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Friday, 23 November 2018


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When I sent you a note about this, I looked at the "top spec" machine, but not the price. More than $4K. Whoa. You should switch to PCs. 8-)

I don't really get the Apple thing with computers. I know they are stylish and PCs are utilitarian but on the inside these days they are pretty much identical.

Which leaves the differences being mainly the keyboard layout and the operating system.

As an owner over the years of many PCs with different Windows versions and flavours of Linux and a Macbook Pro 17", I feel I'm in a reasonable position to compare them. And my feeling has always been that all 3 systems do some good stuff and some bad stuff in equal measure. I certainly don't leave my windows computer to work on the Macbook and think "wow this is amazing". Nope, it is about as equally annoying as Windows and Linux.

The real difference is Apple is so darned expensive for nearly exactly the same thing.

Once upon a time Macs and PCs were very different and there was a genuine case for championing one over the other but these days? It's just a glossy veneer. And I still prefer the openess of PCs - you can mix and match just about any brand of component you want to get exactly what you need. Which is the exact opposite of where you are, faced with "you get what you are given and there is nothing you can do about it".

A PC with a flavour of Linux might be worth checking out. It's a Unix style OS like MacOS.

I prefer Ubuntu with the Xubuntu XFCE desktop 'cos I don't like the tablet style Unity interface that the mainstream Ubuntu now has. XFCE is a little bit Mac like or you can customise it to be a little bit Windows 2000 like...

And it happens to be free which should never be sneered at.

I sympathize, sort of. I am similarly torn. I bought a Canon M3 over the Panasonic GX8 because 1) it was smaller/lighter than my 7D, 2) it was less expensive (retired guy budget) and 3) it had an APS-C sensor instead of the smaller 4/3rds sensor. I really wanted a fully articulating LCD and was hoping it would come on the M4 (which never materialized) when it came out. Instead, Canon jumped to full frame mirrorless. It has the LCD I wanted but it is as big and heavy as my 7D (not a good choice for backpacking) and way more expensive than my budget allows.

I'm beginning to think that camera companies (and Apple) don't listen to us any more than Congress does. Maybe if enough of us abandoned our loyalties, they'd get the message.

This tired old Windows guy didn’t like the Mac mini because it isn’t a PC tower. The new Mac Pro will come along next year for his needs (won’t be cheap).

Here’s a review from someone who really knows macs (and has created several great apps):

My suspicion is that the 'capable, practical, reasonably-priced mid-sized Mac desktop' market is several hundred people, and that's why Apple don't make them. It's essentially people who work from home (where 'working from home' means 'not from a coffee shop') & so don't need a laptop and can't justify a big fat video-production system.

It's the same if you want a laptop. The top of the line Macbook Pro is compromised by trying to be too thin. With a bit more thickness they could add better cooling to allow it to run faster and a bigger battery to run faster longer. If I didn't occasionally need my computer to be portable I'd only have my hackintosh (I wanted to use my own monitor and didn't want a system where every upgrade was a new peripheral cluttering up my desk like the Mac Pro). As much as I love MacOS I feel they have lost their way on hardware for professionals.

Ars Technica says: ...Why Apple's engineers should optimize for size as opposed to any other design parameter, I don't know.

Mike says: Bottom line? Same as it's been for a while now. If you want to land between the too-much Mac Pro and the too-little Mac Mini, Apple stubbornly insists you're a user who wants to buy a new monitor every time you buy a new computer (not me), and that you want to use its choice of monitor instead of your own choice (not me).

Chuck says: I'd choose use a VESA mount https://www.amazon.com/HIDEit-MiniU-Mount-Patented-Under/dp/B018CHZR14/ to mount a 2018 Mac Mini onto an Eizo monitor that uses a VESA mount https://www.amazon.com/CG2420-BK-ColorEdge-Professional-Graphics-Monitor/dp/B01BUILA5E/

If I ever switched to Linux I could mount an Intel NUC on the same Eizo monitor https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KB4YWQS/

BTW VESA is an long time industry standard.

Many reviewers, many different takes. Marco Armet, a well known Mac affectionado but also very vocal and frequent critic of Apple had an entirely different take. https://marco.org/2018/11/06/mac-mini-2018-review Curmudgeon Lloyd Chambers has one on order.

