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Old February 22nd, 2005, 10:17 PM   #1
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Mac Mini: Capable DV Edit Station

Hello everyone.

I'd like to add to Bryan Roberts excellent review of the Mini.

I recently purchased a 1.42/Combo Drive/256 meg Mac Mini from the Apple store in Richmond Va. I had one on order but I was notified by the store that they had received a shipment so cancelled my order and drove 3 hours one way to get it.

It Seems that the retail stores chrage more for ram than Apple does online, $150 versus $75 0nline. Anyway, I opted for the 256 meg Mini, paid for it and then went over to a Mini on display and ordered a 512 stick from Crucial for $79 including 2nd day UPS shipping. Since that was a Friday, I didn't get the ram until today which gave me the opportunity to use the Mini in its stock configuration.

I must say, Apple needs to bump up the standard ram configuration on ALL of its models, not just the Pro models. Photoshop 7, Dreamweaver MX 2004 and Flash MX 2004 all run acceptably but the Apple iApps would barely work. iPhoto 5 took forever to index my library and iDVD 5 and iMovie 5 were barely usable.

Surprisingly Garage Band 2 worked OK and all but one of my Apple Pro Apps worked, the only one not working being FCP HD since its ram minimum is 384.

Livetype worked OK but would not do realtime Live Fonts with 256 megs of Ram. Sound Track would make some basic 2 or 3 track loops but nothing complex. DVD SP 3 would launch and allow me to make a simple 3 or 4 track DVD.

With the addition of 256 megs of ram to make a total of 512, everything works much better. iPhoto works great and editing existing iPhoto books was no problem. iDVD and iMovie both work much better as well.

My main concern, however, was how well would FCP HD work with 512 megs. The answer is quite well. I was able to get realtime effects and filters and scrubbing long projects was reasonably easy with only a minor stutter here and there. I imported several 45 min FCP self contained masters into a new project, sliced and diced, slipped and slid cuts with ease.

Overall I'm very happy with the Mini, the only drawback being not able to support dual displays extended desktop, which I could do with my iBook G3 800 that I sold to get the Mini (with the help of the open firmware mod that's been mentioned before). This just gives my the opportunity to save for a 20" or 23" Cinema Display :)

I seem to be a generation or two behind in my Apple hardware for personal use. I use a dual proc G5 at work for editing uncompressed SD from a Beta SP cam, but my home rig, until the Mini, consisted of an iBook G3 with Lacie 120 gig external drive, which by the way is a must with the Mini for video work, and Lacie external Superdrive.

For what I got for the sale of the iBook, I think I'm better off now with the Mini being able to run Pro apps. I was able to use my existing Apple 17" B&W Studio Display, all of my printers, and my Lacie FW drives. The onl;y thing I lost was the portability of the iBook.

As mentioned in Bryan's post I can still upgrade to a faster hard drive, more Ram and a dual layer DVD Superdrive in the future.
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Old February 23rd, 2005, 08:39 AM   #2
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Re: Mac Mini: Capable DV Edit Station

<<<-- Originally posted by Dave Perry : I opted for the 256 meg Mini, paid for it and then went over to a Mini on display and ordered a 512 stick from Crucial for $79
.........

With the addition of 256 megs of ram to make a total of 512, everything works much better. -->>>

You lost me here. If you ordered 512 MB and added it to the 256 MB base machine, wouldn't that give you 768 MB? Or do you have to throw away the 256 MB in order to add the 512? Or maybe there's a typo there somewhere?

I have an aluminum 15" 1ghz G4 Powerbook, and when it came out the largest available memory expansion only took me to a total of 512MB. I find this adequate for most of what I do, however if I have a bunch of applications running and try to edit a big Photoshop file it can slow things to a crawl. Garageband runs fine until you start working with a large number of tracks. My 1.25ghz G4 desktop machine with 1.28GB RAM doesn't suffer from these problems. Get as much RAM as you possibly can with the G4, you will never regret it!

