macmini or not
April 19, 2006 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I was looking to get a nice big Apple cinema display for photo work (photoshop, etc.), a bit of web page design, and the like. Question is, if i'm not doing anything else that hardcore -- editing full-length movies, etc. -- could I just get a Macmini to run the applications? I could save a lot of dough over buying a full G5 ... any thoughts?
posted by jgballard to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
I'd say absolutely. Granted, Adobe has no plans to release Intel versions of its software until sometime in 2007 I believe, so Photoshop won't be running at optimal levels on an Intel mini, but if you're not doing anything too processor-intensive, then I'd bet good money that a DuoCore Mini is more powerful than my 2-year old G5.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:35 PM on April 19, 2006

Well, sort of. Photoshop isn't native yet for the macintels. So, you will be able to eventually, and it shouldn't suck. For now though, it's going to be a bit slow.
If I were you, I'd look at the iMacs. You'll get a bit more horsepower. The 20 inch imac is about what you'd pay for a mini and a monitor, with twice the chip in it. This will be better in the meantime and in the long run.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2006

Seconded the iMac idea from doctor_negative.

Also, I don't think the Mac Mini can drive the 30" display (I may be wrong here). I'm sure the 23" one will do though!
posted by derbs at 2:56 PM on April 19, 2006

You'll need more RAM than the 512 mb that the Mini has. Photoshop CS2 dogged horribly on my non-intel Mac Mini, and it was memory binding. I'd buy an IMac.
posted by SpecialK at 2:56 PM on April 19, 2006

Derbs is right. The 30" requires Dual Channel DVI, and I'm not sure which Macs currently have the Dual Channel.

And by the way, you don't need a Cinema Display. The Dell 2005 FPW is nearly as high quality as the 20" Cinema Display, same panel manufacterer, even, and it's half the price.
posted by SpecialK at 2:57 PM on April 19, 2006

You can get the Dell 2405FPW for $600 from the Dell Outlet right now. No dual-link needed, very big, very bright.
posted by kcm at 3:03 PM on April 19, 2006

A couple quick notes:

The MacBook Pro can run the 30" Apple beast, as far as I know.

And I think the "Photoshop is slow on Intel macs" thing is somewhat of a canard; obviously it'll run much smoother when ported to a universal binary, but it's still a hell of a lot faster on my MBP than it was on my 4-year-old G4.
posted by jtron at 3:13 PM on April 19, 2006

The Intel Mac Mini does not support the dual-link 30" display (none of them AFAIK, not just Apple):

Technical Specifications

DVI video output to support digital resolutions up to 1920 by 1200 pixels; supports 20-inch Apple Cinema Display and 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display; supports coherent digital displays up to 154MHz; supports noncoherent digital displays up to 135MHz

The MBP does.
posted by kcm at 3:27 PM on April 19, 2006

Just to put numbers on it:

macworld macMini benchmarks compared to the iMac.

A Mac SpeedZone review comparing coreDuo to G5.

One caveat I always keep in mind in regards to benchmarks is that they are built to be rather unrealistic torture tests and you really should think about how much that speed difference will matter for the kinds of things you do in photoshop. 1.5 seconds vs. 1 second is probably not that bad. 90 minutes over 60 minutes for a batch job is a big deal. Also the wide variations in photoshop benchmarks to me suggest that the difference is highly dependent on which filters and features you use.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:32 PM on April 19, 2006

You can get the Dell 2405FPW for $600 from the Dell Outlet right now. No dual-link needed, very big, very bright.

A few months ago I did a fair bit of research on affordable flat panel displays "acceptable" for print publishing. Based on some initial glowing reviews, I went into it planning on buying a Dell monitor. What I found swayed me away from Dell's offerings.

First, I read that Dell's brighter backlights are too bright (even at their lowest setting) for proper color calibration with a hardware calibrator. Second, I found a fair number of reports of quality control problems: uneven or bleeding backlights, squealing components, people going through multiple warranty replacements until they got one that was "right", viewing angle problems on the 2405fpw, etc. I expect to see reports of problems on any product, but I came away with the impression that Dell is able to sell at such low prices by cutting corners on components and quality control.

My needs at work are stricter than those of most home or office users. In the end, I decided that spending more money on an Apple or LaCie would get me a monitor with better potential color quality and a lower chance of out-of-the-box problems.
posted by D.C. at 5:26 PM on April 19, 2006

I've got a mac mini with a Dell 2005FPW. The Dell is great -- I haven't used it with a hardware calibrator, but the color is rock-solid and even -- and the mini is just rubbish.

Photoshop churns and churns, even with full memory running off an external disk. On base spec with the internal disk? slo-o-o-o-w. Since it's non intel-native, I can't see it being much better on the new ones either. Avoid.
posted by bonaldi at 7:52 PM on April 19, 2006

Another happy Dell 2005FPW owner here. It's flawless. I too read a number of 'nay' reviews of the product, but they seemed most applicable to early models. Here's the obligatory link to Anandtech's comparison of the 20" widescreens from Apple and Dell.
posted by unmake at 10:24 PM on April 19, 2006

If you intend to do any sort of serious Photoshop work (or anything that would require a good video card to do the heavy lifting...or at least for good imaging quality) avoid the MacMini like the plague. It currently features the Intel GMA950 graphics processor which only features 64meg of RAM, shared with the main system memory. In other words, the graphics processor leeches off main system memory when needed. This little footnote from Apple is telling:

Memory available to Mac OS X may vary depending on graphics needs. Minimum graphics memory usage is 80MB, resulting in 432MB of system memory available.

If I read that correctly, the system needs to suck up 80M minimum for graphics. Since the Intel chipset is only a 64M weenie, you start out sucking off system memory.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:48 AM on April 20, 2006

I agree with the nays on the mini; Photoshop is a huge RAM hog, so the more RAM you can get the better. You don't say what display you want, but I just got a 30" Cinema HD and it is great. All of that space really does come in handy for being able to see even large files at the 50% resolution I like to work in and still have room for tool palettes beside rather than on top of the picture. You can use that display on any computer, Mac or not, as long as its graphics card supports dual DVI as mentioned above. If you are getting another display, you will have more choices in computers, though.
posted by TedW at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2006

I don't have problems with photoshop on a macMini, but I don't do much in photoshop beyond adjusting and trimming.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:02 AM on April 20, 2006

« Older How can I keep a sealed room cool?   |   Tracking referrer links and traffic to livejournal... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.