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iMac or mini?
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MarkTheMac
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Mar 19, 2009, 09:06 AM
 
After months of dithering I'm finally getting my first Mac in a month's time.

The only thing I'm not sure about is whether to get the mini or the latest iMac model.

This is what I'll be using it for:

iPhone Application Development
Web browsing
Email
Videos
Photos
Windows Visual Studio web development (So I will be running bootcamp)
Some windows games but not graphic intensive (football manager mainly).

Bearing all that in mind is the iMac the best choice here even though it's a lot more expensive? Or is the mini enough here for what I need?

Thanks in advance
     
Maflynn
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Mar 19, 2009, 09:33 AM
 
I think the iMac is a more robust and flexible platform for what you state as your needs.

You can get a larger hard drive, more memory, a faster processor and a better GPU plus you won't have to buy a display, provided you need to buy one in the first place.

The mini is a great computer but it does lack in performance and expandability.
~Mike
     
axlepin
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Mar 19, 2009, 09:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by MarkTheMac View Post
After months of dithering I'm finally getting my first Mac in a month's time.

The only thing I'm not sure about is whether to get the mini or the latest iMac model.

This is what I'll be using it for:

iPhone Application Development
Web browsing
Email
Videos
Photos
Windows Visual Studio web development (So I will be running bootcamp)
Some windows games but not graphic intensive (football manager mainly).

Bearing all that in mind is the iMac the best choice here even though it's a lot more expensive? Or is the mini enough here for what I need?

Thanks in advance

Based on your described needs, I'd say a new Mini would more than satisfy.

True, the stock mini isn't as capable as the iMac but there are things you can do to boost your performance while saving a pile of dough.

I'd encourage you to poke around on this website for details:

http://macperformanceguide.com/

I myself have been using a pair of G4 Minis since 2005 for all kinds of demanding work, such as video editing, 3D rendering and all manner of photoshop manipulations.

My G4 Minis aren't even on the chart any more in terms of top performance — they never were, really — but they were cheap, and they cut wood.

From what I'm reading now, even the very first intel-based mini would be peel-your-scalp-back-fast to a guy like me.

good luck!

a
OS X 10.4.4 | 2 X 1.42 Mac Mini, 1GB RAM each
     
Simon
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Mar 19, 2009, 01:13 PM
 
For what you are going to do a 2.26 GHz Mac mini (plus possibly a faster internal drive) would be sufficient. Your tasks do not depend on having a fast GPU so that's one advantage of the high-end iMacs you won't need. Also, it appears the 4 GB RAM (possibly 6GB?) ceiling of the Mac mini is not going to be a major issue for what you do.

The iMac is AIO which some prefer. It's got a faster HDD, but it's more expensive. The Mac mini gives you the freedom of choice when it comes to the monitor, but it doesn't offer the iMac's performance levels.

What kind of screen do you want? Is 20" sufficient? You'd be comparing a $799 Mac mini (add cost for 20" screen) to an $1199 iMac. The Mac mini plus cheap screen (you can get a 20" 1680x1050 screen for $150 or a 24" 1920x1200 for $360) will probably end up being less expensive. But the iMac will offer more performance (faster CPU, faster disk) and possibly better lifetime (RAM ceiling, HDD performance). Bottom line is it depends on how much you are willing to spend.
( Last edited by Simon; Mar 19, 2009 at 01:20 PM. )
     
0157988944
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Mar 19, 2009, 07:07 PM
 
Mini hands down. You don't need a GPU, and if you did, the cheapest iMac with a GPU is now $2000... the two low end versions now have the same GPU as the mini.
     
MarkTheMac  (op)
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Mar 20, 2009, 04:40 AM
 
Thanks for the help here.

I want a 24" display also and it seems by the time I customize my mini to upgrade to 4gb ram and the display it is not far off the price of the iMac.
     
Simon
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Mar 20, 2009, 05:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by MarkTheMac View Post
I want a 24" display also and it seems by the time I customize my mini to upgrade to 4gb ram and the display it is not far off the price of the iMac.
If you want a 24" display the iMac becomes a better deal.

