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Mac Mini '11 update


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#1 Mister Mumbles

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 12:07 PM

Because of the Lion release I snooped about Apple's site for a bit again, and I saw that the Mini (as well as the Macbook Air) received an update. i5 CPU and optional i7 upgrade are now available. What I really find interesting though is that the higher priced model now comes with the dedicated AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics chip. Frankly, I didn't think Apple would ever do that. Mind you it only has 256MB VRAM, but I'm pretty sure it beats the pants off of Intel's HD 3000 chip.

I'm happy to see the Mini getting some love still. It sure makes it a very competent little box.

Edit: Oops. I totally overlooked the fact that the optical drive was removed. Now that's not so good, but not nearly as calamitous as it would have been once upon a time, as everything is going more digital - a computing trend I generally prefer. I wonder if they had to sacrifice it for the processor upgrade.
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#2 Smoke_Tetsu

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 12:41 PM

Too bad some games still require the disc to be in the drive to play although it's nice that they have started to move to other methods that let you play without a disc without resorting to cracks. It's nice that the new Mini has AMD graphics for the first time since they first came out although for me it's to little too late for a mini to be an upgrade. I'd rather get another iMac if anything.
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Alex Delarg, A Clockwork Orange said:

It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.

the Battle Cat said:

Slower and faster? I'm sorry to hear such good news?

Late 2012 27 inch iMac, Core i7 Quad 3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB, 3TB HDD - Mavericks

Late 2009 27 inch iMac, Core i5 2.6GHz, 12GB RAM, ATI Radeon 4850HD 512MB, 1TB HDD - Mavericks

Mac Mini, PowerPC G4 1.4Ghz, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9200 32MB, 256GB HDD - Leopard

Dell Inspiron 1200 Notebook: 1.2GHz Celeron, 1.2GB RAM, Intel GMA915, 75GB HDD - Ubuntu

Generic Black Tower PC, Dual Core 64-bit 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM, GeForce 9600 GT 512MB - Windows 7


#3 Hansi

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 01:16 PM

Just buy the external with it, fits snuggly underneath or on top of it. If you need it that is. I just crack my games even if I bought them, can't stand the idea that someone pirating the game would have a better experience than I. But then again I buy most games off Steam now or another digital store if they offer a better price (or games not on Steam, DAO etc).

#4 jackdawsson

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 11:12 AM

Admittedly, since my iMac fried in March, I've not had much of an active interest in Mac gaming. Meantime, much of my serious work has switched to PC. However, I still want a Mini for OS X specific stuff, either a new one or the older model as a cheaper refurb.

I'd be interested in any views on how the mid-range Mini's HD 6630 GPU compares with the older Ati HD 2600 Pro in my dead iMac.  I'm assuming, not massively better, esp with the same stingy 256MB VRAM. So maybe it's pointless getting the mid-range one then having to buy an optical drive.

Though all my Mac games are on disk & optical drives are cheap (so that isn't an issue for me), I'm loath to chuck money on something that won't be significantly  better gaming-wise than my old iMac's GPU. Esp as I can rebuy all my best Mac games much cheaper for my PC & then sell the Mac ones for a decent sum to boot.

Thanks in advance for any replies, which needn't be expansive.

#5 Sneaky Snake

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 01:15 PM

View Postjackdawsson, on 21 July 2011 - 11:12 AM, said:

Admittedly, since my iMac fried in March, I've not had much of an active interest in Mac gaming. Meantime, much of my serious work has switched to PC. However, I still want a Mini for OS X specific stuff, either a new one or the older model as a cheaper refurb.

I'd be interested in any views on how the mid-range Mini's HD 6630 GPU compares with the older Ati HD 2600 Pro in my dead iMac.  I'm assuming, not massively better, esp with the same stingy 256MB VRAM. So maybe it's pointless getting the mid-range one then having to buy an optical drive.

Though all my Mac games are on disk & optical drives are cheap (so that isn't an issue for me), I'm loath to chuck money on something that won't be significantly  better gaming-wise than my old iMac's GPU. Esp as I can rebuy all my best Mac games much cheaper for my PC & then sell the Mac ones for a decent sum to boot.

Thanks in advance for any replies, which needn't be expansive.

I would be willing to bet that the mini with 6630 performs wayyy better then your iMac did. The 2600 pro was slightly worse then the 8600m which was worse then the 9600m (obviously), which is around on par with the 6490. So you'll be getting a huge CPU boost coupled with a moderate graphics boost.
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#6 Eric5h5

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 03:59 PM

VRAM doesn't have anything much to do with speed anyway; with most games, 256MB is mostly just going to limit the resolution and amount of AA that's possible.  (i.e., a 2560 x 1600 display with 16X FSAA might be a problem.)

