There are important differences between the Mac mini you want and the iMac. First of all, both Macs have got a Quad-Core processor, but the Mac mini has got a Intel Core i7 instead of the Intel Core i5 of the iMac. In this case, the Mac mini has got a better performance.
However, I don't think that you can avoid talking about other important features. The iMac comes with 8 GB of memory (but it's not easy to add more after buying the Mac), and it comes with a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M that makes the difference with the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. If you are going to use games or even watch HD movies, buy the iMac because the Mac mini won't be able to run them.
If the computer is for a basic use, then buy the Mac mini. It will be cheaper and the upgrade possibilities are bigger
The integrated graphics card was a concern. I was leaning towards the iMac based on this spec alone however upon further research I don't want to sacrifice overall performance for a discrete gpu unless the integrated graphics card absolutely cripples the computer. I will be using it for media (especially with airplay and mirroring) and may use it for light gaming. Can you clarify not being able to run HD movies. This would be a must.
Mac mini all the way. HD movies run fine on the Mini, as does light games (Civ V, Civ IV, Portal) but I do most of my gaming on the Xbox 360.
AirPlay, again, runs absolutely fine on the Mini. I would say that the base iMac is really only a good option if you need a new display or for some reason you need it to be AIO. Although, mende1 is correct in stating that the iMac does have 8GB of RAM, but the Mini is more expandable.
You will be sacrificing overall performance in terms of the CPU with the iMac.
I just checked on the US Apple Store (I'm in the UK) and the cost of a Mini with a 2.6 i7, 1TB Fusion Drive and bluetooth keyboard & trackpad (or mouse) is £1075/$1287. This would be a very fast machine.
I posted the same topic in the the iMac section and not to my suprise all responses from there basically say get the iMac. Unfortunately most of the arguements either discount the benchmark numbers showing that the Mac Mini performs better or they give the configuration to get rather than the Mac Mini. The problem is most of those configurations will run you $1800 to $2000. Well beyond the money I wanted to spend. Again the only concern I have with the Mini is the integrated graphics.
The only issue with the integrated graphics is if are
going to do things like advanced video editing, complex
3D development work, or heavy duty gaming. For use as
a general purpose computer or home theater computer
it will perform quite well. It will also work quite well for
any type of application that does any heavy duty number
So, if gaming is a concern, just Google HD4000 and gaming
and what sort of performance is seen and what sort of level
of gaming you could expect to see.
As a music/video entertainment center, go with the Mini for
sure. Personally, I am using an old 2010 Mini for that purpose
and it handles any 1080p HD content I throw at it. So the new
ones should be more than adequate.
I used to have a 2009 24" iMac and now have a 2010 Mini hooked up to my 42" TV. For general use the performance is very compatible, but you cannot get a 42" iMac. Of course, both computers support duel monitors. I had my iMac connected to a 37" TV, but the graphics were maxed out and it used to shudder a little watching movies on one display and surfing the net on the other. However, I have the mini connected to a larger TV and a 24" monitor, but don't get the graphics issues. I'd go with the Mini.
After some research it appears that the specs on the Mac Mini i7 2.3 is actually more powerful. Not only CPU wise but comparable GPU wise as well. Both GPU's are 512 mb's. Now I understand that the iMac has a dedicated Nvidia GPU but its still interesting that they both have the mb. Now when upgraded to 16gb the GPU on the Mini actually gets a GPU bump to 768mb. Now if you compare that the clear edge has to be given to the Mini for CPU performance and GPU performance. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I not interpreting the data correctly?
There is much more to graphics performance than just having
more graphics memory. The discrete GPUs are designed
specifically for graphics performance. Also, the memory
is dedicated to the GPU. Integrated GPUs, such as the HD4000,
share system RAM and such have their ultimate capabilities
limited by system RAM bandwidth. Also, there are design
limitations of integrated graphics because they are, well, integrated
on the same chip as the CPU.
So, as far as graphics, discrete GPUs will almost always outperform