Apple made it very clear at the mini’s unveiling who they saw as the mini’s main customers, the very customers who currently buy the mini... in bulk. Customers like large build and render farms, collocation server farms, artistic uses like live performances and driving large scale digital displays used in theatres.

It’s a shame you don’t feel you have enough knowledge to make these decisions for yourself. You often pick cameras to buy which fall outside the review sites enthrallment using your well honed photography experience.

I’m in the market for a solid photoshop/lightroom machine, not something that demanding production people need where every second wasted is $ but for a very experienced amateur working at home for my own pleasure. I’m seriously considering the mini regardless of what MKHD or the Verge or Ars think. Or Marco for that matter.

It can be spec’d to be fast and very capable and when I did a rough price comparison on similarly spec’d iMac it was about £1000 cheaper than the iMac but of course lacked the monitor.

Your only other Mac option is a MacBook Pro which similarly spec’d is also more expensive than the mini because you’re buying a portable 15” monitor too.

I’m totally with you.
Apple is dropping too many balls, particularly for less demanding customers. The new Macbook Air is great, but it’s too expensive. There is no reason they should not have good products at prices for homes and students.

I have a cylindric Mac Pro from 2014. I overpaid, but it’s silent and fast still, so at least I can keep it a couple years yet.

Not having fun with computers any more?

Too bad - I can't help you with that, but the following was fun. (Was fun reading for me, but who the hell am I anyway? Eternal question, eh? Anyhow...)

"The future of photography is code" at https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/22/the-future-of-photography-is-code/

That's one of the problems with Apple. They may be going downhill in design, performance and function while getting smaller and cuter, but there isn't really another choice for many of us. At least not yet.

After my latest mistake in buying last year's 21.5" iMac with an HD while not noticing the HD was an extraordinarily, unbelievably, excruciatingly, disgustingly slow 5200(?)rpm, I began thinking of dropping Apple. I have started looking for a Windows replacement for my wife's laptop, but can't find anything I trust. Memories of her Windows 7 disaster make me even more gun-shy of Windows than Apple's increasingly poor choices make me of Apple.

But yes, my slow as molasses iMac is thinner than my 2009 was, and thin is what is important in a desktop.

Why not look for a second hand Pro?

There is a way out, sort of. Buy a 15.4” MacBook Pro mid-2017 quadcore, 16 gig. memory, 256 gig. SSD on sale from B&H. You will have a computer with an internal graphics card capable doing justice to your monitor, and easily capable of speedily running the mainstream photography programs.
It will just sit there with the lid closed as you use the keyboard and mouse tha you used with the Mac-mini.

As an added bonus you will have a laptop to take with you on trips away from home.

Optimistic note: The Mac Mini is basically a laptop but with keyboard, mouse, and monitor not attached. For photo editing, laptops have been good enough for who knows how long? It's not like the math problems the computer has to do to edit photos has gotten any harder except to scale with the number of megapixels! Over the last few years, computer performance has been growing exponentially and megapixel growth has been stagnant. Lately, when I run a system monitor, my browser taxes my computer harder than Photoshop. And recently browsers have been designed to take advantage of multicore chips. If your computer feels slow, maybe it's because websites keep demanding more and more resources. Perhaps the Mac Mini has caught up to your other needs!

You can find out for yourself. You already have the monitor you want, surely a keyboard and mouse can be found. Buy it and if it fails to meet your needs, return it. Write us a review?

Pessimistic note: As the reviewer states, "It simply scratches one crucial itch: you're wedded somehow to the macOS ecosystem and need a computer." Which is you. You are willing to switch to iPad as your main computer, but not willing to switch to PC. That is a bigger change!

See? This is why Apple keeps doing this to everyone. You insist you want differently but when it comes to paying your money, you buy Apple every time. Why should they act any different?

I'm not going to tell you to buy a PC. Just, I am telling you, you brought this upon yourself.

Do you have anything against running two screens? An iMac + your calibrated display then would make sense.

Marco Arment at marco.org has an interesting take as well. His version retails for $2499 (Core i7, 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD). He, and others, have noticed that the Mini is very fast. A similarly equipped 21.5" iMac is $2999 but it comes with a screen (of course) and a discreet GPU, something the mini can only get via an external eGPU (>$1000).

So, as usual, it boils down to your mission. I don't really need the GPU and, like Mike, I don't want a screen with each new machine. I just bought the Fuji 56mm f1.2 (very happy so far) so I am not in the market right now, but come next may, I will probably be getting one of these little beasts.

