Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Started Jun 24, 2013 | Questions
christophorosp
christophorosp Regular Member • Posts: 233
Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Title says it all really and its hard to decide.

Im Apple converted (all products Apple) but in the photography perspective, i prioritize business over desire.

Im equipped with a Nikon D800, shoot RAW exclusively and run Capture One (was running Aperture until recently) as my RAW converter/library and Photoshop CS6 for specialized PP.

Is there any advantage going Apple (Mac Mini quad-core i7) vs powerful custom built PC (for the same amount of money)?

Budget is in the MacMini range ($800/£650)

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Doug R Senior Member • Posts: 1,471
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Three words CustoMac Mini Deluxe.

http://www.tonymacx86.com/365-building-customac-buyer-s-guide-june-2013.html

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Doug

williamio Contributing Member • Posts: 517
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

doing the hackintoshi is always fun however one would need to constantly update driver and others if OS is updated.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,484
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

christophorosp wrote:

Is there any advantage going Apple (Mac Mini quad-core i7) vs powerful custom built PC (for the same amount of money)?

Minimal hardware/OS hassles: Purchase, Plug and Play vs. Purchase, Assemble, Plug and Pray.

The i7 Mini is plenty powerful for what you are doing photographically-speaking. I've been running a 2.3 i7 Mini since the new models were introduced and I couldn't be happier. Best Mac Ever and I've owned and used myriad Macs...

webfrasse Veteran Member • Posts: 3,886
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

christophorosp wrote:

Title says it all really and its hard to decide.

Im Apple converted (all products Apple) but in the photography perspective, i prioritize business over desire.

Im equipped with a Nikon D800, shoot RAW exclusively and run Capture One (was running Aperture until recently) as my RAW converter/library and Photoshop CS6 for specialized PP.

Is there any advantage going Apple (Mac Mini quad-core i7) vs powerful custom built PC (for the same amount of money)?

no

Budget is in the MacMini range ($800/£650)

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Mikael

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

christophorosp wrote:

Title says it all really and its hard to decide.

Im Apple converted (all products Apple) but in the photography perspective, i prioritize business over desire.

Im equipped with a Nikon D800, shoot RAW exclusively and run Capture One (was running Aperture until recently) as my RAW converter/library and Photoshop CS6 for specialized PP.

Is there any advantage going Apple (Mac Mini quad-core i7) vs powerful custom built PC (for the same amount of money)?

Budget is in the MacMini range ($800/£650)

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Who is going to be building your "custom built PC?"

For me the answer boils done to total value and the least amount of hassles. True value in anything you buy goes well beyond the cost of the product or service, Especially if you are in business. My experience with my Macs have been a night and day difference to my Windows computers both hardware and software. When I consider the software and hardware headaches I always end up going  through with  Windows PCs it makes me happy I primarily use a Mac.

The Mac mini is very likely the most powerful compact desktop made. It is a superbly engineered machine. I own a 2010 version. I have used the latest most powerful Mac mini and it ate through my Sigma DP 1and 2 Merrill raw files which are even bigger than the raws from your  D800.  The challenge is pairing it up with an excellent monitor. That's where I ran into trouble because once I did the cost wasn't that much different than a 27" iMac, which is what I ended up getting. If you already have an excellent monitor I say it is an excellent purchase. It should serve your purpose just fine.

christophorosp
OP christophorosp Regular Member • Posts: 233
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Thanks, i do understand the merits of a Mac over a PC, im using all possible Apple products and my current computer is a 13" MacBook. However what draws me to a PC at this point is mostly the bang for buck, power wise.

I would love to take advantage of GPU acceleration and the Mac mini is weak at this point.

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

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graybalanced Veteran Member • Posts: 5,680
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

christophorosp wrote:

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

The GPU is the weak point of the Mac mini, no doubt about that. But there are very cheap and easy ways to put two drives inside a Mac mini, so don't let that stop you. The reason is that Apple has a two-drive server version of the mini, so there are kits to convert a non-server mini.

OWC Data Doubler for Mac Mini

OWC is also one of many companies that let you expand Mac mini RAM up to 16GB.

So I don't get why you're saying that a PC has the advantage of dual drives and RAM expandability. Those are both easy to do in a Mac mini.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,484
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC
1

christophorosp wrote:

I would love to take advantage of GPU acceleration and the Mac mini is weak at this point.

If you do a lot of computing that takes advantage of GPU acceleration then a Mini is probably not be the best choice. But if you only do those kinds of things occasionally then it's not a big deal.

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

Or you could upgrade to a new Mac Mini at a fraction of the cost. (Minis have excellent resale value...) As others have pointed out, the dual-drive and RAM upgrades are non-issues.

