iMac vs. Mac mini: Which one should you buy?

“‘Which Mac should I buy?’ is a question many of our readers ask,” Mark Hattersley writes for Macworld UK. “Apple keeps things fairly simple with a small range of computers, all of which are good… In this feature we’re going to take a look at Apple’s two consumer desktops and decide which is best. Which computer should you buy?”

“There’s no denying that the iMac has better technical specifications across the board. It has a faster CPU, graphics card and more storage space on the standard models,” Hattersley writes. “One surprising factor is that there are more input/output connections on the Mac mini than on the iMac. Both devices have four USB 3.0 ports, but the Mac mini also has a FireWire 800 port and a built in HDMI connection (you need to use an Mini DisplayPort adaptor on the iMac).”

Hattersley writes, “One thing that’s also worth bearing in mind is that the Mac mini is much more upgradable than the iMac. You can upgrade both the hard drive and the RAM of the Mac mini, and of course you can attach any display you want.”

Much more in the full article here.

32 Comments

    1. Yes. There are cases for both.

      For my use, I recently bought a Mini hooked up to a 3rd party monitor. I also tossed on a USB Apple extended keyboard and Magic Trackpad. It does what I need, which is the point of any purchase.

      1. You & AW both provide equally valid reason why separates are usually a better value in the long run.

        But to answer the question posed by MDN: they are two very different machines. The iMac can be configured with more capability. The machines really don’t compete against each other at all.

        It makes no sense that Apple doesn’t make a mid-sized tower sans display with capabilities and pricing ~ halfway between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. If Apple did offer such a machine, it would learn that many desktop buyers do prefer the flexibility and user-upgradeability that well-design separates offer.

  1. You can upgrade the ram and hard drive on the iMac… just takes some skill, or pay someone to do it. Besides, with thunderbolt, an external drive is as fast as most internal drives for most folks.

      1. Not true. The glass is actually held on by magnets; suction cups are recommended to remove the glass, and after that the most complicated part is to remember the orientation of the SATA aux connector (the only one that’s NOT keyed).

        1. The late 2012 iMac’s display is held on with an adhesive strip. It’s not held on by magnets. The proper tool to cut though the adhesive strip looks like a little pizza cutter.
          The cost on the Apple replacement adhesive strip is $40 and you are looking at an hour worth of labor at an Apple authorized service center.
          Initially people used heat guns and guitar picks to gain access to late 2012 iMac but that’s not how it is supposed to be done. DIYers tend to use 3M double sided tape to put it back together.

  2. The new Mac Pro has 4K HDTV ports and the others do not. So, I already have a Mac mini connected to my HDTV set. It I am getting a new Mac it will be able to support the new 4K HDTV standards. Just in case I get a 4K HDTV at home. My 8 year old Sony HDTV has to fail at some point.

  3. Had Powermac at home for the expansion and upgradeability. Though I added RAM and another HD, that is all I ever did. Really wanted to get another Power Mac, but opted instead, for the iMac.
    Have never looked back, and the cable clutter is MUCH less.

    At work, as each of my Mac minis have aged I am replacing them with iMacs. Much simpler/convenient/elegant. (Personally hate cable clutter.)

    1. I agree. I’ve owned 2 Mac minis and 2 iMacs. I much prefer the iMacs. That being said Mac minis have there place, they are more versatile than an iMac. They’ve been used in cars, sailboats, digital signage, home theatre you name it. The mini gets less respect than it deserves, but cable management is a must,

  4. Let us not forget if you travel, it is very easy to carry the Mac Mini in a small case, say a Pelican case, with the keyboard and cables. Should you fly or travel with the need to have your desktop for some reason. Reasoning you can hook it up to a TV, projector, or an available Display. The Mac Mini is very convenient for this.

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