How about buying a PC and installing iOS on it?

I currently have a Mac Mini Late 2014 model with 8GB Ram and 256GB SSD and I'd have no problem updating to the new $799 Mini, upgraded to a 256SSD for total price of $999. Gonna wait awhile and hope for the prices to drop over time though. Maybe in a year or two I'll upgrade.

I'm no power user I suppose. DxO Photo Lab seems to work just fine with my current Mini, so no urgency to upgrade. I'm also melded to the Apple ecosystem as it were, with iPhone and iPad. Strangely enough I mostly use Google apps (Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Sheets, Docs, etc.) rather than the Apple counterparts.

I've used many PC's as well, and even an Ubuntu device over the years. I basically prefer using a Mac is all. Totally subjective these days, and I don't have the energy to start up again with a Windows device.

The Mac Mini has been a repackaged Apple laptop minus screen for quite some time. As an owner of one, I got along for several years, but finally caved in and bought a 27” 2017 5k iMac last year when I wanted to upgrade. I prefer a slightly smaller 21-24” screen, but the 21” version is no longer upgradable after sale, leaving no choice but a 27” if you want the freedom of not paying the Apple tax for memory upgrades. I added 32gb of memory for a third the cost from Apple. I do love the 5k resolution, but not the overall design. And don’t get me started on the included wireless keyboard that lacks the side numeric keypad! Im convinced the designers at Apple do not use their machines for daily use - at least not the standard models.

Apple won't give you what you want. Fuji won't add Focus Bracketing to the X-Pro2. T-Rump is in the White House. Crooked Ivanka uses personal computer for official emails.

At least my 1940's Deardorff view cameras give me no problems and do just what they were designed to do.

In general I take the point, but let's not let Intel off the hook too easily. In 2015 I built a PC using a Haswell Refresh CPU (i5 4460) on an H97 motherboard and with DDR3 ram. Since then Intel has revised their CPU socket twice - from LGA 1150 (which my board has) to LGA 1151, and then altered that. As a result, I can't fit later generations of CPU on my board; to use the latest & greatest Coffee Lake processors I'd have to buy a new board. Oh, and new memory as well - DDR3 can't be fitted to the new boards. That's in just three to four years. I feel especially sorry for those who built their PC just a couple of years ago - anyone who bought a motherboard for a Skylake or Kaby Lake processor (6th and 7th generation) cannot fit the new 8th generation Coffee Lake processors onto it. (Well, I gather it'll fit but won't work. Which might be even worse.)

I've used computers daily since 1987 (Amiga, Mac and PC). It still baffles me that in 2018 things aren't plug and play. I'm sure I have 1000 cables and adapters lying around as there seems to be no common standard used for anything. Even a ubiquitous standard like USB comes in an exhausting number of flavors. And there seems to be no competitor in the marketplace that want to take usability seriously. As for Apple, I don't use anything made by them anymore. I just can't take their arrogance anymore. I miss my iPad, but my other tablets get the job done - not as stylish maybe, but for a lot less money and more options to boot.

Of course you want to buy a new monitor each time you get a new computer! Or buy a new computer (and monitor) when the graphics card inevitably craps out.

Those landfills ain't going to fill themselves you know.

"But C'mon. It's not like Apple is a poor company and can't afford to develop a capable, practical, reasonably-priced mid-sized desktop that's not crippled in any way."

Of course they could. The Intel NUC series shows how lazy, poor and wasteful the Apple design actually is.

Apple design has gone from thoughtfully beautiful and ergonomic to shallow and impractical aesthetics.

I suppose there are several options to retaining the Mac-ness while finding an in-between performance level...

1) Buy a secondhand , previous generation, high-end-ish machine. Possible OS upgrade problems in the future.

2) Build a Hackintosh on your own choice of hardware. Do-able but of questionable legality.

3) Run the Mac in virtualisation software. This can work well, assuming that the base machine is specced to cope (the overheads are not huge).

Good luck!