Congratulations on your new Mac and thanks for the report. I know that others are interested in this topic. Driving 6 hours to buy something on an impulse! Wow, I thought I was the only person that did crazy stuff like that ;-)
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Old February 23rd, 2005, 10:13 AM   #3
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Boyd - I believe the mini only has one ram slot so he did have to throw away the 256 - he should always keep it for any future ram-based problems but as you know , there's hardly ever a problem - that's why we use macs. Dave thanks for the info related to how good the apps run on only 512- as you know the gig module is very expensive so most people will be stuck with 512 until the prices come way down. thanks Kurth
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Old February 24th, 2005, 12:40 PM   #4
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Actually, 1gb sticks of ram are quite affordable, SO-DIMM and regular size DIMM versions. The only problem? Apple's overpricing policy. Now, the base systems are worth it, about $3000-$3500 for a basic dual 2.5ghz Powermac G5 with 512mb or 1gb of ram, but it becomes outrageous once you try to add another hard drive or another stick of ram. Mushkin, Corsair, Kingston, all of these ram manufacturers sell 1gb sticks and 1gb dual packs for far less than Apple charges. For example, to make your ram configuration 8gb on a Powermac G5 setup, the additional cost is about $3050. Going to Mushkin's website, ordering 4x 2gb Dual packs for Apple based memory adds up to about $1530. That's almost half or less of what Apple charges for 8gb of ram. For hard drives, Apple charges about $100 more for 2x 250gb 7200RPM hard drives, the drives should cost about $160 each (assuming that they're Western Digital 250gb SATA hard drives with 8mb cache), making for $320 for two. For software, you're out of luck because about 90% of what Apple sells is Apple-brand software.

I congratulate you on your purchase of the Mac Mini, quite a bold move for spending on such a technically low class system and managing to prove that the machine actually is pretty good and does just fine for even video editing =). Of course the Mini can't scratch the performance of the dual 2.5ghz Powermac G5, but it's good to hear that it can do enough. ^_^
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Old February 24th, 2005, 01:13 PM   #5
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Yes the mini has one slot. I removed one of my 512MB sticks from my 1GB PC, placed it in the mini and put the 256MB in my PC. 768 on PC (Running noticable slower now, but still fast enough) and 512 in my mini. So the ram doesn't have to go to waste, of course unless that's your only machine.

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Old February 24th, 2005, 05:22 PM   #6
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Boyd,

As others mentioned, the Mini only has one slot so I ordered a 512 to repalce the 256 with the net gain being 256 megs more than what it came with.

With what I sold the iBook for, I could not afford the 1 gig stick but will eventually save up for it.

It really is a great little machine for editing DV on.
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Old March 7th, 2005, 11:03 AM   #7
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Check out the new MacWorld issue

The April issue of MacWorld has a review of the minis and a couple related articles. I found the benchmarks interesting; on almost every test a 1.25mhz eMac was the equal of the 1.42ghz mini. The exceptions were things that were completely processor dependent, and there the 1.25mhz mini as the equal of the eMac. Another interesting surprise is that the 40GB 1.25ghz models are using 5400RPM hard drives, in spite of the 4200 RPM spec that apple provides. The results was that the 1.25 whipped the 1.42 any disk-related tests (although the eMac did better still). The review points out that Apple could switch back to 4200 RPM 40 GB drives without warning however. As you'd expect, the G5 iMac is considerably faster, especially for CPU intensive tasks.

There's another article which compares the price of a mini with a Dell Dimension 2400. This article probably won't win any converts in either direction, but the conclusion was the Dell is cheaper but lacks a number of features - especially software - that are included on the mini. Specifically, the Dell is missing a firewire port, has an inferior video card (which uses system memory), can't burn CD's, only has a 3 month warranty, has the home edition of Win XP and WordPerfect is the only bundled application. The Dell comes with a monitor (which Dell values at $45) keyboard and mouse however.

