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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Comments

One Drobo will take care of all your storage AND backup needs for a good long time. Granted, I'm an early adopter and convert from stand alone hard drive hell. I store 4 TB of images from the last ten years, raw and jpeg files, and it is the most stabile drive platform I've encountered as of yet. If I need more capacity or if a drive goes down, I pop in another or larger drive or two. In the long term, it's cheaper than buying stand alone drives.

Good on the rest of your ideas though.

I think the solid state drive is overkill. You're probably thinking this will speed up Photoshop, but with 8GB of RAM, you will pretty much never have to use the scratch disc. (If you're doing video editing, this may be a different story, but for Photoshop work, 8 GB more than suffices). A SSD will give you mild improvements in OS performance and applications will load a bit faster, but I don't think that's worth $600.

I'm not familiar with that specific monitor but it looks good on paper. Purchase a calibrator if you don't already have one.

My son and I recently looked at his vintage Apple IIc that his mother
and I bought him years ago. The most amazing thing about it?
It was "Made in USA."

I just bought two computers (1) Mac Mini and (2) iMac Quad Core. If I had to do it over again, I would get two iMacs.

Why?
1. The iMac screen is a pure dream to use. (Unless you want to get a pro, calibrated screen.)
2. The cost differential with the Mini, after built is not significant.

Divided D-76 is beginning to look relatively straightforward, isn't it?

I second the monitor opinion "I would forget about the Viewsconic, instead take a look at NEC's Spectraview line. These LCD monitors are excellent, incredibly sharp, and super easy to calibrate and profile. "
If you are serious about color fidelity you need a monitor you can calibrate and depend that the colors you see are what is there.

I forgot to mention the NEC is much easier to swallow after you look at the price of the Ezio.

I don't think conservation of monitors is important.

Flat panels are cheap and the elegance of the iMac design is high value IMHO. I live in a MacPro, iMac, and Dell laptop household. The iMac wins hands-down as an overall package.

I bought the new Mac mini base system about a month ago (no SSD). It is silent and amazingly cool. It's pretty fast and sleeps/wakes at a touch of the power switch. Power usage is very small. About a year ago I built a Win7 i7 based 8-gigabyte machine and over-clocked it to 3.8 GHz. I use the Win7 system with its SSD C: drive and Raid disks for photos for my Lightroom and Photoshop. The Win7 system works well, but I love the new Mac mini which is 1/50th the size of the i7 mid tower. The limitation with the Mac mini might be in the external drives. Each is the size of the mini with probably slower access time than an internal drive and greater noise. You might like putting those drives in a closet and attach to them over a gigabit network.

Mike,

One thing I forgot: You should purchase ideally another drive that is exactly the same as your intended system drive (or a cheaper larger standard non-solid state disk -- e.g. a 500Gb SATA).

One of the brilliant things about OS X is that you can duplicate your system drive using rsync (http://www.jwz.org/doc/backups.html) or Carbon Copy Cloner (http://www.bombich.com/) to create a bootable backup drive. In the instance that your main drive dies, you can either plug it in on USB or replace it in the mini and voila!

Your mac will restart straight back into the operating system. No re-installs necessary. Time Machine is useful for the history of documents, but unfortunately, still requires a full rebuild of the operating system to restore.

Pak
p.s. The Microsoft natural keyboard is a wonderful product! I've got one too...
p.p.s. Don't believe that SSDs are any more reliable than traditional hard drives: my first 128Gb SSD died after 16 days... after which I've never been able to trust the replacement.

Mike,

I *hate* the idea of the Apple Trackpad - I have found all finger/trackpads to be very blunt instruments when used for Photoshop fine work. In contrast, a Wacom Cintiq display/stylus touch surface is a great combo, for those who can afford it (I can't). A mouse is my preferred default.

Mike,

One other thing is that you may want to consider buying exactly the same drive as you are using as your system drive (or a cheaper non-SSD version which is larger).

