If you had $3000 to spend on a Mac -- iMac or Mac mini?

We are in need of a new family desktop. The desktop will be mostly used as storage backup to the iPads and laptop, MS Office, and accounting software. No one is doing serious gaming or large video projects.

I read that the entry-level models of both are nothing to write home about and one should try to get a higher model. Ok, I’ll get a higher model. Which one?

I feel like the more research I do the more confused I get. It seems that one of the main differences the graphics card in the iMac that is lacking in the mini. I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes for our family.

I do like the ports in the mini, but I assume that I can attach a hub(s) to take care of that?

The 27-inch screen is so beautiful… There must be a similar monitor?

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

For me: iMac. No question. Gorgeous screen, quiet, not as much of a cable mess, as expandable as I need it.

I’m using my 27" iMac right now, a replacement for my previous… Mac Mini. :wink: 2Tb internal Fusion drive, 12 Tb external storage, 40Gb RAM total in an upgrade I put in myself in 2 minutes.


Unfortunately Apple seems to have abdicated the display business to LG, at least temporarily.

Personally I agree with @bowline, but I still use my desktop machine quite a lot.

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I’m in the same boat. Answer for me is iMac no doubt about it. I just won’t buy the current 540+ day old model. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to go for the new Mac mini today, and use it with my 27" Dell monitor (equivalent to the non retina iMac - not bad but not great for a Mac in 2019). I currently have that setup with a 2012 Mac mini which is on its last legs. With the upgraded display and reduction of clutter I’m determined I’m not doing Mac mini + external display again. Since Macs last for ever I plan on paying more for 2TB SSD. May or may not spring for 32G ram at the beginning. First I just need apple to announce it!


Thank you for the responses! They really help.

iMac all the way. Like @bowline, I’m running a 2017 iMac 27” that I bought last year during Black Friday. I also upgraded RAM myself to 40 GB. This Mac has been incredible to use - fast, sleek, beautiful screen. I could add monitors if I wanted, but I’ve been quite happy with the simplicity of one big beautiful monitor. The only hesitation would be the lack of an update in a while, but maybe find a refurbished unit? Anyway, it’s a great machine…


I’m a little different - if I were planning to use it predominately for backup storage and only the odd piece of work, I’d go for the Mini with an external display that I could also plug the laptop etc into when I wanted an extra screen.


As others have said, 27” iMac. You get the gorgeous 5K screen and a much better graphics card than the mini. The one thing I would add is to absolutely get an SSD rather than a spinning hard drive or fusion drive. That’s the one area where the base model Mac mini has an advantage over the iMac, because it’s not even available with a spinning HD. However, you can configure the iMac with an SSD and that’s the way to go.

All that said, if you’re not in urgen need of a new machine right now it might make sense to wait for an iMac update sometime next year. But even if you have to buy right away, I’d go with the existing iMac configured with an SSD.

I should note that the Mini is not a bad machine by any means, but it’s much more of a niche machine. From what you’ve said you’d be better off with the more generalist iMac.


Good call @ChrisUpchurch. I went with a 512 GB SSD with my iMac and a 3TB USB 3.0 external drive, mainly for media storage which I stream to other computers and some Apple TVs. I have a SuperDuper routine to back up the media drive to a clone every three months or so. This setup has worked well. SSD storage, especially when get up to 1 or TBs can be prohibitably expensive. My experience with 512 GB and external beyond that has been pretty good.


iMac 27" with SSD & at least 16GB and you won’t look back again. By the way, once you get, you won’t live without an iMac ever again.
I won’t invest in i7 processor, prioritize bigger SSD and RAM.


Actually they were just talking on this week’s ATP that there are almost no 5K monitors out there. Everything seems to be 4K.

As just about everyone else has said, I think the iMac is the right choice. The mini makes sense if you need a server or something, but if you want a “regular” desktop computer, I can’t see why you wouldn’t want the iMac.


Based on your description of your needs, it appears I am using my Mac for basically the same things as you. I sync my cloud files locally, then back them up offsite. My iPhone & iPad backup wireless to it, I have run MS Office on it in the past without problems. I run Hazel along with some other simple automation to manage files. It handles all of this effortlessly. (I work almost exclusively on an iPad these days)

My Mac is a 2011 Mini 2ghz with 8gb of ram.

Looks to me like you can do everything you want with a base model 2018 Mini for $799. You will need to add external storage you since it only comes with 128GB, let’s say that will cost $200. That will leave you $1951 for Christmas presents :slight_smile:


We’ve got a 4 year old 27" iMac and a 1 year old 27" iMac. The 4 year old model was top of the line but for having a Fusion drive and the 1 year old model is a base model with only the 250GB SSD option. We also have 3 minis in use, all headless.

The 1 year old iMac is only slightly faster than the 4 year old iMac. I use the older one (my wife the newer) for photography and even video with Final Cut Pro. It works just fine.

So I’d say the entry model can be written home about, especially for storage, MS Office, and accounting software. I’d get the 27" with the only option being the small SSD, and then adding an external SSD as required if necessary for storage. The drive can be velcro’d to the back of the iMac.

It really doesn’t matter that the latest iMac is over a year old. It still does its job. And if you wait for a new one, who knows, it might only have USB-C ports and non-expandable RAM.


Thank you all!! This forum is the best! I really appreciate the thoughtful and informative information.

Glad I wasn’t the only one who felt shelling out $3k for a family computer wasn’t necessary. Just my personal opinion but it seems like @Viv isn’t truly needing as much processing power. If something has other thoughts let me know as I think of a “shared family computer” as being fast but not needing a ton of processing power.

Thank you for the response!

I don’t want to spend $3000, but it seems that the configurations I chose for the iMac and mini were around $2,500 - $3,000. I really want an SSD and I really really want the computer to last us for around 5 years. It’s the memory and the SSD that are driving the cost up.

I thank everyone who responded. Best forum, best people. Aloha!

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What’s so unfortunate about that? That you can’t pay a premium price for a monitor anymore? All panels are already coming from only a handful of manufacturers (Samsung, LG, …).

All depends on your setup. For me it would be the mac mini because most of my work is done on the ipad. The mini does automatic file management (Hazel) and email archiving.

So look at your setup: what is the role you intend the machine to have in your daily routine? This will help determine the best choice.

You can easily go with a smaller SSD internally and add an external one, or several, on a fast port (thunderbolt/USB C). I heard John F Braun on macgeekgab say he bought some on sale from amazon for less than 100 dollars. So that’s a lot cheaper than paying the Apple SSD tax

This can bring the price down significanly without sacrificing speed.

Also: the mini has user expandable RAM which can also have huge cost saving implications.

So does the iMac. The iMac even has a door to get at the ram slots rather than having to undo a bunch of pentalobe screws.

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