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lrd 12-13-2012 04:03 AM

Torn between Mini +NEC pa271w-bk-sv or 27" iMac
 
OK, so I am having a hard time deciding. I currently have a Win7 PC for basic home use and a 2009 Core2Duo Macbook Pro that I've been using for digital photo processing. The MBP is marginally suitable (more speed is always better when using Photoshop and Lightroom) but the monitor is way too small. I'm looking to buy a desktop with a high end 27" monitor to replace the PC and be my dedicated digital photo lab. What I'm showing below may be total overkill but at these prices I don't want to have to upgrade again anytime soon. The options below compare the fastest Mac Mini with a separate 27" high-end monitor with the fastest 27" iMac.

Option A
  • Mini: 2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 16GB Mem, 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm = $1200
  • 240 GB SSD to replace 1TB drive = $250
  • NEC PA271W-bk-sv monitor =$1100
  • Total price = $2550
Option B
  • 27 iMac: 3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, 16GB Mem, 1TB Fusion Drive = $2650 (can't replace drive, buying 16GB on 2x8GB allows a simple addition of 2x8GB more for 32GB)
  • Total price = $2650

Price is almost a wash, let's look at the advantages of each:
iMac:
  • The best iMac is much faster than the best Mini and has a dedicated graphics card vice a chipset.
  • On the iMac I can start with 16GB with 2x8GB sticks and upgrade later to 4x8GB sticks without throwing away memory.
  • The iMac is a fully integrated system that is easier and cleaner to setup...and flat gorgeous
Mac Mini
  • With the iMac you can't swap in an SSD (cheaply) so you're forced to go with a Fusion drive for speed, but at 128 GB it's half the size I want, plus I don't know how much control I would have over what stays on the Fusion flash and what get's dumped to the Fusion HDD.
  • The NEC monitor is way better than the iMac monitor (but not as pretty ;))
  • With a separate monitor/Mini, separate repairs and/or upgrades are easier and cheaper
  • I can buy just the monitor for now and use it externally with the MBP and buy the Mini later (budgeting purposes (but I'd have to waste money buying a new video card for the soon-to-be-obsolete PC)

Thoughts?

pendlewitch 12-13-2012 01:00 PM

Hi,
My thoughts are that the Mac mini is a very worthy but still entry-level piece of equipment for those wishing to switch to Mac without having to discard existing useable peripherals such as screens, keyboards etc.

The iMac screen is WQHD, Wide Quad High Definition or 1440p and with some decent screen calibration equipment and software you will be able to make it 'sing' whilst rendering your photographs to print and web page almost exactly as they appear on your screen. You will of course have everything (apart from your back -up equipment) integrated.

For me, it would be the iMac...but then I'm biased :) There is nothing wrong if you go the 'separates' route.

RavingMac 12-13-2012 02:11 PM

Option C
  • Mini: 2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 4GB Mem, 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm = $899
  • 240 GB SSD to replace 1TB drive = $250
  • 16 GB RAM Upgrade Kit (at OWC)= $98
  • 27in ThunderBolt Display (Refurb)=$829
  • Total price = $2076

Advantage:
  • Identical performance to the system you describe but ~$500 cheaper.
  • Why would you pay Apple prices for RAM (Especially since you appear to be game to install your own SSD)?
  • Full Apple warranty plus available AppleCare
  • And, instead of just replacing the 1TB HD, why not add the 250GB SSD as a boot drive and keep the 1TB as an internal Data drive? - http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installi...ve+Kit/11713/1

EDIT: And, FWIW, while the iMac will be significantly faster, the Mac Mini you spec is no slouch. Geekbench isn't everything in comparing speed, but EveryMac.com lists the following:
Mac Mini 2012 2.6 GHZ - 11367/12807
iMac 27 2011 3.1 GHz (latest figures available) - 12490/14143

pigoo3 12-13-2012 02:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lrd (Post 1478020)

Option A
  • Mini: 2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 16GB Mem, 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm = $1200
  • 240 GB SSD to replace 1TB drive = $250
  • NEC PA271W-bk-sv monitor =$1100
  • Total price = $2550
Option B
  • 27 iMac: 3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, 16GB Mem, 1TB Fusion Drive = $2650 (can't replace drive, buying 16GB on 2x8GB allows a simple addition of 2x8GB more for 32GB)
  • Total price = $2650

Price is almost a wash...

