Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

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rb61 Regular Member • Posts: 390
Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,524
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

One option might be to install a SSD in your 2011 Mini, alongside the existing HDD.  DIY add-on kits for 120 – 480 GB drives are cheap, and if you didn't want to risk operating on the Mini yourself, you could pay a repair shop to do it.

If Activity Monitor's Memory Pressure graph shows a lot of red, you could also consider upgrading the Mini to 16 GB of RAM (the actual, as opposed to official, limit).

Other World Computing – 2011 Mac Mini SSD upgrades

Other World Computing – 2011 Mac Mini RAM upgrades

Crucial – Compatible RAM and SSD Upgrades for Mid 2011 Mac mini (Intel Core i5 2.3 GHz)

With respect to newer Minis, you're not going to see much improvement in CPU speed with dual-core models.  Some 2012 Minis and all 2014 ones were dual-core.  The quad-core 2012 Minis might have an advantage for CPU-intensive multi-core batch jobs, but wouldn't be significantly faster for other work.

That leaves the 2018 and 2020 models.  All of these have CPUs that are faster even at CPU-intensive single-core tasks than the CPUs in the 2011 Minis.

In terms of support,

  • 2012 Minis can run Mojave or Catalina, but cannot run Big Sur.  If Apple releases new versions of macOS at a rate of one per year, Catalina will fall out of "the last three" in late 2022, and you may have trouble finding new applications software after that.  These Minis are old enough that in most parts of the world, Apple no longer offers hardware repair service or spare parts for them.
  • 2014, 2018, and 2020 Minis can all run Big Sur.  It is too early for us to know how far each will be able to go beyond that.
strawbale Senior Member • Posts: 1,496
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

What programs do/would you (like to) use? Do they use multiple cores and/or GPU?
Are you shooting RAW and/or JPEG?

Here's a list of Mac benchmarks: https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks

Your current Mac Mini scores 501 for single-core and 1119 for multi-core.

A 2012 i7-3615QM (2.6GHz, 4-core) scores 665/2613

A 2014 i5-4308U (2.8GHz, 2 core) scores 736/1583.

A 2018 i3-8100B (3.6GHz, 4 core) scores 896/3199

A 2020 M1 (3.2GHz, 8-core) scores 1705/7387 and can be had for €669 at the moment: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1604799-REG/apple_mgnr3ll_a_mac_mini.html

As you can see the mult-core scores for 4-core Mac Minis (2012 i7 models and 2018 models) are much better than your (2-core) Mac Mini, but only useful if your software will make use of that.

PS: What's roughly your budget?

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Alessandro63 Contributing Member • Posts: 878
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

A Mac mini 2011 is what I'm still using for my job (graphics).

I installed a second drive (SSD) and 16MB of RAM. It works nicely.

The main problem now is that High Sierra is the last system we can have, and those nice people at Adobe have decided it won't work any more with their latest software. For a professional it means dead end: clients are sending files created with the latest versions of illustrator and indesign (photoshop is safe, luckily they cannot break bitmap images too...), so I cannot edit their files any more unless I ask them to save a legacy version (in a normal workflow, asking clients to change something is an hassle).

Moral: thanks to adobe I must buy a newer system. I cannot switch to other software, due to compatibility problems.

You are going to enjoy your mini for some time if you install an SSD. But keep in mind that, if you use photoshop or lightroom, you cannot update and use the latest bells and whistles.

An M1 mini seems the best option right now, or better in some months, until software glitches are fixed.

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,524
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget
1

Alessandro63 wrote:

A Mac mini 2011 is what I'm still using for my job (graphics).

I installed a second drive (SSD) and 16MB of RAM. It works nicely.

The main problem now is that High Sierra is the last system we can have, and those nice people at Adobe have decided it won't work any more with their latest software.

Including the DNG Converter.  I was very surprised to discover THAT the other day!  Not only does the latest version of DNG Converter require Mojave or better, but old versions seem to be gone from the Adobe site.  Thus, my iMac (which can't run anything beyond High Sierra) is stuck with a version of DNG Converter that's several versions behind the last one that High Sierra can run.

I know that Adobe is big on supporting only the last three versions of macOS.  But in the case of DNG Converter, one might have hoped that they would have made an exception.

Greybeard2017
Greybeard2017 Senior Member • Posts: 1,684
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget
1

Tom_N wrote:

Alessandro63 wrote:

A Mac mini 2011 is what I'm still using for my job (graphics).

I installed a second drive (SSD) and 16MB of RAM. It works nicely.

The main problem now is that High Sierra is the last system we can have, and those nice people at Adobe have decided it won't work any more with their latest software.

