Buying Advice: Mac Mini vs. iMac (2012)

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014


Hey guys,


I'm in the market for a new desktop Mac to replace my 2007 24" iMac before the end of the year. I'm a graphic designer using Adobe CS apps and occasionally Final Cut Express and iMovie. I plan to get the Fusion drive regardless of which Mac I buy. Would I be OK with the Mini (maxing out to 16GB RAM)? I could save around $500-$600 vs. the iMac (will need to buy a new monitor).


Any input would be greatly appreciated!


Thanks...

«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    Mini:
    2.3GHz quad-i7
    1TB Fusion ($250)
    16GB RAM ($80 - http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=9953A0C6A5CA7304 )

    23" IPS - $222 - make sure to get one with a decent brightness and IPS or similar panel:
    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U2312HM-IPS-Monitor/dp/B005LN1JEC

    Keyboard/mouse - ~$100

    Total: $799 + $250 + $80 + $222 + $100 = $1451

    iMac:
    21.5" quad-i5 (slower than the Mini, smaller display, same resolution) or 27" quad-i5 (slower than Mini, bigger display, higher resolution)
    1TB Fusion ($250)
    16GB RAM ($95 - http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/iMac/2011/DDR3_21.5_27 )

    Total:
    21.5" = $1299 + $250 + $95 = $1644
    27" = $1799 + $250 + $95 = $2144

    One thing to consider with the Adobe CS Suite is the GPU. They added CUDA acceleration to some things so the NVidia GPU in the iMacs will help in some cases:

    http://www.barefeats.com/aecs6.html

    The Intel graphics in the Mini will be fine for the majority of the apps though.
  • Reply 2 of 38


    Really appreciate the analysis!


     


    Is it safe to assume that CUDA isn't as crucial in Adobe apps like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator? Has integrated graphics of the Mac Mini been much of a problem for "standard" usage? 


     


    I tend to hang on to my Macs for as long as I can. Any reason to believe the "maxed out" Mini wouldn't be somewhat obsolete-proof?

  • Reply 3 of 38


    Just received my Mac mini yesterday, but the 16GB RAM is coming in another day or two from a different source.


     


    2.6 GHz, 1TB Fusion, 4GB RAM now, 16GB RAM (soon)


     


    In easy testing today, it compared favorably to my iMac 27" from last year (3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, SSD+HD).  A basic rendering job took 2min 36sec on the iMac, 2min 40sec on the mini which is not bad at all.I will be doing more intensive testing on it this week and will post here.  So far, it is looking to be a nice little machine.


     


    However, I am not looking at it as a primary machine.  Indeed, I access it via screen sharing from the iMac, so there is a screen delay so I can't say anything about the mini's ability to drive a display.  I plan to use it for rendering animation and video; send it a job and wait.


     


    In December I will be getting a new iMac 27", so if you aren't in a hurry, I can give you a comparison of the two then.


     


    I do some light work with Illustrator/Photoshop but mainly Encore (DVD and BluRay) and other apps for animation creation and audio and video (including FinalCutProX: no more express).

  • Reply 4 of 38


    Really appreciate your hands-on knowledge! Glad to hear the speed is good.


     


    From what you've done so far, do you feel it COULD be a capable primary machine? Like I said, I really don't do a lot of video editing -- mainly print/web design.


     


    Saving $500-$700 is a big deal for me, but if buying a 27" iMac means I would have a more capable machine in the long-run, I'd definitely consider it...

  • Reply 5 of 38


    A comment on displays:


     


    Last year I went from a MacPro (old) with a 23" display up to an iMac with a 27" display and will never go back.  The added real estate is very helpful.  I can leave tool menus open all over the place (organized of course with the app) and still have plenty of space to work.  I can have an A3 sheet in front of me (I often print this size) so I don't  have to print a copy to see it real size.  Even with an A3 sheet on screen, there is room for tools and such.


     


    If you have a shop nearby where you can see the iMacs (they would likely be the current ones as the new ones haven't come out), do.  You can compare the screen size running different apps.

  • Reply 6 of 38
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    nedrick wrote:
    Is it safe to assume that CUDA isn't as crucial in Adobe apps like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator?

    Yes. They use OpenCL more, which is supported by Intel's IGP and the CPU:

    http://forums.adobe.com/thread/979969?start=0&tstart=0

    I expect Adobe will transition everything to OpenCL eventually.
    nedrick wrote:
    Has integrated graphics of the Mac Mini been much of a problem for "standard" usage?

    They would typically lack some hardware features that would have to be done on the CPU. The GMA 950 wasn't too good but the HD3000/4000 are ok.
    nedrick wrote:
    I tend to hang on to my Macs for as long as I can. Any reason to believe the "maxed out" Mini wouldn't be somewhat obsolete-proof?

