M1 Mac Mini verses 2017 iMac 27in

My main work machine is a 2017 iMac 27in, loads of RAM, 1tb Fusion drive, and generally a massively underwhelming thing to work at. Yes, the display is lovely but it’s woefully underpowered in the graphics card dept. And that’s can’t easily be fixed!

I’m thinking of now moving this machine to backup mode (and retiring my trusty old 2010 iMac from backup duties) and replacing it with a 2020 M1 Mac Mini, plus a nice monitor.

It’ll need to run two monitors, RW, Affinity Photo and Designer, plus a rake of other less intensive apps.

Interested to hear the views of others using an M1 MM as a daily driver, so to speak.

I recently got an 8Gb RAM 512Gb SSD M1 Mac mini to replace my 2017 27 inch iMac with a failing 2Tb Fusion drive.

I run 2 monitors, a cheap LG 4K via a USB C Thunderbolt port and an even cheaper VGA monitor via HDMI. I started with a clean Big Sur install and am educating myself to use external drives for everything except what I’m working on at the moment and not installing any add-ons that I don’t need.

I haven’t done any really processor intensive work, but Affinity Designer and RW work just fine. I can’t honestly say that I’ve noticed the M1 chip making anything ‘faster’ as yet, but as the Fusion drive on the iMac failed I was getting lots of spinning beachballs.

I did have so much rubbish and both used and unused addons on the iMac, so I’m sure that didn’t help. I did think of replacing the drive in the iMac, but that kit would have been around GBP200 so I thought I’d just start again. You can boot from and external thunderbolt SSD though with the iMac - check out Youtube - and I did try this and it was pretty much as fast as the internal drive.

For me it was a case of spending some GBP1600 on a new 24 inch iMac or GBP900 on the Mac mini - plus the 4K monitor. I had a bunch of VGA monitors anyway.

That’s kinda my thinking. My 2010 iMac 27in cost me £750 in 2010. It’s still going strong, albeit with massively upgraded internals. Only it’s stuck at High Sierra. The 2017 iMac was about £1400, and frankly, it’s pants. The Fusion drive has been fine, but all other aspects of it’s internals are just woeful for a machine in that price range which is meant for “serious” work.

I’m not buying into iMacs anymore so MM’s, which although difficult to get in to, can ta least be got in to. Although I’m not sure just what can be upgraded on them now?

So ya, about a grand on the machine and a nice screen, and job done. In theory.

I’ve been using a second hand 2012 Mac Mini as a standby machine that I added memory to and put in an SSD and I’ve been impressed.

You are right on that you can’t upgrade the M1 Mac Mini so you might want to look at the 16Gb RAM option. I watched loads of Youtube videos and the advice is mixed, some say 8Gb is fine, others say get 16Gb.

Going for ‘only’ 512Gb SSD was a bit of a shock to the system, having had the 2Tb drive, but advice says don’t pay for the expensive Apple storage, go for a fast Thunderbolt external SSD.

I must admit that I’ve recently learned a heck of a lot about transfer speeds over USB 3, 4 and Thunderbolt 4 and the limitations of various connections!

Thought: Does the MM max out at 16gb? That’s not gonna be enough. To replace the main machine I’ll need at least 32. Unless, the M1 MM does some clever memory management stuff?

I only ever use the internal drives for applications and data files in regular use, everything else has always been stored externally, so 256 is ample.

Off to research the max ram thing.

EDIT: Yep… Max 16gb. Oh well, move along, nothing to see here!

All I would say is do search Youtube and look at the guys processing video with 8 or 16Gb RAM and see how their timings compare with their old setups. They seem to be quite impressed.

Edit: https://youtu.be/N5hxBn3VONs

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Just be aware that a new Mac mini will debut soon, so do not buy too soon.

So you know that?

Everything is based on rumors, so no - I do not know but I came across this :slight_smile:

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A bit of a bargain appeared on the Apple refurb store this morning; M1 with 256 and 16bg, so picked it up. Prefer more RAM, but suspect it’ll do.

Next… What 24/27in monitor?

Given Apples track record it’ll be smaller, lighter, thinner, and not as good. :wink:

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This is the 27 inch monitor I went with. Nothing special, but lots of input options and a tidy stand to go on the desktop.

Samsung U32R592CWU

Available with different model numbers.

4K 32" curved. Works great with M1 MM, and better than 27" flat.

I’m a bit clueless about monitors, as I’ve used iMacs as the main machines for 12 years now, with just a cheap 24in monitor plugged in as a 2nd “email” screen, so I need a bit of educating on this one.

4k means what Apple calls retina? Does such a thing as 3k exist?

I need a 27in and a 24in. I don’t need mad high-end quality, but I do want “retina” pixel density thing and good colour reproduction.

What naming conventions/descriptions should I be looking for?

4K. That gives you then the option to switch to high density/retina.

49" :wink:

(Honestly, I’ve been through this beginning of this year, as my MacBook Pro was failing (2014 model, bloating battery, but still going strong enough for me as a developer and photographer)

Btw. I decided against the M1. At least the M1 MacBooks tend to overheat with larger screens and in Clamshell mode. Two friends with M1 MBP and both are not so happy. I went with a 16" MBP (especially I need RAM) and retired my 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display and went for a Samsung 49".

It’s almost as if you were over-compensating :wink:

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My take on this:

  • Buying now an Intel Chip based Mac is like riding a dead horse.
  • 16MB of RAM is enough for most of the tasks on M1. I have 8GB both on the MacBook Air and MM, and it’s enough for my tasks. No video procession though.
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(It’s 2x 27", but without the bezel in the middle. And THAT makes a huge difference for me)

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