Which Mac Mini would you choose?

mac-mini

#1

I am thinking about buying a Mac Mini 2018. Here in Germany the i5 with 16 GB RAM costs exactly the same as the i7 with 8 GB of RAM. Probably the i7 is a bit more future proof, as I (theoretically) could upgrade the RAM later on. I am not sure, if I would ever do this though. So, which one do you believe is „faster“ / „better“ now? Which one would you choose?

Many thanks.


#2

This is kind of a hard one. On one hand, the RAM in the 2018 mini is upgradable (though it requires quite a bit of disassembly to get to the RAM sockets). The CPU is not. On the other hand, according to Geekbench going from the i5 to the i7 only gets you about a 10% bump in single core performance and a 20% bump in multicore performance, which is not huge.

This really comes down to how you’re planning to use the machine. I recently had to make this decision myself. Mine is intended as a home server, but I wanted the potential to use it as a desktop in the future. I ended up going with the i5 and 8GB of RAM, with the idea that if I did use it as a desktop and found the RAM inadequate, I could always upgrade it.

If you were set on getting one or the other, I’d probably lean towards the RAM upgrade. You might also want to consider putting this money towards a larger SSD. That may be a better quality of life improvement than either the faster processor or the additional RAM.


#3

Given your two choices, I would agree with @ChrisUpchurch and go with the i5 16 GB configuration. Since you are asking about CPU choices, you are probably not doing CPU intensive tasks (Xcode compiles, video transcoding, etc.) as your main function, so I think the i5 is a fine choice. I think the additional memory will serve you more down the road. The Mac Mini is still very port friendly, so you can always add an external SSD for additional storage down the road.


#4

Many thanks for your responses. Much appreciated.

I would use the Mini as an “always on” headless (kind of) server to complement my planned “iPad First” personal computing life (Full disclosure: I also have a Windows machine at work, but plan to shortly get rid of my current 2013 MacBook Air). My personal computing (at least right now) does not include heavy duty stuff (as described by @rlamarch ). But similar as @ChrisUpchurch I would like to at least have the option of using it as a desktop in the future, depending on what life throws at me. I also plan to use it with Luna Display and Screens for the odd task I can not do or do not want to do with my iPad.

So right now I gravitate more towards the i5 and might even go with the 8 GB version (with a similar plan B as Chris described above).

So again, Many thanks for the responses thus far. And if anyone would like to weigh in, this would of course be much appreciated as well.


#5

I think too many people overbuy on the CPU when their typical workload is not CPU bound. The main features the i7 adds are a faster turbo boost, slightly more L3 cache and hyperthreading. Unless you can benefit from those features, the i5 is a better deal.

An old rule of thumb is anything less than a 20% increase in performance is not noticeable by most users.


#6

FWIW - I wouldn’t do that. I think 16GB is going to make you much happier in the short- and long-term. It’s fast getting to the point where I’m starting to wish Apple wasn’t even selling 8GB Macs anymore.

I agree with the i5, I think that’s the “sweet spot” for this model.

As someone with a 2015 MacBook with 8GB and a 2012 Mac Mini with 16GB of RAM, I can honestly and easily say that the one that’s painful to use is the MacBook, and I wish it had 16GB of RAM in it.

(Just last night I ran into low memory warnings running Disk Warrior, and I’m only on High Sierra, not Mojave.)


#7

You will feel slowdowns from the system repeatedly writing/reading disk caches because you’ve hit your RAM limit, especially if you have multiple browser windows open, and/or menubar items, and/or multiple open apps.

In 2017 I got my 2017 iMac with 8Gb RAM with the intention of adding RAM later, which is a simple matter on that model, and while the system was surprisingly speedy at startup, it quickly hit max RAM with several open Chrome tabs. I only rarely had significant slowdowns in normal usage, but I did feel the system slow, regularly. When I later added two 16Gb sticks to give me a total 40Gb RAM all slowdown issues disappeared completely.

Get 16Gb RAM, at least.


#8

I have to agree. 16GB would be my minimum. As a percentage of the purchase price $200 is a smallish price to pay for future proofing your investment, and for current usuability.


#9

That’s one of the nice things about buying your own 3rd-party RAM, if your machine acepts it - for around that same price ($238) in the US you can buy 32Gb Crucial RAM right now with lifetime warranty for the 27" iMac, giving you 40Gb total. That’s a lot of future-proofing.

But if you really want the Mini (it is a nice machine) then given the difficulty in getting to the RAM I recommend buying the most RAM one can afford.


#10

Dave Hamilton and John F. Braun have a great discussion of the new Mac Mini on their Mac Geek Gab podcast # 734 (https://www.macobserver.com/podcasts/mac-mini-cpu-considerations-semi-dark-mode-photos-and-more-mac-geek-gab-734/
The general discussion starts at time stamp 22:05. A detailed discussion of the CPU options begins at time stamp 27:06. The show notes contain a link to Intel’s CPU comparison page.

It turns out that there are many versions of the I3, I5 and I7 processors. Not all I3 processors are the same. Ditto for the I5 and I7 processors. Various versions vary in the support for hyperthreading, TurboBoost and L3 CPU cache. The specific I3, I5 and I7 versions in offered in the Mac Mini are compared. Neither the I3 nor the I5 CPUs in the Mac Mini offer hyperthreading. The I5 6-core version supports TurboBoost. The I7 6-core CPU supports both hyperthreading and TurboBoost, plus more CPU cache. He concluded that most people will be happy with the 3.5 GHz quad-core I3. He recommended that prospective purchasers who want to future-proof the computer skip the I5 and go straight to the I7, if needed for more CPU-intensive tasks.

The Mac Mini offers multiple ports - USB A and USB-C. It is possible to add fast external SSD drives at a lower price than the internal SSDs offered by Apple. You might consider saving money by adding an external SSD and changing or adding RAM yourself in the new Mac Mini. I recommend that you listen to this MGG podcast episode; these guys offer excellent advice.


#11

Many thanks for the additional food for thought. Very helpful and much appreciated.


#12

I’g go for the i7 and upgrade the memory later by myself. I’d even get 32GB for less than 200, an upgrade which Apple asks an insane price for.


#13

I purchased the i5 processor with 8gb of RAM and 256gb SSD. It is fast enough for my needs. My data will live on the 16tb LaCie 2Big Dock Thunderbolt3 external HD.

Currently plan to upgrade the memory via OWC. 16gb kit is $159US and 32gb is $299US. Fairly certain I will never have a need for the 64gb kit. I would be very happy to find 32gb of RAM for $200 but think 16gb should fit be fine.


#14

Congratulations! Please report back and let us know how the RAM install went. Thinking about buying a Mac Mini and installing extra RAM myself.