Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Mac Mini Server: Any reason I will be unhappy with it as a desktop?
July 30, 2011 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Mac Mini Server: Any reason I will be unhappy with it as a desktop? I plan to Raid 0 the drives to make a 1GB drive and just turn off any server daemons.

Here's my situation. I have a 4-year-old iMac that I would like to replace. I find the all-in-one pretty wasteful, having to throw away a perfectly good monitor just because the CPU is outdated, so I'm getting a Mac mini. The server model is the only one with a quad-core chip, and it also has the 7200 rpm drives, which I would like as well.

Previous Mac Mini Server models did not come with iLife, but I have confirmed that it does now. The graphics are the integrated Intel HD 3000, but both Starcraft and Portal 2 officially support that chip, so I'm fine on that front. Mainly I want to improve my iMovie editing and export experience, and the quad core seems ideally suited to that.

My main worry is that there's some sort of configuration boondoggle awaiting me. Will it go to sleep with the screensaver, etc.? I plan to use none of the server software, but I don't want it slowing me down either.
posted by wnissen to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
 
I used a Mac Mini as a workstation for about 3 months and it was indistinguishable from non-server Mac Minis, or really any other Mac I've used. If you don't enable any of the server services then it's essentially just a regular Mac Mini with slightly different hardware. As an aside, why are you going with RAID 0 over RAID 1? RAID 1 will give you redundancy if one of your drives die, and probably some performance gains over RAID 0 as well.
posted by bizwank at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2011


Actually, strike that; I can't find any RAID0 vs RAID1 tests for the new Mini hardware, but older tests would indicate that RAID0 would give you slightly better read/write performance. My point about redundancy still stands, but isn't relevant if you have external backups and/or don't care about losing any data on that box.
posted by bizwank at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2011


RAID 0 also has the serious drawback that if either one of the drives in the array fails, you lose the data on both. You're not only doubling the amount of data you stand to lose in one go, you're doubling the chance that you will lose it. I recently saw two RAID 0 arrays at work fail and even though we're effectively data recovery specialists, it was a royal pain in the butt.

Otherwise, a Mac Mini will suit you just fine.
posted by fearnothing at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2011


You can install a second drive into the regular non-server version of the mini. There is a slight speed boost to be had with a striped RAID, but a mini with 2.5" drives is not the place to eek out that extra bit of performance. The reason (in my opinion) to to put a second drive in there is for the redundancy of a mirror.

The far better way to get 1TB of space is to just purchase a single 1TB drive and replace the existing drive. That will be more reliable than the striped raid and it is only $99 at NewEgg.com.
posted by ridogi at 12:38 PM on July 30, 2011


Instead of throwing it away, you can always CL/eBay it. Then it's not going to waste.

I would not use RAID 0.

There will be no problems getting a current "server" Mac Mini and using it as a desktop.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2011


Oh, and if performance is what you are after an SSD is a far better investment than putting money towards a faster processor and 7200 RPM drives. An SSD for the boot and hard drive for data (iTunes, photos) would be a good solution and would cost about the same as the server model.
posted by ridogi at 12:45 PM on July 30, 2011


I'm probably not as technologically advanced as you are but I've been using a Mac mini as a desktop for years now and it's been totally fine.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:07 PM on July 30, 2011


To be clear, I obviously will not throw away the old iMac, I will sell it. My point is that the display is fine, and doesn't need to be replaced.

I forgot to mention that I have a RAID 1 (mirrored) Time Machine disk connected by USB. Slow, but for backup who cares?

Looking into SSDs, I'm seeing $350-450 for a 256GiB model, plus $100 for the HDD would be at least $450 over the price of the non-server Mini. Even the low-end (dual 2.3GHz i5) is $600. Giving up a quad-core i7 (boosted up to 3.2GHz) seems like a bad deal. The video editing is almost all off the disk (out of core) so the striped 7200 rpm drives seem like the best way to get good performance without blowing big bucks on SSDs.
posted by wnissen at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2011


I love Minis. They're great desktops.
posted by krilli at 1:32 PM on July 30, 2011


The graphics are the integrated Intel HD 3000, but both Starcraft and Portal 2 officially support that chip, so I'm fine on that front.

I believe the higher end non-server edition comes with a better graphics card (dedicated, with its own memory). Haven't seen any benchmarks yet that directly compare that, though.
posted by advil at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2011


Also (sorry to post twice): Giving up a quad-core i7 (boosted up to 3.2GHz) seems like a bad deal.

FWIW in disk-related tasks, including many basic things you do, my previous generation (meaning, very slow processor-wise) macbook air often feels faster than my maxed out quad-core imac with normal disk drives. It is really hard to anticipate the effect of an SSD until you use a device with one. This is of course highly dependent on what you actually do, but it isn't obviously a bad deal at all. I would probably choose SSD over quad-core, myself, at least relative to the processors on the new mini.
posted by advil at 1:41 PM on July 30, 2011


Yes on the SSD. Once you've got plenty of RAM, it's the other massive performance booster you can get for yourself. Most normal computing tasks are actually just moving stuff around from one place to another, so avoiding the need to wait for round pieces of metal to spin really makes a big, noticeable performance difference.
posted by migurski at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2011


You know the new iMacs can function as external monitors via Thunderbolt, right?
posted by trevyn at 2:57 PM on July 30, 2011


> You know the new iMacs can function as external monitors via Thunderbolt, right?
Yes. I have a 4-year-old iMac that would not know a Thunderbolt if it was hit with one. :)
posted by wnissen at 3:04 PM on July 30, 2011


The excellent OWC 120GB SSD is $208. That plus the hard drive is $307. You will notice the speed boost from an SSD way more than you will a processor upgrade. If you're supplementing the SSD with a hard drive it doesn't have to be very large. I have a 120 GB with OS and my user folder minus my iTunes and Aperture libraries and it has 70 GB free.
posted by ridogi at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2011


Yes. I have a 4-year-old iMac that would not know a Thunderbolt if it was hit with one. :)

Right, but if you got a new iMac, when it was time to upgrade, you could just use it as a monitor, and buy the Mini then. If that was something you might be interested in.
posted by trevyn at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2011


I'm using the previous gen mini server as a regular workstation right now. Works fine. And if Lion server has iLife, I might as well upgrade to Lion server. As of right now, they want me to buy Lion + Lion Server (where I only want Lion) because I have Snow Leopard Server on my mini.
posted by kathrynm at 2:35 AM on July 31, 2011


« Older Is there a clear coating I can...   |  I am looking for labels to put... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.