2.26 GHz Mac mini $799
2x2GB RAM $56
24" 1920x1200 screen $360+
Fast 2.5" 500GB HDD $140
total $1355+

2.66 GHz 24" iMac $1499
total $1499

The price difference will be small to negligible depending on the screen quality you get. The iMac will be faster and clearly the better choice. The only downside is you won't be able to use the 24" screen w/o the iMac. If you plan on keeping the iMac for a while that should be no issue though.
     
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Mar 20, 2009, 07:18 AM
 
A 24" iMac has a faster CPU, a faster HD than the mini can even accept at a price you'll be hard pressed to match with a mini setup. The iMac also includes mouse+keyboard.

If that's too much money, drop down to the 20" iMac. It's still plenty fast, with both CPU and HD way faster than the mini. You might need a RAM upgrade, but then it can be done later since RAM is accessible. That price is also hard to match with the mini - you can save $200 on the smaller display (if you go to a 22" with the same res) but that's it. the 20" iMac might need a RAM update, but since the slots are accessible you can do that yourself at a later point.

That the mini is fast enough is another story.
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.
     
shifuimam
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Mar 20, 2009, 09:45 AM
 
I'd recommend the Mini, only because you can upgrade the display later if you want to without buying a whole new machine.

Does it void the normal Apple warranty to do upgrades to the hard drive and RAM on the mini? If not, DON'T do the upgrades through the Apple store - buy them from Newegg and do it yourself; you'll save some money that way.
     
Hg2491
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Mar 20, 2009, 11:07 AM
 
I'd go for the iMac only because you get more for the buck. If you go with a Mac mini, you have to get a keyboard, a mouse, an iSight, and more importantly, a display. You could get cheap peripherals, but they won't compare to the quality of Apple products.

iMac FTW!.
     
Maflynn
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Mar 20, 2009, 01:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by shifuimam View Post
I'd recommend the Mini, only because you can upgrade the display later if you want to without buying a whole new machine.

Does it void the normal Apple warranty to do upgrades to the hard drive and RAM on the mini? If not, DON'T do the upgrades through the Apple store - buy them from Newegg and do it yourself; you'll save some money that way.
They don't void the warranty unless said action damages a component. Unlike Apple's other computers, there is no component within the mini that is considered user-replaceable. So much so, the case is virtually sealed and you need a putty knife to remove it Surgery is not for the faint of heart, but its doable.
~Mike
     
iREZ
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Mar 21, 2009, 11:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
If you want a 24" display the iMac becomes a better deal.

2.26 GHz Mac mini $799
2x2GB RAM $56
24" 1920x1200 screen $360+
Fast 2.5" 500GB HDD $140
total $1355+

2.66 GHz 24" iMac $1499
total $1499

The price difference will be small to negligible depending on the screen quality you get. The iMac will be faster and clearly the better choice. The only downside is you won't be able to use the 24" screen w/o the iMac. If you plan on keeping the iMac for a while that should be no issue though.
if you're going to be upgrading the hard drive in the mini, why go for the more expensive model? Upgrading the low end mini to 2.26 and upgrading the ram and hard drive you've mentioned now comes in at $50 cheaper than your estimate, total of $1300 vs $1499 ($200 difference), and although the iMac will be faster...your mini will give you the freedom to change monitors when you feel like, change mini's when you feel like, or HTPC anybody? The iMac used to be a no brainer vs the mini due to GPU but now the only thing that differs between the two are processor speed, ichat cam, and ram ceiling. I'd say if 4gb is enough then go with the mini, if not roll with the imac...either way you're not going to be disappointed.
NOW YOU SEE ME! 2.4 MBP and 2.0 MBP (running ubuntu)
     
pliny
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Mar 21, 2009, 11:18 AM
 
Get the iMac if you can afford it. The Mini might be "good enough" for what you want to do right now but don't you tend to end up wanting to do more stuff with your computer the more you develop?

I've always preferred the all-in-ones so I'll prob. always vote for the iMac.
i look in your general direction
     
Simon
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Mar 22, 2009, 03:39 AM
 
Originally Posted by iREZ View Post
if you're going to be upgrading the hard drive in the mini, why go for the more expensive model?
Because you can't upgrade the CPU. 2.26 GHz vs. the iMac's 2.66 is already bad, but 2.0 is just no comparison at all. But yeah, I see you can also upgrade the CPU of the low-end and save $50 that way. Missed that.

