Since it has been at least 7 years since I have upgraded my Apple desktop system I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger on the new Mac Mini that Apple announced last week. I ordered my new setup from MacMall and it should arrive in the next few days. The miniature form factor of the mini is perfect for my desk, and the third generation Intel quad core processor will provide enough power for most basic multimedia tasks. After years of favoring Apple, I have been primarily working on PCs since this summer because certain software could not be run on my old Powermac Quad G5. However, while the transition was not as dreadful as I had expected because Windows 7 was better than Vista, I still I missed my mac environment and have been anxious to get a new Apple system.
The announcement last week was the final push I needed. I got the 2.6 Quad core i7 model with the standard 1TB drive and 4GB of ram. To make this little machine sing I purchased a 16GB ram kit from a third party retailer for a third of the price Apple was asking. I passed on the Fusion drive option from Apple which combines a 128GB solid state drive (SSD) with a standard 1TB SATA hard drive. While Apple is promising extensive speed improvements with the fusion drive over a standard SATA drive, the technology is still pretty new and nothing on which I want to trust my data. The price of true solid state drives continues to drop and will be still be faster than the fusion drives Apple is pushing. So I passed on the fusion drive and plan to give my little mini a upgrade path to SSDs at some point in the near future. In the interim I snagged the Newer Tech MiniStack external hard drive enclosures in which I will place two 1TB hard drives pulled from my 7 year old, and soon to be defunct, Powermac Quad G5 system. This will enable to re-purpose my 7200 rpm drives I use for video editing and storage with my mini. The MiniStacks enclosures look exactly like the Mac Mini and can “stack” right on top of it seamlessly.
The reason why I pulled the trigger on a mac mini instead of going with a higher end Apple system is that the gap between the mini and what is supposed to be Apple’s top-of-the-line offering, the Mac Pro, has closed considerably. The latest refresh for the mini has brought it’s performance nearly in line with the previous generation of Apple’s tower. I really wanted a MacPro to replace my Quad G5 tower but Apple only gave the Pro an extremely modest update in June 2012. They added just a small processor and RAM upgrade while neglecting to add new features like Thunderbolt or even USB 3.0 support. They $2500 buck minimum starting price was also a big issue for me. Meanwhile, the Mac mini, which starts at $599, now supports up to 16GB of 1600MHz RAM, Thunderbolt, four USB 3.0 ports and an optional 2.6GHz quad-core i7 Ivy Bridge processor. According to benchmark tests by Macminiloco, the 2012 Mac Minis are approaching the standards set by the 2010 Mac Pro. Plus many of the power heavy applications that I used to need on the mac, like Final Cut Pro, are no longer as critical to me because of Apple essentially abandoning their high end customers in order to throw all of their resources into creating iDevises (iPads, iPods, and iPhones) for the masses. My only major criticism of the Mac Mini is that it lacks of a discrete GPU and has an integrated Intel 4000 graphic chipset. The lack of a discrete GPU is the only thing keeping the mini from being a screenless iMac. Which when I think about it is probably why Apple refuses to bump up the graphics processor.
Overall, even despite the lack of a discrete GPU, this will be a nice little system with 3TB of storage space, 16GB of ram, and a fairly decent Quad Core processor. I’ll post pictures once it is all connected to my dual monitor setup. The only other thing that pissed me off is that I could not find a reputable Apple retailer that would ship to NYS without charging sales tax on the Mac Mini. The whole reason I order online is to avoid sales tax. So crew you NYS!!!