Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro, or Mac Pro - which desktop Mac to buy in March 2020

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  • Reply 21 of 35
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,063member

    Counterpoint: The 21.5 almost never goes on sale. The next model up is nearly always sale-priced at the same price as the base 21.5, and it has been cheaper.
    But it is almost always available discounted in the Apple Refurb store, in fact it is right now.  And gee, practically all your supported vendors have it discounted right now, too.  The next model up is still hundreds more (same set of vendors).

    In any case, your counterpoint was kind of an odd angle though.  One buys Apple for the best computing experience.  Best value is another ballpark altogether and entirely relevant to personal use case (which I already outlined).

    If one were in the habit of selling your iMacs off every few years to replace it with a newer model, I could sort of see your point.  But the fact remains, spending more won't improve my SO's user experience.
  • Reply 22 of 35
    fred1fred1 Posts: 964member
    Please explain (the writer or someone else) why this statement was made:
    “And if there is one complicated spot in Apple's range, it's the iMac. Let us simplify it -- nobody should buy the lowest-cost 21.5-inch iMac, no one at all. Ignore those and compare the Mac mini only to the 27-inch iMac.”
    and please explain in terms of tech specs and capabilities, not personal examples. This statement was made as though it’s something that’s obvious, that goes without thinking, but with no justification.
    I’m looking to buy a Mac mini or iMac and if I go with the iMac I’d really like to know why I should spend $1799 instead of $1099 when the only difference I can see (other than the larger monitor) is a 3.0 processor instead of a 2.3. 
  • Reply 23 of 35
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,486administrator

    Counterpoint: The 21.5 almost never goes on sale. The next model up is nearly always sale-priced at the same price as the base 21.5, and it has been cheaper.
    But it is almost always available discounted in the Apple Refurb store, in fact it is right now.  And gee, practically all your supported vendors have it discounted right now, too.  The next model up is still hundreds more (same set of vendors).

    In any case, your counterpoint was kind of an odd angle though.  One buys Apple for the best computing experience.  Best value is another ballpark altogether and entirely relevant to personal use case (which I already outlined).

    If one were in the habit of selling your iMacs off every few years to replace it with a newer model, I could sort of see your point.  But the fact remains, spending more won't improve my SO's user experience.
    Nor will this iMac. Arguably, the user is still better off keeping what they've got for another year while security patches are still available for all the reasons you enumerated.

    The 21.5 isn't the best computing experience. It isn't really a good value case either, given what brackets it. Your example is an edge-case, and we still don't recommend it even in your case.

    This all said, this is our advice. It isn't carved in stone. If the 21.5 works for you, go nuts, but we feel like there are better options.
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 24 of 35
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,486administrator
    fred1 said:
    Please explain (the writer or someone else) why this statement was made:
    “And if there is one complicated spot in Apple's range, it's the iMac. Let us simplify it -- nobody should buy the lowest-cost 21.5-inch iMac, no one at all. Ignore those and compare the Mac mini only to the 27-inch iMac.”
    and please explain in terms of tech specs and capabilities, not personal examples. This statement was made as though it’s something that’s obvious, that goes without thinking, but with no justification.
    I’m looking to buy a Mac mini or iMac and if I go with the iMac I’d really like to know why I should spend $1799 instead of $1099 when the only difference I can see (other than the larger monitor) is a 3.0 processor instead of a 2.3. 
    This is addressed in the following five paragraphs after the statement.
  • Reply 25 of 35
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,648member
    Missing is the ARM Mac: it will be the answer to the question about the ultimate Mac, life and everything.
    This all hopefully this year.
      
  • Reply 26 of 35
    thttht Posts: 4,443member
    I see the differentiation to be:

    Mac mini: utility/server machine and the lower cost option for those who want non-iMac displays
    iMac 21.5: low cost teenager bedroom machine, secretary machine, or low end user
    iMac 4K: high end teenager machine, college machine, or low end white collar worker desktop
    iMac 5K: family desktop, white collar worker mainstay (Apple’s wheelhouse of desktop buyers)
    iMac Pro: high end white collar worker desktop (video, lower end data intensive stuff)
    Mac Pro: high end niche (data intensive stuff)

    Lots of discussion on the iMac 21.5. My junior high schooler has to hand it projects in MS Office. When the project is a presentation, the teacher doesn’t ask for a presentation, they ask for a “PowerPoint”. The school provides free web Office 365, but unsurprisingly they ask for PowerPoints with features that aren’t in the web version of PowerPoint. Frustrating. Anyways, the base model is perfectly fine for that. Not sure if I would trust 13 to 15 year olds to tote around a laptop, but as a bedroom computer, the base model iMac 21.5 is perfectly fine. They can easily stretch it to 4 years of high school making it 5 to 6 years of usage.

    My 2013 iMac 27 family computer is getting long in the tooth, but I think I plan on using it until it breaks. If I were to replace it today, it would be with a Mac mini, eHDD, eGPU, and a 35” 21:9 monitor. Costs the same as an iMac 5K, but I want a larger monitor.

