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Is the new Mini enough computer for the serious hobbyist

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I was one of those posters who lamented the absence of a headless Mac with more power than the Mac Mini but coming in at a lower price point than the Mac Pro.

Yet on Wednesday, even though I was intending to purchase a Mac Pro when the new version was available, as soon as I saw what Apple has done with the Mini, I decided to buy another Mini instead.


Prior to the update I lamented the absence of a discrete graphics card and the fact the only option when buying the machine initially was a slow 5,400 RPM harddrive. I needed more power under the hood all around. I wanted a better way to expand storage.

Apple has delivered on all of those. Yes there is still a penalty caused by having more expensive mobile components but some of that initial cost is offset by a machine that is remarkably energy efficient. It's true the main unit lacks a superdrive but $79 for an external drive has fixed that problem.

I've ordered my new system with 8GB of RAM, the 2.7Ghz processor, the SSD+7,200 RPM drives. In other words, the most performance you can get straight from Apple.

I consider myself to be like a lot of people in that I'm no professional user but I put more demands on my system than the average consumer. Lots of photography, HD video, and so on. What I am wondering is, does the latest update to the Mini elevate it to the point where someone like me is going to get the performance he wants without resorting to the overkill of buying a Mac Pro. Obviously I am gambling that I'm going to get what I want but I'd be curious to get some feedback on the matter.
post #2 of 14
Serious hobbyist is an oxymoron...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

It's true the main unit lacks a superdrive but $79 for an external drive has fixed that problem.

Whoa, you could've gotten one for thirty on Newegg...

Quote:
I've ordered my new system with 8GB of RAM, the 2.7Ghz processor, the SSD+7,200 RPM drives. In other words, the most performance you can get straight from Apple.

Why would you pay for RAM and HDDs from APPLE?!

Quote:
Obviously I am gambling that I'm going to get what I want but I'd be curious to get some feedback on the matter.

The Mac Mini is a great machine.

Cancel the order before it ships, get the stock HDD and RAM, but leave the processor bumped.

Instead of $600 extra. Instead of $200 extra.

Cancel your ODD before it ships and grab that $30 one.

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Serious hobbyist is an oxymoron...



Whoa, you could've gotten one for thirty on Newegg...



Why would you pay for RAM and HDDs from APPLE?!



The Mac Mini is a great machine.

Cancel the order before it ships, get the stock HDD and RAM, but leave the processor bumped.

Cancel your ODD before it ships and grab that $30 one.

I know that I'm paying more to have Apple supply all the upgrades but I'm just not a tinkerer. For one thing, I'd just as soon keep things simple regarding warranty issues, especially considering how new the design is.

So I'll pay the premium, keep it simple, and if something goes wrong, Apple is on the hook and no one else. Already with the new Lion release, I'm having all sorts of problems with my external Seagate drive attached to my other Mini, the one I'm going to use as a HTPC.

In any case, the question I'm about to have answered is, just how capable is the new Mini with the best hardware available for this model. I wonder, too, if we are to compare the performance to the Mac Pro line, historically, how far back do you have to go to find a comparable performance level in a basic, off-the-shelf Pro model.
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

So I'll pay the premium, keep it simple, and if something goes wrong, Apple is on the hook and no one else.

All right, I respect that. Particularly since you're going for the dual-drive solution.

Quote:
Already with the new Lion release, I'm having all sorts of problems with my external Seagate drive...

I'd say that's Seagate's fault, but I'm biased. I hate them.

Quote:
just how capable is the new Mini with the best hardware available for this model. I wonder, too, if we are to compare the performance to the Mac Pro line, historically, how far back do you have to go to find a comparable performance level in a basic, off-the-shelf Pro model.

Wonder how quickly before Geekbench is updated for Lion so we can get it running on them...

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

does the latest update to the Mini elevate it to the point where someone like me is going to get the performance he wants without resorting to the overkill of buying a Mac Pro.

I think it does, although the ideal would be the quad i7 coupled with the 6630M. The quad i7 Mini benchmarks on par with the entry Mac Pro and the GPU is just below the 6750M in the MBP. The i5/i7 get about 60-70% of this performance.

You can see the quad i7 running Cinebench here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9770So2nZ0Q

and the dual i5 Mini running it here @3minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNddEFL3ERw

2.59 vs 5.23. That was the entry Mini so the i7 one I'd expect to reach a bit higher (MBP 2.7 i7 gets around 3). The bonus really in the middle Mini is the GPU.