Why? One of the brilliant things with OS X is that you can make backups of your system drive that are bootable, either by USB or by replacing the drive (meaning you can avoid the whole reinstallation and recovery from Time Machine).

You can either use rsync ( http://www.jwz.org/doc/backups.html ) or Carbon Copy Cloner ( http://www.bombich.com/ ) to do this.

Pak
p.s. Don't believe that SSDs are any more reliable (although in theory they should be). My 128Gb died after 16 days.
p.p.s. The microsoft natural keyboard is a wonderful product. I've got one too!

I approve of this setup.

Two things to mention:

(1) Someone mentioned getting your RAM pre-installed. Not necessary; I upgraded the RAM on my Mac Mini myself and it took about 5 minutes. That was last year's model (the one that supposedly was not upgradeable). The new ones have been redesigned specifically to make RAM upgrades easy. It should take you about 2 minutes.

(2) Sporobolus mentioned getting another HD for off-site storage. I want to back him up (ha ha!) on that. It is VERY IMPORTANT to have an off-site backup. The most sophisticated on-site backup scheme on earth won't help you if (a) your house is broken into and all your gear is stolen, or (b) your house burns down.

No, really! This is super important, and everyone should do this. It doesn't even have to be complicated. Just get a small portable HD of whatever size you need (don't worry about it being super fast or whatever). Find a trustworth place to store it (in-laws? Your office? Neighbor's house?). Then, once or twice a month, bring the HD home and do a full backup. ASAP, return the HD to its offsite storage place.

If catastrophe strikes, the most you will lose is whatever you've done since your last backup. You're at higher risk on the day you bring it home to refresh it, but isn't really a practical way around that.

No, really. Go back and read that again. It is not a complicated solution, and imagine if catastrophe does strike, how glad you'll be that you bought that $100 portable drive.

first of all i don't know how you can possibly integrate all this advice -- it's not all sound, and you could easily get a wrong impression or spend weeks vetting the info ...

some comments regarding some of the advice:

1) the current Mac Mini is extremely quiet; it uses 30 Watts when working really hard (and an SSD should reduce that a bit); the complaints about noise are from a few generations back

here's one of the best reviews of the Mini (from a PC-oriented site):

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3843/apple-mac-mini-review-mid-2010

2) though i was cautious about your storage choices, OWC is not at all "Mac-specific" storage (nor is LaCie, but i would avoid LaCie) -- OWC markets to Mac users, but only a couple of their drives (the ones with SoftRAID) are at all Mac-specific (i have used several OWC products -- they are few clunkers in their catalog, but some are overkill and their customer service is above average but not angelic)

3) as someone who paid more than current prices to bring my 13" MacBook Pro to 8GB RAM, i'd say that unless you are a very casual user this will benefit you -- "free RAM" is not as clear an indicator as it sounds, and more RAM gives you more performance for your money than the SSD; my usage may differ from yours, but there's no question 8GB was a major improvement for me over 4GB

4) adding your own drive is not simple on the Mini, but it's much easier on any version of MacBook Pro (where Apple supports it as a user task)

5) regarding the warning about DVI adapters -- and i have used two different Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapters with an assortment of monitors; for a 1920x1200 screen, you'll have no problems with Apple's or the cheaper one from monoprice.com; i looked over the negative reviews Hugh linked (the link is messed up, btw) and many of them are for special cases (antique DVI-A format), a different product (DVI-HDMI adapters) or complain about the length (they are meant to be used with an existing DVI-DVI cable)

5b) if you use a higher-pixel-count display, however, requiring "dual-link DVI" -- this takes a different, more expensive adapter and that adapter has been problematic -- i would avoid such displays unless they have a DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort connection (and no, the Mini does not produce a 10-bit DisplayPort signal)

good luck; i don't know how you can

Make SURE to hook the data drive to the Firewire 800 port. You'll get much better performance than you would if it was connected via USB.

Having the backup drive hang off the USB port is OK. In fact, it might be better as there will be no contention on the Firewire bus.

