 RPM), and I'm extremely tempted by the new 13" MacBook Air (2.13 GHz, 4 GB ram, NVidia's 320M GPU, 256 GB flash storage).

How do you think the MBA should perform, compared to the mini ? I'm using the computers to do various type of works : from basic 3D creations (using Cheetah3D), to space exploration using Celestia, maths calculations (Mathematica or Maple), PDF creation, video watching and music listening while working on other stuff, email and internet navigation, etc... I'm also playing some old games (Quake1 and Quake3, and a few new arcade style games...)

For rendering, you will probably get a performance hit of about 15% but that will translate to something you won't notice e.g 20 minute render vs 23 minute render and the SSD will make some things much faster which will negate some of that. When the drive has to access a texture map, that will go much more quickly.

A benchmark here:

http://www.markc.me.uk/MarkC/Blog/En..._Thoughts.html

shows sequential read at 166MB/s and sequential write at 150MB/s, which will be around 3-5x faster than the 5400 rpm drive in the Mini.

The GPU performance is double the 9400M so hardware-accelerated rendering benefits enormously (48SPs vs 16):

http://www.apple.com/macbookair/performance.html

If you ever need to do seriously long renders, you'd be best investing in a cheap headless PC tower and just send renders off to it overnight.

Long term renders on the Macbook Air might make the CPU ramp down in speed to keep cool. Previous incarnations have done that so short benchmarks seem fast but prolonged renders would go slower.

Like I say though, I don't think you'd notice a performance hit coming from a Mac Mini. It will actually seem much snappier.
post #3 of 12
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

For $100 less you can get this:

http://store.apple.com/us/configure/...co=MTg1ODA3Nzg

Well, that iMac maybe much more powerfull (more bang for the bucks), but it isn't a portable computer, which is what I need...

EDIT : I forgot to say that I'll use a lot the portable in a classroom to do physics demonstrations and presentations. I need it to be small, fast at startup, fast at launching apps, fast at calculations and textures loading, and efficient/reliable in any classroom comp operation...

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali View Post

Well, that iMac maybe much more powerfull (more bang for the bucks), but it isn't a portable computer, which is what I need...

EDIT : I forgot to say that I'll use a lot the portable in a classroom to do physics demonstrations and presentations. I need it to be small, fast at startup, fast at launching apps, fast at calculations and textures loading, and efficient/reliable in any classroom comp operation...


It sounds like you REALLY ought to be getting (at least considering) the 15" MacBookPro.
For the same price, you get a bigger screen, a MUCH faster (i5) CPU, and a much better GPU.

It's not quite as small, but it is SO much more powerful for the same $$.
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

It sounds like you REALLY ought to be getting (at least considering) the 15" MacBookPro.
For the same price, you get a bigger screen, a MUCH faster (i5) CPU, and a much better GPU.

It's not quite as small, but it is SO much more powerful for the same $$.

Don't forget that the new 13" MBA has the same screen "size" as a 15" (higher resolution, for the same price).
Also the MBA (for the same price) has a much faster storage (SSD) than the MBP's HD (5200 RPM).
And apparently, the 330M isn't much faster than the 320M GPU, and Intel's GPU sucks.

Also, I don't want the optical drive on the MBP. Why should I pay for that useless drive ?

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #7 of 12
Screen size does not equal screen resolution. But whatever.

If you'll be doing much 3D rendering, you'll see a HUGE performance advantage with the i5 CPU.
The 330M may not be MUCH better than a 320M, but if you're playing quake and it's the difference between 20 fps and 30 fps, then it's very noticeable.
But... a smaller overall size and light weight could easily outweigh the performance advantages for you... I mentioned the MBP based SOLELY on performance (but still portable).
The new Air is, without a doubt, the nicest netbook available today!
From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that!" -...
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post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post

The 330M may not be MUCH better than a 320M, but if you're playing quake and it's the difference between 20 fps and 30 fps, then it's very noticeable.

For Quake3, that's really NOT a problem, since I can already play it perfectly on the mini (9600M), with 90 FPS and all rendering options set to best. So with the 320M (which is supposed to be about twice the performances of the 9600M), I should be in heaven !