I switched from Windows based PC to the Mac about 10 years ago. All 3 Macs purchased in the meantime are still running and have been given to my kids.
Apple's big release 2 years ago was a turning point. Apple's offering was a MacBook Pro that cost $500 more than a high end Windows machine and came equipped with basically one port and no SD slot. Enough. I bought a Dell laptop with touch screen, I7 chip, and a ~500 GB solid state drive and have been very happy since. This machine has been very heavily utilized and hasn't had a single problem. Tech support, on those rare occasions when I need it, has been cheerfully supplied by the staff at the Microsoft store where I bought the computer.
I think I'm done with Macs. I don't want thin and stylish, I want function.
Since I'll bet that 80% of your work day involves being on a web browser, maybe you ought to consider that aversion to Windows.

That's why I'm a PC.

Apple has basically stopped all entry level / simple user products. They want to be a luxury company. The three current laptops are almost identical. Same with the phones. They used to have the 5c and then SE as cheaper and simpler alternatives. Now their ‘entry level’ X phone is among the most expensive in the market. They are like LV or Hermes. I doubt it works in IT. The top of the pyramid is very narrow and small. The mid level market is much bigger. And people tend to move up once they get in. I think Apple has lost its way and has become arrogant. That is the path of Kodak and Nokia. Leaders who think they are invincible.

Not totally on point, but I’ve been using macs since they were able to take the Windows operating system, as the specific software I use for business does not run on Apple OS. In those at least 10 years of probably 5 or more MB Pros and Airs, I’ve never once experienced the blue screen of death which was an all too often occurrence on Dell and ThinkPads with which I had extensive experience.

I’m sure the Mac mini is fine for what it is if a bit pricey. I also own a 27” iMac which I bought and stuffed with after market RAM at when the “new” design came out years ago. It has functioned perfectly. The monitor is also good and there is no need to replace it.

I actually considered buying this until I found out Apple had done something to the newer Imacs so I couldn't use it as a monitor. That was sort of the last straw for me. Actually the first straw before the last straw was the incredibly rude and condescending staff at the Mac store I used when I bought my current Imac to replace my old one. I for one don't need the snobbery. I had an incredible PC machine custom built for me at basically half the cost of the Mac Mini and I got at $1000 monitor with it and it was still cheaper than just the Mac Mini. I have way more storage and processing power than the Mac Mini and I can upgrade it if I need to. Honestly the CPU case just isn't that big. I made the switch because I was moving over the Capture One with the new Fuji version. I have a GFX 50R coming and therefore needed additional processing and storage. I will keep my current Imac but I doubt it will be turned on much. Next up is getting rid of the Iphone. I just haven't looked at the options yet but I will. I don't use the camera on the phone so I want something simple. You know something that makes a phone call and doesn't worry about heart rate or the weather or one of those many other things I never use on the phone I have. I prefer paper maps. Funny how I never get lost but my friends who GPS on their phone are always getting lost. I think it has something to do with actual planning the trip before I leave. I think it's a bit like putting a camera on a tripod. That usually always works.

I write this for your readers facing the same conundrum with operating systems and cost of computers and of photography software that you mentioned in a recent post. I'm not going to try and convince anyone, just exposing another option that's seldom considered online, and has none of the proprietary restrictions that seem to increasingly plague Windows and Macs. Search for the GPL license for software. (Microsoft use to call linux and the GPL a cancer, but now uses it on about 50% of their Azure cloud servers.)

I started using PC's in 1983 with DOS. In 1995 I started using Windows 95. In 2005 I happily switched to linux when it became far easier to install and maintain than Windows. I only used a Mac once in about 1993, trying to use fetch to download a file via ftp protocol for a friend on a laptop when the owner of that machine was teaching a physics lab and unavailable for consult on how the Mac worked. The reportedly intuitive Mac interface required me to drag and drop the 3.5 inch floppy icon on the trashcan icon to eject the floppy disc. In 2 hours I didn't figure that out, and left frustrated. I've always said that the really intuitive interface is the one you've been using for five years.

In 2003 a bootable Linux CD saved a complete backup of my Windows drive that failed to boot or be readable at all under Windows XP. I have several acquaintances that are responsible for maintaining computers on networked systems. All of them, including my local computer service store, use linux to recover Windows boxes and get rid of viruses. Linux also gives you a large number of options for the user interface, some of which try to emulate OS X or Windows to some degree.

