Are integrated graphics a mistake in a desktop purchase?
December 8, 2012 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Is there any reason I'd regret purchasing a Mac Mini with intel 4000 graphics?

My current work setup is a late 2010 11 inch macbook air (C2D) plugged into an external monitor. It's feeling pretty pokey these days. I had considered one of the new iMacs, but it appears that to get a model with fusion drive I would have to spend $1700 plus tax or thereabouts. Which seems, in a word, ridiculous.

So I'm looking at the Mac Mini as an alternative. With the mid-tier model upgraded to a fusion drive, even adding the cost of a 2nd monitor (I like the dual screen setup of laptop + external) it'd probably at least $500 cheaper than the iMac. The only difference in specs appears to be the integrated graphics in the Mini.

I don't game. At all. Is there any reason I would regret purchasing a desktop computer with laptop-specs in the graphics department?
posted by modernnomad to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
(and by work I'm referring to the daily grind of being a legal academic - online research, writing etc... I also use Adobe Lightroom and things like that, and while they are pokey on the Air they are basically usable - I am aware obviously all these things will be much better on the Mini; my question is really whether there is anything I'm not thinking of where the better graphics on the iMac would be useful).
posted by modernnomad at 3:02 PM on December 8, 2012

I use a current Air with HD 4000 graphics. if you're not worried about gaming then you'll be fine with that GPU.
posted by russm at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2012

There should be no reason why that graphics card would hold you back. Graphics cards are important for gamers and professionals who work with intense graphical calculations (like CAD, 3D modeling, etc).
posted by WCF at 3:47 PM on December 8, 2012

Spend a little to upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB, or 16 GB, if you can spring it. The general speed improvement in opening and running apps is noticeable and the memory bump doesn't cost much if you do it yourself. A mini is very easy to open up and upgrade.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:10 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone else-- I worked at an animation studio that had a bunch of minis and we maxed out the ram but other than that I am pretty sure they were standard, un-upgraded machines otherwise. They were plenty fast for what we used them for (Photoshop, After Effects, Final Cut)
posted by matcha action at 4:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is one reason for pause: reports of flaky HDMI connections on the new 2012 minis, attributed to the intel HD4000 graphics. See discussion here and here. Intel fix possibly on the way.

I have a 2012 mini and was experiencing the flickering screen problem for about the first week I had it, but haven't seen it in awhile.
posted by casaubon at 6:54 PM on December 8, 2012

I have the 2012 Mac Mini and I had the monitor go black on me only once in the past few weeks (knock on wood). An issue I came across that doesn't seem to be as widespread is that a direct HDMI connection to a monitor leads to washed out colors, although the problem isn't present with an HDMI adapter -> DVI using the same monitor.

I had the same reservations as you before buying the Mini, but I figured for the price, it was a relatively good deal and the only graphics-intensive stuff I do is youtube. I also considered waiting another year to see if discrete graphics would come back, but I figured that was a pipe dream. I also did some digging and found out that the 4000 is a decent upgrade from 3000, although I guess we should take that with a grain of salt.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:50 PM on December 8, 2012

If you aren't doing any graphic heavy-lifting or serious gaming, the Intel integrated graphics will be just fine for you.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 AM on December 9, 2012

I have the 2011 Mac Mini with the prior (HD 3000) graphics chip. I am perfectly happy running two monitors, doing web and word and mail and light development work (heavy stuff is ssh'ed to a Unix box via terminal). I run Acorn for light photo-editing.

We put 16GB in the machine when we got it (very easy self-install) and I expect it to be my primary work machine for a number of years. I haven't had any issues with it.
posted by Mad_Carew at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2012

The Intel 4000 graphics are fine. These days the only thing that counts as "heavy graphics" is big commercial games, or weird speciality apps like 3d modeling which if you were doing you wouldn't be asking. And since MacOS doesn't play commercial games very well anyway, you're not going to miss it. The Intel integrated graphics are fine for anything 2d, for video decoding and playback, and for light 3d.

I have a 2012 Mini and it seems to work pretty well as a TV media server. I have a problem with it staying locked to 1080p resolution depending on the order I turn on the TV, the receiver, or a VNC clilent. But that's a long standing MacOS software problem not specific to this model of Mini.

You'll probably want more RAM. The RAM is easily user upgradeable, so you can save yourself a couple of hundred bucks not paying Apple's insanely inflated price.
posted by Nelson at 7:45 AM on December 9, 2012

Thanks everyone. The HDMI problems seem to be pretty widespread right now, and the dual monitor aspect is key to me, so reliance on only the minidisplayport is not a solution. I'll hold off until Apple comes up with a firmware update, which hopefully will be sooner rather than later.
posted by modernnomad at 6:03 PM on December 9, 2012

Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.7

About Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.7
This update addresses HDMI video flicker issues on Mac mini (Late 2012) computers and is recommended for all users.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on December 10, 2012

hah - good timing! Any reports yet on whether this does in fact fix all the issues? If so, looks like a new Mini will be making its way to me at some point in the near future.
posted by modernnomad at 2:11 PM on December 10, 2012

The update just came out, but Macintouch is usually a good place to track user reports, which will probably be reprinted tomorrow.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2012

With a fusion drive, you'd probably be happy with 8GB, but go for 16GB of after-market RAM since it is relatively cheap and easy to install.
posted by Good Brain at 8:46 PM on December 10, 2012

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