I agree that a 240G SSD is probably overkill for the OS + applications. 120G should be enough and prices are falling fast enough that, should you ever outgrow it, you might be able to get the 240G later for less than the delta between the 120G and the 240G now.

Enjoy your new system!


One thing to consider is whether Apple will continue the mini line much longer. What will your upgrade path be in that case?

Sure, get the display of your dreams, but make sure the rest of your graphics chain won't compromise it.

Yes, you might as well max out the RAM, as memory format gets obsoleted quickly, too, and it's cheap. Buy matched pairs of sticks. There's always a clear sweet spot in terms of $/bytes/benefits, but in this case not much choice.

Re CPU "upgrades": FYI, the new Mac Mini offers a choice between two older-tech mobile processors running the same speed bus. Per benchmarks, the slightly faster CPU will get you a 10% overall improvement in Photoshop operations, and of course little gain in memory- or disk- intensive tasks.

I wish I could bring myself to pay a Grand for a monitor. For cheapskates like myself, check out the Dell 2209WA. Its an IPS, 24-bit color monitor that uses Adobe RGB color space for ~$250US. Can't dial down the brightness to 80cd/m2, but it is a huge improvement over a laptop (macbook pro)screen. Mac user since 1988, even though I think their quality has slipped in recent years and am also upset with their programmed obsolescence - I've had to either upgrade or "cheat" the OS install on two computers recently for myself and my daughter. Good Luck.

There's a lot of technical information and conflicting commentary here. I'd suggest reading http://macperformanceguide.com/Reviews-MacMini.html and other pages on Lloyd Chamber's Mac Performance Guide to get the best understanding of the technical details.

Other than the "fast" part, your list looks good. Both Lloyd Chambers (above) and Marco Arment recommends that any user wanting to invest in a high performance computer go with a Mac Pro. http://www.marco.org/868606627

Good luck.

Wow when it comes to opinions about computer choices the comments just light up.

Throwing my voice into the crowd, this has probably already been said but why two single 1.5tb drives instead of the mirror Raid version made by the same people? Hard drive prices are cheap enough that it wont set you back much more for added protection.

I've had a harddrive die in one of the mirror RAIDs and it all worked just as expected. I don't do any serious work on non-raids anymore just for good peace of mind.

Oh, one thing nobody seems to have noticed so far:

The iMac 27" has a DisplayPort *input*.

So you could get that machine with its higher-res screen, and use its screen after it has become too slow.

Two rather big caveats though:

It's DisplayPort signalling only. No DVI with DisplayPort Adapter, etc. Apparently, special adapters exist. And you'll probably stay with Apple for your next system anyway, so that shouldn't be a huge problem.

What is a huge problem though, at least in my cook, is that in order to use the iMac 27 in "target display mode", it has to be running! This just makes the input near-useless to me.

Why not have a consultation with diglloyd? Or ask him to write his answer?

(And I think you will find the Mini too slow for photo-editing, if you ever use Aperture 3 or CaptureNX.)

Yes: extra RAM

No:
SSD. Just not worth it. I think your external drives will be louder than an internal notebook drive in the Mini
Monitor. Just a gut, but I don't think Viewsonic is either a performance or value leader here

Sorta: the OWC external drives. I use them too, but I'd roll your own with a drives you pick, and 2 TBs too. Note, they are not silent

Consider: A drive doc, like NewerTech Voyager Q FW800/400+USB 2.0+eSATA. You can mount bare drives, back up to 'em, remove them to a safe place. I'd spend money on offsite back up before an SSD. Newegg has cheap/free (with other purchase) USB only versions, but duping a 1 TB drive with USB 2.0 will make you cry. OK, it made me cry.

Hi Mike, I have been thinking about a similar setup to replace my aging Powermac G5.
I think SSD ads too much money for the return.
I suggest you investigate an NEC Spectraview monitor over the Viewsonic. Best monitors except for Eizo, and much more reasonable price. NEC has a new series I am not familiar with.

