Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Started Jan 3, 2013 | Questions
monkeyrpn Regular Member • Posts: 106
Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Hi all,

I have just purchased a D800. I've been playing around with it, shooting random things. I do noticed that I'm having a bit of issue with the huge RAW files. I currently have a Mac Mini "Core i7" 2.7 (mid-2011), I have upgraded the RAM to 8 GB. I routinely use Lightroom 4 and CS6 to do my post processing. I have all my photos stored in an external 500GB harddrive, connected to the Mac via USB 2.0.

I have noticed that while processing the RAW files in Lightroom, I'm getting quite a bit of lag when making adjustments. I have some extra cash to make upgrades on the Mac, but I'm not sure where I should invest.

I've thought of a few options:

1) Upgrade internal harddive to a SSD and boot my system off it, then move photos to the internal harddrive (thinking maybe it's the USB 2.0 speed that's bottle-necking everything)

2) Upgrade RAM to 16 GB.

3) Wait for more affordable options for external harddrive enclosures that will work with the Thunderbolt.

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 14,462
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Why do you think your only choices are the USB 2.0 interface (slow) and the Thunderbolt interface (expensive)?

Firewire 800 is faster than USB 2.0 and the enclosures/drives are considerably less expensive than the Thunderbolt ones.

elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 1,877
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

I have the same mini with 16Gb RAM. My files are on a Promise Pegasus R6 12TB. I'm using 27" monitor (Eizo CG275W).

Working with images in Photoshop CS6 is slow with this set-up. When adjusting sliders in ACR, the image can take several seconds to update on the monitor. Zooming in and out of an image in Photoshop is laggy.

I'm mainly working with 12MP files from a D700.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm thinking of giving the current mini a spin.

OP monkeyrpn Regular Member • Posts: 106
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Thanks Tom, I'd consider the option of using an enclosure with firewire connection. So does the USB 2.0 bottleneck the speed? Cause instead of buying another enclosure, I could just use the money to buy a SSD to run my OS and programs off on, and have the internal harddrive store all the photos. Wouldn't that solve the slow USB connection?

Hi elliotn, oooh, I don't have the money for a new mac. I just bought this Mini last year~ So it sounds like upgrading the RAM won't help my situation much? Since the files from the D800 is 36MP.... Damn....

Any other suggestions anyone?

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(unknown member) Senior Member • Posts: 2,308
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

monkeyrpn wrote:

Thanks Tom, I'd consider the option of using an enclosure with firewire connection. So does the USB 2.0 bottleneck the speed? Cause instead of buying another enclosure, I could just use the money to buy a SSD to run my OS and programs off on, and have the internal harddrive store all the photos. Wouldn't that solve the slow USB connection?  [snip]

USB 2.0 is relatively slow, yes.  However, the standard internal drive in the Mac Mini is also slow-ish (being a 5400 RPM laptop drive).  I suspect that Firewire is basically a dead technology now from Apple's point of view (it's not available on the new iMacs) so this would be a short-term purchase.  Personally I think you're best investing in an external Thunderbolt enclosure with 7200 RPM disks.  Don't scrimp after spending thousands of dollars on that D800 !

[ An internal SSD for Mac OS would be a good second choice option in my opinion, but I imagine that the bottleneck you are seeing is with the drive your photos are stored on - I would want to move them to a much faster disk, hence Thunderbolt. ]

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 14,462
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

monkeyrpn wrote:

So does the USB 2.0 bottleneck the speed?

Yes, even for a fast mechanical hard drive.

Cause instead of buying another enclosure, I could just use the money to buy a SSD to run my OS and programs off on, and have the internal harddrive store all the photos. Wouldn't that solve the slow USB connection?

You can get an enclosure with USB 3.0, Firewire 800, and eSATA interfaces for $80.  For that kind of money, you'd probably be looking at a pretty small (64 GB) SSD (i.e., one sized for holding the OS and applications; not also a large iTunes or Aperture/Lightroom library).

I'm assuming from your comments that your Mini can accept another internal drive – so adding the SSD would not mean relegating the existing internal hard drive to USB 2.0 speeds.

elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 1,877
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

monkeyrpn wrote:

Hi elliotn, oooh, I don't have the money for a new mac. I just bought this Mini last year~ So it sounds like upgrading the RAM won't help my situation much? Since the files from the D800 is 36MP.... Damn....

Yes, I suspect that after upgrading the RAM and installing an SSD you will still find Lightroom performance annoyingly slow.