    If there is a minimal refinement to the desktop lineup, I’d move the iMac Pro ID down the line to become the new iMac 5K: SSD only, twin-blower cooling, 128 GB RAM, 10th gen Core i7/9 or Ryzen 3xxxX system. Then, there would be a “Mac Half Pro” to occupy the $3000 to $5000 price tier with Xeon 2200 series or 8 to 16 core Ryzen, TR chips. The Mac Pro remains with Xeon 3200 series or switches to 16 to 32 core TR.

    It is interesting that Apple has 6 desktop machines that constitutes about 2% of their revenues.




    pscooter63GG1
  • Reply 27 of 35
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,170member
    jmulchino said:
    So . . . what you are saying is that in reality, with the almost required “pre-upgrades” with the Mac Mini, Apple no longer offers a low cost option to their desktop offerings. 
    Yes, and no. Yes for those of use who remember the $499 mini. And no in that $799 is the new $499. To be fair, the mini has gained performance over the years, even if it has been often neglected, and abused when it wasn't.


    For 2018 Apple did bring back replaceable RAM, but its user-replaceable memory is definitely not on par with the 2012 mini or the 27" iMac. With Apple, it's usually take more than they give.
  • Reply 28 of 35

    "I'm not sure what you mean by "drive flexibility" as it pertains to the T2."

    I understand the T2 is part of the drive controller and part of the move to 'onboard' OEM only SSD storage... Threading the needle might be the current i9 iMac, still able to run 32 bit apps (installing Mojave) and drives can presumably be changed with kits from OWC and others... Things seem to be decreasingly flexible with Mac hardware, and I understand sales are apparently declining?  

    Secure boot using the T2 can be disabled, so you can use any volume to boot.

     https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/01/15/how-to-make-new-t2-secured-macs-boot-from-external-drives

     The 32-bit thing is a different matter.
    Yes I am aware of the T2 disable feature with many thanks for that excellent article.

    How much slower are external drives, irrespective of the octopus they (and eGPU) start to create ?

    I am more concerned with internal drive flexibiity, such as the 2011 mini with non-oem dual drive bays, discrete internal gpu and hyperthread cpu.  Give me that with i9, 5500 graphics, truly flexible slotted storage bays and legacy 32 bit app emulation (aka rosetta) starting under $1K and I'd be much more enthusiastic.  A headless mac 'for the rest of us', or at least something mini and flexible, a less costly and more easily upgradable alternative to the iMac. 

    https://everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-2.7-mid-2011-specs.html

    ps. and a lock slot...
    This depends very much on the drive. We've tested drives that have read speeds just over 3 gigabytes per second across Thunderbolt 3, several times faster than the 128GB in the low-end mini.

    There has been much forum discussion about it, and we talked about it at some length too. We don't foresee a Mac Pro mini or xMac coming to the product lineup anytime soon, and certainly not a 32-bit software return.

    With the demise of Time Capsules a second internal drive bay makes even more sense (to me) and for example there have been iMacs, Minis and even Macbook Pros that had this option both OEM and aftermarket.  Also by the time one adds an external boot drive, backup drive(s), eGPU(s) or maybe a RAID, is the Mini arguably no longer 'mini' in design (octopus) or cost, as discussed even in comparison to iMacs...?

    Apple seems on the one hand promoting wireless everything showing iMacs without even a power cord in marketing (www.apple.com/imac/) and yet making hardware less flexible, requiring more mess in peripheral connections, a plethora of (profitable?) dongles, more consumable (onboard batteries) and in ways less (wireless) reliable.  I am back to using wired Apple mice and keyboards because the wifi and bluetooth connectivity have seemed increasingly frustratingly unreliable, for example.

    Do we have a mini that claims speed for rendering (farms) and then offers hardware with a widely criticized underpowered GPU nor provision for raid or other considerations, turning it into a huge aesthetic mess to add functionality.  How 'mini' or design oriented is this in the real world, or is it more about upselling vs improving baseline value for customers ?

    I really don't understand the logic and some glaring inconsistencies I find in mac hardware since the big changes in the early part of the last decade. Should we have a touch bar desktop keyboard given the forcing of such on macbook pro buyers...?

    If I think about aesthetic design the non T2 fusion iMacs can (via OWC) be set up with a 1TB blade and a larger HD, SSHD or SATA SSD for both time machine backups and / or less speed sensitive data. Does Apple on the one hand promote the minimalist aesthetic in wireless in peripherals, yet restricts functionality to potentially enhance this?

    I really hope Apple brings back upgraded airport hardware, too. Non OEM peripherals seem such a mess and so many features have been lost.
    www.macworld.com/article/3154849/how-to-choose-the-best-wi-fi-replacement-for-your-apple-airport-routers.html

    Also is there some irony with the cancelling of the 2013 mac pro that many programs like Blender, Twinmotion, Maxwellrender.com and others are just now implementing multi-gpu support for significant boosts in speed...?  barefeats.com/gpu680v6.html  I guess that is addressed in ways in the new Pro, at a cost of course...





    edited March 2020
  • Reply 29 of 35
    The MacMini is always almost ... reachable. However, I've had to concede defeat when I have PC updating friends asking for advice on what to look for telling me there are similar form-factored compact computers retailing for half the price of an iMac. I have no idea as to the percentage of Apple profits attributable to MacMini sales though I have always been convinced they would see an increase in profitability if they cut the retail cost by 20-30%.

