Choosing the Mac Mini Over the iMac

LONDON – After a few too many crashes, panics, and trips to the Genius Bar, I finally accepted this week that I had to part with my much-loved mid-2010, 15-inch MacBook Pro. The issue then, was what do I replace it with?

The new Mac mini setup

iMac or Mac Mini?

I had decided that I probably wanted to a desktop machine. My MacBook Pro was great, but I actually didn’t take out that much with me. Honestly, I was never that comfortable walking around london with £2000 machine in my bag. Which left me with the choice – iMac or Mac Mini. A TDO discussion helped a bit, but I was still torn.

iMac’s are stunning looking, powerful devices. I’m a big fan. But, having not been updated since 2017, they are relatively old. An i7 iMac with an SSD cleared £2,600. I could not justify spending that amount of money on old technology.

A 2018 Mac Mini though was £1099. That’s both newer tech and a much more realistic price bracket. I took a look and with an i5 chip and 6 Cores it is a seriously powerful device too. The device I was looking at came with a 256 GB SSD and 8GB 2667 MHZ DDR4 memory.

The unboxing!

So I took the plunge and went for it. That space grey box was mine! I felt like I was investing in something far more future proofed than an iMac.

As well as power, I got a great deal. Apple offered me £121 for my old MacBook Pro. Quite the result for a nearly 9-year-old device. It’s always worth seeing what the trade-in value is.

Monitoring the Situation

I already had an Apple wireless keyboard and trackpad. However, buying a Mac Mini meant I needed a monitor.

I knew I wanted some 27 inches or so, the same size as an iMac. I also knew it had to be 4K, again to try and future proof my setup. In the end my choice was between two – an HP and a Samsung. I went for the Samsung U28E590 as it was more attractive, cheaper, and a brand I like.

So far i’m really enjoying my Mac Mini and Mojave (in Dark Mode, of course). I’ll be sure to share some tips on how to get the most from the device as I discover new things.

13 thoughts on “Choosing the Mac Mini Over the iMac

  • Mini is always (even at 2019 Apple prices) a cheaper Mac. You can explain away the sad displays, but if you’re doing graphics (video/photos), an iMac GPU will clean the floor with the Mini.

    But if you’re just doing iPad work… a Mini is a good Mac.

  • Its ALWAYS worth checking the trade in price – AND as I keep telling people, any Mac has a value on eBay, much much more so than any Windows laptop / desktop, because Macs are reliable, have a great OS and are built from quality components. I have no qualms buying a second hand Mac, not just because I’m a skinflint, I’m not but because they are GREAT VALUE.

    Some people are unlucky and stuff fails, but the failure rate on a Mac is pretty low.
    My Mac Cube still works and that’s how old?…

  • Great choice! I had the same dilemma and opted for the new Mac mini as well. Added extra memory after I got the mini and an external 5K display. An excellent setup. Still need an eGPU with a graphics card though, as the mini can hardly handle my photos and videos.

  • Critical item you missed, although the Mac mini does have 6 processors as apposed to 4, the Mac Mini still uses the much slower Intel Graphics Chipset. iMac’s are using AMD Radeon Graphics chipsets. And the Graphic Chips are almost more important that the processors in todays graphics driven OS’s. Unless your just wanting to surf the Web and write a few term papers, then you’re existing system is just fine for years to come.

    1. You seem to forget that with the addition of thunderbolt 3 you can opt to run a external GPU box via a single cable and run any current AMD or Nvidia graphics card (if campatible) and be able to stay current for a number of years

    2. As cute as the mansplanation is, it has 6 cores, not processors. Processor refers to the chip which contains processing units. Chipset is also not the word you are looking for, chipset refers explicitly to the system that manages the messaging between a processor and its attached logical/physical resources. GPUs do not generally have a chipset (or at least an exposed chipset) as they do not connect other logical devices.

      Additionally, an external desktop GPU, Vega or similar, connected on the PCI-e x4 bus (managed by the Intel chipset, as opposed to being a CPU lane), will crush any internalized mobile GPU the iMac ships with.

      The GPU doesn’t matter for most people, either. OSX won’t use it for rendering assist most of the time, preferring the CPU for most tasks in the name of energy efficiency. I need a lot of CPU cores for my work, rarely does the GPU get involved as almost no one uses local GPU acceleration via CUDA or OpenCL, simply due to maintainability concerns and lack of industry expertise in those topics. And even if your claim to fame is video editing and Photoshop (bully for you, btw), you’re still better served by an eGPU than a mobile GPU as featured in the iMac.

      Source: 20+ year engineering career.

      1. Thanks for the informative response Kitty! Your feedback related to the eGPU and a mobile GPU was especially helpful.

  • Congratulations on the new mac. I think you made a great choice. While the 5k screen on the imac is nice, the newer guts of the mini are nicer. Hope you have great fun with it!

  • Yes,
    After hearing Bryan and Dr. Bob complain long-term about how they didn’t want to spend good money on old hardware I was shouting at them to spend it on new hardware.

    This new mini is a terrific deal.

    I’m looking to spend $2000 for the fastest CPU and fastest Ethernet (for future proofing) and adequate RAM and SDD. Still the best deal in the lineup.

    Congratulations on your choice. Wishing you the very best of luck with this.

  • Congratulations! Looking forward to the day when I can add one to the others – five ranging from 2005 to 2012. The 2012 with SSD stands on end if you ever need extra desk space.

  • In 2016 i was faced with the same choice. At the time I replaced my Matchbook Pro with a top end iMac because the Mac Mini was very long in the tooth. If I were in the same position today though, I would do exactly what you did. I would look at a larger SSD and more RAM, but the Mac Mini is clearly the better value now.

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