Bill Heiser Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Yes, I suspect that after upgrading the RAM and installing an SSD you will still find Lightroom performance annoyingly slow.

I have the 2.5Ghz Core-i5 version of the 2011 Mini with 16GB ram installed. I replaced the stock 5400rpm drive with a WD Caviar Black 7200rpm drive, and added a Crucial M4 SSD. The OS and some frequently-accessed files reside on the SSD and other "user files" reside on the new HD. My image files are shared from a Windows PC (was Windows 7, now is Windows 8 Pro). Most of my image files are 12-16MB.

I, too, find LR4 and CS6 sluggish even in this configuration. I've attributed much of the sluggishness to the sharing of the image files from the PC. I'm exploring Thunderbolt RAID devices but has been mentioned, they are very pricey - and even worse, I'm much such a large investment having read stories of issues with Thunderbolt storage (arrays going offline, etc).

Anyway, for the OP, upgrading the RAM and installing an SSD and/or faster HDD will certainly help, but this may or may not get to the performance level you're seeking, depending on your expectations (YMMV)...

graybalanced Veteran Member • Posts: 6,330
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

monkeyrpn wrote:

Thanks Tom, I'd consider the option of using an enclosure with firewire connection. So does the USB 2.0 bottleneck the speed?

Absolutely. When you rank the speed of the ports on your Mac, USB 2.0 is near the bottom. So far down that photographers shouldn't take USB 2.0 seriously as a high-performance solution. Heck, the network port is over twice as fast than USB 2.0!

Speed of your ports:

1. Thunderbolt (up to 10,000 Mb/s)

2. Internal hard drive (up to 3000-6000 Mb/s depending on HD or SSD)

3. Gigabit Ethernet (up to 1000 Mb/s)

4. FireWire 800 (up to 800 Mb/s)

5. USB 2.0 (up to 480 Mb/s)

Now you can see why Mac users with Promise RAID over Thunderbolt tend to be happier.

USB 3 is a different story and is a very welcome addition to Macs as it is faster than anything that came before, except for Thunderbolt.

qstudios
qstudios Junior Member • Posts: 25
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Depending on on your budget I would go with:

- OWC data doubler

- Samsung 840 or  840PRO SSD (128 / 256 / 512GB)

- 16GB RAM (Corsair Vengeance x 2 modules )

Now if you don't want to open up your mini then I would go with this paired with an SSD.

The Adapter w/o SSD drive.  The drive would site on the flat plate and you connect it by pushing it into the SATAIII connector there.  It actually looks pretty good with the Samsung black on black.

Seagate STAE128 Backup Plus Portable Thunderbolt Adapter

Please note that this is a bus powered adapter and will only work well with 256GB SSD drives and smaller w/o issue.  Secondly you need to buy the thunderbolt cable it doesn't come with one.  Last the performance for this adaptor is pretty good but, not the best TB case for highest throughput (if you search around you can find performance #'s for the different enclosures - USB3 and TB).

Just for reference I have 2 @ 2012 Mini's in the house now (i5 and i7) and I went with internal SSD upgrades using the OWC data doubler and upgraded to 16GB of RAM.  One of the units is using the Seagate TB adapter with 128GB SSD that I move between systems when needed.

From my upgrades I saw a definite improvement in file access and program launch times.  The RAM also helped multiple programs running at the same time (Office, iPhoto, Itunes, Safari, etc.) without any hit but of course depending on your expectations YMMV.

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elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 1,877
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Bill Heiser wrote:

I, too, find LR4 and CS6 sluggish even in this configuration. I've attributed much of the sluggishness to the sharing of the image files from the PC. I'm exploring Thunderbolt RAID devices but has been mentioned, they are very pricey - and even worse, I'm much such a large investment having read stories of issues with Thunderbolt storage (arrays going offline, etc).

I'm glad I'm not the only one finding 2011 Mac mini sluggish for photographic tasks.

It should be easy for you to test whether the networked files are the cause of your slowdowns - just put a handful of them on your SSD and try working from there.

All my working files are on a Promise Pegasus R6 12TB (RAID 5), and I still experience slowdowns.

Regarding reliability, my Pegasus has been up and running for about 6 months without a glitch (I too had read the long threads on Apple forums about reliability issues). Overall I'm pleased with it - but it was hellish expensive.