I was thinking of mentioning this when you recently wrote about the expense and availability of alternative editing software, but hesitated. Linux has a number of photo editing packages that are full featured. I'm not saying that they function identically to or match the features of Adobe or other products, but they are available, cost nothing, and most are well maintained. There are places online where you can interact directly with the coders for most of these projects, filing bug reports and feature requests. Some even have the capacity for you to offer a bounty to pay a developer to implement a specific feature. The most popular photo manipulation packages have websites with online manuals. Darktable (similar to Lightroom) has 8,600 instructional videos on youtube, Rawtherapee has about 3,900, and The GIMP (image manipulation package, more like Photoshop) has over 800,000 videos on youtube. A good list of available photo and video related free software (which is free in more ways than just free beer) is at Pixls.us under the link to software. The forums at the same site allow you to interact with other users and the developers for multiple photography related software packages.

I'm not claiming that the transition to linux is any easier than from Windows to Mac or vice versa, or that learning a new software package has no learning curve. But linux and the default programs that run on it are free and capable, and you get far more control over your computing than Microsoft or Apple allow. Installation is easy, 20 minutes on my i7 box with 5 easy questions to answer and only one reboot at the end. You can also install linux alongside Windows and choose your OS at boot time to try out linux without losing Windows. Maintenace is easy, you can use the computer while updating, and few updates even require a reboot. For anyone interested enough to work the learning curve, it's free. In addition, these free software packages are often ported to Macs and Windows if you don't want to make the jump to linux. Check what's available at pixls.us/software.

As I was in the same boat, I chose a used Mac Pro from OWC. One can usually be found in excellent condition to fit your budget. Mine has been perking right along for three years now, with upgrades I performed easily with OWC's how to videos. My monitor is of my own choosing !

Just get a PC, Mike.

Many years ago I switched from windows machines to a mac book pro retina (2012) laptop bought used with warranty at a mac dealer. The openess of Windows machines was in truth my problem, I thought I could do all by myself, made my PC Tower to my wishes and failed (parts failed). In the Mac Book pro I can not "fix" anything and for me thats a good thing. Also back then the mac book pro was as fast as my Pc tower. A Pc laptop with similar speed would have cost me almost the same. Since then I only use the mac book pro for all of my work, no need for two computers anymore. While I gave the 2012 mac book to my wife and use now a mid 2014 mac book retina also bought used with 2,8 Ghz i7 and 16 Gb Ram. And I work with a Nikon D850, do often panoramic work with 10-20 files and focus stacks with helicon focus with 20-50 files average. As long as you dont do video work in 4k or 8k I see no need for a bigger machine in the mac world. And you can connect any monitor to your mac book pro you like, even 2 or 3 monitors are possible. Maybe it is like the saying: "The best camera is the one you have with you" I could say: "The best mac is the one I have always with me".

"If you want to land between the too-much Mac Pro and the too-little Mac Mini."

You are aware I trust, that the current mini is more powerful and easier to expand than the current Pro (unless you need 18 cores for NASA weather simulations). If 'all' you do is the usual day to day stuff, then any computer is sufficient. If you add photography storage and processing needs at a business level, then a low to mid level mini is now more than sufficient. Buying any more would be like... getting an SUV for the daily commute!

I had already read the review linked in this post, as well as several more positive reviews. What the AT author ignores is that the 2018 Mini is basically perfect for a particular use case: serious photographers who want to choose their own monitors.

I'll probably buy an i7 2018 Mini with 64g of RAM and a 1T SSD to replace my aged Mac Pro. From everything I've read, the Mini will be much, much faster for what I do (image editing and printing of large files). Faster than even the current Mac Pro. Faster processor, faster RAM, faster SSD. The Mini has lots of modern ports that can be used or adapted for any imaginable monitors, external drives, etc.

I don't expect to need external graphics for Photoshop, which rarely takes advantage of GPU. (When it does, the internal graphics should be fine.) If I decide for some reason to become a fanatical gamer, I'll buy a $500 eGPU.

I dislike the shiny, overly-bright, oversaturated iMac monitors, at least for image editing and printing. Super resolution makes it harder to judge critical sharpness, too. I prefer a monitor more suitable for what I do: a matte-screen, even-illumination, easy-to-calibrate 2k or 2.5k graphic arts monitor.

Meanwhile, I expect the new Mac Pro, due out some time next year, to start at several thousand dollars and extend up into five figures. For me the new Mini comes right on time.

Some folks think the Mac Pro 5,1 is the best system for Creative Professionals: 2018.

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