Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

Summary: According to readers, the Mac mini appears to be their new Mac best friend. Despite the upbeat words, there are better choices in Apple's revised Mac lineup.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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According to readers, the Mac mini appears to be their new Mac best friend. Despite the upbeat words, there are better choices in Apple's revised Mac lineup. In a recent post, I suggested that the Mac mini held more attraction to geeks rather than to the mainstream of Mac customers. That's not to say that it isn't an interesting combination of low cost (for a Mac) and features (FireWire 800 and the new Mini DVI port). Some companies are using the Mac mini as a turnkey black box for server products, such as SeeFile's digital asset management software, which is delivered to customers on a Mac mini. This announcement was made at Macworld Expo. A number of readers pointed out that they use the Mac mini as a consumer media server. ZDjowul suggested that custom top plates for the mini would be an interesting third party opportunity. However, I was bewildered by several TalkBack posts that suggested that the Mac mini was an okay box for "graphics people" since the mini now supports better monitors and comes with a faster processor.

Davewrite wrote:
Mac Minis today have the horsepower of Mac Pros of a few years ago and the requirements for [Adobe] Photoshop, Illustrator etc. hasn't increased much.
While some bits of that thesis may be true, few graphics pros will want the Mac mini for actual work. It's underpowered and doesn't support enough memory (2GB). The alternate, lower-cost choice for some graphics pros may be the new 3GHz iMac, which can support 4GB of RAM and in its standard config comes a terabyte hard drive, and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 (512MB). Still, the machine in Apple's recently revised lineup that is a leap forward is the new Mac Pro. What a user-friendly design: side-out bays for 4TB of storage, easy access to memory slots and the CPU with a slide-out tray. Apple says that the Mac Pro is a "beauty on the outside; beast inside." It's also a beauty on the inside. Joel Ingulsrud, a former colleague from my days in the color-calibrated monitor business, pointed out that the Mac Pro's use of a thumbscrew bracket for PCI Express 2.0 cards, make it the first tool-less expansion card cage since the demise of NuBus. (BTW: I loved NuBus: expansion cards could be locked in solid to the logic board without any tools. PCI was a big step down in the reliability department. Joel's comment puts me nostalgic for my favorite NuBus machine: the ancient Mac IIci. It also could be opened up easily with a couple of clips and was one of my all-time favorite Mac designs.) "From a lifespan perspective, the 8-core Mac Pro will still be a viable workstation ten years from now. I haven't seen an architectural leap that solid from Apple's pro lineup since the post-Yikes G4s," he said. I totally agree. The Mac Pro will hold its value and offer useful performance for many many years. A keeper.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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20 comments
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  • Correction

    The Mac Pro supports up to 32 GB's of RAM.
    gregory.dworak@...
    • Oops...

      You were referring to the iMac, my mistake.
      gregory.dworak@...
    • You need to be careful with such a general statement because...

      ...the quad-core Mac Pro only supports 8GB.
      ye
  • RE: Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

    You might want to re-check the Mac Mini specs. You can buy it with 4GB of memory.
    photoncollector
  • Mac Mini Pros / Cons

    As someone who's had an Apple product connected to the TV for the last 3 years (iPod/Macbook/Mac Mini/AppleTV) then I have to say that the Mini was the best of them. But this new update makes it hard to justify a purchase (from the perspective of a Living Room computer):

    Pros:
    - Supports all file formats (unlike AppleTV)
    - Outdated but still great form factor
    - Great for encoding when you're not using it
    - Nvidia 9400 (Not dedicated but still a great chipset)

    Cons:
    - Price
    - No Remote Included Anymore ($20)
    - No Mini DisplayPort Included (only Mini DVI) ($30)
    - No FW400 Adapter Included ($20)
    - 120GB HDD (I know, use external. But 120GB in 2009?)
    - 1GB Memory (Again... 1GB in 2009!)


    I'm really disappointed in this update because I've been waiting so long for it (and sold all my other Apple stuff in anticipation. Doh!). Even if I justify the $599 pricetag, the upgrades are going to be another $150-200 and that's simply too much for a single purpose device.
    Urkel
  • RE: Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

    The new Mac Mini will do photoshop quite well for
    the sometimes user. It is a great machine. Yes it
    does handle 4 gigs of memory.
    gertruded
  • My friends all like their Minis

    Of course, the first thing they did was wipe OS X and install either XP or Vista so they could run decent media center software. As I've mentioned before, the Mini was the only Apple product that somewhat interested me. Everything else Apple makes is junk.
    NonZealot
    • Spam again

      Spamming is not nice. Some people believe the "too expensive" FUD, but
      who would believe the "Apple is Junk" statement?
      gertruded
      • Spam? I said the Mini was probably pretty good

        It isn't my fault that the rest of Apple's stuff is junk. Hey, at least one of their products is (or used to be) good.
        NonZealot
        • Still spam. [nt]

          [nt]
          olePigeon
  • RE: Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

    I have just got myself Logic Studio which will easily overload my 15inch mac book pro laptop (old one) in terms of disk space, connections and cpu load. I was thinking of sending money on a bigger strong mac but then I thought - hey why dont I get a mac mini and network it to my laptop :).

    It will give me extra cpu power/disk and conections + the optical audio interface. all for 600 ? sounds great.

    And guess what ? if I need some more power I will buy a second mac mini, still under the price of a bigger 17inch mac pro.

    pdgilligan
  • Ten years!!

    ?From a lifespan perspective, the 8-core Mac Pro will still
    be a viable workstation ten years from now."

    Say what?

    How many 1999 computers are still "viable" at your office
    or home?

    In ten years, processors will be in the 100ghz range,
    memory will be measured in terrabytes and hard disks in
    petabytes.