You can see how poor the HD 3000 runs games - 15fps:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8CYuaC4_Q

vs 30fps on 6630M:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAmWlkrnglg

Next year's Mini will absolutely be the point where it reaches a performance level where you can forget the Mac Pro. Ivy Bridge will bring quads to all models and AMD are shifting to 28nm GPUs from 40nm so 50-100% improvements over this model.
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

I think it does, although the ideal would be the quad i7 coupled with the 6630M. The quad i7 Mini benchmarks on par with the entry Mac Pro and the GPU is just below the 6750M in the MBP. The i5/i7 get about 60-70% of this performance.

You can see the quad i7 running Cinebench here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9770So2nZ0Q

and the dual i5 Mini running it here @3minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNddEFL3ERw

2.59 vs 5.23. That was the entry Mini so the i7 one I'd expect to reach a bit higher (MBP 2.7 i7 gets around 3). The bonus really in the middle Mini is the GPU.

You can see how poor the HD 3000 runs games - 15fps:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8CYuaC4_Q

vs 30fps on 6630M:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAmWlkrnglg

Next year's Mini will absolutely be the point where it reaches a performance level where you can forget the Mac Pro. Ivy Bridge will bring quads to all models and AMD are shifting to 28nm GPUs from 40nm so 50-100% improvements over this model.

Seems to me that it would be so much easier for Apple if they could have a one-size-fits-all desktop. I agree that we're not quite there yet in that the new Mini isn't quite enough machine for the true pro high-end customer. Yet I hope that the Mini is now enough computer for consumers like me, i.e. an amateur doing some pro-like heavy lifting from time to time.

Being as I'm retaining my old Mini (2.53 Ghz) as a HTPC, I'm going to have a little fun doing some basic comparisons to gauge just how far the Mini has come. I'm also anxious to see what sort of numbers professional observers are going to get once some fully optioned Minis hit the streets.

This isn't going to be an artificial process if Apple is going where I think it's going. The Mini will simply keep getting more powerful until pro customers are simply going to choose it over the more expensive Mac Pro. Sales numbers will dictate how long the Pro soldiers on.
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Just ran Cinebench on my old Mini as a point of comparison for when I get my new machine. Got a CPU score of 1.46 (279 seconds) and an Open GL score of 5.9.

Does that sound right for a 2.53 Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM?
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

The Mini will simply keep getting more powerful until pro customers are simply going to choose it over the more expensive Mac Pro.

That will absolutely never happen. Don't worry.

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply

Originally posted by Relic

...those little naked weirdos are going to get me investigated.
Reply
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

That will absolutely never happen. Don't worry.

Are you so sure about that?

Increased performance with each new generation of product has been happening for decades. The new Mini, fully optioned, I suspect would blow the doors off any Apple computer you could have bought six years ago.

If this trend continues, somewhere along the way the Mini will become a true powerhouse in absolute terms, more than meeting the needs of the vast majority of customers, even in the pro ranks.

We're not quite there yet, certainly, but it would be rather short-sighted not not recognize the inevitable. For pro customers, it's all about having the tools needed to get the job done in an efficient, cost-effective manner. If at some point, not too far off, a Mini costing significantly less is all the machine a particular setting requires, why would a particular customer choose to buy something that represents overkill.

I believe that the Mini has now in 2.7Ghz Core i7 form, with 8GB of RAM and an SSD, become enough computer for the needs of the serious hobbyist. Could be wrong about that but I'm about to find out. Meeting the needs of more and more pros will be next as each more powerful new generation is brought to market. Eventually the Mac Pro sales will reach the point where Apple will simply stop making them.

Keep in mind that back in the G4 days, there was just the one form factor in terms of a headless Mac, namely the tower that could be configured according to one's needs. If Apple will eventually return to a single form factor, the Mini is a more probable candidate than the Mac Pro.
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

If this trend continues, somewhere along the way the Mini will become a true powerhouse in absolute terms, more than meeting the needs of the vast majority of customers, even in the pro ranks.

And further down the line, the iOS devices will become like this.

This idea will always be dismissed because when you can buy an 8-core Mini, you will be able to buy a 48-core Mac Pro and apps like AE or Maya will use these cores but I think we'll see more and more people migrate to the lower-end machines. If you own a Mac Pro now and happily do your work and that work doesn't increase in resource intensity then a future Mini will suffice.

There will always be tasks that need the highest performance but that market is small and over time will reach an unsustainable level.

You can always buy multiple Minis. Four of the server Minis will match the performance of a 12-core Mac Pro.

4 x Mini server (16GB RAM, 4TB storage) = $999 x 4 = $3996
12-core Mac Pro (16GB RAM, 4TB) = $6199

Sure you get a better GPU with the Pro but you just get the 6630M Mini as the main machine. The 4 x Mini setup also takes up 1/7th the space and will use less electricity.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

And further down the line, the iOS devices will become like this.

