Please help me choose between iMac and Mac Mini

I need to replace my old iMac (later 2013, intel i7 16GB Ram).
I use it mainly for internet browsing, light photo editing, personal productivity (Obsidian, DEVONthink, MindNode, …), watching movies and videos.
I have been very happy with my iMac over the years and I really like its “compactness”.
The iMac 2021, however, does not convince me completely, especially as available configurations. Unfortunately there are no indications about the new version with M2 chip.
The alternative could be a Mac mini M2 (Pro?) + Studio Display or another monitor.
Budget is a secondary factor at the moment.
I am very undecided.
I am asking for advice on the choice between iMac and Mac Mini and possibly how to configure the latter.

If it doesn’t have to be mobile, I’m a huge fan of the two-part setup. The difference is basically two power cables instead of one, and one display cable.

Look at it this way.

  • “Base” Mac Mini is about $600
  • “Base” iMac is $1299
  • “Base” iMac that has all the ports of the Mini is $1499.

So if you need the ports, the Mini is effectively $900 cheaper than the iMac. If you’re not picky about the display being matchy-matchy, you can buy a lot of monitor for $900 - and you can have any size you want. Good-quality 32" and smaller IPS displays are available for $300 and under.

And if Apple releases an M5 Super-Awesome Mini in a few years, you can just swap out the Mini and keep your display.

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Having had a 27” iMac that failed every year for the three years I had AppleCare on it, I’ll never buy an iMac again (failed hard drive each time) - especially as at the time, I had no car, so had to wait in for a courier to collect, and then wait in for a delivery again. When I’ve had an issue with my Mac Mini, I was able to put it in to a backpack and take it to the nearby Apple Store.

But also for what @webwalrus states above - having a monitor of my choice (which isn’t as nice as the iMac one but is an ultrawide) allows me to use what I want and upgrade it as and when I want. The key aspect as well is that I can use another PC with the same monitor as well.

Thank you both, those are interesting suggestions.

I’ll take the dissenting opinion in favor of the iMac. I had been using a MBA connected to a Thunderbolt Display. The display was too big for my desk and heavy if I wanted to move it slightly. Cable management was also a pain. The 24” display is a perfect size for my needs and easier to move on the desk due to the light weight. I like the color selections, I have the red/rose gold.

The M1 processor is more than adequate for my needs. Haven’t found anything that slows it down.

I see the Mac mini (Pro) with a Studio Display as a replacement for the old iMac 27". At the time the iMac 27" was developed, the only reasonable way that a 5K monitor could be driven was having the computer a part of the display so you did not have to use some non-existent cable to drive it.

Now the cable/port hardware is here. The Mac mini is quite small so if you have to move the setup (Mac mini + Studio Display) it is not much harder (and sometimes easier) than moving a 27" iMac.

The advantage of having two pieces is that if one fails you can replace just it. The monitor on my 27" iMac 2014 is still perfect but I might as well junk it because I no longer want to deal with the old Intel Mac that it is bonded to.


I think that Mini + Studio Display is a brilliant combination. I’ve always found displays to outlast compute hardware by at least 2 times, so while the initial purchase proice might be higher, the subsequent upgrade will be considerably lower.

That is not necessarily an argument PRO iMac!
You could combine almost any Display in any Size with your MBA, there was no real need for a Apple Thunderbolt Display.

You are using your system for a longer period of time, and if budget does not have the first priority, I would look to buy the most advanced setup(M2), to keep it as long as possible again.
Also, while I was a big Fan of the iMac for a long time, the separation of Display and Computer does very well makes sense, as you could select a monitor that fits your needs (Size, Solution, Curve?, Color, Turnable, and so on), and if that changes, or it becames damaged for whatever reason, you could buy an other one at a cheaper price, than to replace a whole iMac.
Also, you could for Example, place the MacMini or MacStudio under your Desk, so it takes not more space, as with a iMac. If you have a Wallmount for your monitor, you could even lift that of the desk, and have more space there for other things.

True, but I already had the TB Display so wanted to use it. Still prefer the simplicity of an all in one. My wife has used an iMac since 2011 and we like the form factor.

I compare it to using a soundbar with my TV vs a component surround sound system. One has good sound but simple while the other is more complex but has better control and better sound. Plus you can replace individual components as desired.

In order to compare them in economic terms, one must consider adding a monitor+keyboard+mouse+webcam to the mac mini.
However, the mac mini would seem to be a more flexible choice.
Which configuration would you recommend based on my type of use?
M2 or M2 Pro?
16 or 32 GB?
As a possible alternative to the Studio Display I was thinking of a Dell UltraSharp 4K 27" monitor.

An other good argument Contra the iMac!!

I have a Dell 27" UltraSharp 4K display that’s some years old now (can’t recall the model number), a Studio Display with the “regular” finish, and (just this week) a Studio Display with the nano texture finish. I run the Dell in a scaled resolution that matches the default on the Studio Displays (5120x2880).

The regular SD is astoundingly sharp and clear: it’s like you’re working with a display that’s just come from a laser printer. The nano-SD is a little fuzzy and the Dell is just a little more fuzzy. Both of them still provide really good experiences while using them, but they don’t live up to the regular SD.

The work by which I judge displays involves how well they work for with lots of small text (coding). Graphics folks may have other criteria :slight_smile:

True, assuming you LIKE the Apple keyboard and mouse. Otherwise they don’t contribute any value to the iMac. Me, personally, not a fan of the keyboard. I do like the Magic Trackpad though. :slight_smile:

I just asked this question the other day, though I have slightly different needs.

Decided to go with a base m2 mini (on sale!) and a 24" 1440p HDR Samsung monitor, which will swivel easily. Might upgrade to a Touch ID keyboard of they ever make it usb-C.

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You could continue using the Keyboard and Mouse you already have from your older iMac. :wink:

That’s right, I abandoned Apple mouse and keyboard long ago and am using and will use Logitech mouse and keyboard (Mx Master 3 + Mx Keys).

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