...and although the iMac will be faster...your mini will give you the freedom to change monitors when you feel like, change mini's when you feel like, or HTPC anybody?
That's a really bad argument for anybody who uses a computer for more than 18 months. After that time monitors will have evolved. Either screen quality is superior, there is a new connector, or some other kind of technical improvement (stuff like LED backlighting). And when you swap the computer after 2 years you'll also want a new screen. This might be different if we were talking about high-end 30" screens. Something like that you'd want to keep. But now with inexpensive 24" displays being the commodities they are, there's no reason to believe you won't want to upgrade the screen on a more regular basis as well. Add in that the mini doen't see updates on a more frequent basis and you can safely assume that by the time there's a new mini you want, you will also be able to get much nicer screens.

If you factor in these things the Mac mini compares poorly to the iMac. It's great for switchers, for a HTPC or if you already have a screen. The OP is looking for a desktop, not an HTPC though. And if you're going to be buying all the external accessories anyway, the low-end iMacs compare very well actually. And of course they perform way better. In such a case they're hands down the better deal.
( Last edited by Simon; Apr 2, 2009 at 08:15 AM. Reason: fixed typo)
     
mattyb
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Mar 22, 2009, 06:02 AM
 
The iMac is, to me, the Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type computer. Plus, although not 'portable' it is transportable - all in the same box.

My Feb 2007 20" iMac does very nicely perf wise thankyou very much, even with games like Call of Duty 2 - no I haven't tested CoD4 or WaW. I don't use any 'pro' tools but even with a 2.16GHz and 4G of RAM I'm sure that she wouldn't be too slow. I wish that I had bought the 24" screen though.
     
ernesto_a10
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Mar 22, 2009, 11:25 AM
 
To me iMac too because not only i'm more a hardcore gamer but also if you are planning on keeping it for a time the iMac will last longer, i mean that when new stuff for the Mac OS X arrives your iMac will still have some "juice" to take advantage from, the Mac Mini i think is more a less expensive option and only for home users that just web browse and do "normal stuff", the Mac Mini also will/could be outdated faster than the iMac in the future .
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akulavolk
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Mar 25, 2009, 12:03 PM
 
I'm surprised no one's mentioned screen real area for your needs, and how nicely the iMac works as the base of a dual-display system.

For iPhone development, video work, and some of the other tasks you list, you'll want lots of screen real estate. Heck, it's nice even for web/e-mail. I run a 24" iMac plus an external 24" display. Together, I have tons of screen area for a fraction of the cost of a 30" display.

The new Mac Minis offer dual display outs, but you'll have to pony up for a Mini + two displays, which is likely as expensive as an iMac + a display. Also, if you're doing work that involves color, the iMac is actually a great screen. I've used a lot of displays, and calibrate them using professional hardware. The iMac screen rarely needs much (if any) calibration, while the 3rd party ones require heavy tweaking to even be usable.

I'd go the iMac route, even if you can't afford a 2nd display now (or don't have an extra one lying around). Later, you can upgrade if needed.
     
iREZ
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Mar 25, 2009, 01:37 PM
 
24" iMac and 24" screen = 1860 vs mac mini (upgraded to 4gb, larger faster hd, upgraded proc 2.26) and two 24" screens that are identical = $1660.
(using Simons math above as I'll concede that he knows where to find the best deals/value)

Thats a difference of $200 dollars with the imac having a slightly faster proc, room for 8gb instead of just 4gb like the min, mouse, keyboard and an ichat cam and that's it. I just don't see the benefits of going with the iMac unless you go with the upgraded GPU. Over a course of 2 years (just an avg length of time one would keep their computer) you're not going to get any more performance for your buck unless you move over to 8gb in the iMac and use apps that take advantage of the extra ram but by then I'm sure a new mac mini would be released and the $200 bucks you saved could go to a purchase of a new mini which if kept at the same price or lower from Apple would cost you $399 or less. I just don't see a big difference between the two lines since the GPU merger.
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Simon
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Mar 25, 2009, 05:49 PM
 
But look at the Mac mini! It hardly ever gets an updated and when it does it's a very humble one. There's no two-yearly upgrade path with the Mac mini. Why would you try to save $200 bucks over the course of two years when it means you have to give up on 20% CPU clock, get stuck with the lower RAM ceiling, have to put up with the lame disk, etc.?