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

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Doug R Senior Member • Posts: 1,471
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

With todays hardware the only drivers that aren't native to the OS are Lan and Audio and with the right tool ad 1 minute to the OS updates. Hackintoshing is not nearly the burden it was even 2 years ago.

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Doug

Jen Yates Senior Member • Posts: 1,414
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Just buy a mac mini and use it until you need more power. Then sell it, get a healthy return on your purchase price and buy a faster mac.

You'll save yourself a ton of time over building a PC and even more compared to keeping a hackintosh running.

Buying a Mac will either be cost neutral to buying and upgrading a PC and could even save you money.

theswede
theswede Veteran Member • Posts: 3,936
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC
1

christophorosp wrote:

Thanks, i do understand the merits of a Mac over a PC, im using all possible Apple products and my current computer is a 13" MacBook. However what draws me to a PC at this point is mostly the bang for buck, power wise.

As has been mentioned, that only refers to purchase price. Lifetime cost bang per buck will be MUCH worse on a typical PC in a business scenario.

I would love to take advantage of GPU acceleration and the Mac mini is weak at this point.

That is about the only disadvantage. What would being able to do this provide you with? How will it make you more money? I'm not being facetious; that's the bottom line. If having this would make you more money than the lifetime price equation changes, and some downtime and administrative hassle may be worth it.

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

Except you won't do that without an issue. I've never had a seamless upgrade (beyond memory) of a Windows system. Adding a RAID will require a complete rebuild of the software and is likely to lead to a lot of interesting issues - it is the domain of enthusiasts and experienced professionals when done on consumer grade hardware.

And I'm not sure the memory can be doubled just like that. My server runs a quad core with DDR2 RAM. I can get 2x4GB RAM for that, in theory. In practice it costs so much to get that RAM since it's only sold to those desperate enough to want to upgrade old systems that it's comparable price to get a new motherboard, new CPU and 8GB DDR3 RAM.

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

If money is no issue, then logic points to the PC; this is true.

Jesper

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webfrasse Veteran Member • Posts: 3,886
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

theswede wrote:

christophorosp wrote:

Thanks, i do understand the merits of a Mac over a PC, im using all possible Apple products and my current computer is a 13" MacBook. However what draws me to a PC at this point is mostly the bang for buck, power wise.

As has been mentioned, that only refers to purchase price. Lifetime cost bang per buck will be MUCH worse on a typical PC in a business scenario.

I would love to take advantage of GPU acceleration and the Mac mini is weak at this point.

That is about the only disadvantage. What would being able to do this provide you with? How will it make you more money? I'm not being facetious; that's the bottom line. If having this would make you more money than the lifetime price equation changes, and some downtime and administrative hassle may be worth it.

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

Except you won't do that without an issue. I've never had a seamless upgrade (beyond memory) of a Windows system. Adding a RAID will require a complete rebuild of the software and is likely to lead to a lot of interesting issues - it is the domain of enthusiasts and experienced professionals when done on consumer grade hardware.

And I'm not sure the memory can be doubled just like that. My server runs a quad core with DDR2 RAM. I can get 2x4GB RAM for that, in theory. In practice it costs so much to get that RAM since it's only sold to those desperate enough to want to upgrade old systems that it's comparable price to get a new motherboard, new CPU and 8GB DDR3 RAM.

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

If money is no issue, then logic points to the PC; this is true.

? It's usually true when money IS the issue. PC/Hackers main motivation is almost always to spend less (or the same and get more performance) and get more headache.

Jesper

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Mikael

theswede
theswede Veteran Member • Posts: 3,936
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC
1

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

If money is no issue, then logic points to the PC; this is true.

? It's usually true when money IS the issue. PC/Hackers main motivation is almost always to spend less (or the same and get more performance) and get more headache.

When you rely on the computer for business headache means lost money.

Jesper

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,484
Correction...

theswede wrote:

If money is no issue, then logic points to the PC; this is true.

Jesper

Considering all the reasons for not going with a PC, logic dictates that a Mac is the way to go...

If you order a Mini and third-party RAM today you will have a fully-functional and very capable computer on your desk by the end of the week. If you go the PC route it will take considerably longer and cost more as well...

If you read my other posts in this forum you will see that I am not an Apple Fan Boy. If a PC offered me a better computing experience at a comparable cost I would be on it like a dog on a bone. But having worked on both Macs and PCs I have come to the conclusion that it is no contest: Macs are simply the better way to go. If you want to get things done with minimum hassle Macs are superior to Windows computers.

BTW, while I am a long-time Other World Computing customer, I suggest checking out Crucial RAM. The last time I checked 16GB RAM for the Mini was $30-$40 less than at OWC. Crucial has high-quality RAM and a reputation for good customer service that rivals OWC.