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#7 Smoke_Tetsu

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 04:34 PM

VRAM doesn't have everything to do with speed however if your GPU doesn't have enough VRAM you will have to reduce your settings or else suffer from texture thrashing and reduced performance from it. Some games even crash if you turn up texture detail and don't have enough VRAM for it. I wouldn't go around telling people 256MB is enough to turn up all the settings in all games especially upcoming ones. Simply put you will have to dial back your settings for some games (like newer\more demanding titles) if you only have 256MB or less... in fact games are starting to need 1GB to be able to turn up all the settings or apply add-on High Res Packs. Stuff like that and higher resolutions simply adds up... This is to max things out mind you not "minimum" system requirement stuff (and even that is rising)... this is even BEFORE you do stuff like turn up antialiasing. Newer cards coming with more VRAM isn't just snake oil salesmen trying to pull a fast one on you. More VRAM on an older card won't make it faster than a newer card no.... on the flip side your card is going to chug if it doesn't have enough.  :bleeding eyes:

In the end these Minis still aren't really for gamers although they are more capable now and probably pretty competitive with older Macs especially with AMD on board.
--Tetsuo

Alex Delarg, A Clockwork Orange said:

It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.

the Battle Cat said:

Slower and faster? I'm sorry to hear such good news?

Late 2012 27 inch iMac, Core i7 Quad 3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB, 3TB HDD - Mavericks

Late 2009 27 inch iMac, Core i5 2.6GHz, 12GB RAM, ATI Radeon 4850HD 512MB, 1TB HDD - Mavericks

Mac Mini, PowerPC G4 1.4Ghz, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9200 32MB, 256GB HDD - Leopard

Dell Inspiron 1200 Notebook: 1.2GHz Celeron, 1.2GB RAM, Intel GMA915, 75GB HDD - Ubuntu

Generic Black Tower PC, Dual Core 64-bit 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM, GeForce 9600 GT 512MB - Windows 7


#8 jackdawsson

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 05:24 PM

Thanks guys for all your views! Much appreciated & taken on board.

Plenty of interesting points to mull over before I pull the trigger on some version of a Mini in the next week or so (it won't be much longer). Still, time enough for me to consider various options, including getting a discounted older 320M Mini, which are still available from a few places.

FWIW, my cheap Acer PC bought recently has a Sapphire HD 5570 card (1GB VRAM), which is neither expensive nor high-end, but ample for my gaming needs. Not to be compared of course with all you get for your money with modern Macs, but nevertheless it gives me a slight dilemma.

For now, I'm also reading up about Mac users first impressions of OS X Lion, including trying to find out which Mac games might have any compatibility issues. Basically, just weighing up whether I really need Lion over Snow Leopard after all. Regards to all!

#9 ltcommander.data

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 08:06 AM

View PostSneaky Snake, on 21 July 2011 - 01:15 PM, said:

I would be willing to bet that the mini with 6630 performs wayyy better then your iMac did. The 2600 pro was slightly worse then the 8600m which was worse then the 9600m (obviously), which is around on par with the 6490. So you'll be getting a huge CPU boost coupled with a moderate graphics boost.
It looks like the closest equivalent to the 6630M will be the Mobility 4670 previously used in the iMac which falls between the desktop 4650 and 4670.

I thought the 6630M was a weird choice on Apple's part since reusing an existing part like the 6490M or 6750M would have simplified the supply chain and OS support. The 6630M is basically a really low clock speed 6750M no doubt using parts that couldn't meet the spec of higher end products so perhaps ATI is providing them to Apple dirt cheep, otherwise I thought the obvious choice of discrete GPU for the Mac Mini would be the 6490M.

Apple is known to overmarket the capabilities of their GPUs, in that previously they labeled lower clocked mobile GPUs as desktop cards. Recently they've taken to correctly identifying the mobile GPU even on the desktop iMac. The funny thing is that Apple is now undermarketing the capabilities of their GPUs with the 6630M in the Mac Mini. The distinguishing feature of the 66xxM lineup is that they use cheaper DDR3 memory. Apple is actually outfitting the 6630M with GDDR5 which has double the bandwidth of DDR3 clock for clock, so performance should be better than what you find in other PCs using the 6630M.

#10 jackdawsson

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 05:46 AM

A few benchmarks for the HD 6630M, be it with inferior DDR3 VRAM compared to Apple's GDDR5:

AMD Radeon HD 6630M benchmarks

Going further to answering my own question above, FWIW, Tom's hardware recommends GPU upgrades being at least 3 tiers higher than ones previous card.  In their Radeon list, my 20" iMac's HD 2600 Pro with 256 DDR2 VRAM is in the 17th tier. Though the HD 6630 doesn't appear, its near equivalent the HD 5650 is in 10th tier:

Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart

Compared with my previous 20" iMac's gaming ability (mostly strategy gaming like TW, AOE3, C&C, etc.) & as others have kindly pointed out, all suggests that the new Mini's HD 6630M will be no slouch at most gaming, bar the most GPU-intensive stuff.  Certainly a contender for me if I decide to keep all my disk-based Mac games. Many still only played on medium-skill levels, so replay value at higher skill levels will be there for ages yet.