Including the DNG Converter. I was very surprised to discover THAT the other day! Not only does the latest version of DNG Converter require Mojave or better, but old versions seem to be gone from the Adobe site. Thus, my iMac (which can't run anything beyond High Sierra) is stuck with a version of DNG Converter that's several versions behind the last one that High Sierra can run.

I know that Adobe is big on supporting only the last three versions of macOS. But in the case of DNG Converter, one might have hoped that they would have made an exception.

You could buy a cheap Windows machine for the DNG conversion

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Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 13,128
More info please.

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I'm confused. Do you want a newer Mac, or some kind of upgrade to the one you have? What is your budget? And, what hardware do you have now for storing & backing up your photos?

In my view, by far the most bang for your buck these days is a new M1 Mac mini. If money is tight, the $699 base model with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD will amaze you as long as you're not flogging huge layered files in Photoshop. Add a $100 1TB external SSD to store your photos and a 2TB hard drive to back it up and Time Machine your boot drive.

FWIW, my new $999 M1 MacBook Air with 8GB RAM & 256GB SSD is faster than my fire-breathing 8-core 3.3GHz 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB RAM and D500 GPU.

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ElliotV Regular Member • Posts: 486
Re: More info please.

I agree that the M1 Mac mini is the way to go. I have a late-2012 Mac mini with 16GB RAM and two hard drives (256GB SSD and 1TB HDD), but it is getting a little dated. The speed is pretty good for most things, but processing RAW files is a bit slow. The SD slot does not work any more, and I am seeing some random behavior in a couple of USB ports. It does not update to MacOS 11.

I expect to get the M1 Mac mini with the RAM upgrade to 16GB. I will gain two Thunderbolt ports, lose two USB-A ports and the mini-Displayport, the non-working SD card slot, and the separate headphone/speaker and microphone connections. The M1 still should be a significant update from my Firewire 800 port late-2012 model.

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OP rb61 Regular Member • Posts: 390
Re: More info please.

Jacques Cornell wrote:

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I'm confused. Do you want a newer Mac, or some kind of upgrade to the one you have? What is your budget? And, what hardware do you have now for storing & backing up your photos?

In my view, by far the most bang for your buck these days is a new M1 Mac mini. If money is tight, the $699 base model with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD will amaze you as long as you're not flogging huge layered files in Photoshop. Add a $100 1TB external SSD to store your photos and a 2TB hard drive to back it up and Time Machine your boot drive.

FWIW, my new $999 M1 MacBook Air with 8GB RAM & 256GB SSD is faster than my fire-breathing 8-core 3.3GHz 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB RAM and D500 GPU.

I am open to either used or new.

I currently have a standard 1TB external drive in addition to the original interior drive.

I use Affinity Photo for RAW files.

Budget - approximately $600-1000

I do not know how to interpret the specifications/terms regarding the various models.

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OP rb61 Regular Member • Posts: 390
Re: More info please.

Jacques Cornell wrote:

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I'm confused. Do you want a newer Mac, or some kind of upgrade to the one you have? What is your budget? And, what hardware do you have now for storing & backing up your photos?

In my view, by far the most bang for your buck these days is a new M1 Mac mini. If money is tight, the $699 base model with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD will amaze you as long as you're not flogging huge layered files in Photoshop. Add a $100 1TB external SSD to store your photos and a 2TB hard drive to back it up and Time Machine your boot drive.

FWIW, my new $999 M1 MacBook Air with 8GB RAM & 256GB SSD is faster than my fire-breathing 8-core 3.3GHz 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB RAM and D500 GPU.

Would this be a significant upgrade? Local CraigsList

This Mac Mini is from 2012 has an 2.6 GHz Intel i7 with four cores, It has the the maximum RAM of 16 GB and a 500 GB very fast Solid State Disk.

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JPAlbert Contributing Member • Posts: 963
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

You could look for either:

A new "m1 Mini". Get 16gb of RAM and as much SSD as you can afford...

or...

Perhaps an Apple-refurbished 2018 Intel Mini. I'd suggest either an i5 or i7 CPU. Get 16gb of RAM "from the factory", as replacing it yourself is possible but is not a trivial operation. And again, a decent sized SSD (512gb is a good compromise).

Either will work with the peripherals you have now.

lightandaprayer Senior Member • Posts: 3,983
Re: More info please.
2

rb61 wrote:

Would this be a significant upgrade? Local CraigsList

This Mac Mini is from 2012 has an 2.6 GHz Intel i7 with four cores, It has the the maximum RAM of 16 GB and a 500 GB very fast Solid State Disk.

Strawbale's comment above does a great job of comparing the basic specs of the various Mac Mini models starting with the 2011 model.