Buy two of the externals - you want a primary backup and a secondary backup. The drives are cheap and you're going to trust a lot of data to them. I use two OWC externals - one for onsite backup (regularly, about once a week) and one for offsite backup (once a month). I use SuperDuper! to make bootable clones of all data partitions. You can keep your onsite backup current and then just copy it over to the offsite backup on a monthly basis. If something goes down - you can just plug a backup into any Intel mac and it's like you're on your primary machine - all programs, preferences and settings are ready to go.

I switched to a Mac Mini, SSD and a couple of "green" external harddisks. No idea about the brands models or types since I am not close to being or becoming a technical savvy person. I chose this setup (well a friend of mine did) with a take on energy compliance and "carbon footprint"As for monitors I have two Eizo's 22" energy saving technology thingies.

The two monitor setup is nice when using lightroom.

Quick note I forgot to mention: the 27" iMac now has a video input, so years from now you can upgrade your computer but keep the iMac as an external monitor.

Some comments...

1. The CPU in the Mac Mini is underpowered if you're going to use this rig for extensive post-processing. It's based on the C2D architecture with only 3 MB of cache. You want something with lots of cache and quad cores.

2. Installing an SSD into a new Mac Mini is a PITA. Good luck with that.

3. An SSD is totally worth it, IMO. 240 GB might be big if you're only going to use it as your boot + core apps drive, but if you really want speed, put your Lightroom catalogs on your SSD, and watch it FLY. SSD = instant responsiveness for anything you put on it. 240 GB is so luxuriously big that you can put bulky things like your LR catalogs on it and assign it as your PS scratch disk without worrying about "wasting" space. And see point #2 about why you don't want to get a small 80 GB SSD now and upgrade in a year or two when SSDs come down in price. Maybe something in the middle like 120-160 GB would be optimal?

4. If you get a monitor like the Viewsonic that has such a wide gamut (118% NTSC), you absolutely MUST get a monitor calibration utility. Come to think of it, monitor calibration is essential regardless, but when you run a wide-gamut monitor, things will look oversaturated and unnatural. Don't settle for a basic calibration device like the Pantone Huey or Spyder 3 Express. Get something like the Spyder 3 Pro or i1 Display 2 / Photo LT.

Mike,

You can still get last year's 27" i5 iMac (the MB953LL/A) for $1550. The price-performance ratio is pretty stellar. A better display and computer by a mile than your tricked out mini. And much softer too. I hear you on problems with the iMac, but there's a very real value proposition to contend with here.

Has anyone referred you to David Brooks, of Shutterbug magazine?
He likes the mac mini with a third party monitor -- and has tested several monitors on the market.

See; http://blog.shutterbug.com/davidbrooks/

Personally, I wouldn't let anyone move my files for me. Ever. I don't care what you call them, I think I know more about managing large amounts of photo files than most people. I don't think the "geniuses" ever had to back up 700gb's of files on several hard drives. Maybe I'm wrong.

Everyone else is commenting, so . . .

It seems very strange to expect reliability from external drives which are using the cheapest possible disk and run hotter than drives in a good case.

Separate the "file storage function" from "minute-by-minute work function" and make/buy a RAID-5 file-server box. It doesn't even have to be in the same room, or even a Mac. Link up with Gig ethernet. Work you are doing at any moment is in the memory, not from the disk, isn't it ?

The monitor is nothing so very special. Look at NEC (might kill the budget though).

Isn't the Mini expected to be 'adequate' for web-browsing and playing HD-video ? Can you really expect snappy performance from an old processor, when using the current (and next) versions of the usual graphics software ? I guess whatever Mac machine uses the newer multi-core cpu's is physically too large - but over several years it might be more ergonomic to move a filing cabinet to make more room, than to get totally fed up with mediocre editing and graphics performance.

Sorry if that sounds a bit negative. :o)

IMHO contrary to some others, a SSD as your main drive to house the OS and application files will be much quieter and faster than a traditional HDD. Your plan to use the 2 terabyte drives for main storage would make sense in that type of configuration.