Cogset
Cogset Senior Member • Posts: 1,773
Mini user's two cents

christophorosp wrote:

Title says it all really and its hard to decide.

Im Apple converted (all products Apple) but in the photography perspective, i prioritize business over desire.

Im equipped with a Nikon D800, shoot RAW exclusively and run Capture One (was running Aperture until recently) as my RAW converter/library and Photoshop CS6 for specialized PP.

Is there any advantage going Apple (Mac Mini quad-core i7) vs powerful custom built PC (for the same amount of money)?

Budget is in the MacMini range ($800/£650)

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I just converted a 2008 Mac Pro (12GB RAM, 2 dual core 3.0ghz Xeon) to a Mac Mini Server, quad core i7.  I run Aperture & Capture One Pro 7..... and am in the process of trying to decide whether to leave Aperture or not (topic for another thread).  I also have, PhotoMechanic,  the Nik (google) suite and PS CS6.  I generally import images  into a folder of my choice, keyword and rate in Photomechanic, then import into Aperture and Capture One Pro as referenced files.

HW Config:

  • The Mac Mini Server 2012 , i7, fastest option
  • 16GB of RAM (max'd out) which I got from Ramjet.com (not the cheapest but I've been running their 3rd party memory for 8 years on various Macs with zero issues). 
  • two internal SSD drives. Boot drive and "cache" and/or temp drive.
  • external Thunderbolt drive for photo images (4TB mirrored)
  • I backup to Crashplan in the cloud, and a Crashpan client on another Mac in the house
  • I'm using an old 2008 Apple 30" Cinema Display which I still love. Need the Dual-Link DVI cable to get the full resolution.

Speed:

  • Using GeekBench benchmarks, this unit is double the speed of my old Mac Pro.

Observations

  • SSD boot drives are great.  Consider it for the boot speed alone.
  • external Thunderbolt drives are super fast, no issues there.
  • "Server" model allows for two internal drives. That's really the only difference from the regular Mini.
  • Photo editing: big speed improvement for me. Especially going to CS6 and/or Nik Filters from Aperture.  Some is the processor and some is due to the SSDs
  • Shortcoming?  16GB RAM max. With D800 files and a couple images open in PS & Aperture etc, 16GB s really not overkill at all. I wish it could go higher. However, the few times I approached using up all RAM, i could easily find other apps to close (iTunes, MS Word, Chrome) and avoid a lot of disk caching.
  • Graphics: Speedwise it seems fine. I notice some flicker occasionally when in full screen mode. I don't know what it is, but honestly I don't know how to know how much a better Graphics card would help.

Issue: your budget of $800 precludes you upgrading much on a std Mini, but I'd max the RAM and consider an SSD boot drive.   Overall, I'm extremely happy with mine.

PG

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

christophorosp wrote:

Thanks, i do understand the merits of a Mac over a PC, im using all possible Apple products and my current computer is a 13" MacBook. However what draws me to a PC at this point is mostly the bang for buck, power wise.

I would love to take advantage of GPU acceleration and the Mac mini is weak at this point.

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

Ah, decisions decisions. Heart says Mac, logic points to the PC

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Photoshop supports the Intel HD 4000 graphics of the Mac mini. Keep in mind that many of the GPU enhanced features may not affect your particular workflow. Here is a FAQ for GPU accelerated features in CS5 and 6.

http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/photoshop-cs6-gpu-faq.html

The mini also holds two drives that are easy to swap out, though with Thunderbolt one doesn't need to go internal for the best drive options. I also wouldn't be surprised if the current mini supports 32 gigs of ram as many Macs often support more ram than Apple's official figure.

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 5,593
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

graybalanced wrote:

christophorosp wrote:

Then there's the matter of extendability. Two years down the road i can add another GFX card, a couple of hard drives to build an in-place RAID system and double its memory without an issue...

The GPU is the weak point of the Mac mini, no doubt about that. But there are very cheap and easy ways to put two drives inside a Mac mini, so don't let that stop you. The reason is that Apple has a two-drive server version of the mini, so there are kits to convert a non-server mini.

OWC Data Doubler for Mac Mini

OWC is also one of many companies that let you expand Mac mini RAM up to 16GB.

Strange wording you chose. The Mac mini supports 16GB of ram, it doesn't require any company to "let you" do that. Any compatible ram will work.

Peter Berglund Regular Member • Posts: 102
Re: Mac Mini VS similarly priced custom build PC

Go Mac. Hackintosh have me my first gray hairs.
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Peter

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Joe Ogiba
Joe Ogiba Veteran Member • Posts: 4,627
Re: Mini user's two cents
1

The new MacMini with 4th gen Quad Core Haswell i7 and PCIe SSD like the new MacBook Air should be even faster.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7058/2013-macbook-air-pcie-ssd-and-haswell-ult-inside

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