Mac Users -- mac mini or MacBook Pro for next upgrade?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by WT21, Feb 9, 2016.

  1. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I need to upgrade my 2009 13" MacBook Pro, which isn't cutting it anymore. I have maxed the RAM (this model's ceiling is 8GB) and put in an SSD and moved up to El Capitain, but now it doesn't even like some websites, and firefox is slow on it, etc. Let along RAW editing in LR6.

    So, trying to decide -- another MBP or a Mac Mini.

    For similar money, I can get a used 2012 Mac Mini server quad core with SSD drive and 16GB RAM and a (new) SIPS monitor, or I can get a tricked out MBP dual-core, but unless I REALLY step up, it will only be dual core (I would need to get towards $2000 in a 15" MBP to get into quad core)

    The no-brainer solution seems to be the 2012 mini in terms of power, but it's not portable.

    What do y'all think about the laptop vs. desktop question?
  2. m43happy

    m43happy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 18, 2012
    I bought a reburb 2012 15" Macbook Pro from Apple last year for $1300. 2.6ghz i7 quad-core. It can be fixed up with 2 internal SSD's and 16gb of ram too. If you can find that model year I'd highly recommend it, mainly for the graphics card (if you use Lightroom). Plus, it's portable.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  3. bjurasz

    bjurasz Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 10, 2014
    Cedar Park
    Its all based on how you use it. I'd rather have the power than the portability, so I've got a 27" iMac. Long time ago had a laptop, and found I used it most often in one spot of the house. So I just bought an iMac and put it at that spot. :) Do you REALLY need the computer portable? If not, desktop far more powerful than notebook.
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  4. onewheeltom

    onewheeltom Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Nov 18, 2015
    Cary, NC
    Tom Karches
    I bought a 13" Retina MacBook Pro last year needing a reliable portable system for an arts project. In the meantime, my iMac became unusable so now I use my Retina MBP mostly as a desktop system. The MBP does not have ethernet and required a USB Ethernet interface to hardwire. Backups are also kind of a hassle. I think it really depends if portable is really useful to you and what you are planning to do on the system and where you need the horsepower.

    In retrospect, a Mac Mini would probably have been better for me. If you do a lot of post-processing at home I would probably go for the MacMini. Fort short trips, I would be more likely to bring my iPad Mini and lust leave the MBP at home.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  5. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    My understanding is that LR leans heavily upon the CPU when processing RAW files so I'd lean towards the Mac Mini server with the SIPS. If your typical upgrade cycle is 6 years, then get all the CPU that you can afford.

    For reference, my 2011 MBP with 2.2GhZ quad core i7 (16GB RAM, SSD) takes 7 seconds to render a 24 megapickel RAW at 100%
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    For RAW editing, you can't really beat a quad-core (LR seems to be optimized for 4 cores - more than that you gain very little).

    That said, the Mini is using a mobile CPU at a low-ish clock. If you can stomach the iMac's built-in screen (or if you can't and can live with attaching an external one), I'd also consider a 2012 iMac (quad core model). You'll gain a nice bump over the mini performance-wise.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  7. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    i7 iMac would be my choice. I love the 5K screen.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  8. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Rob Campbell
    I agree with that, but Lightroom and Photoshop can also make use of the system's GPU as well for rendering previews. Having a fast GPU makes a huge difference in processing time. The MacBook Pros have a much higher end video processor than what's in the Mac Mini. I expect the server version skimps further on video hardware though regardless of what's in it, it'll be an Intel on-die GPU and not a separate unit.

    MacBook Pro or iMac would get my vote. Or pull out all the stops and hunt down a Mac Pro just for the sheer ridiculousness of it.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  9. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I am also a fan of the iMac series. Mostly because they are a great value for all you get with very good screens and the latest keyboard and mouse they are offering at the time. If you already have some really nice monitors then a Mini might be a great choice. But if you are starting from scratch, once you get a mini, add keyboard, mouse, and a screen at least as good as what normally comes on an iMac, you are just about out of what you thought you might be saving. So not counting portability, I would always choose an iMac over a Mini.