    It should hold up well for what you are using it for.
  • Reply 7 of 38


    I've been trying to find that perfect combination of economy and performance while shopping for displays. Looks like IPS is the way to go and would love to find one with 1920x1200 (like my current 24" iMac) -- esp. since I value vertical screen space a lot. If I can find a 27" that fits this bill, will probably try that.


    It's too bad my 2007 iMac couldn't serve as a display... image

  • Reply 8 of 38


    Thanks Marvin for sharing your knowledge!

  • Reply 9 of 38
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    nedrick wrote: »
    I've been trying to find that perfect combination of economy and performance while shopping for displays. Looks like IPS is the way to go and would love to find one with 1920x1200 (like my current 24" iMac) -- esp. since I value vertical screen space a lot. If I can find a 27" that fits this bill, will probably try that.
    It's too bad my 2007 iMac couldn't serve as a display... :\

    Here's a 24" 1920 x 1200 IPS:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U2412M-LED-Monitor/dp/B005JN9310

    The 27" displays give you a lot of space but the price shoots up quite a bit for the higher resolution ones. There is a 1080p 27" IPS that is quite affordable:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-927M9-IPS-LED-27-Inch-LED-lit-Monitor/dp/B009H0XQPA/
  • Reply 10 of 38


    I've been pointed to that 24" Dell a lot. Is the orientation-switching effective with a Mac? (I noticed you can switch in Preferences, but then mousing turns sideways too).

  • Reply 11 of 38
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    nedrick wrote: »
    I've been pointed to that 24" Dell a lot. Is the orientation-switching effective with a Mac? (I noticed you can switch in Preferences, but then mousing turns sideways too).

    Once you hit rotate, you would then turn the display before the timeout and click verify. You can also tilt your head to the side to verify before turning the monitor. It would be great if it worked like an iPad - even if the display disconnected and reconnected but identified itself as a 1200 x 1920 display. It's not something you'd want to do often, you'd work in one mode or the other. Some people buy two and have them setup with one portrait, the other landscape - the Mini supports two displays, one over HDMI and the other over Thunderbolt.
  • Reply 12 of 38
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post





    27" = $1799 + $250 + $95 = $2144

    One thing to consider with the Adobe CS Suite is the GPU. They added CUDA acceleration to some things so the NVidia GPU in the iMacs will help in some cases:

    http://www.barefeats.com/aecs6.html

    The Intel graphics in the Mini will be fine for the majority of the apps though.


    OpenCL and CUDA both had their limitations last time I checked. I haven't read up on the most recent data, but there are a lot of things that couldn't be duplicated as of OpenCL 1.1. I'm interested in how gpu processing standards will progress. If Apple does anything with the mac pro, they'll have to consider such things. I don't think any company would greatly redesign a workstation today without considering the future of GPGPU, especially if they intend to propagate the same case design over a number of cycles. Right now that looks like the largest growth potential for workstations. I've mentioned this before, but sometimes 25% faster isn't that big a deal, even in professional use. It can be a case of yes your work is done faster, but 10x faster enables new growth in software and totally different workflows. When it comes to being able to move things to real time that couldn't function that way before, that drives sales. Your raytraced Wolfenstein link comes to mind.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post





    Yes. They use OpenCL more, which is supported by Intel's IGP and the CPU:

    http://forums.adobe.com/thread/979969?start=0&tstart=0

    I expect Adobe will transition everything to OpenCL eventually.

    They would typically lack some hardware features that would have to be done on the CPU. The GMA 950 wasn't too good but the HD3000/4000 are ok.

    It should hold up well for what you are using it for.


    I can think of a couple OpenCL applications that still recommend NVidia gpus, although they're mostly Windows based. It might have something to do with AMD's workstation drivers. There's still an immense amount of room for improvement in OpenCL.

  • Reply 13 of 38


    Thanks for the tip Marvin. HDMI brings up another question... I've seen varying points about using HDMI for display output. Thoughts on that vs. display port/thunderbolt?

  • Reply 14 of 38
    nhtnht Posts: 4,522member


    The primary future proofing element is likely RAM.  32GB max in the 27" iMac vs 16GB in the mini.


     


    Personally I'd skip fusion.  If you're holding to the old rule of thumb where your scratch file is 100 x largest image file x number of files you like to keep open some of it will likely get stuck on the 5200 RPM HDD slowing you down.


     


    I'd rather spend that $250 on an internal 256GB SSD and whatever you save from doing the mini vs the iMac on the $179 LaCie TB to eSATA bridge + existing external array or get the $570 Lacie 4TB 2Big for ~350 MB/s sequential reads and ~200 MB/s sequential writes in RAID 0 (+ $50 for TB cables). 