By the by, despite some nominal extra expense, I actually prefer having an external optical drive as they tend to be a bit of an Achilles' heel when it comes to common hardware failures. Thanks again to all who responded!

#11 innuenstu

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:37 PM

I purchased this machine over the weekend and am really happy with it. I bought the middle of the line with 2.5 i5 processor, 4gb of ram and the 6630 256mb video card running lion.

This is my first intel mac since the last machine I bought seven years ago (dual core g5). Very quick machine, only game I have played though is left for dead 2 through steam. I have everything high quality minus AA and playing at my max resolution of my monitor 1280x1024 and runs perfect. I'm looking forward to seeing what else it will run in the future. All in all I think it's a great computer.

#12 Janichsan

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 03:13 AM

Maybe that's a good opportunity for me to give my experiences with games on the i7 AMD Mac mini I have for a few weeks now: I found most modern games I throw at it run wonderfully smooth at 1280x720, some at slightly higher resolutions like 1360x768 at high settings. I mostly don't have fps numbers, though. Examples:

  • L4D2, maximum settings, 1280x720: smooth as silk. At 1360x768 smooth as slightly crumpled silk, but still completely playable
  • Duke Nukem Forever, maximum settings except for antialiasing (only FSAA, instead of MSAA) 1360x768: completely smooth.
  • RAGE, mostly standard settings (texture cache at "Small", anisotropy high, AA settings have no effect, vsync on) at 1280x720: consistently smooth. WIth texture cache on "high" the game comes to a grinding halt on location changes – the 256 MB VRAM obviously reach their limit.
  • ETQW, maximum settings, 1920x1080 (native resolution of my monitor): completely smooth.
  • Borderlands, maximum settings, except antialiasing (only 2x): smooth at 1280x720, less so at higher resolutions.
  • Batman Arkham Asylum, maximum settings, except AA: smooth at 1280x720.
  • Dirt 2 (Demo): at default settings (most things on "medium") and 1280x720, I get solid 30+ fps in the in-game benchmark. With everything maxed out (still at 1280x720), that drops to 20 fps (though I actually don't see any noticeable differences between medium and high settings...)
The only game so far where I have to keep the settings on medium to low to keep it playable is Civ V.

Overall, the performance of my Mac mini is pretty similar to what I can see on my PS3, which is surprisingly good. The only thing I'm not very happy with is that I have to use Lion on the Mac mini...

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#13 innuenstu

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:21 PM

View PostJanichsan, on 01 March 2012 - 03:13 AM, said:

Maybe that's a good opportunity for me to give my experiences with games on the i7 AMD Mac mini I have for a few weeks now: I found most modern games I throw at it run wonderfully smooth at 1280x720, some at slightly higher resolutions like 1360x768 at high settings. I mostly don't have fps numbers, though. Examples:

  • L4D2, maximum settings, 1280x720: smooth as silk. At 1360x768 smooth as slightly crumpled silk, but still completely playable
  • Duke Nukem Forever, maximum settings except for antialiasing (only FSAA, instead of MSAA) 1360x768: completely smooth.
  • RAGE, mostly standard settings (texture cache at "Small", anisotropy high, AA settings have no effect, vsync on) at 1280x720: consistently smooth. WIth texture cache on "high" the game comes to a grinding halt on location changes – the 256 MB VRAM obviously reach their limit.
  • ETQW, maximum settings, 1920x1080 (native resolution of my monitor): completely smooth.
  • Borderlands, maximum settings, except antialiasing (only 2x): smooth at 1280x720, less so at higher resolutions.
  • Batman Arkham Asylum, maximum settings, except AA: smooth at 1280x720.
  • Dirt 2 (Demo): at default settings (most things on "medium") and 1280x720, I get solid 30+ fps in the in-game benchmark. With everything maxed out (still at 1280x720), that drops to 20 fps (though I actually don't see any noticeable differences between medium and high settings...)
The only game so far where I have to keep the settings on medium to low to keep it playable is Civ V.

Overall, the performance of my Mac mini is pretty similar to what I can see on my PS3, which is surprisingly good. The only thing I'm not very happy with is that I have to use Lion on the Mac mini...

Very cool. I was unaware you could get the mac mini in the i7 chip with the AMD card. I did not see it at the apple store. Now I want to return mine :) I don't even see it online at the store. Mind if I ask where you purchased yours?  The machine you bought has the radeon 6630 and not the intel 3000?

#14 Janichsan

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 03:54 AM

View Postinnuenstu, on 01 March 2012 - 06:21 PM, said:

Very cool. I was unaware you could get the mac mini in the i7 chip with the AMD card. I did not see it at the apple store. Now I want to return mine :) I don't even see it online at the store. Mind if I ask where you purchased yours?  The machine you bought has the radeon 6630 and not the intel 3000?
The 2.7 GHz i7 is a BTO option in the online Apple Store for AMD Mac mini.

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