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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > New Mini vs used Macbook?

New Mini vs used Macbook?
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Nov 29, 2013, 07:12 AM
 
Son needs a replacement for aging powerpc tower that can run 10.7, flash internet sites (school), minecraft, photoshop, etc. Used macbooks even from 2009 are running pretty expensive still, and he has a working monitor, so I was considering a mini. Maybe even a used mini would work, but nothing older than 2009/2010, keeping it under $600.

Is it really hard to upgrade (more RAM)?

Any pros/cons to go either way, or whatever deal I happen to find?
     
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Nov 29, 2013, 08:21 AM
 
As long as it is an aluminum mini (mid-2010 or later), upgrading the RAM is trivial: Just unscrew the bottom and the RAM slots are right there. Upgrading the older white mini is significantly harder - you have to use a putty knife or similar to release the clips along the bottom. As far as I can see it, it comes down to this for the minis:

2008: Theoretically runs 10.7 but nothing more. Requires old expensive DDR2 RAM, 4 GB official ceiling, 8 GB with some trickery. Not recommended.
2009: Runs all modern OS X up to current. Uses current DDR3 RAM, but is a bit tricky to update. 4GB official, 8GB unofficial.
2010: New chassis, significantly easier to upgrade. 8 GB official RAM, 16 GB with some trickiness
2011: Significantly faster Sandy Bridge CPU, but loses the optical. 8 GB official RAM, 16 GB with some trickiness
2012: Ivy Bridge, which mainly helps the GPU. 16 GB the official ceiling

The used Macbooks (non Pro or Air) stop at 2010, which is the last Core 2. Roughly comparable to the 2010 mini. A used MBP is likely to be expensive, and anyway the RAM ceilings are lowish. The first Airs were slow, but from the point that they all had SSDs they're pretty good. I would hesitate to run 10.7 and Photoshop on something with 2 or 4 GB non-upgradeable RAM.

In total, I'd look at the minis. The 2008 mini I would avoid because DDR2 RAM is effing expensive these days, but anything later can be made to work.

Whatever you get, an upgrade of the HDD to a hybrid or a real SSD will mean a massive performance boost, either today or down the line.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Nov 29, 2013, 09:01 AM
 
What's the "trickiness" involved in upgrading to 16 GB?
     
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Nov 29, 2013, 10:15 AM
 
For the 2010 model you have to update the firmware to the latest version and are somewhat limited in what OSes you can use - 10.7.5 is the minimum. There is also always the risk that a future OS update will break this. For the 2011 model it apparently always works, so I guess I should say unofficial instead of trickiness in that case.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Nov 29, 2013, 10:29 AM
 
very good guide p.
imac g3 600
imac g4 800 superdrive
ibook 466
     
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Nov 29, 2013, 03:33 PM
 
very helpful, thanks! Now off to shop...
     
   
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