There's also an article where they tear the machine down and show all the parts. They say that you can replace the hard drive however it involves cracking the case, removing the optical drive, a plastic frame and the fan. They say that Bluetooth and Airport are not options which users can add themselves.
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Old March 10th, 2005, 10:46 PM   #8
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Boyd - I got around to replacing my mini HD last weekend with a 2.5 inch 7200 speed internal drive using some online video step by step guide I found. The process with video help was involved but nothing out of reach. I am by no means a computer builder etc. but do feel comfortable with basic tools and delicate parts so it was no big deal. I did have to remove the optical drive and the fan etc. but it really wasn't a big deal with the video tutorial. I then used the mac mini included software recovery discs to reinstall my OS and applications (I didn't feel like trying to figure out how to make my external drive bootable etc., I was a little lazy) with little snags - note: you must format your drive in the disc utility program BEFORE you click NEXT in the OS install menu or it won't let you install on the new drive and you have to restart your system and do it all over again. If anyone is interested in the entire process, the video I used can be found at:

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/mac-mini/

The performance gains were great and now with a 7200 speed internal drive and 7200 speed external FW drive from Maxtor, it's a fine FCP HD editing machine. The internal drive seems just as quiet at just barely a whisper and I've read the heat increases are insignificant. On another technical note, I also installed an aluminum heat spreader on my 1 gig of ram and the heat spreaders WILL fit in the mini.
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Old March 11th, 2005, 08:48 PM   #9
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Bryan: it's great that you're able to do these things, and it sounds like you've got a nice machine now. For the average person though, I wonder if this really makes sense. Seems like the real appeal of the mini is the "plug and play" aspect. When you start spending extra money and time to customize the machine it doesn't appear so attractive in terms of value. There isn't all that big a gap between the mini and the g5 iMacs which run circles around a mini performance-wise.

However, if you're willing to take the time and spend the money you certainly have shown that it's possible to squeeze better performance out of a mini. Thanks for the report.
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Old March 11th, 2005, 09:43 PM   #10
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Boyd - agreed - it does sort of defeat the main selling point of the mac mini by adding expense in upgrades and making it less plug and play. I think for me, I've always enjoyed tinkering and it makes it so much more fun to tinker with "elegant" and compact technology rather than just a big open ugly box in tower systems (unless it's extreme performance).

Regarding the g5 imacs, in all the bench performance tests I've seen and performance comparing writeups, they have performed better but not by huge amounts and barely a substantial level in my mind for being a newer G5 processor (and these were stock minis or at the most, 512 megs of ram). So with the maxed out RAM and fast internal HD, the price hits around $950 for a new mini which I would guess is comparable (not equal though) to a G5 imac in stock form @ $1,300 (only 512 megs of ram). I must also say for my purposes, I can't stand the idea of being married to a display for the life of a computer so what I tried to hit was a comparably performing headless g5 imac.

I think the enjoyment for me also comes in knowing that Apple most likely didn't want people to use a mini for much FCP HD use as this would obviously cannibalize on their other performance driven systems a little and I seriously doubt they'd ever come out with a "souped up" mac mini for that very reason. Finally, for me and unfortunately I bought into this scheme just like Jobbs planned, the mac mini was my first tryout round into the mac world to get a feel for what I used to think of as the "dark side". What can I say- I'm a big fan of the platform and with the great demand for FCP use, I had to sort of ditch my previous favorite NLE in PC only Vegas and over the past 6 months have learned the correct way to use FCP and spent a lot of time with AVID so this was all perfect timing for me. Anyways -

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Old March 12th, 2005, 10:54 AM   #11
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That all makes sense Bryan. I'm not putting down the mini at all... my fastest machine is a g4/1.25mhz single processor tower with 1.25GB RAM (and a bunch of disks). This works fine for what I do, but its days are numbered :-)

See page 24 of the April MacWorld for benchmarks comparing the mini's with the eMac and iMac. The mini's had 512MB RAM. In the speedmark 3.3 overall test the 1.25 mini scored 117, the 1.42 mini scored 123 and the iMac G5/1.6 scored 153. So that's 24% faster than the 1.42 mini and 30% faster than the 1.25 mini. These results were similar for most of the other benchmarks.

Now that isn't really earthshaking I guess for most apps. OTOH, I do 3d animation where it can take up to 3 hours to render one second of video. So the iMac could save me 21 hours of rendering for a 30 second clip as compared to the 1.42 mini. But of course neither the iMac nor the Mini were really designed for this sort of use (although the mini might be a good render farm candidate...)

I do agree about the all-in-one nature of the iMac. It's great for lots of people, but when I go for the G5 it will definitely be a tower.
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