With the new 2012 minis offering USB3 it might be more economical to trade in your 2011 model for the new version + USB3 storage, rather than making a substantial investment in TB technology.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,484
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

I decided that Thunderbolt external drives were too expensive for my needs.

I've used FW800 drives for years and I've been happy with the performance. (I keep all my Aperture referenced masters on 7200 RPM drives.) But when I upgraded to a 2012 Mac Mini I decided that I would use external drives that include both FW800 and USB 3.0 because of the versatility and speed/cost-benefit. (I had to replace a NewerTech v3 MiniStack because the FW800 port died and the only remaining option with that enclosure was USB 2.0.)

People considering using USB 3.0 external drives should note that Mac Minis have insufficient shielding of the Bluetooth antenna. People have reported problems with their Bluetooth input devices such as keyboards and mice. Other World Computing has recently begun selling a Bluetooth shielding kit that requires dismantling the Mini to install it.

I tried using the new version of the MiniStack with the enclosure placed on top of the Mini as it was designed to do.  I don't use Bluetooth devices so I figured that I would be OK. But I soon discovered that USB 3.0 killed my WiFi connection. Placing the enclosure to the side using the short 6" USB 3.0 cable did not solve the problem. (I didn't have a longer USB 3.0 to test...) A USB 3.0 cable with better shielding may solve the problem, but that entails finding such as cable and paying extra for it. I decided that I would leave it to someone else to see how it works with the MiniStack...

Since I purchased the MiniStack so I could stack it, I returned it to OWC, which provided a full credit instead of charging me a 15% restocking fee like I expected. I replaced it with OWC Mercury Elite eSATA/FW800/USB 3.0 enclosures. These have been my go-to enclosures for years after trying various other brands. Unlike some other enclosures I can boot from an external drive and the absence of a cooling fan makes them almost silent except for the noise of the spinning drive.

I connected the enclosures using the longer USB 3.0 cables that were included in the kit. The drives are within a couple of inches of the Mac Mini. There is no interference with my WiFi signal.

The Mercury Elite enclosures cost $98.  They cost more than most other enclosures I considered but over the years the have been consistently reliable, quiet and they look good in their vertical stands or stacked horizontally. OWC sells horizontal stands for $7.95 that replicate the G-Technology look that is favored by some people. I prefer the OWC enclosures because I can install whatever brand drive that suits me (Samsung) instead of the Western Digital drives in the G-Technology enclosures.

Stu 5 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,277
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

elliotn wrote:

I have the same mini with 16Gb RAM. My files are on a Promise Pegasus R6 12TB. I'm using 27" monitor (Eizo CG275W).

Working with images in Photoshop CS6 is slow with this set-up. When adjusting sliders in ACR, the image can take several seconds to update on the monitor. Zooming in and out of an image in Photoshop is laggy.

I'm mainly working with 12MP files from a D700.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm thinking of giving the current mini a spin.

If it helps I am running a 2.3ghz quad core 2012 mini with 16GB of Ram. Working with Olympus Raw files of a similar size to yours. With Lightroom 4 all adjustments are in real time and there is no lag what so ever with zooming. I am also not running fusion drive.

elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 1,877
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Stu 5 wrote:

elliotn wrote:

I have the same mini with 16Gb RAM. My files are on a Promise Pegasus R6 12TB. I'm using 27" monitor (Eizo CG275W).

Working with images in Photoshop CS6 is slow with this set-up. When adjusting sliders in ACR, the image can take several seconds to update on the monitor. Zooming in and out of an image in Photoshop is laggy.

I'm mainly working with 12MP files from a D700.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm thinking of giving the current mini a spin.

If it helps I am running a 2.3ghz quad core 2012 mini with 16GB of Ram. Working with Olympus Raw files of a similar size to yours. With Lightroom 4 all adjustments are in real time and there is no lag what so ever with zooming. I am also not running fusion drive.

What size monitor are you using?

probert500 Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Using Activity Monitor you can see if you're paging in and out - ie: using the internal hardrive in the editing process as opposed to your internal memory.  My guess is no.

My guess is your bottleneck is the usb2 hardrive.  Get a FW 800 /400 or better yet a thunderbolt drive - or best a thunderbolt ssd.  I just googled a thunderbolt drive for about 240.00.  Theoretically it's 20 x faster than usb 2.

Thunderbolt is a great thing - some people run entire external editing hardware through it working with 4k video.

Other things I'd check is whether you can allocate more memory for your editing app and whether you can minimize its gpu usage.  I know with photoshop you can do these things.

