A Raging Argument: 2013 Mac Pro or 2018 Mac mini?

Mac mini 2018

Peter von Panda anguished over his decision. Would a used 2013 Mac Pro be a better choice for the money than a 2018 Mac mini? The debate rages on still.

Mac mini 2018
The “beloved” 2018 Mac mini. Image credit: Apple

It all started when Peter posted his initial video about his decision to cancel his 2018 Mac mini order and, instead, acquire a used 2013 Mac Pro. It had the RAM (32 GB) and the storage he wanted (1 TB SSD). Here’s his first, controversial, video.

He got lots of feedback, to put it mildly, and most commenters, it seems, suggested that the 2018 Mac mini, while in the same performance class, has several advantages. Namely, the T2 security chip, Thunderbolt 3, DDR4 memory, and a longer supported lifetime for the coming versions of macOS. The 2013 Mac Pro only has a few years left for the latest macOS support.

A Firestorm of Feedback

But Peter dug in. He was interested in convenience and cost. Sure, a basic Mac mini for US$1,099 could be aftermarket upgraded to his memory and storage needs, but it would be an installation hassle and still cost more than the 2013 Mac Pro he had his eye on. Here, in Part II, is his cost analysis in which he justifies his decision.

The community feedback was forcefull. Get the newer Mac mini. And I tend to agree. Buying a 2013 Mac in 2018 is fraught with potential problems. But, as they say, buy the computer you need and can afford when you need it.

The trade-offs here, however, are fascinating. The “trash can” 2013 Mac Pro is still a formidable computational machine, especially the 8- and 12-core models. (With OpenCL support.) Depending on one’s workflow and mission critical apps, a Mac with only DDR3 and Thunderbolt 2 can still be very capable and cost-effective.

For as long as it works and as long as Apple supports it.

2013 Mac Pro
Still a formidable computational machine in 2018. If bought used. Image credit: Apple.

Cost Effectiveness

In the end, Peter von Panda has his own criteria and budget. He’ll no doubt be pleased with the Mac Pro’s myriad of ports and elegant design. And the price he paid was right: US$1600. (No sense buying one new. THAT’s a waste of money.)

The whole discussion, however, is both a testament to the power of the 2013 Mac Pro, its design, and also how a 2018 Mac mini can come close in performance five years later for about half the Mac Pro’s original retail price.

I’ve said it before. Those of use who bought a 2013 Mac Pro (and maxed out our credit card) will never (I surmise) be able to afford the 2019 Mac Pro as a personal Mac.  It’s great to have a 2018 Mac mini to fall back to if we want to keep our favored displays.

And yet, it’ll seem like a step backwards compared to the elegant, powerful 2013 Mac Pro. ::sigh::

Did Peter make the right decision? What do you think?

3 thoughts on “A Raging Argument: 2013 Mac Pro or 2018 Mac mini?

  • I considered this argument as well. I am a motion picture editor by profession and have to bang out content constantly. I bought a used 2013 Mac Pro and love the performance generally, but the one feature that bricks this computer is the compression/transcoding to H.264 or other web streaming formats. All of my deliverables are for the internet and have to be streamed. My 2012 MacBook Pro and My 2012 MacMini literally (I MEAN LITERALLY) destroy my MacPro in those types of tasks due to Intel’s QuickSync. It’s absolutely frustrating to have a computer like the MacPro and I have to send my ProRes QuickTimes to my other Macs (now a 2016 MBP) to compress for the web. This one single feature alone makes me want to let go over the MacPro in the next year or so. The other caveat is I love the iMac’s and use them at work. Love the Retina Display, but loath all in one computers. I want dual monitors and not in the way of adding one to the iMac. The 2018 MacMini although great does have the expansion and power of what I would think a 2018 MacPro would have. If that 2013 MacPro had QuickSync it would extend the life for me. Not having that at it’s retail price is a significant problem for my post-production workflow.

    MacPro – lots of expansion ports, lacking one key compression feature.
    MacMini – great little workhorse, not enough expansion and long term oomph
    iMac/iMac Pro – all-in-one is a problem for me

    I guess what I’d really want (until the new MacPro is revealed) is a headless iMac Pro with double the ports.

  • Wow!
    I have been considering the new Mac mini with the high-end i7. It seems to beat most of the other current models for price/performance.

    He’s certainly given me something else to consider.

    Thanks to Peter von Panda for pointing out this option, and to you John for bringing it to our attention!

  • As a reader, I’m not in a position to have an opinion on Peter’s decision. I can, however, wish him the best experience with his “new” Mac. Why would I not?

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