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Mac mini or something else?

 
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Gern blanston
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:55 pm    Post subject: Mac mini or something else? Reply with quote

I'm ready to retire my 8 year old Dell desktop, and I want to get back into the Mac world. I have a nice laptop, so I'm not interested in a Macbook at the moment, and I have a 24" monitor, so I don't really need an iMac (and I can't fit dual monitors on my desk anyway). My choices seem to be between the Mac Mini or the Mac Pro. My needs lean much more toward the Mini (web browsing, quicken, personal photo and video editiing), but I'm worried that the Core 2 Duo and 5400 speed hard drive will have me wanting to buy another Mac in a couple of years. The Mac Pro is too much computer for my needs. If I didn't have the monitor, I'd get one of the 27" Core i processor iMacs which is also more than I need, but I love the display and the future proofing. I don't need tons of speed, but I like it. I wish that Apple had a "middle" desktop with a Core i processor that wasn't an all-in-one, but, of course, they don't.

Writing this out has kind of helped. Perhaps I'll get the Mini and relegate it to HTPC use in a couple of years if I decide that I want something faster. Maybe we'll see a Mini with a Core i processor in the next year or two? Maybe I'll find a way to cram a 27" iMac and my 24" Dell monitor onto my desk. I don't know. I feel silly posting this, but perhaps the forum might have some guidance.
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Colstan
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Mac mini or something else? Reply with quote

Hi Gern,

I've been pondering the same thing that you have been. I'm eventually going to replace my current Mac mini (see my sig below). I refuse to buy anything with a screen attached to it, be it a MacBook or all-in-one like the iMac. Flexibility is very important to me. That, naturally, leaves the Mac Pro and Mac mini as the only options (there's the Xserve too, but nobody would use that as a desktop machine). I have many of the same needs as you do: e-mail, word processing, browsing and some video conversion. I'm not currently a gamer, but I might like to do some occasional light gaming as well, at some point.

So, if we look at the current Mac mini, it looks a bit underpowered. It doesn't have the latest Core i(X) processor but it has considerably better graphics performance. Apple seems to think that graphics is more important than CPU, perhaps because they have plans for using the GPU for things like OpenGL and OpenCL in more ways than they currently do.

On the other hand, the Mac Pro is a real beast. It's going to provide you with everything you could want for some time and handle most of what Apple throws at it in the reasonably foreseeable future. You'll be able to swap in a faster graphics card, new SSD drives, as well as add-in cards that support USB3 and new versions of the SATA standard. There's no guarantee that all of these things will be possible, since support is more limited than what you would get on the PC, but such is the nature of buying a computer that isn't running a Microsoft operating system. You can upgrade a handful of things on the current Mac mini. I'd put in an SSD and more memory. It's not something everyone feels comfortable with and the memory is the only easy upgrade.

In terms of performance, of course the Mac Pro wins hands down. Do you currently need that sort of performance and/or expandability? If yes, then there's no way for the Mac mini to match it. If you do not, then consider the long-term value of the systems.

For comparison purposes, let's take the base mini and compare it to the Pro. Excluding taxes (and assuming you live within the USA) you're looking at $699 for the mini and $2499 for the Pro. Yes, you can get them for less and a used model will also cost less. That goes for both systems though, so my point here will still be the same, regardless of how you wish to purchase your system. For the price of a Mac Pro, you can get 3.5 Mac minis. You could actually get a new model of the mini several times during the life of a Mac Pro. The old minis could be either sold or repurposed (my old PowerPC mini is being used by my sister).

I guess my point is that if you are someone who needs the power of the Mac Pro, then you should get it, since your only other choice would be to invest in a PC. If you don't, then there's no reason not to get a Mac mini, upgrade to a new model when you need one, and then give your old mini a new home. I personally couldn't justify purchasing a Mac Pro for myself, even though I'd really like one. I'm going to replace my current Mac mini sometime in the future. When my next mini no longer fits my needs, I'll do so again. At that point, the Mac mini could have some technology that today's Mac Pro doesn't support.

BTW, I seriously doubt that Apple will ever release a mid-range headless Mac. Desktop sales are pretty stable and Apple seems happy with their product mix. So, I wouldn't expect a new desktop class Mac anytime soon. Not as long as Steve Jobs is in charge of Apple, anyway.

So, those are my thoughts on the matter. Oh, and don't think your post was silly at all. This is something many of us have to consider.

Colstan
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Cypher
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With what you've said I would just get the mini.