    But if portability is a concern, I would think that a Mac laptop of some sort would be much easier than a mini if they idea is to be able to set up anywhere quickly and easily. I still prefer a desktop for photo work myself.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  10. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    My issue with the iMac, is that I can't seem to find one with an SSD drive and 16GB RAM. With the large RAW files, RAM seems really crucial, and I am addicted to SSD boot up times :). The 2012 mini can be upgraded on both fronts. A 2105 iMac that's tricked out is out of my budget. Hmmmm.... but iMac is maybe a good idea. But it's just finding the right one...
  11. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Are you sure about this? I just did some google research and found an adobe-authored research note from spring 2015 that says LR CC only uses the GPU for develop, and only in certain ways. And while it speeds up some things, if it's an under-speced GPU, it can actually slow stuff down??? At any rate, LR is using the GPU, but I didn't get "leans heavily" from the note. It seemed more like it was leaning on the GPU for 4K rendering, which I am not into right now.

    From what I can tell (testing my MBP right now) -- preview rendering and final output can make use of multi-cores (yeah! -- watching my iStat menus, and both physical cores are pinned on 1:1 preview creation), but from what I read, speed to render 1 image is driven by CPU clock speed, and depending on the image size (and I have some 24MP Sony RAW files), more RAM can help avoid disk swaps.

    Of course, it's also likely that future releases of LR will just use the GPU more and more, which leads me back to a better speced iMac.
  12. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Yeah, you are likley right. In fact, I've killed my MBP batter twice because I leave it plugged in so much. Those few times you need the portability, you really miss it, but I just signed up for LR CC cloud, so I am hoping my iPad will help for at least accept/reject workflows, which is most of the demand I have for portability (going through pictures while having dinner or in front of the TV, etc.)
  13. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    This whole thread is the main reason I can't go Apple. I keep waiting for another semi-standard PC tower option (remember the powerMac G4), but I don't think it will ever come.

    I don't mean to start an OS war, but do you realize the beast of a desktop Windows PC you could get for what you would put into a dual core MacBook Pro? I almost bought a Hexacore i7-5800 PC from HP for under $1000 last month.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
    BTO or refurbish?
  15. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    It's not a helpful post
  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    BTO is out of my budget for what I want. I've been haunting all the used/refurb sites. Guess I just need to be more patient.

    But I THINK maybe a 2012 iMac can take a RAM and HDD upgrade?? If so, maybe I could do that route?
  17. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    My vote is for Macbook Pro or iMac, depending on the portability you need. MBP's are very good, especially if they have a lot of RAM and an SSD. My experience with various Mac Mini models is that they are relatively underpowered for even moderate tasks. I've tried upgrading Mini's with RAM and SSD but they only inprove marginally... My current 2015 MBP runs circles around a well-spec'ed 12-core Mac Pro tower (the last full-size tower, not the cylinder) for video (Final Cut X, After Effects, Premiere) and graphics (Photoshop, LR, etc).
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  18. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    First of all, current integrated GPUs are more powerful than 2012 dGPUs. I know this because I currently run a 2012 MBP with quad-core Core i7, dual SSDs, 16GB RAM and Nvidia GT650M, and my wife has the most current MacBook Air with what I believe is Intel HD6000. It's slightly slower than Intel Iris in MacBook Pro, and yet it's slightly faster than NVIDIA GT650M.

    Integrated GPU from 2012 will be a disaster. Before this laptop, I had a 13" 2011 MBP with Intel GPU. Not only it was slow, there were also some graphic glitches both in Lightroom and Apple Photos. Adobe eventually fixed the issue, but Apple never did. (Or maybe they did, but I don't own that laptop anymore.)

    A 2-core CPU will be perfectly adequate for RAW files, unless you should Fujifilm. I have discovered that X-Trans RAW files require vast amounts of computing power. I need at least a quad-core CPU for X-Trans, otherwise everything is just too slow. I didn't have that problem with 24MP Bayer RAWs.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  19. slmoore

    slmoore Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 15, 2014
    Check out the website They will let you see what the usual prices of all configurations are, even if it is out of stock. And more importantly, you can set up an alert and they will email or text you when stuff is in stock. A couple of years ago I bought a 27-inch iMac w/ a Fusion Drive, which was kind of an odd configuration. I got a text about a week later while eating lunch and jumped on it making the purchase from my phone. Since using the service, I have not been spammed by them or anything like that. Very helpful.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  20. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.