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Stu 5 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,277
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

elliotn wrote:

Stu 5 wrote:

elliotn wrote:

I have the same mini with 16Gb RAM. My files are on a Promise Pegasus R6 12TB. I'm using 27" monitor (Eizo CG275W).

Working with images in Photoshop CS6 is slow with this set-up. When adjusting sliders in ACR, the image can take several seconds to update on the monitor. Zooming in and out of an image in Photoshop is laggy.

I'm mainly working with 12MP files from a D700.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm thinking of giving the current mini a spin.

If it helps I am running a 2.3ghz quad core 2012 mini with 16GB of Ram. Working with Olympus Raw files of a similar size to yours. With Lightroom 4 all adjustments are in real time and there is no lag what so ever with zooming. I am also not running fusion drive.

What size monitor are you using?

22 inch Dell ultrasharp 2212 mainly because the brightness of the 23 inch version cannot be turned down far enough to calibrate well if you use it in low light conditions. That is running from the HDMI socket on the computer.

Bill Heiser Regular Member • Posts: 395
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

elliotn wrote:

Bill Heiser wrote:

I, too, find LR4 and CS6 sluggish even in this configuration. I've attributed much of the sluggishness to the sharing of the image files from the PC. I'm exploring Thunderbolt RAID devices but has been mentioned, they are very pricey - and even worse, I'm much such a large investment having read stories of issues with Thunderbolt storage (arrays going offline, etc).

I'm glad I'm not the only one finding 2011 Mac mini sluggish for photographic tasks.

It should be easy for you to test whether the networked files are the cause of your slowdowns - just put a handful of them on your SSD and try working from there.

Good point ... so I tried copying a selection of 16MP images to the SSD and imported them into LR.  There's a significant improvement this way as we'd expect.  But there are still delays, for example it takes several seconds for the image to render in the LR Library view.  In general it still doesn't feel as snappy as one might like (or expect when no spinning disk is involved).

I'm curious to hear from anyone using a 2.6Ghz core-i7 2012 Mini with LR / PS and how it performs.

photo_rb Contributing Member • Posts: 717
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

Bill Heiser wrote:

I'm curious to hear from anyone using a 2.6Ghz core-i7 2012 Mini with LR / PS and how it performs.

I'm using that with fusion drive and it is much faster than my old 2008 iMac but I do notice it can take a couple seconds to render an image when first loading, maybe it is less than that but when you are waiting, everything seems longer.  After loading once, everything is very quick.

I'm very happy with the speeds I am getting now.

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Stu 5 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,277
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

photo_rb wrote:

Bill Heiser wrote:

I'm curious to hear from anyone using a 2.6Ghz core-i7 2012 Mini with LR / PS and how it performs.

I'm using that with fusion drive and it is much faster than my old 2008 iMac but I do notice it can take a couple seconds to render an image when first loading, maybe it is less than that but when you are waiting, everything seems longer. After loading once, everything is very quick.

I'm very happy with the speeds I am getting now.

When rendering, Lightroom is using Ram. So the more Ram you have the quicker it will be. Fusion makes no difference to that part of Lightoom.

JulesJ
JulesJ Forum Pro • Posts: 45,533
Re: Mac Mini: Please help me figure out where I should invest my upgrade?

monkeyrpn wrote:

Hi all,

I have just purchased a D800. I've been playing around with it, shooting random things. I do noticed that I'm having a bit of issue with the huge RAW files. I currently have a Mac Mini "Core i7" 2.7 (mid-2011), I have upgraded the RAM to 8 GB. I routinely use Lightroom 4 and CS6 to do my post processing. I have all my photos stored in an external 500GB harddrive, connected to the Mac via USB 2.0.

I have noticed that while processing the RAW files in Lightroom, I'm getting quite a bit of lag when making adjustments. I have some extra cash to make upgrades on the Mac, but I'm not sure where I should invest.

I've thought of a few options:

1) Upgrade internal harddive to a SSD and boot my system off it, then move photos to the internal harddrive (thinking maybe it's the USB 2.0 speed that's bottle-necking everything)

2) Upgrade RAM to 16 GB.

3) Wait for more affordable options for external harddrive enclosures that will work with the Thunderbolt.

My question is, why did you buy the D800? Do you ever or really need such large files. We had one and sold it. It is not a pro camera. You can better Nikon Pro cameras second hand. If you really like it shoot with a smaller file size setting, but then, what was the point of buying the D800.

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