MacMini 2018

published : 2019-02-26 changed: 2019-02-26

category: Computer --> Apple

tags: Apple MacMini OSX


MacMini2018

I am a Mac user for quite some time now and I was always happy this way. Apple managed it to deliver a combination from operating system and hardware that is stable, secure and easy to use (even for non IT-guys) but also has a lot of features for power users.

(i already described my IT-history at another place https://boesebeck.name/v/2013/4/19/meine_it_geschichte)

My iMac which I used for quite some time (since beginning of 2011) did die in a rather spectacular way (for a Mac): it just did a little "zing" and it was off. Could not switch it back on again, broken beyond repair... :frown:

So, I needed some new Hardware. Apple unfortunately missed the opportunity at the last hardware event end of 2018 to add newer hardware to the current iMacs. There is still an more then 2 year old cpu working. Not really "current" tech, but quite expensive.

The pricing of Apple products is definitely something you could discuss about. The hardware prices were increased almost for everything, same as with the costs for new iPhones. This is kind of outrageous...

In this context, the new MacMini is a very compelling alternative. The "mini Mac" always was the entry level mac and was the cheapest one in the line up. Well, you need to have your own keyboard, mouse and screen.

now, the MacMini got finally some love from Apple. The update is quite good: recent CPU, a lot of useful ports (and fast: 4x Thunderbolt-3, 2x USB-A 3.0, HDMI). This is the Mac for people, who want a fast desktop, but do not want to pay 5000€ for an iMac Pro.

I was a bit put off by the MacMini at first, because it does not have a real GPU. Well, there is one form Intel - but you could hardly name it a Graphics Processing Unit.

That always was the problem with the MiniMac - if you want to use it as Server, fine. (I have one to backup the photos library) But as Media-PC? or even a gaming machine? No way.... as soon as decent graphics is involved, the MacMini failed.

But with thunderbolt 3 you can now solve this "problem" using an eGPU (external graphics card). How should that work? External is always slower than internal, right?

Well, not always. Thunderbolt 3 is capable of delivering up to 40GBit/s transfer speed and current GPUs only need 32GBit/S (PCI-express x16). This sounds quite ok... (although there is some overhead in the communication)

But it is quite ok. I bought the MacMini with an external eGPU and I am astonished, how much power this little machine has. All the connectors, cables, dongles etc do not look as good as the good old iMac. And the best thing: if you want to upgrade your eGPU, because there is a better one fine... or upgrade the mac mini and keep the eGPU - flexibility increase!

Performance comparison

Of course, my 8 year old iMac cannot keep up with the current MacMini, that would be an unfair comparison. But I have to admit that the 2011 iMac was a lot quicker when it comes to graphics performance. So for gaming the Mini is not the right choice.

The built in Harddisk, of course, is a SSD. Unfortunately it is soldered fix and cannot be replaced. But it is blazingly fast and does read/write with up to 2000MB/sec.

If I take a look at my GeekBench results of the Mini, the single core benchmark is similar to the curren iMac Pro with a Xeon processor. That is truly implressive. But, of course, in the multicore benchmark the mini can't keep up - it just has not enough cores to compete with a 8-Core machine - I have the "bigger" MacMini with the current generation i7 CPU.

I plugged in (or better on) an external Vega64 eGPU. This way I could compare the Graphivs performace with other current machines using the Unigine benchmarks. In those benchmarks, my Mini has about the same speed as an iMac Pro with the Vega64. This is astonishing.

Costs

Well, how much does all this performance cost? Is it cheaper than a good speced iMac 27"?

The calculation is relatively simple. To get something comparable in an iMac you need to take the i7 Processor - although this one is about 2 generations behind. As an SSD-Storage, 128GB is probably not enough, 512 sounds more reasonable. Anything else can be attached over Thunderbolt-3. A Samsung X5 SSD connected via Thunderbolt-3 is even faster than an internal SSD - so no drawback here.

You should increase the memory yourself, as Apple is very expensive. This way an upgrade to 32GB is about 300€ - Apple charges 700€!

But for comparison the RAM is not important, as with the iMAc I would do it exactly same. So lets put that together. Right now, an eGPU case is about 400€, than a Vega64, also about 400€, the MacMini is about 1489,- € plus 250€ for a screen (LG 4k,works great), and additional 100€ for Mouse and Keyboard. All in all you end up with 2539,- +/- 200€!

Just for comparison: the iMac would cose about 2839,- € - but in this configuration it would be slower than the Mini. With a Vega64 and a comparable CPU the mini in this configuration is more comparable to the base model of the iMac pro, which is 5499,-€ (but still has a slower GPU!).

conclusion

The new MacMini is definitely worth a thought. Considering the costs in comparison to other Macs, especially when you do not have to buy everything at once (like buy the MacMini, 3Monts later the RAM upgrade, 3 Months later eh eGPU case and again later the GFX-Card). The biggest disadvantage of the Mini is, that you now have more cables on your desk compared with the iMac...

I do have the Mini now running for some months and I love it! If you need a desktop, the MacMini is worth a try! Even compared with a MacBook!

created Stephan Bösebeck (stephan)