There would be no spin-up or latency with the SSD. Thus faster and quieter performance. Whichever way you decide to go, you want your main drive to have the fastest possible performance. Boot times and application performance will benefit by a faster drive e.g. SSD

Mike,

Monitors may not last as long as desired. They don't fail, they just get washed out colors and less contrast. YMMV, just saying I have been happier replacing the monitor along with the computer, usually in 3-4 years.

It's surprising to me that out of the 96 comments so far no one has mentioned GPUs. Adobe has been incorporating GPU code in their products (for example Photoshop CS4 and CS5) and demonstrating it left and right in tech conferences. In a GPU equipped machine, zooming in and out and panning a 60 megapixel photo is as easy as a 2 MB pixel on a regular machine. Even though the current version of lightroom doesn't utilize it, it just has to happen sooner or later. We'll see more of this technology in all aspects of photo post processing in the near future.

The Mac mini has a dinky little GPU. A macbook pro does better while iMacs are completely in another league. If you want to future proof your setup, consider a decent GPU for your machine.

Also looking at the CPU usage profile of lightroom on a mac, it seems it's quite CPU hungry. But the workload seems to be well behaving (multithreaded), so you'll get much better results from additional CPU cores. This would be another good argument for a quad core machine (iMac or Mac Pro). You can increase the Ram on a Mac Mini but you can't touch the processor or the GPU.

(P.S. Yes, I'm a geek!)

as others have posted, no need to pay to have your data and applications transferred to your new machine...

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3322

Don't buy anything Dell. Here is why:
http://www.fpb.org/page/531/Late_payment_hall_of_shame.htm
Scroll down a little to "DELL Inc."

I know you're probably gonna get tired of seeing responses from me but just an FYI - you don't even want to think about installing an SSD yourself. I'm sure if you talked to OWC, they have explained the pitfals of DYI SSD installs.

On a different note, you may want to research the Mac mini's compatibility with the SATA 3.0 spec revision. If it complies with this standard, then a SSD in the mix should be a no brainer.

If not, then the iMAC with the SSD/HDD config may be an option, assuming that Apple took the SATA Revision 3.0 into consideration when they designed it.

Finally, one non-Apple option would be to talk to the people at Puget Computer Systems, and have them build something based on Windows 7 and a comparable i5 or i7 Intel chip that meets your workflow needs. Paired with a quality monitor, either a NEC or Eizo, it should be awesome.

http://www.pugetsystems.com

I guess I should stop now ...lol

I replaced my wired Apple mouse with an Apple Magic TrackPad two weeks ago. I find the TrackPad imprecise and frustrating to use, no matter how I set it up in Preferences.

Hello Mike,

If you haven't already done so, you really must study all the invaluable information on Lloyd Chambers' Mac Performance Guide.
http://macperformanceguide.com/index_topics.html

I visit your web site daily. Keep up the splendid work.

Leslie.

Why are you not buying the cheapest iMac again?

your post reminds me of all the things that are wrong with the Apple solution. why not just get another vendors product. The box manufacturer is not important as long as you buy a well made piece of equipment.

The OS is not important as to be honest they are all stable now. what is important is the applications and the box having the processing power/memory required.

The important item is the application suit. The least important bit is having the apple logo. And as I said the OS differences are trivial.

So why stick with apple. Free yourself. Sorry those glossy screens are a no no for me.

I purchased one of VS IPS monitors several years ago. Can't remember the number but it was the only IPS at a good price at the time. (450) 19 inch square It lasted 12 months before the DVI interface just died. That was the warranty so I just started using it with the VGA interface. That was a little blurry compared to the DVI. The rest of the monitor died about 12 months after that. If you think you're gonna get 10 years out of the monitor, I wish you the best of luck. You will be incredibly lucky to reach your worst case of 5 years. It's gonna be a crap shoot. My brother bought one at the same time I did and it is still going strong. I really liked the displays colors and the only thing I could really complain about it was the BackLite bleed at low light levels. I calibrated the display with an Eye One and until the DVI interface died it never budged an inch from the initial calibration. Hopefully VS has solved it's problems and you'll get a good one. However I looked at it on NewEgg and there are no reviews from customers. This means it's a new item. Caveat Emptor. I think you'd best enter this transaction with a worst case of a bad monitor just after the warranty runs out. Otherwise you will be disappointed.