     


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5577/lacie-2big-thunderbolt-series-review


     


    For comparison purposes the Crucial M4 runs between 250MB/sec to 500MB/sec read and 200 MB/sec writes.


     


    http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/crucial_m4_128gb_ssd_review,11.html ;


     


    Now random reads you're going to get clobbered (as seen in the LaCie Little Big Disk 420GB SSD speeds) and RAID 0 is kinda risky for anything but a scratch disk.

  • Reply 15 of 38


    Bergermeister,


     


    I am curious, did you get your iMac 27" yet?  Do you think the new Mac Mini holds its own against it?


     


    -IP

  • Reply 16 of 38


    Still waiting for the iMac.  The shop I ordered at did say January, so I can just sit here and wait.


     


    Lots of people who ordered early are getting theirs so I am somewhat hopeful it will come soon.

  • Reply 17 of 38

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post





    Here's a 24" 1920 x 1200 IPS:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-UltraSharp-U2412M-LED-Monitor/dp/B005JN9310

    The 27" displays give you a lot of space but the price shoots up quite a bit for the higher resolution ones. There is a 1080p 27" IPS that is quite affordable:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dell-927M9-IPS-LED-27-Inch-LED-lit-Monitor/dp/B009H0XQPA/


    Hmm.  Tasty spec for tasty price.


     


    Have to question why Apple aren't offering a 24 incher in the iMac range...  *thinks back only a few mere years.


     


    ...I was always hoping Apple would offer 'rotate' design on the iMac.  (So you could iPad your iMac orientation in effect...)


     


    For scanning in A3 comic art, a rotated screen would be great...


     


    Lemon Bon Bon.

  • Reply 18 of 38

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nht View Post


    The primary future proofing element is likely RAM.  32GB max in the 27" iMac vs 16GB in the mini.


     


    Personally I'd skip fusion.  If you're holding to the old rule of thumb where your scratch file is 100 x largest image file x number of files you like to keep open some of it will likely get stuck on the 5200 RPM HDD slowing you down.


     


    I'd rather spend that $250 on an internal 256GB SSD and whatever you save from doing the mini vs the iMac on the $179 LaCie TB to eSATA bridge + existing external array or get the $570 Lacie 4TB 2Big for ~350 MB/s sequential reads and ~200 MB/s sequential writes in RAID 0 (+ $50 for TB cables). 


     


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5577/lacie-2big-thunderbolt-series-review


     


    For comparison purposes the Crucial M4 runs between 250MB/sec to 500MB/sec read and 200 MB/sec writes.


     


    http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/crucial_m4_128gb_ssd_review,11.html ;


     


    Now random reads you're going to get clobbered (as seen in the LaCie Little Big Disk 420GB SSD speeds) and RAID 0 is kinda risky for anything but a scratch disk.



     


    I'm still of the opinion Apple should have kept iMac prices the same and bundled a 256 gig SSD with them.  TB platter HD drives can be had for very little money now.  I think Apple's nickle and diming us on margins there with Fusion.  That's very perogative.  (I'd call it greedy from my consumer point of view.)


     


    256 gig SSD drives can be hard for over or under a £100 now.  For a big company like Apple, I can't see how this was a problem.


     


    ie it would have been cheaper for them to include a 256 gig SSD (shouldn't the price rise of the iMac!!! and the dropping of the '£65' 'Super' drive facilitated that inclusion?) and option me a platter 1TB HD for £55+ than for me to do it.


     


    Unimpressed with Apple's recent price hikes and money grabbing on the Fusion and Memory (again...)


     


    I went for Fusion (doesn't it have 6 gig buffer to stop any bottle necks between the SSD and 7200rpm drive?  For my purposes it should be fine.)  At the rate SSD drives are going I should be able to get a nice 512 gig SSD external for a couple of hundred in the next half a year.  I may even plop for OCZ vertex 4 256 gig SSD in the meantime...  (Wonder how much they'll be in the Jan' sales...)


     


    Lemon Bon Bon.

  • Reply 19 of 38


    I'm still in processing.  I'm guessing 1st week or so in January.


     


    Lemon Bon Bon.

  • Reply 20 of 38

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post


    Still waiting for the iMac.  The shop I ordered at did say January, so I can just sit here and wait.


     


    Lots of people who ordered early are getting theirs so I am somewhat hopeful it will come soon.



     


     


    Still waiting...  The shop yesterday said there was still no change in the order status, so it will now certainly be January.  Oh, well, so much for getting my hopes up!  


     


    Meanwhile, the mini is pulling its weight very well.

Sign In or Register to comment.