    A 2009 Mac Pro will maybe make a good planter for your
    Azaleas. If you throw all that junk inside away.

    John M
    shadar1101
  • Maximum memory - 4GB mini, 8GB iMac

    The maximum memory configs are wrong

    4GB - Mac Mini - http://support.apple.com/kb/SP505

    8GB - iMac - http://support.apple.com/kb/SP507


    DeadParrot
  • I have a Mac Pro (last version) BUT...

    I still think the mini is a viable graphic machine because:

    -- as someone pointed out the mac mini can take 4 GB
    memory (not the 2 GB in the article.)

    And 4 GB is the total amount of Ram photoshop can recognize directly
    on the mac due to the 32 bit issue. More ram can be used as a 'scratch
    disk' which is faster than a hard drive scratch disk but slower than
    'regular ram'.

    ( from Adobe support site: "Photoshop can directly access 3.5
    GB of RAM when run on Mac OS (10.4.11 or later). If you have
    additional RAM on your computer, the RAM above 4 GB is used by the
    operating system as a cache for the Photoshop scratch disk data.")

    Snow Leopard and the next version of Photoshop is supposed to deal
    with the 32 to 64 bit issue.

    -- there's a lot more to graphics than photoshop and vector
    files (like illustrator) use less memory. Web graphics files are also very
    small.

    -- A 6x4 inch photoshop file at print reproduction 300 dpi
    (200-300 depending on media linescreen) is only 7 MB (although
    layers etc make it larger and you need ram few
    times larger than the file size for things to work properly).

    A 6x4 jpeg web graphic is tiny about 60 kb.

    --Multiple processors like those in 8 core mac pros aren't utilized in
    programs like photoshop or illustrator except for things like filters.
    (Multi cores are great for 3 D rendering though!)

    --don't forget there's a lot of amateur graphics artists,
    hobbyists and art students out there who might not use
    large files.

    -- although I agree the new 24 inch iMac is a good deal some
    graphics people want their own monitors- graphics guys can very
    particular about monitors and mac Pros might be too expensive.

    There were quite a lot of talk of color correction issues
    with the old imac especially the 20 inch model screens. Color
    calibration is crucial. A slow computer you can live with but
    wrong color for production work is a no no. Haven't read any
    screen reviews for the new iMacs. (If you use an imac I suggest a
    second monitor setup with a color calibrated monitor if you're not
    happy with imac monitor)

    -- I have two university art degrees was a Designer and Art Director
    for a number of years - did annual reports, press ads, logos,
    magazines, billboards etc - and so I know a bit about pro graphics. I
    currently have two mac towers at home now.

    Mac Pros are great but i betcha you can do a lot of graphics on a mac
    mini: brochures (how big are the pictures on a typical A4 foldout
    brochure?), leaflets, black and white press ads, small magazine ads,
    classifieds, web graphics, CD covers, newsletters, logos, business card
    designs etc. For all these examples a 8 core mac Pro has an advantage
    over a 4 GB mac mini but not a super killer one as one might think:
    the ram used for the typical projects of this kind are small, Photoshop
    and other programs can't directly access more than 4 GB anyways and
    multi-core processing isn't used much (unless you're doing lots of 3d
    rendering).

    Some people think Pro graphics means Star Wars 3d but 90% of pro
    work deal with mundane things like candy wrappers, supermarket
    flyers, real estate ads, small websites etc. which require less
    computing power than making Yoda jump around. How much power
    to edit a 3x3 inch photo of cereal for a supermarket flyer? Some big
    money making ad studios only deal with things like that and a artist
    can spend an entire career just editing those tiny flyer photos!

    Years ago I've done pro graphics work on Mac Cx's, Mac Quadras, Mac
    Lc's etc. so I know you can do pro work with little horse power! I've
    done entire magazines in New York on Mac Cx's and Ci's, I've done
    full color full page press ads on Quadras (using ext. drives as scratch
    disks).

    (Hey! second time I got quoted by Zdnet!)
    Davewrite
    • The computer is simply a medium for the artist...

      The computer is simply a medium for the artist. Many of the greatest
      computer aided advertisements were realized on 8MHz and 128K of
      RAM. :)
      olePigeon
  • RE: Up and downs of the new Mac mini, long live the new Mac Pro

    I totally agree with 'Davewrite' - as a 1 man band (53yr old
    ex-art director) I have done years worth of multi-page
    mailers and magazine/newspaper adverts (Freehand MX) -
    A3 300dpi layered images (Photoshop CS2) and 100 page
    journals and books (Indesign CS2) using a G4 mac mini
    1.5ghz (1GB ram) and a 20 inch cinema display) and and
    the mac mini managed just fine. Never crashed once. I recently bought a mac mini core 2 duo 2.0ghz (4GB ram)
    and look forward to hopefully a few more years worth of
    design work before I retire!
    markwins
    • Rock on Markwins!

      Huzzah for people in Mac graphics!
      Davewrite
      • At least you do have desktop publishing

        The EC has gone on record as saying that Apple doesn't compete with Microsoft because the only thing a Mac is good for is publishing. :)
        NonZealot
        • Hey N.Z you on this page as well?

          "The EC has gone on record as saying that Apple doesn't compete with
          Microsoft because the only thing a Mac is good for is publishing."

          AS Microsoft gets tangled in messy monopoly issues with massive
          fines in millions of dollars Apple cruises along!

          Viva Apple!


          :)
          Davewrite
          • Viva Apple indeed!

            Since I'm not a shareholder of either Apple or MS (not directly anyway), none of this affects me personally in the least. This means that I can congratulate Apple for realizing that if you can't compete, don't!

            So yes, viva Apple! The difference between you and me is that I can say that without gagging. Can you say viva Microsoft without doing the same? :)
            NonZealot