I own the same Mini as the Craig's List model and it isn't a significant upgrade from your 2011 Mini. I upgraded to a 6-core 2018 Mini around a year ago. Unless you have a need to stick with an Intel Mini, the latest 2020 Apple Silicon Mini is the most bang for the buck and is within your stated budget.

If you wait a little while 2020 Minis will show up as refurbs at the online Apple Store and you can save around 15%. But I would expect the demand for them will be great so you would need to be quick on the draw to get one. . .

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,524
Re: More info please.

rb61 wrote:

I am open to either used or new.

I currently have a standard 1TB external drive in addition to the original interior drive.

I use Affinity Photo for RAW files.

That might make you a good candidate for a M1-based Mini.  Affinity's site claims that version 1.86 is native on M1-based Macs.

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/127202-affinity-suite-for-macos-186-release-notes/

With respect to speed …

The M1 is very fast when running native code, for tasks that don't require more than 16 GB of RAM.  On the Geekbench 5 single-core speed charts, a M1-based Mini had a score of 1705.  A Late 2018 Core-i7-based Mini scored 1100.  A Mid-2011 Mini which had a 2.3 GHz Core i5 scored 501.  So the new Intel-based Mini was twice as fast as your Mini, but the M1-based Mini was three times as fast.  (Keep in mind that this refers only to CPU speed, not to overall system speed, or perceived system speed.)

Budget - approximately $600-1000

A new M1-based Mini with 16 GB of RAM (custom-order– this can't be upgraded after the fact) and a 256 GB SSD costs $900. You might need to keep some files on external drives, but it sounds as if you are doing that already.

Note that if you are using older, 32-bit applications now, these will not run under Big Sur.  So you might need to upgrade your copy of Microsoft Office (if you use Office), and you might find that some applications have not been updated and thus are not available.

OP rb61 Regular Member • Posts: 390
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

strawbale wrote:

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

What programs do/would you (like to) use? Do they use multiple cores and/or GPU?
Are you shooting RAW and/or JPEG?

Here's a list of Mac benchmarks: https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks

Your current Mac Mini scores 501 for single-core and 1119 for multi-core.

A 2012 i7-3615QM (2.6GHz, 4-core) scores 665/2613

A 2014 i5-4308U (2.8GHz, 2 core) scores 736/1583.

A 2018 i3-8100B (3.6GHz, 4 core) scores 896/3199

A 2020 M1 (3.2GHz, 8-core) scores 1705/7387 and can be had for €669 at the moment: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1604799-REG/apple_mgnr3ll_a_mac_mini.html

As you can see the mult-core scores for 4-core Mac Minis (2012 i7 models and 2018 models) are much better than your (2-core) Mac Mini, but only useful if your software will make use of that.

PS: What's roughly your budget?

Budget is $600-1000

The biggest challenge is processing/editing RAW images with Affinity Photo.

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tarzan1234 Regular Member • Posts: 175
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

rb61 wrote:

Budget is $600-1000

The biggest challenge is processing/editing RAW images with Affinity Photo.

If I were you, I would get a Mac mini M1 with 8 or 16GB of RAM/256 GB of SSD, then pick up a fast external SSD if you need more storage. It will be sitting on your desk so no need to pay Apple a crazy amount of money for larger internal SSD.

I've been using a Mini M1 8GB/256GB that I picked up over the weekend for less than 600 bucks (Some workaround involved, Target was selling $100 Apple gift card with $20 promotion during black Friday, so I picked up 7 of them to pay for the Mac mini for a total of 140 bucks back) and by all benchmarks, it is more than twice as fast as my 2015 MacBook Pro 15 quad core with 16GB of RAM and dedicated graphics. It also flies through 50MP RAW files (Canon 5DSR) in Lightroom without any issues, and Lightroom is not even native to this M1 thing yet, it's still the Intel version running through Rosetta2. I still remember how my previous MacBook Pro 13 with only 8GB of RAM really struggled with Lightroom and 20MP RAW files (Canon 6D). I don't know what Apple did with their new CPU and software but I can tell this thing is really different and it has no problem handling 50MP Raw files, at least, in the way that I process them. I can't speak for people who often stitch many files together and then add many many layers in Photoshop. The best thing is, it is dead silent and not even warm, while the MacBook Pro runs like a jet engine when you put it to work.

Not all rosy though...as early adopters, we all have to be patient. I still have to wait for a new version of NEC SpectraView II calibration software so can I calibrate my NEC display properly. Stuff like that will take time to resolve.

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Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 13,128
Re: More info please.

rb61 wrote:

Jacques Cornell wrote:

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I'm confused. Do you want a newer Mac, or some kind of upgrade to the one you have? What is your budget? And, what hardware do you have now for storing & backing up your photos?