    Windows/Linux PC friends also get that iMac's are overpriced laptops which happen to be designed for vertical use.

    Education, Smartphones and Tablets have made the general public far savvier when it comes to shelling out for tech devices. I think Apple needs to wake up to this change in the buying publics' knowledge.
  • Reply 30 of 35
    I've got it! Apple should take a leaf out of their own book and come up with a $750.00 500MB SSD, 16gig RAM "MacMini Pro-Lite".
  • Reply 31 of 35
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,486administrator
    The MacMini is always almost ... reachable. However, I've had to concede defeat when I have PC updating friends asking for advice on what to look for telling me there are similar form-factored compact computers retailing for half the price of an iMac. I have no idea as to the percentage of Apple profits attributable to MacMini sales though I have always been convinced they would see an increase in profitability if they cut the retail cost by 20-30%.

    Windows/Linux PC friends also get that iMac's are overpriced laptops which happen to be designed for vertical use.

    Education, Smartphones and Tablets have made the general public far savvier when it comes to shelling out for tech devices. I think Apple needs to wake up to this change in the buying publics' knowledge.
    The iMac hasn't used laptop parts in some time, so apparently, they aren't as savvy as you think.
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 32 of 35
    davendaven Posts: 640member
    I've got it! Apple should take a leaf out of their own book and come up with a $750.00 500MB SSD, 16gig RAM "MacMini Pro-Lite".
    Ditto but I think what we want would be priced a bit higher. I'd like a Mini Pro consisting of dual drive, easily upgradable ram and cou, and a full size standard slot for a gpu. Probably never see it though. I think one of the reasons Apple stuck with the current form factor is that it is popular with server farms. 

    Im actually thinking of getting a used trash can and upgrading the cpu, ram, and storage. I don't need the most powerful computer on Earth and I do like to tinker.
  • Reply 33 of 35
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,840member
    Just remember that for the iMac, you'll want to factor in that SSD as well (which ups the cost a good bit too). And, I'd not even consider and iMac until the T2 chip, but I suppose some people don't care (or don't know they should care!).

    But, I don't get the part about 128GB not being enough. It's a desktop! External storage is easy, cheap, and fast. 128 GB is enough for OS, apps, and some work-space. I have the 256GB mini, but I added a Samsung T5 (another half-GB) for like $99 (primarily so I could put my VMs on it).
  • Reply 34 of 35
    thttht Posts: 4,443member
    At some point, I hope Apple loosens its "focus" on its product lineup a bit. Their product lineups are based on price tiers. This isn't the problem. The problem is that they think AIO and headless desktops are the same type of computer, so the desktop lineup is a bit of a hodgepodge of mismatching devices between price tiers, instead of a steady and easy to understand "increase in price, increase in features" type of lineup.

    They should break the iMac and headless Macs into separate categories, and offer price tiers that overlap between the two, like iPads and iPhones.

    The iMac is already a nicely segmented lineup that's easy to understand from the iMac 21.5, iMac 4K, iMac 5K and iMac Pro. They do need to have a new industrial design to fix a few of the issues, like not enough cooling capability in the Core iMacs, and the iMac Pro not having user upgradeable RAM or storage. They also should offer "slower" but higher capacity NAND storage, like 8 to 16 TB of 500 MB/s NAND storage. They also can offer Fusion drives between slow and fast NAND storage. A new ID like the Pro Display XDR would great.

    The headless desktop computers should be its own category, with 200, 350, 700 and 1400 W CPU class desktop computers. So it would be something like the Mac mini (a SFF computer), the oft desired xMac (2 PCIe slots), a Mac Half Pro (4 PCIe slots), and Mac Pro (8 PCIe slots). The segmentation would be clean and obvious. I'd do 2 half length PCIe, 6 half length PCIe myself for the middle desktops for footprint reasons, but that’s just me.

    The decision tree would then be AIO or modular or what display size, then, how much computer is needed.

    cgWerks
  • Reply 35 of 35
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,840member
    tht said:
    The headless desktop computers should be its own category, with 200, 350, 700 and 1400 W CPU class desktop computers. So it would be something like the Mac mini (a SFF computer), the oft desired xMac (2 PCIe slots), a Mac Half Pro (4 PCIe slots), and Mac Pro (8 PCIe slots). The segmentation would be clean and obvious. I'd do 2 half length PCIe, 6 half length PCIe myself for the middle desktops for footprint reasons, but that’s just me.
    I think the problem is (aside from lack of attention to the Mac in general for so long), that they already think they have that covered (Mac mini, Mac Pro) well enough, and just don't see a big market for it being any different. I can't argue (with good knowledge) about the market aspect. Maybe there just aren't enough people who care about desktops anymore? Or, maybe they aren't informed enough to even recognize why they might want something other than an iMac (ex. my sister just bought an iMac w/o calling me first, and sees no issue with it).

    There certainly *should* market there, but maybe there isn't?
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