There are things FAR more important than need; want is one of them. :)

I'll echo a couple of the comments here about nailing down a really good GRAPHICS capable monitor.
Given the chosen photographic profession we find ourselves in, and given that you intend on keeping a hard working monitor through several computer iterations, finding a monitor that is great should be vital.
You have a keen interest in music Mike. You listen to it through the best components you can afford because it adds value to your aural experience (rather than via $8 earphones on an mp3 player!).
For those whose main interest is in viewing images onscreen why short-change yourself by making that experience ineffective?
My own research has shown me that Eizo and NEC make fantastic monitors. I've ended up with Eizo in a colour managed environment and when I make direct comparisons to the 6 other brands of monitor I've had and colour managed, well, there is no comparison!

All the best in sorting thru all the advice.

Here's some more: RAM requirement, I'm not sure 8 Gigs is necessary. When I got my MacPro, I went nuts and installed 10 Gig(minimum 2 from Apple and 8 from OWC). I've never used it all (Maybe someday when I have a big movie open in Final Cut and Aperture and iTunes playing and Logic and what else running and PhotoShop,seriously how many apps do we run at the same time). Run Activity Monitor while you are doing your normal routine and see how much memory you actually use now, BTW Activity Monitor should be in the Utilities folder inside Applications. Same goes for disk space. Again Activity Monitor can help. I checked out SSD you mentioned, seems very pricy for what you get.

I hope this helps (?!?).

If you plan on pushing around DNGs from a Pentax 645D and perhaps dabbling in some video in the next couple of years, then you may want to future-proof your purchase and go bigger...

- screen size (any time you spend scrolling or moving palettes is wasted clock cycles)

- data throughput (HD & interface will determine how quickly you zoom in LR)

- RAM (you won't need more than 8Gb now, but you will want the capability to expand beyond 8Gb later as files get bigger and the OS more bloated)

So maybe, after all of this, a well-spec'd 27" iMac with a 4Tb external HD for Time Machine may be the ticket.

It's much easier spending your money than mine!

p.s. - +1 for the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch. Using a stylus with Photoshop is a joy.

Approve! I have a very similar setup. You're going to love the SSD.

I'm a long-time geek (30 years in Silicon Valley) who likes to keep things simple for myself. This is what I do:

My internal hard drive is only for my operating system and applications. I back this drive up by cloning it to an identical hard drive in an external enclosure. This doesn't need to be done too often, only when I install a new application or something like that. When the internal hard drive fails, I just pull it out and plug in the clone, and it's like nothing ever happened.

All my data (image files, text files, php source files, etc.) are on an external, two-disk RAID array. I never have to think about backing them up, since the RAID array automatically keeps two copies. (I occasionally, not often enough, copy the contents of the RAID array to yet another external drive.)

In my case, the RAID array is running on a network. I use a combined DSL modem/router/switch to establish my local IP network, and it connects the computer, the network-attached RAID array, and the Epson printer. Opening an image file is somewhat slower than it would be if I kept such files on the internal hard drive, which I have done, but one can use the extra seconds to take a deep breath or stand up and stretch. It's probably two years since I started working this way, and I would take the automatic, don't-need-to-think-about-it, backup of the RAID array over slightly faster file loads any time.

Presumably you have some kind of high-speed connection via a cable modem or DSL modem and you could do something similar. Other, not insignificant benefits of setting up a local IP network include better security, since my modem/router/switch is also a hardware firewall, and a free IP port on the router so the GF can plug her laptop into the network when she is visiting.