This idea will always be dismissed because when you can buy an 8-core Mini, you will be able to buy a 48-core Mac Pro and apps like AE or Maya will use these cores but I think we'll see more and more people migrate to the lower-end machines. If you own a Mac Pro now and happily do your work and that work doesn't increase in resource intensity then a future Mini will suffice.

There will always be tasks that need the highest performance but that market is small and over time will reach an unsustainable level.

You can always buy multiple Minis. Four of the server Minis will match the performance of a 12-core Mac Pro.

4 x Mini server (16GB RAM, 4TB storage) = $999 x 4 = $3996
12-core Mac Pro (16GB RAM, 4TB) = $6199

Sure you get a better GPU with the Pro but you just get the 6630M Mini as the main machine. The 4 x Mini setup also takes up 1/7th the space and will use less electricity.

Certainly a small percentage of customers would lament the passing of the Mac Pro and I understand that. Yet, I think there is a misconception, namely that the Mac Pro has always been there. That's not exactly the case. Mac towers have been in the picture pretty much from the beginning but it wasn't always the case that Apple had a pro grade headless Mac and a consumer model. It used to be that there was the Mac and you configured it to suit your needs. This was advantageous for Apple because the urge to overspec a computer was too much for many to resist, myself included. In more recent years, though, that has been much less the case. Taking the leap up to the Mac Pro feels like overkill and so the average consumer has leaned more towards lesser machines like the Mini and the iMac.

Yet now we're seeing a trend towards Apple offering versions of the Mini and iMac that are more serious equipment than would be needed by the average consumer.

The catch is that these machines will pick off some of the customers who might have opted for a Mac Pro instead. Eventually, so many of those customers will be steered towards the other products that making the Pro will cease to make sense.

I think it might well be a sign that the Pro is headed for oblivion if there is no change in the basic form of the device. Doing this would make it easy for Apple to simply stop offering the Pro at the appropriate time with very little attention paid by the general public. I think to make it work, the alternatives, namely the Mini and the iMac, have to be so capable that the Pro will simply not be missed.

If Apple were to phase out the Pro, no matter when it happened, there would be some protests but if that unhappy group was still committed to the Mac OS. the majority would no doubt settle for whatever was the best alternative at the time. So Apple's goal, in that scenario, would be to make that alternative so capable that the pro users wouldn't be left unhappy over the long haul.

We're not there yet but I can see it coming now more than ever.
post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

.... That's not exactly the case. Mac towers have been in the picture pretty much from the beginning ....

It is not quite clear which point you are trying to make, but some facts are in order. The Mac tower was most certainly not there from the beginning or anything approximating the beginning. The original 1984 Mac 128K was an all-in-one, as was every Mac through the 1986 1MB Mac Plus. The first Mac to use a separate CPU/monitor configuration was the 1987 Macintosh II, which was introduced some three years after the original Mac. Apple's would wait until 1989 to introduce the Macintosh IIcx, which could be stood on its side as a tower. However, Apple's first true tower was the 1991 Quadra 800, which was introduced seven (7) years after the original Mac.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

It is not quite clear which point you are trying to make, but some facts are in order. The Mac tower was most certainly not there from the beginning or anything approximating the beginning. The original 1984 Mac 128K was an all-in-one, as was every Mac through the 1986 1MB Mac Plus. The first Mac to use a separate CPU/monitor configuration was the 1987 Macintosh II, which was introduced some three years after the original Mac. Apple's would wait until 1989 to introduce the Macintosh IIcx, which could be stood on its side as a tower. However, Apple's first true tower was the 1991 Quadra 800, which was introduced seven (7) years after the original Mac.

I knew the original Mac wasn't a tower but I wasn't ambitious enough to look up all the pertinent facts.

I guess my main point, though, is that nothing is cast in stone regarding what Apple's product line looks like. Apple has never been afraid to innovate and it's reasonable to expect more of the same.

There is nothing wrong with that and those who choose an Apple system will adjust as they have always done when Apple changes what it offers.

Bottom line is that when it comes to computers, no company does it better.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

I knew the original Mac wasn't a tower but I wasn't ambitious enough to look up all the pertinent facts.

I guess my main point, though, is that nothing is cast in stone regarding what Apple's product line looks like. Apple has never been afraid to innovate and it's reasonable to expect more of the same.

There is nothing wrong with that and those who choose an Apple system will adjust as they have always done when Apple changes what it offers.

Bottom line is that when it comes to computers, no company does it better.

Just thought I'd add a bit of an update. I'm getting Geekbench scores in around 8230, Disc read speeds in the 200 range, Cinebench Open GL running at 24.5 FPS and a CPU rating of 3.07.

Decent scores. Solid numbers, I think, and pretty much in line with what would be expected considering the hardware involved.
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