29 May 2010

[design tools] A Mac Mini for Graphic Design?

Special Update! 30 May 2010 Z1637: I am quite suddenly (and delightfully) getting merrily hit by MacSurfer's Headline News page, an am already on the way to having the biggest Sunday this blog's ever seen! Nifty, and gratitude obtain! Whoever loved me enough to put me at the top of the opinion section – words cannot express!

I am seriously interested in the opinions of designers about using the Mac Mini for everyday use, so if you have any opinions, please, sound off! I like the information I'm getting so far! - Samuel John Klein

2422.Presently, an opportunity might present itself for me to upgrade my equipment.

Not that I'm all that dissatisfied with the old stuff. But it is, as they say, old.

My design center has, for a long time now, consisted of a dual-processor PowerMac G4. It's a lovely thing. It has (in two versions, thanks the the donations of a few angels back when the first one let me down about two years back … thanks to you all, I still appreciate this boon) served me very well.

Actually, it's not so much as it's showing its age as the world is moving on. It's a 1.25 Ghz 2-processor machine, mounting standard 80 GB hard drive (and a couple since added), and runs Creative Suite 3 pretty well (unless I want to try drawing in 3D in Illustrator, which makes it cry like a schoolgirl).

In particular the moving on has been in the move of Apple to Intel, and the move of software away from the old Power PC. Snow Leopard – if I could get it, wouldn't run on this machine. Adobe Creative Suite 5 – forget about that. In the tech editing job I'm doing right now, I'm borrowing a Windows 7 laptop (and it's a nice OS, that – almost like using a Macintosh).

So, however successful I  do get, even though the old Macintosh is running quite well right now, I'll have to try to keep up.

As budgets go, I could move up to a 13" MacBook Pro, or something like that. And then more than one acquaintance suggested I look into the Mac Mini. I'd heard of them some time ago and loved the idea but I didn't know how they would support graphics apps. But looking at the specs of recent models has caused me to consider it seriously.

For less than $800, I can get a Mac Mini that has this amazing-looking SuperDrive, more than three times the OEM online storage of my original G4, and a clock-speed that's more than 2x as fast - and something that only consumes 14 watts when idle and uses no fan. That's something that turned my head. It's like getting more than twice the computer I have now for less than half the price I originally paid for the old warhorse G4.

And they're not making software I need for the Power PC anymore.

So, I'm wondering - is the current brand of Mac Minis worth it to do design work on? They make excellent economic sense for me, and would get me back closer to the cutting edge, where I need to be.

If anyone has anything to say, especially users of Mac Minis who may right now be using them to do design work, I'd be interested to hear it. Sound off in the comments.

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Anonymous said...

The new Mac Mini will satisfy ALL your DTP needs. I've been publishing since the Apple Plus (late 1980s). Each new Apple was faster/better, then they shifted from the PowerPC to the Intel. I was a late comer to OSX, holding on to a G4, then a G4 mini. They worked fine, but, as you wrote and as reality came, the Intel and OSX was the new reality. So my first Intel mini was a 1.85MHz and it simply rocked. Not only with photoshop and InDesign, but rendering video (not the heavy stuff, but the day to day conversions.

I purchased the latest generation of Mini and it really rocks, due to the inboard GFX card, not relying on CPU RAM, but it's own.

You will be HAPPY to use either the Mac Mini or the iMac for DTP. Happier than ever! Go for it! If cost is an issue, purchase a used Mini (about $450) or iMac (about $550) on eBay.

Kevin Cole said...

Can't hurt. Grab the one w/the best card and most RAM available and it'll work dandy. (We're already using one in the office and it couldn't work more smoothly. Don't know if I'd want to do a LOT of video at once, but for what we're doing, it's smooth!)

sonyk said...

We r using quite few numbers for Publishing. Most of them working smoothly with default RAm. One system found to slow downafter using for sometime.
Trying to locate harware or software issue

Gahlord Dewald said...

I went from a Dual Processer AGP G4 (hotrodded the CPU to dual) to a Mac Mini in February of this year. I have a Macbook Pro unibody.

I do a lot of print and web work. I also do a fair amount of animation work (in both Flash and Toon Boom Animate Pro).

I am very satisfied with my Mac Mini. I am easily driving a Samsung 26" LCD, have my Wacom medium sized tablet plugged in, have a brace of external RAID arrays (though the internal disk is great, I love the speed of RAID stripes so I keep them on hand). I am currently running CS4 and plan to upgrade to CS5.

I do plan my video renders and other intensive tasks to occur at night when I'm not there. But for anything print or web related there's no problems at all.

The machine is very responsive, very quiet (goodbye fans on the dual processor).

I had been using my laptop more often than my desktop because it was more up-to-date and so on. My MacMini is essentially the same machine--CPU is almost identical. But the MacMini gave me room for 2x the RAM which makes allll the difference in graphics apps.

For this reason I would recommend going with the Mini unless you absolutely need the mobile production capability of the Macbook. If you only need mobile for presentation, light edits with the occasional harder edit get an iPad and then remote into your Mac Mini. You can get the iPad and the Mini for less than the cost of the Macbook pro and end up with a more RAMful working rig.

Not sure how it will go for you, but I can say that I do not regret my Mac Mini at all. Wish I had done it sooner.

The upgrade-path for the Mac Mini is nice also. Whenever I upgrade to something else (probably a more powerful Mini as I'm addicted to the quiet machine) my current Mini will make a great little server--small, quiet, low power use.

Good luck!

Jeff said...

Go for it. The mini is a powerful little box. I've used one with dual monitors (19" and 24"), and it worked like a champ. We use a couple of previous-gen minis as render boxes at KGW, rendering full HD After Effects projects, and they've never failed to handle the workload. Dollar for dollar, probably Apple's best computer.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, the mini does have a fan in it. It will be much quieter than the G4 though. Also, even the current minis use system RAM for graphics. Though again, it'll be way better than what you're using now.