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Reader Questions on the Mac Mini

Willem K writes:

What is your view about using an external SSD via thunderbolt as a boot drive?

DIGLLOYD: Why do this for a boot drive per se? For other specific goals (caches, Lightroom libraries, huge Photoshop files, VM paging due to maxed-out memory— these are real reasons). A boot drive per se— no.

Thunderbolt is fast and expensive with few choices, and is overkill for a boot drive. Use USB3 if need be. But better to just use a fast 6G SSD internally for a boot drive.

Thunderbolt is appropriate for ultra high performance using a PCIe SSD for those users whose work will benefit from a really fast drive I/O, e.g., the Helios + Accelsior combination.

USB3 is pleasingly fast, but won’t deliver the peak performance of an internal 6G SSD. Still, it is plenty fast for a boot drive (for that purpose), and FAR faster than Firewire 800 and the equal of eSATA.

Arnold F writes:

How should I partition my 120GB SSD drive for optimal performance?

DIGLLOYD: Don’t partition it unless there is some specific reason— no performance gains to be had with an SSD. This applies to an SSD in any Mac.

Jesse S writes:

I want to create a Fusion drive on older and slower Mac....

DIGLLOYD: Why adopt an inferior solution? And one that I cannot get to function at all. And all this on an older Mac? Have fun.

David K writes:

For Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4 work, is a better video card needed than a Mac Mini offers.

DIGLLOYD: I turn off OpenGL for my work (Open GL is needed to benefit from a “fast” graphics card)— too may glitches and issues and this is true even in Photoshop CS6. And the fact is, no mainstream tasks I perform in Photoshop are faster with a “faster” graphics card— in fact they are just a bit slower (some obscure Photoshop filters do benefit, but not the mainstream operations like Smart Sharpen and Gaussian Blur).

Furthermore, Open GL can incur some really awful screen scaling issues.

See also Why I disable OpenGL in Photoshop CS5. CS6 has fewer issues, but it’s still a net negative.

In short, a “faster” graphics card is a waste of money for most users, even most photographers. Focus on what actually works, not on technology masturbation. And so the graphics are a non-issue for the Mac Mini (except in the sense of losing some main memory, but nothing can be done about that with the Mini). A Mac Pro can and should be used for a robust system, but worrying about a graphics card while contemplating a Mac Mini is an inappropriate out of place idea.

That said, there are exceptions to this rule, but they get very specific. For example, video users doing transcoding and similar might benefit from a fast graphics card. But such users should be using a Mac Pro in any case! And of course gaming (for those with time on their hands). Don’t spend money on “faster” unless you know for a fact that Task X in Program Y actually benefits.

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