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iMac Vs Mac Mini (For Designers)

Hey Guys,
Our company is looking to ramp-up with some new machines, looking through the latest Mac catalog, the new iMac computers look great (Sleek & Shiny) but their specs out of the box aren't great. In order to get what we need, we'll need to order custom with upgraded processors, hard drives, and RAM (Apparently you can't manually upgrade RAM on these new machines). All in all, for a 21 inch configuration, we're looking at about $2200.
For a comparable set-up with the Mac Mini model (Spec Wise + 24inch Sharp Monitor) we're looking at $1400.
In my eyes, the Mac Mini is the winner, but is there something I'm overlooking? As a community of designers and developers, what set up would you prefer to work off of? Is there another configuration that we're overlooking?
I'd like to stick with Mac Devices for software purposes (And consistency of work-flow with the existing machines)


Staff member
Note I'm not exactly a mac person but:
  • processors are completely different in the mac mini, it's a mobile cpu not a desktop one like on the iMac, meaning lower temps (and thermal limits arguably) but also slower clock speeds etc. You do get hyperthreading on the mac mini but you can add it for $200 (with speed bump) to the second 21inch imac.
  • You are also limited to built in intel gpu's in the mac mini, they're not exactly good.... haswell improves this but still not great.
  • Second, the iMac (and maybe the mac mini) will likely get a haswell spec bump pretty soon, it's still using ivy bridge iirc
  • iMac can have the ram replaced on the larger model, not on the smaller one at the moment.
  • Is that Sharp screen an IPS (or PLS) panel, you pay more for a good quality IPS/PLS panel than say a tn panel (you do NOT want a tn type panel). Note: there are different types of IPS too which really doesn't help matters.
Not sure how you've got your prices but a comparable mac mini would be $1,446.00 + the cost of the monitor compared with the base iMac at $1299 including a monitor.
If you take base prices then yes there is a difference but you need to add on stuff to make them comparable. You need to add on more ram, increase the cpu plus add keyboard, mouse and optical drive so it actually works out less to buy an iMac, not to mention you also get the imac screen and the better gpu.
Basically put you could almost get a base model 27" iMac or the i7 improved 21inch for the price of the comparable mac mini + a decent 24inch IPS screen.
You've also got the mac pro coming out probably in the next 2-3 months tops or you could pick up a macbook pro (again needs haswell refresh) + a screen...
Personally I'd pick the iMac with the better gpu over hyperthreading, adobe etc use the gpu to help with processing and the geforce is considerably faster than the intel.
Hey Jeff,
I was in the same position until about a month ago, when I went for a 27" iMac. I read that many designers blame Apple for the lack of a bare-bone device with high-end specifications in its catalog. Ideally, one we would like to have a small and powerful object on the desktop paired with a couple of professional screens. With a loaded iMac you get the specifics you want but you are stuck with a good but not excellent monitor. Mac mini would be great if it would be possible to stuff it with the gpu, the cpu, and the ram you need. Unfortunately, this solution is not suitable for a design studio. Some people told me that they use a Mac Book Pro closed and connected to an external monitor. The MBP seems to provide enough power but such use wouldn't justify its price.
Not sure how you've got your prices but a comparable mac mini would be $1,446.00 + the cost of the monitor compared with the base iMac at $1299 including a monitor.
Is the upgraded mac mini truly comparable to the imac out of the box? We currently have a 'out of the box' imac, and it's a turtle. (Which is why I'm looking for something different here)

From what has been said, what I bought myself is probably the best way to go (New Gen 27" iMac, Upgraded to Fusion Drive, and 3rd Party Ram to beef it up to 32mb) All-in-all the configuration cost about $2,350.00 before taxes, but it's definitely the most powerful iMac I've had the pleasure of using.
I think we're going to try to hold out for the Haswell options to drop however before moving forward, I hate buying a shiny new mac product only to see the latest and greatest drop a couple of months later.