Buying A Mac mini Instead Of An iMac

A few months ago I moved back to America after working overseas in India and I was ready to replace my 2012 13″ MacBook Pro Retina. It has been a great laptop and I never thought I’d get over 6 years of use out of it. I’ve been using MacBooks at home and work since 2007 and first considered purchasing a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. But all the reports I’ve read about the MacBook keyboard problems didn’t give me confidence to invest a good amount of money in one of those.

I decided to shop for a desktop Mac instead. I wasn’t going to be traveling as much for work and it seemed to offer more for your money than a laptop plus no keyboard issues. I assumed this would be an iMac as those looked great. The only problem was they hadn’t been updated in a long, long time. So I waited and hoped they might get an update before the summer or fall. When I saw the news in March that the iMacs were finally updated I was ready to go spend some money! But then I noticed the updated ones didn’t have the new T2 processor all the new Macs have had since the iMac Pro was released at the end of 2017. And all the models started with spinning disk hard drives and not SSD. Upgrading to a faster SSD was going to be expensive.

This led me to reconsider my options. I thought again about the new MacBook Air, especially since it has Touch ID built in. But I came across another of those keyboard complaints that almost make you want to switch to a Windows device. Then I looked at the Mac mini page. Apple does a pretty good job making that little box look appealing. I hadn’t considered it before because I didn’t like the idea of having to buy all the peripherals like monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. separately.

When faced with a decision of picking various options that I wasn’t sure about, I did the most natural thing I could think of: make a spreadsheet and compare all of them side by side. I compared a Mac mini and 27″ iMac with the same processor and a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. I added in the additional costs for the mini with a 27″ 4K monitor, keyboard, mouse (later decided on the Magic Trackpad), and webcam. I noticed AppleCare was slightly less for the mini than the iMac ($99 vs $169). There was a $50 discount for this configuration of the mini at Adorama, and no discount yet available for the new iMacs on either Adorama or B&H Photo. My price comparison had the mini at just over $200 cheaper than the iMac.

I also compared the features and ports available on each computer. Things in favor of the mini were the T2 processor, two more USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI port. For the iMac there was an SDXC card reader and it offered a better GPU and screen. To me, the items on Mac mini side carried more weight. I don’t fully understand all the technical benefits of the T2 processor, but I felt like if I’m buying a brand new Apple computer in 2019 then I want their latest technology in it. The mini seemed to offer that now and unfortunately the iMac doesn’t. It may be a better buy next year if it gets updated, but I didn’t want to wait another year.

Something else I liked about the mini as I considered my options was how flexible it may be in the future with adding updated peripherals to it. If Apple ever makes a new monitor with Face ID built-in that isn’t outrageously expensive then I could update my screen and keep the original one as a second monitor. Having two more Thunderbolt 3 ports is helpful in not needing to buy a dock and being able to add additional fast SSD storage on an external drive down the road. I like being able to buy a new Mac in 2019 with USB-C ports but not need to buy any dongles since the mini (and also my monitor) have USB-A ports.

In the end I decided to go with the Mac mini and so far I’m happy with my purchase.

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