I have a Core2Duo 2.0GHz iMac which is now just over three years old and it's still plenty fast enough for everything I do. I wouldn't dream of changing it for a newer model as it still performs all the tasks I need it for. With my old PC's I was always complaining how slow they had become within about a year of building them but I never have with the Mac's. I'm still as happy with the iMac three years on as I was the day I bought it. Back then it was running Tiger now it's on Snow Leopard. I'm not sure you could say the same between a machine built for Windows XP which now runs Windows 7 or Vista.

I also have quicker machines, a 2.4GHz Macbook Pro and a 2.53GHz Mac Mini but the iMac is still my main system. (although the iPad does a lot of things for me these days as well)

When the iMac finally dies I'm not sure what I will replace it with, iMac or Mac Mini. At the time I bought it I was worried that the mini wouldn't be enough for me but as I quickly became more accustom to the Mac OS I realised the mini would have done the job without any trouble. So my iMac replacement may well end up being another Mac Mini.
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Gern blanston
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you both so much for your thoughtful and detailed responses! You've helped me a great deal. I was afraid that my choice was between underpowered and overpowered, but it sounds like the mini will more than meet my needs. I was wanting to get into Aperture or Lightroom for my personal enjoyment eventually, and the mini sounds like it will handle those well ( maybe I'll need a RAM upgrade when I move up from iPhoto).

Thanks again! I'm glad to find a forum dedicated to the mini.
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Colstan
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear that you like this forum, Gern. It's great to have an entire site dedicated to this nice little machine. You won't find something like this for the vast majority of computers.

As Cypher has touched on, Macs generally have a longer lifespan than PCs do. I've had my Mac mini for about four years now and probably won't get a new one for another year or so. A Mac mini is plenty enough for most people, unless you're planning on doing something very intensive.

If you do decide to get a Mac mini, then folks here would be happy to help you with any questions you may have.

Colstan
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Gern blanston
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I got the Mini yesterday, and I'm very pleased. Obviously, it's a breeze to set up. It's very speedy for my needs. The Mac Pro would definitely have been much more than I needed. I even hooked it up to my 60" HDTV with the bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, and wow! I got the Missing Manual Snow Leopard book to walk me through everything, too. Thanks to everyone for the informative and detailed replies.

Now, if I can just get used to pressing Command instead of Control. Smile
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Bandit Bill
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats Gern,

I'd consider getting an Apple keyboard if your don't already have one. They are great to type on and having the keys properly labeled helps out a great deal.
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Cypher
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice one Gern, welcome to the dark side Razz

I agree with Bandit Bill if you haven't already I'd definitely consider an apple keyboard it makes it so much easier to switch.

As for the Control cmd Alt problems you soon get use to them, and you'll know when you have it sussed and are a true mac user. Its the day when you start getting it wrong on the windows machine at work instead. Razz
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Colstan
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's good to hear, Gern! I'm sure you'll enjoy your new mini. I'll chime in with the others and suggest that you get an Apple keyboard. It's good to have.

Did you get the base mini (latest version, non-server)? Have you upgraded or decided to upgrade anything? Anyway, enjoy your new Mac!

Colstan
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philiparcario
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yes a 2.4 base or a 2.66 server or a 2.4 base upgraded to 2.66?
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Gern blanston
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should have been more specific. Smile I got the Apple wireless keyboard and magic trackpad. I love the trackpad! I'm thing about exchanging the keyboard for Apple's wired extended keyboard: I like having a number pad. Actually, I'll probaly keep the wireless one for when I plug the mini into my tv.

I did get the base 2010 model with no upgrades, but I'm considering bumping up the RAM.

It's good to be back on the dark side. Smile My last Mac was a Quadra 840 AV, so it's been a while.
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Colstan
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like you're well on your way to enjoying your new Mac mini. Upgrading the main memory is an easy and relatively cheap upgrade. A lot of folks here suggest upgrading to 8GB of mem. There are some threads around here that talk about how memory prices have fallen. The "Mac Mini Upgrading" section of this forum is the place to look.

Gern blanston wrote:
It's good to be back on the dark side. Smile My last Mac was a Quadra 840 AV, so it's been a while.


I prefer to think of us as the rebels. It's been a long road up from Apple's bleaker moments, but with folks coming back to the Mac, as well as those who are new to it, the platform continues to have much success. A lot of software companies that had ignored or given up on the Mac are preparing new software. The new version of AutoCAD is a good example.

Colstan
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Gern blanston
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

True: the PC would be more of the dark empire. Smile I'm amazed at how many big screen iMacs and Macbook Pros that I see flying out the door every time I go to the Apple store. Now, if only my employer would adopt Macs...
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