Many of the Commenters sound like experienced Mac users. Can the new Mac Mini really handle PS and LR? (I am not a pro photographer, but I do like a responsive machine).

I'd love to switch to a Mac system but don't want to pay for a Mac Pro. Can you truly run Photoshop and Lightroom effectively on a Mac Mini? If so, I would be really tempted to abandon my home Windows PC.

Thank you.

I used to subscribe to your printed newsletter "The 37th Frame" via Luminous-Landscape many years ago. As a software engineer, I am mostly a PC/Windows guy, but now own a 15" MBP w/8GB as well for work. To me, it's all about not wanting to wait for big RAW files to be loaded, processed, and saved back to disk as TIFFs or updated RAW files. This means maximum CPU speed (since most software still don't take real advantage of multiple CPU cores and threads), maximum RAM, and fastest possible disk access. Of course a high quality IPS monitor and a proper backup strategy are crucial. My thoughts:
1) Get the fastest CPU speed i5/i7 system that you can afford. A Mac Mini is not necessarily the best choice. It's just that it's the smallest and cheapest Mac available.
2) Get 8GB RAM. It makes a serious difference over 4GB if you open multiple apps or process large files in Photoshop.
3) Use a SSD as the boot drive for very fast startup time. But be very careful what brand/model you buy. Either OWC Mercury or OCZ Vertex 2 (SandForce controller-based) are the best choices. Do not buy the overpriced, underperforming Apple (Toshiba) SSD.
4) Skip 1.5TB drives. Use a 2TB Hitachi 7K2000 for storage with another 2TB drive for external backup. And consider off-site backup in case of fire/tornado/natural disaster.
5) Consider NEC PA271 or 2490/2690 monitors over the Apple or Viewsonic brands. By all accounts, they have the best image quality and are much cheaper than Eizo/LaCie.
6) Read Lloyd Chamber's website on how to pick a system for photography-related computing: http://macperformanceguide.com/index_topics.html
7) Consider that if you go to an iMac, you are putting all your eggs in one basket. If the monitor fails, you are offline until the entire system is fixed.
8) As a power user, I am not all that seduced by Macs. They are elegantly designed, small, and light, but you pay a significant price premium without getting the fastest or latest hardware. For serious photo processing, I prefer to custom build an Intel Core i7-based Windows PC, using best of breed parts/components, and overclocking the system to 3.8-4.0Ghz, but this does take technical hardware and software proficiency.

If everyone who commented tossed in $5, you could go with a Mac Pro!

--Marc

So how are you going to install the SSD into the Mac Mini? An (unnamed) dealer destroyed my earlier-generation Mac Mini while installing a larger HD. Apple says (and their photo supports this) that installing RAM is easy. But I have my doubts about the disk, unless someone knows more about this...

For what its worth..
Newegg sells the same products OWC will sell, but a little cheaper. Might be worth looking into.

Regarding your monitor choice: I agree with the poster above about View-Sonic, although I don't have direct experience with their monitor line. I do, however, have experience with their projectors and (used to) employ about a half-dozen in the course of my work, and if their monitors have anywhere near the same "reliability" that the projectors do, I'd respectfully suggest investigating another alternative... Every one in our inventory failed within 3 years of its purchase, in what I'd consider "occasional" use.

That said, I've been using the same LaCie 321 for 6 years now, and it still calibrates, despite being used every day. Probably my best ever "new & unused" electronics purchase.

PS- eSATA for those externals!

I don't envy you for a minute. With 96 comments, you've got to be even more confused now than you were before you asked.

My only advice is to try and think ahead; way ahead. You can add RAM and HD storage as you need it, but you're stuck with the choices you make today for CPU and display space. Also, as applications get more complicated, they'll continue to push more of their demands to the video processing unit. Whatever choice you make, be sure that you're not shortchanging yourself in any of these three areas. And, by all means, buy AppleCare.

Just a note, replacing a hard drive in a mini does NOT void the warranty. Finally, i get to use my former Mac Genius powers!

