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Reader Question: Moving from a 2010 Mac Pro to Newer Mac such as 2018 Mac mini (UPDATED with Reader Comments)

See my Mac wishlist.

Ron K writes:

I’ve been reading your 2013 Mac Pro 2013 in MacPerformanceGuide, and I have a question.

I presently use a (maxed out?) mid-2010 Mac Pro. Primary boot from an OWC Mercury Accelsior II PCIe SSD, another SSD in the spare optical drive, and several other hard drives (4 internal, and 8 external).

Still using the stock graphics card and a pair of NEC MultiSync displays (NEC PA272W and NEC PA242W). Lightroom, Photoshop CC 2019, and plug ins are very slow (45+ seconds to clean “noise” using Skylum’s Creative Kit as an example). I use the SSDs for primary processing, and then move files to externals after initial processing.

The 2013 Mac Pros are readily available for my budget: I’m just not certain what kind of performance improvements I would realize over my current set-up. I’m still passionate about my photography at my age, I don’t have the cash to drop on a 2018 or newer Mac. I would appreciate your thoughts, as always.

DIGLLOYD: the best value available today is the 2018 Mac mini which has a wide range of configurations from a base 4-core processor + tiny SSD and 8GB memory to fast 6-core processor + 2TB SSD + 64GB memory + 10 gigabit. I recomend buying it with 8GB, then installing 64GB OWC memory—save a good chunk of money.

Continues...

Costs in transitioning from old technology include connectivity (where do all the internal drives go?). If moving to Thunderbolt 2 you have such costs just as with Thunderbolt 3, so better to go to current technology, Thunderbolt 3. I would not try to move the OWC Accelsior SSD forward since an enclosure would be required. Basically, some stuff just has to be left behind.

Displays can be handled by an adapter like this for Thunderbolt 3.

I recently bought a base-model 2018 Mac mini for use as a test mule and secondary backup replicator/verifier machine, and just all around stuff. I attach the NEC PA271Q to it. Great machine, and big plus that it has dual Thunderbolt 3 busses.

When buying a Mac mini, buy the largest SSD (internal flash drive) you can afford and need, but not less than 512GB, 1TB strongly recommended. Memory is upgradable but the CPU and SSD are soldered on.

See recommended accessories further below.

William M writes:

Lloyd, I read your latest blog post response to a reader on the 2018 Mac mini with interest, and have noted your praises of its features and capabilities when configured with adequate RAM and storage.

Several years ago I tried to use a Mac Mini Late 2012 with maximum RAM and storage for my photographic work. Although clearly not up to current or even then current performance, it was adequate for LightRoom and Photoshop, if slow. At least for a while.

But I found that with intensive, and by that I mean continuous, use for several hours it overheated and on more than one occasion simply shut down with the case too hot to touch. I found some improvement by placing a small fan over the case, but still a problem.

I ultimately broke down and ponied up for a Mac Pro 2013 with 64Gb of RAM, D500 graphics, and 1Tb of internal SSD. This has been a very satisfactory machine to this day with no problems as a result of extensive use for prolonged periods of time.

Have you, or others, experienced challenges with the 2018 Mac Mini overheating? I do not believe that Apple’s engineers ever intended it for continuous intensive use for prolonged time periods, although my fan cooling method would probably work.

I had been thinking that my next machine for photographic work would be the an IMac Pro or a new Mac Pro when it arrives later this year, but the specs on the 2018 Mac Mini are intriguing. Any issues with over hearing in the 2018 Mac Mini?

DIGLLOYD: I’d rather have an iMac Pro any day over a 2018 Mac mini, for multiple reasons: (1) the built-in 5K display, (2) 8 or more CPU cores, (3) GPU and memory bandwidth. But there is that price differential thing.

However, a fully loaded 2018 Mac mini is a $4200 machine, which is not far off from where an 8 core / 32GB / 1TB iMac Pro can be had (OWC has had factory sealed refurbished iMac Pro models as low as $3879, availability is sporadic but several times now).

I would not judge the 2018 Mac mini by what its predecessor did, just as the 2017 iMac 5K and 2015 iMac 5K are far superior to predecessors which could get outrageously hot.

The 2018 Mac mini uses a new relatively low power CPU and the SSD and memory are all several generations past the 2012 models. I have not noticed heat issues.

Here is a sampler of what I”ve done with the 2018 Mac mini, at an ambient temperature of ~70°F to 80°F. At no time did the mini seem stressed:

  • Ran MemoryTester 'stress' for quite a while. The 2018 Mac mini gets warm but not hot.
  • Ran numerous benchmarks during for my 2018 Mac mini review. The 2018 Mac mini gets warm but not hot.
  • Ran IntegrityChecker on 20TB of data (simultaneous verify of 10TB of data on two different volumes taking ~12 hours). The 2018 Mac mini gets warm but not hot, and no unusual fan noise.
  • Copied (continuously) about 90TB of data over several days. The 2018 Mac mini gets nicely warm, but not hot, and I never heard the fan ramp up.
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