4 Replies Latest reply: Jan 2, 2008 4:32 AM by AndyO
_Eric_ Level 1 (105 points)
I wasn't sure where to ask this, there doesn't seem to be any "comparison" boards.

I'm deciding between an iMac or a Mac Mini.

I kind of like the compactness of the iMac (everything is inside the monitor), but my budget would prefer I choose a Mac Mini.

I already have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor from a previous computer. So if I go with the MM I wouldn't need to buy anything extra. But I the iM comes with an iSight camera, and it's more compact...

What are the pros and cons of both, which should I get?

I know this is the Mac Mini board, so the responses might be bias, but I'm hoping I can get some unbias opinions.

Macbook Pro, 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 120GB hard drive, 15.4-inch widescreen, Mac OS X (10.5.1), iPod Touch 8GB
  • AndyO Level 6 (17,050 points)
    I suspect you pretty much know the practical issues. The iMac is a faster system with better video card, faster hard drive and overall better performance. Its downside is that as an all-in-one system the compactness is traded for flexibility, and the risk that if any part fails, the whole system is out of service.

    By comparison, the mini is a small system much more akin in performance and specification to a laptop. It gives you the option to use your own choice of keyboard and mouse (which of course you can also use with the iMac if you wish to instead of the supplied devices) and to use your own monitor, or pick a display that precisely suits your needs. However, it can only drive one display, while you could, for example, add the display you currently have to the iMac and span the desktop across both internal and external if you wished to (the adapter cable to do this costs around $20).

    With the mini, there are no user serviceable parts, so even a simple RAM upgrade is something that in theory Apple or an approved service provider is expected to undertake. On the iMac, at least RAM is user replaceable.

    The mini has, in my view, two weaknesses. The first is the hard drive, which is a 5400rpm 2.5" device, and as such it limits performance of the system because it's not particularly fast. It also lacks a dedicated video card, opting instead for the GMA-950 on-board graphics which takes a slice of system RAM.

    Whether either of these is a crucial deficiency depends somewhat on what you're hoping to do with the system. For day-to-day regular tasks such as email, web browsing, photo and music storage etc, it won't make much difference at all, and the mini can be highly recommended. However, for top-end pro-level video editing or photo manipulation, the iMac would be a better choice due to better performance and the dedicated graphic card.

    In my view, the entry level mini with memory increased to 2Gb, an external DVD burner and a good display is hard to beat. It has the processing power of what was until fairly recently the top of the range G5 systems, the ability to run with a lot of external storage, including faster drives that can be used for booting the system to improve performance, and aside from gamers or those who need to use Apple's Final Cut Studio (pro video software), would make a very good system capable of almost anything. If your budget can stretch to an iMac and the little extra performance of the faster drive would truly benefit you, or you like the idea of running two monitors, then the iMac would be a better choice, particularly in the longer term because the extra performance helps to 'future proof' it a little.
  • MacFrank14 Level 1 (0 points)
    You gave a great and thorough answer for the original question. Mine is, I think, closely enough related so that you'd be able to answer it, too: is it possible, and would it make sense, for me to add a mac mini to my current iMac G4? Can they be, in essence, daisy-chained, and could I then get the benefits of the intel processor, PC compatibility, and superdrive (I now have the combo-drive)? Thanks for any information and suggestions.
  • Joe from Hamburg (GER) Level 1 (5 points)
    Andy analysed very well you should decide on your tasks you intend to do on your Mac and of course your wallet. The Macmini is better comparable with the last generation white Edu-version of a 17" iMac with 950 intel graphics and combo drive.

    So far I remember the Edu-version of a 17" iMac was sold for 899 (?). Maybe it is still available in few stores or ebay. So you pay additional 300 USD for a compact design and a few GB more HD capacity since you allready owe a 17" screen, mouse & keyboard.

    I personally wait for a short term silent upgrade of the Macmini to 802.11n wireless and the new Intel 3100 graphic which both are standard already for the Macbooks.
  • AndyO Level 6 (17,050 points)
    While it is possible to connect a Mac mini and G4 iMac, they cannot, in effect, be daisy-chained. What you can do is control one from the other using one of the various flavors of VNC client/server solutions, but in reality, while this would allow you to do something like run the mini in a window on the iMac, you won't get a particularly satisfying experience. Basically performance is limited by the slower system and the network connection. Overall, it makes more sense to simply buy a complete new system, and if necessary, network them together to move files between them.