In my view, by far the most bang for your buck these days is a new M1 Mac mini. If money is tight, the $699 base model with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD will amaze you as long as you're not flogging huge layered files in Photoshop. Add a $100 1TB external SSD to store your photos and a 2TB hard drive to back it up and Time Machine your boot drive.

FWIW, my new $999 M1 MacBook Air with 8GB RAM & 256GB SSD is faster than my fire-breathing 8-core 3.3GHz 2013 Mac Pro with 64GB RAM and D500 GPU.

Would this be a significant upgrade? Local CraigsList

This Mac Mini is from 2012 has an 2.6 GHz Intel i7 with four cores, It has the the maximum RAM of 16 GB and a 500 GB very fast Solid State Disk.

Cost?

If your current mini is booting from a spinning-platter hard drive, the Craigslist mini's SSD alone will be a real breath of fresh air for you, delivering much faster boot and app launch. The additional CPU cores will double your speed on some operations with some apps and make no difference at all on others. I don't know whether or how well Afinity leverages additional cores.

Do you currently keep two copies of your photos on separate drives? Perhaps your main archive on the mini and a backup on your external drive? If not, I strongly urge you to budget for a backup drive. You could use a 2TB drive to backup the 1TB external and also hold a Time Machine backup of your mini's drive. In 20 years as a Mac-using pro photographer, I have had three drives die, and each time a backup saved my bacon. You do not want to be the guy wailing "All my photos are GONE!" because you didn't spend $80 on a backup drive.

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danferrin Regular Member • Posts: 408
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget
4

You have said that your budget is $600-1000.  Don’t even bother looking for used.  The new Apple M1 chip is the future for Apple and the new M1 Mac Minis are way faster than anything you can buy used for the money.  An M1 Mini with a 256 gb solid state drive and 16GB of RAM will cost you $899.  For another $200 you can double the size of the drive.  I have a 2015 Mac Book Pro that I was going to upgrade to an iMac this month, and the M1 chip introduction has me debating whether to get one of the new Minis or waiting for the M series iMacs.  I’ve been a Mac user since the original 128k Mac, and I can’t remember such a big jump in performance in a new machine.

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strawbale Senior Member • Posts: 1,496
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

rb61 wrote:

strawbale wrote:

rb61 wrote:

I have a Mid 2011 Mac Mini

I would like to find something used that could increase speed by approximately 50% for image editing programs.

Time for something newer and I expect 10 years is over its life expectancy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

What programs do/would you (like to) use? Do they use multiple cores and/or GPU?
Are you shooting RAW and/or JPEG?

Here's a list of Mac benchmarks: https://browser.geekbench.com/mac-benchmarks

Your current Mac Mini scores 501 for single-core and 1119 for multi-core.

A 2012 i7-3615QM (2.6GHz, 4-core) scores 665/2613

A 2014 i5-4308U (2.8GHz, 2 core) scores 736/1583.

A 2018 i3-8100B (3.6GHz, 4 core) scores 896/3199

A 2020 M1 (3.2GHz, 8-core) scores 1705/7387 and can be had for €669 at the moment: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1604799-REG/apple_mgnr3ll_a_mac_mini.html

As you can see the mult-core scores for 4-core Mac Minis (2012 i7 models and 2018 models) are much better than your (2-core) Mac Mini, but only useful if your software will make use of that.

PS: What's roughly your budget?

Budget is $600-1000

The biggest challenge is processing/editing RAW images with Affinity Photo.

Given your budget, your use of Affinity, the fact that Affinity is already running natively* on Apple's new M1, I'd strongly advise to get a new MacMini M1.

An 8GB RAM/256GB SSD ($669 at BH) would already be much faster than what you have now, but I'd advise you to consider 16GB (RRP $899), and an external SSD for more storage (doesn't have to be a real fast one**), so you'd be able to keep your new Mini for another 10 years!

(and, of course, additional disks - spinning will do - for backups, but I assume you've already got those)

* see:

https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/press/newsroom/affinity-apps-accelerate-with-macos-big-sur-and-native-m1-support/

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64552123

** e.g.:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1346575-REG/samsung_mu_pa1t0b_am_t5_1tb_portable_ssd.html

and/or read:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64612833

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strawbale Senior Member • Posts: 1,496
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget

PS: What other software do you use, both for photo/video editing & managing (DAM) and otherwise? Any 32-bit s/w won't work anymore on the latest MacOS, independent of which Mac you'd buy.

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Gilbert Sanial Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Mac Mini upgrade on a budget
1

My 2012 Mac mini  2.6 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 Geek bench: 776  3235.

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