It looks like you are trying to put together a pretty high-end Macintosh system…and since the prices are very close (unless you go with "RavingMac's" suggestion)…you would TOTALLY be doing yourself a disservice by going with the Mac-Mini!!!

For one VERY BIG reason…the graphics hardware. You're getting MUCH MUCH better graphics hardware with the 27" iMac (dedicated video hardware…with 1gig of vram). The graphics hardware on the Mac-Mini doesn't even come close.

If you were saving BIG BUCKS getting the Mac-Mini…then I can understand. But considering that the graphics hardware in either case (Mac-Mini or iMac) is NOT upgradeable after purchase…and that you're trying to put together a higher-end system…you got to go with the 27" iMac!:)

- Nick

p.s. Also consider that:

- the iMac's 3.4ghz i7 quad-core cpu is going to be a bunch faster than the Mac-Mini's 2.6ghz quad-core cpu
- the iMac is actually upgradeable to 32gig of ram…and the Mac-Mini max's out at 16gig of ram.

RavingMac 12-13-2012 02:42 PM

And, honestly, it isn't the system you were looking at. But given what you already have, and your intended use, I would get something like this:
Refurb MacBook Pro 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel i7 - $1869
Refurbished MacBook Pro 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel i7 - Apple Store (U.S.)
and pair it with a Refurb Apple Display

Total Cost = $2700

Nick wrote a review earlier this year for our Blog on using the MBP as a Desktop with an accessory stand.
http://www.mac-forums.com/blog/coole...er-arc-review/

lrd 12-13-2012 08:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RavingMac (Post 1478140)
Option C
  • Mini: 2.6GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, 4GB Mem, 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm = $899
  • 240 GB SSD to replace 1TB drive = $250
  • 16 GB RAM Upgrade Kit (at OWC)= $98
  • 27in ThunderBolt Display (Refurb)=$829
  • Total price = $2076

Advantage:
  • Identical performance to the system you describe but ~$500 cheaper.
  • Why would you pay Apple prices for RAM (Especially since you appear to be game to install your own SSD)?
  • Full Apple warranty plus available AppleCare
  • And, instead of just replacing the 1TB HD, why not add the 250GB SSD as a boot drive and keep the 1TB as an internal Data drive? - Installing Mac Mini Late 2012 Dual Hard Drive Kit - iFixit

EDIT: And, FWIW, while the iMac will be significantly faster, the Mac Mini you spec is no slouch. Geekbench isn't everything in comparing speed, but EveryMac.com lists the following:
Mac Mini 2012 2.6 GHZ - 11367/12807
iMac 27 2011 3.1 GHz (latest figures available) - 12490/14143

Thanks. I figured an OWC RAM upgrade would cost the same for both computers so the price difference would not change. I picked 16GB because on the iMac that fills two slots and leaves two open, making an upgrade a no brainer (I hate throwing away good memory to upgrade).

Also won't buy an Apple display unless in an iMac...the standalone NEC is reportedly far superior for the same price (Refurb not included and something I hadn't considered...thanks).

lrd 12-13-2012 08:17 PM

I guess what it comes down to is the SSD. I have to decide if a dedicated 240 GB (vs Fusion 128GB) is worth the reduced performance of the Mini. I'm seriously leaning towards the iMac right now.

I keep getting hints that the Mini can hold both an HDD and an SSD (i.e. keep the 1TB HD and add an SDD) which would be fine but the Apple store "Genius" told me that the Mini can only hold one drive (the server version however can hold two). Besides, I don't need the HD...I have a 6TB NAS with a free slot for another 2TB drive.

RavingMac 12-13-2012 09:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lrd (Post 1478286)
I guess what it comes down to is the SSD. I have to decide if a dedicated 240 GB (vs Fusion 128GB) is worth the reduced performance of the Mini. I'm seriously leaning towards the iMac right now.