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali View Post

For Quake3, that's really NOT a problem, since I can already play it perfectly on the mini (9600M), with 90 FPS and all rendering options set to best. So with the 320M (which is supposed to be about twice the performances of the 9600M), I should be in heaven !

The 320M is slightly slower than the 9600M but you'll still get about 80FPS or so.

It sounds like you've decided you'd prefer the MBA already. The i5 in the MBP is certainly 85% faster but if it's something you will carry about a lot, the MBA weighing half will be a huge bonus.

People often think of computer purchases as though you have to make the right decision the first time and if you make a mistake you're screwed. If you have it for 2 months and find it's too slow, you will get about 80% of the value on eBay so you can buy another machine.

I think in either 2011 or 2012, the Macbook, MBP and MBA line will converge into the MBA style.

They have 256GB on-board space this year and will get 512GB next year for the same price. That's enough that they can discontinue hard drives in the entire laptop lineup in 2011 although cost compromises may have to be made elsewhere:

13" MBA:
1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
128GB Flash Storage
£1179

13" MBP:
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
250GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
£999

Next year, they can put in 256GB for the same price in the MBA. Of course the Macbook and Macbook Pro would use the standard CPU/GPU chips.

I wonder what happened to the MB and MBP this year - the MB has been updated every year for the past 7 years in either October or November and the MBP is often updated round the same time.

If they pulled out a design change to be similar to the MBA without an optical sometime in November that would be nice. They could of course fit low capacity SSD chips as the boot drive with HDD bays and keep a more squared off design. But by dropping the optical, they get more room for adjusting the internals.

Dropping ethernet and FW800 would allow them to make a square design the same as the thickest point of the MBA. They'd just need to adopt USB 3 and provide a solution to capture footage from tape camcorders via an adaptor.

Sandy Bridge + NVidia IGP:

http://www.techspot.com/news/40143-n...dy-bridge.html

That means 2.5GHz Core i5 on the low end.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali View Post

For Quake3, that's really NOT a problem, since I can already play it perfectly on the mini (9600M), with 90 FPS and all rendering options set to best. So with the 320M (which is supposed to be about twice the performances of the 9600M), I should be in heaven !

Sorry, I meant : the 9400M GPU, in the mini. Not the 9600M !

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Nomore opinions on this subject ?

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply

Mac mini 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, NVidia's 9400M.
13" MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz, 8 GB, NVidia's 320M.
OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8

Reply
post #12 of 12
First this is a very significant detail you left out! Honestly I read your first post and was about to suggest getting a SSD for your mini! That to speed up your 3d work.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali View Post

Well, that iMac maybe much more powerfull (more bang for the bucks), but it isn't a portable computer, which is what I need...

what a world a detail or two makes.
Quote:
EDIT : I forgot to say that I'll use a lot the portable in a classroom to do physics demonstrations and presentations.

The SSD should have a big impact on this. My suggestion would be to go to an Apple store and try out a machine. Or ask yourself how often does your presentations get involved in heavy usage of the CPU (probably seldom).

Another option is to skip the laptop and get a new Mini and put a SSD into it. A micro keyboard and a Mini in a backpack would be very handy. I'm assuming here a projection video system in the lecture hall.
Quote:
I need it to be small, fast at startup, fast at launching apps, fast at calculations and textures loading, and efficient/reliable in any classroom comp operation...

At this point you have to think about a device that has an SSD to get "fast". However the AIR has other issues such as connecting to the projection system in the lecture hall. Plus the AIR simply isn't fast CPU wise. However i'm not convinced that CPU speed is really significant for what you describe. The question is does your Mini currently become CPU bound doing what you want to do in the lecture hall?

In the end I have to agree with the many others here the MBP might be a better option if and only if you can prove to yourself that you need a faster CPU than what ships in the AIR. Both the latest 13" & 15" MBPs are pretty impressive in their own ways. Each can be easily upgraded to an SSD and the 15" can be had with a much better processor.
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