My reader mail email box was overflowing last week with comments and somewhat constructive suggestions about the new Mac Pro. Here are a few of the more reprintable comments I got:
- "Bet you're sorry you didn't wait."
- "You're gonna be bummed that other folks have a better machine than you."
- "Just buy a Mac Pro also."
- "Sucker. You should run Linux."
- "A fully equipped Dell would cost a lot more."
- "You're so lame. Macs are overpriced pieces of #@*%."
- "So are you going to sell that Mac Mini now and buy a Pro?"
I left out the random ad-hominem comments (hey, I happen to like my beard), the few technical comments that were accurate and constructive (one of which inspired me to make a correction to my last article), three or four comments accusing me of being either too liberal or too conservative (I'm neither), and the angry comments that insist I'm on the payroll for Apple (not since the 1990s) or Microsoft (sadly, no).
Whew! Life as a tech columnist after an Apple announcement is never boring. And, the fact is, I love getting comments from readers and having the opportunity to connect with you folks.
One theme emerged from many of the emails and tweets I got: a real question about whether I regretted my choice last year to upgrade to the Mac Mini as my main desktop machine, rather than waiting for Mac Pro.
That's what I'm going to answer in this article. I actually have a lot more than one machine in use, including a bunch of older Macs, some Windows laptops, a cluster of Linux machines driving the 3D printers, and some servers. But over the years, I've often talked about what I call my "main machine." It's the one that I equip for heavy-duty projects, ranging from network simulation, multi-VM operations, AI development, video editing, or data analysis.
This machine is always a Mac, because you can run MacOS, Windows, and Linux on a Mac. You can't run MacOS on a Windows machine. There are a number of programs I run (including Final Cut Pro X) that can't be run on a Windows machine. These programs help me get my job done faster and save time, so I rely on them. That dictates that the Mac be my daily driver.
So let's talk about the reasons I'm not sorry I bought my Mac Mini and didn't wait for the new Mac Pro.
1. It was time
I made a similar choice in 2013. Instead of buying the trash can Mac Pro, I bought a very well-equipped iMac. Over the years, my choice of the iMac bore out completely, as it became evident that the trash can was a problematic machine. But I never expected to go five years before another upgrade.
By November 2018, I desperately needed more CPU power and a bigger, wider screen. I wanted an ultrawide monitor, not the iMac form factor. The 2013 iMac didn't support screens that wide.
I thought about upgrading to the iMac Pro and using its built-in screen as a second screen. But it was costly, and by the time I also bought the ultrawide monitor I wanted, it would have been really costly. Instead, I waited to see what Apple would announce. I decided that I would either buy a Mac Mini if it met my needs or build a Hackintosh.
The rest is history. Apple introduced almost exactly what I'd specified as the ideal Mac Mini (I called it the Mac Mini Pro). It even came in Space Gray. So I bought one. I put in 32GB RAM, added an external GPU, and bought that ultrawide I'd been dreaming of.
I don't think I could have waited another year for the Mac Pro.
Wow, that new Mac Pro is expensive. The 2013 Mac Pro hit the market at $2,999. That seemed like a lot. But $6,000 for a base machine? For individual professionals like me, that's a big lift.
After adding an external monitor (a basic ultrawide, not the $4,999 reference monitor Apple just announced), plus other necessary accessories, I probably would have had to outlay $7-8,000.
Instead, my fully-equipped Mac Mini cost me (including monitor and other goodies) under $4,000. That's a big difference, especially when I bought it just a few months after buying a house.
Keeping on a budget is important and the new Mac Pro isn't that compelling for what I need to do. Conversely, the new Mac Mini is. The new Mac Mini is a cost-effective machine with a lot of power and it's a very good choice for many extreme pro users.
It might seem like there's a vast size difference between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro, and if you just compare the basic machines, there is. The Mac Pro is a full tower, while the Mac Mini is about the size of one of those old fashioned paper books.
But my Mac Mini takes up more space than a book. Because the Mac Mini's graphics are pretty weak out of the box, I added a Vega 56 card using an OWC Mercury Helios FX eGPU enclosure. I also added a big box of hard drives in the form of a Thunderbolt 3-equipped Drobo 8D.
Combined, all of these take up space, but they do fit on the top of my desk. They're still about half the size of the Mac Pro.
It's the middle of June here in Oregon and it's a sunny 76 degrees outside. My office is upstairs, which is always about five degrees warmer than downstairs. I do have a big air conditioning duct going into that room (controlled by Alexa, natch!), but even so, it does get warm.
I'm pretty impressed with the heat management of the Mac Mini. In the seven or so months I've been using it, I've never experienced any heat-related problems and it just keeps working. When I put my hand behind the Mac Mini and the eGPU, there isn't a lot of heat being dumped out into the room, either.
But the Mac Pro? It's a tower and like most other towers, it has fans which will pump heat into the room. It wouldn't have been a deal-killer on its own, but I'm glad that the Mac Pro isn't contributing to the upstairs heat on a constant basis.
This is far from a deal killer, but I don't like ports on the top of my towers. I know it can be convenient, but it's just ugly and contributes to a rat's nest of wires. The Mac Pro has two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the machine, plus two more and two USB 3.0 ports on an expansion card on the back of the machine.
The Mac Mini has the same number and variety of ports (both also have a headphone jack), but all six ports are located on the back of the machine. I like that.
It's always nice to make it through a product announcement without any buyer's remorse. There have been times when Apple came out with a new product that completely eclipsed a previous purchase and, frankly, it annoyed me.
But in the case of the Mac Pro and the Mac Mini, I'm happy with my purchase decision. For the price of the Mac Pro, I can get two or three Mac Minis (and I probably will, over time). For now, the Mac Mini is a much more practical, cost-effective solution that's delivering all the power and flexibility I need.
So, no, I'm not sorry I bought it. Thanks for asking. Feel free to keep those tweets and emails coming.
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