One more thing...

Mounting your monitor (or iMac) on a good articulating arm will give you your desk back when you need it. My 30" ACD moves out of the way effortlessly with one finger when I need to take up the desk with prints or architectural drawings.

I'll chip in with the other comments about the magic trackpad - try it out first. I don't necessarily disagree about the iMAc un-upgradeability, but like someone else said, for me computer upgrades are few and far between these days so I don't think I'll be replacing it for a few years. And I really like the 27" iMac - powerful enough for me, minimalist, great screen for my purposes (I scan a lot). All my data is on NAS so what's in the machine doesn't really bother me

My day job is an IT manager and this purchase decision is ... too technical for me. Still just reading 1/3 to it but I have to post this.

SSD is very fast. My Powerbook cannot load my M8 photos from C1. But my little hacked netPC (for running Mac OS) can load the same set of photo very fast and ease. It works.

I highly recommend a SSD option (but not hacked your netbook -- as it is one time curious thing and upgrade is hard unless you trust the Russian hack; not sure about hacked PC).

Should I continue read this thread, ... just a little bit too IT, isn't it? Better do my IT job instead.


Won't comment on the Mac cause I've never owned one. (Worked on them, but never owned.)

But I think I'd recommend an external drive. Western digital has My Book Studio Edition II with mirroring RAID (RAID 1). the 4TB (2+2) version costs $400 at Amazon. The 2TB version is $190. And AFAIK, you can use bigger disks later. Formatted for Mac, has USB2, Firewire 400/800 and eSATA connections.

Western Digital also has RAID (0, 1, 5) NAS, but it's quite more expensive.

Mike,
I'm weighing in on this late, I know but I thought I might throw in my two cents worth.
I think the mac mini may meet your needs, particularly if you're using a lower megapixel camera. But if your planning on using that Sony Full Frame you keep lusting after, I think a machine with a higher end graphics card would be a better fit.
I'm wondering if you'v even considered a macbook pro? It seems you don't really need the portability, but size is one of your concerns. You could even get one with a matte screen. If you'd like to use it as a second monitor for your pallets, in photoshop or as an inspector & browser viewer in Aperture, & just plug your monitor of choice in for your color-critical editing & viewing. Or you could simply close it up and use your Viewsonic as the sole monitor.
It's a lot to swallow I know, being roughly triple the price of your proposed mac mini solution, but I think you'd be happier with it in the long run... and if you ever DO want to get some work on the road, it would be a lot easier to pack up and take with you.
Good luck.

Mike, reading through these, "can of worms" is the phrase that comes to mind. Do you want to become the computer advisor to your readership or leave it to the likes of DigiLloyd?

For my 2c, the monitor choice looks a bit iffy (does not have the pedigree of Eizo and NEC), and a smaller SSD for apps and systems files should be enough.

Thanks for your site, Robert

"Do you want to become the computer advisor to your readership or leave it to the likes of DigiLloyd?"

Robert,
No! Definitely not. In this instance I'm ASKING for help, not giving it.

Mike

Go for it! The Mac is not perfect but it's much better than the alternative. Get the best monitor you can afford.

BTW, one more thing:

yeah, sod the trackpad. either buy a proper tablet (very useful with Photoshop) or buy one of the "dark laser" Logitech mice. don't know whether it's the proper name, but those are mice which apparently work on any surface. Plus, Logitech has a tiny USB wireless adapter that charges the mouse even while you're working.

I had Logitech MX100, a very nice laser wireless mouse. (It's dead, Mike. :-)) It's an incredible hassle to have the mouse charge in its cradle and you have to use a backup wired mouse. Pox on the system. The charging USB adapter is about as big as the nail on your index finger. Since I'm now using a notebook mouse (the wired one also died), I think the first thing I'll buy will be one of those new Logitech mice.

Games are hell on mice, btw. :)

Get a 30in, the new HP or the new Dell one, there is no going back and those 5 inches are WAY noticeable.

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