I keep getting hints that the Mini can hold both an HDD and an SSD (i.e. keep the 1TB HD and add an SDD) which would be fine but the Apple store "Genius" told me that the Mini can only hold one drive (the server version however can hold two). Besides, I don't need the HD...I have a 6TB NAS with a free slot for another 2TB drive.

Follow the link I gave you and you will see exact steps to add a second drive to a standard Mini.

pigoo3 12-13-2012 09:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lrd (Post 1478286)
I guess what it comes down to is the SSD. I have to decide if a dedicated 240 GB (vs Fusion 128GB) is worth the reduced performance of the Mini. I'm seriously leaning towards the iMac right now.

I keep getting hints that the Mini can hold both an HDD and an SSD (i.e. keep the 1TB HD and add an SDD) which would be fine but the Apple store "Genius" told me that the Mini can only hold one drive (the server version however can hold two). Besides, I don't need the HD...I have a 6TB NAS with a free slot for another 2TB drive.

As I mentioned above…it appears that you're spending a lot of money for a fairly top end setup (getting the top-end cpu options for either computer).

The Mac-Mini in no way shape or form is a top-end unit…even with the faster cpu option & an SSD…and obviously no dedicated graphics hardware. It won't be no "slow poke"…but without dedicated video/graphics hardware…it just will have no chance of "running with the big dog's" (computers with dedicated graphics)!;) Remember…everything these days is about video/graphics…which means you want/need the best graphics hardware you can afford.

Computers these days with with high clock rate cpu's & quad-core's really aren't being fully utilized…it's the graphics hardware that is being pushed to the limit in many cases.

Also…that $250 for the 240gig SSD is sort of expensive. That's approx. $1.00/gigabyte…good deals on 240gig SSD's these days go for about $.50-$.55 cents/gigabyte (so half the cost).

Unless you can save a bunch of bucks on the Mac-Mini (versus the 27" iMac setup)…you really have got to go for the 27" iMac:

- max ram of 32gig (versus 16gig for the Mini)
- much faster cpu (3.4ghz vs. 2.6ghz)
- dedicated graphics hardware (this is REALLY the BIG & most important difference)

I don't want to hear any "whining" later when you get the Mac-Mini…then realize that it's graphics/video performance pales next to the 27" iMac!!!;);)

My 2 cents…good luck,:)

- Nick

RavingMac 12-13-2012 10:21 PM

I am definitely not arguing the iMac isn't faster than the Mini, but I don't think Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture hit the graphics all that hard. Stick an SSD in the Mini and I doubt for the kind of usage the OP has described he will ever see the difference.

My reason for going Mac Mini, comes down to this: Compare the 2012 Mini to the 2008 iMac and then consider in 4 years, when it is time to upgrade, all the OP will have to buy is a new Mini or possibly even a Mac Pro (assuming Apple keeps them). But, if he goes iMac he rebuys EVERYTHING.
Of, course, if he needs or will benefit from the dedicated Graphics then the iMac is better, though I would still lean toward a Mac Book Pro and Monitor instead.

pigoo3 12-13-2012 10:32 PM

I'm primarily saying iMac because the prices for "Option A" and Option B" are fairly close. If a good deal of $$$ were being saved by getting the Mac-Mini (and the OP was concerned about the budget)…then I would happily say Mac-Mini.:)

To me…the most important part of a new computer purchase is the actual computer hardware (cpu speed, max. ram, graphics hardware)…since these (except of the ram) cannot be upgraded later.

A fancy monitor and an SSD are not so "handy"…if the computer doesn't have the horsepower to get things done (or done 2-3 years down the road).

OP seems to be very "keen" on getting the best cpu (both units have been upgraded from stock)…which leads me to believe they want & can afford the fastest model possible. Thus graphics hardware should be considered in this equation as well.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Mac-Mini :)…but since the price of "Option A" and "Option B" are so close (and both include a 27" monitor in the setup)…and neither is a laptop (so portability/mobility isn't an issue)…there's definitely more "bang for the buck" with the 27" iMac (the iMac's dedicated graphics is a BIG difference & much added value).:)

That dedicated graphics may come in real handy in the future…many of our computing needs can change over time…or outside computing influences can require more graphics horsepower over time.:)

- Nick


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