4 Replies Latest reply: Nov 28, 2012 5:26 PM by BobH47
mnme Level 1 (20 points)

We've got a perfectly good PowerMac G5, 1.8Ghz, running Leopard - 10.5.8.  We also have a Buffalo Air Station N300 with USB (2.0?) external hard drive connection.  Since a project requires using Intel processor dependent Dragon software, we're going to have do something about an upgrade.   We've been kind of spoiled by a having a problem free computer that's done everything we've wanted for over 7 years and still shows no sign of doing otherwise.  So, we'd kind of like to pick up something that stands a chance of lasting as long as we do.  :-)  No cell or smart phones, netbooks, or tablets.  Just a vintage Inspiron 3800 laptop and our trusty PPC G5.  Out of the loop is an understatement here.  Its embarassing to admit how clueless we've become when it comes to figuring out what to buy.


We've learned that "under buying" is a really bad way to go.  But, we're retired and need to buy as dollar smart as possible. Picking up a Mac Mini looks to be the best cost effective choice, but we'd like help with a few considerations.  Equivalents in laptops or an iMac all appear to jump to way higher price points.  And, if we can keep costs down on our primary system, we're hoping to splurge on an iPad.


1.)  A 5400 RPM hard drive seems kind of slow.    Or, maybe not really a problem?  However, if we can work around the speed issue by using CD/DVD and file sharing with our PowerMac or router attached external hard drives, it wouldn't be an issue.  That'd also mean that we wouldn't need to consider getting a solid state or fusion drive upgrade.  But then would we have to run server software or just make the MacMini a client on a home network?


2.)  We figure that quad-core is way better than dual-core and it looks like, for $200 more than an i5 processor, an i7 processor with an extra 500GB of storage, would cover us for pretty much whatever we'd want to do, even if the graphics capability isn't stellar.  We're not all that sure where we'd find the basic i5 dual core Mac Mini lacking, excepting that the Dragon info at the Nuance site hints pretty strongly that a quad core processor is more than helpful.  Refurbished isn't a dirty word around here, either.


3.)  It does look like picking up additional memory from Apple is way more expensive than it needs to be.  So sticking with the standard 4GB of memory should be okay.  And, if not, we can upgrade later.


4.)  Haven't upgraded our Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac since we bought the computer.  Maybe a good time to convert it Pages, Numbers, etc?  Or look for open source options?


Any and all help, comments, etc. will be truly appreciated.  And don't worry about "talking down" to us here.  That might be pretty hard to do...


~ susan

  • deggie Level 9 (52,707 points)

    1.Unless you are doing work with drive intensive databases, 3D modeling or something like that the 5400 RPM drive will not be a problem. You would not need server software to make your Mini a client.


    2. If Dragon is hinting at the quad core I would take the hint and go that route. As far at the i7, the i5 is going to be considerably faster than your current PPC machine. If you want to save money for the iPad that is one area you can do it.


    3. Apple is expensive when it comes to RAM. Skip the online memory upgrade and use a 3rd party. I have always used Crucial, others prefer OWC or Kingston. Crucial has an online tool to guide you through your purchase.


    4. You will need to upgrade your Office if you want to use it on the new Mini which will mean buying Office 2011. Free options include NeoOffice and Open Office. I switched to iWorks long ago even though I do have Office 2011 for some compatibility instances with my old employer. I've not needed to use it for some time now. Assuming you are not doing presentations you can skip Keynote and just buy Pages (word processing) and Numbers (spreadsheet). That will be $19.99 each plus tax if you buy them online from the Mac App Store.


    Refurbished is a great way to go. Just remember that if you spot the one that fits your needs act upon it immediately as someone else may jump on it and it will be gone.


    Not much available right now: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac/mac_mini but just check every day.

  • BobH47 Level 1 (10 points)

    If you are intending to use HDMI to your monitor, I suggest you hold-off for the moment.


    I have an i7 and overall am delighted with it, however there is a world-wide problem with the HDMI port so I suggest that you wait until Apple have fixed it. See various other threads about displays blinking-out etc.


    If you can use DVI, the HDMI to DVI adaptor supplied will make the connection however you are bound to get the blinking problem unless Apple have a new batch and posts suggest that this is not yet the case.


    My i7 has a work-around of a Thunderbolt to DVI adaptor supplied free by Apple after I complained but I am under no illusion that my mini still has the problem.


    I bought 16Gb of Crucial RAM for £60 (Sterling), fitting it is the easiest thing that I have ever done inside the case of any computer.


    If you really need to use your existing software (and are happy that it will run) consider either having a dual-boot machine using 'Boot Camp' or do what I have done and install Parallels 8 which allows you to use Windows and Mac software simultaneously but you will need extra RAM. For my part I was running Office 2007 under Windows 7 (32 bit). When I bought my mini I decided to buy Office 2011 (Word, Excel & Powerpoint) which is taking some getting used to! I also used Access, so because it is quite expensive, I run that under Windows.


    I gave up Outlook (with a heavy heart) and now using the four Mac applications I can sync with my Macbook Air and iPhone - brilliant.


    Good luck with your decision.

  • mnme Level 1 (20 points)

    Wowzirs!  That's the first I'd heard about problems with HDMI and since one of the things we like about the Mac Mini is that it's portable and can be connected to our big screen HDTV, etc.  My husband isn't going to be happy to hear "best to wait a bit", but I really don't like the idea of starting out with something that's got a defect, especially if the company response is to provide a work around rather than a fix or a replacement.  Oh well, stuff happens... Just read about the new USB 3.0 hardware causing interference/connection problems.


    Any idea on how best to watch for word on the problem being corrected? 


    If nothing else, the 2 replies so far have reassured me that I'm connecting the dots pretty well, even if it does seem like it takes me forever and ever.  Thanks to the both of you!


    The good news is that waiting so long to upgrade gear is going to make anything seem pretty wonderful.  The idea that an i5 might be "enough" is really tempting.  We do work with graphics and have several video and audio tapes we need to digitize, though.  But, we've been doing it on our PowerMac 1.8 with 1GB of memory, so even an i5 would probably seem impressive to us.  Heck, even a core duo might get respect around here...  I'll check back in on the Nuance site and see what the deal is with their quad core enthusiasm.  If it truly makes a difference, bypassing frustration levels for my husband would be worth the bucks.

  • BobH47 Level 1 (10 points)

    To those of us with the HDMI port problem (which, dare I say it, is possibly all 2012 spec mini owners whether they have discovered it or not) Apple are taking a long time to understand the problem and also to facilitate effective communication accross the organisation. It may be that there is recent internal recognition because in the 'Black Friday' promotion, the mini wasn't on sale!


    Argauably the best way to follow the issue is in the huge Mac Mini 2012 video blinking out thread.


    The computer press are starting to pick up on it, so, if you read these things then Apple mags/blogs etc. may help.