If you want to save $200 go refurb. Don't go mini because of that!

It's the same old story: if you don't already have a good monitor (so instead you'd need to by one) the iMac will be the better deal.
     
Big Mac
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Mar 25, 2009, 08:17 PM
 
Why would someone who's looking to purchase now care about the mini being updated much less often than the other lines?

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
Simon
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Mar 26, 2009, 01:55 AM
 
It was in response to the post above. iRez suggested saving $200 now and then upgrading to a new Mac mini in two years. I claim that's a bad strategy because in two years the Mac mini will still be the lowest end Mac and likely won't be any better than today's 2.66 GHz iMac. Over the course of two years $200 doesn't make a difference. And performance-wise you'd always be better off with the iMac.
     
Big Mac
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Mar 26, 2009, 04:43 AM
 
Ah, I see.

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Maflynn
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Mar 31, 2009, 07:25 AM
 
I think iRez's example makes sense only if you don't need to purchase the displays and plan on keeping the machine > 2 years.

As stated, I'm going to get a mini but it makes more sense for me, then an iMac because I don't need to buy a new display, and the low cost makes it a worthwhile purchase 599 (plus the cost of ram) is still quite a lot cheaper then the iMac's purchase price. While I'll be sacrificing expandability, I'll not need to worry about more ram or a larger hard drive in the 3+ years I project I'll be using the mini.
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Simon
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Mar 31, 2009, 08:35 AM
 
Originally Posted by Maflynn View Post
I think iRez's example makes sense only if you don't need to purchase the displays and plan on keeping the machine > 2 years.
That's correct. It also pretty much matches the target audience Apple had in mind when they designed the mini. People who don't already have a decent monitor OTOH will usually be better off getting the iMac.
     
mitchell_pgh
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Apr 1, 2009, 01:01 PM
 
While I love looking at the iMac, I just can't bring myself to buying one.

My reasoning:
- The monitor is attached to the CPU.

That's it... I've just never enjoyed the thought that if the CPU or Monitor die (outside of warranty)... I'd need to replace the entire thing. In 3-5 years, when I downgrade my current mini for other tasks, I think it will fit in my closet nicely (or even on a bookshelf or behind a TV). I can't say the same thing for an iMac.
     
P
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Apr 1, 2009, 03:15 PM
 
That's funny, every iMac I ever owned ended its life in a closet as a server - except the current one, of course, but it's going there as well in its due time. I plan to bolt it to the wall - VESA mounts are a great thing.

If you have strong feelings one way or another, then follow them - just don't pretend that it's a rational call. Unless you have a great display just collecting dust in a corner, the rational call in the above situation is an iMac.
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.
     
Simon
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Apr 2, 2009, 03:09 AM
 
If somebody has a really great and expensive monitor I can understand the issue. However, those folks who buy a cheap monitor and then claim the iMac's a bad deal because they plan on keeping their screen much longer than the iMac are usually kidding themselves. In three years from now we will be enjoying 30" LED backlit screens with great response time and contrast for half of what they'd cost today. When you upgrade your computer then, why would want to keep the $150 screen you buy today? Obviously you'll also end up getting a new screen as well. And since the price of the built in screen (and at least on the 24" also the quality) is actually quite decent the iMac has a clear advantage.

But as I said, this all changes when people buy really fancy monitors. That's when Apple's lack of a true midrange desktop Mac becomes a real issue. You're then stuck with the 'choice' of iMac (dual-display which many don't like) or Mac mini (low performance, no expansion). It' somewhat of a nuisance because outside of Apple world this is where choice is basically unlimited.
( Last edited by Simon; Apr 2, 2009 at 03:37 AM. )
     
MarkTheMac  (op)
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Apr 2, 2009, 08:05 AM
 
Thanks for the replies.

I've decided on the top end iMac with the ATI Radeon card.

Now all I need to decide on is what Windows operating system I choose for Bootcamp because I need Windows for ASP.NET Development.
     
Maflynn
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Apr 2, 2009, 08:45 AM
 
Well, given the state of windows at the moment (win7 due out later this year), you'll save yourself quite a bit of headaches if you avoid Vista. That leaves XP and the win7 beta. I've used all three and I found XP works the best under VMware, but but I found win7 and xp to be very fast under bootcamp.

Edit: congrats on your new baby
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