« Fujifilm X100 VI Gets IBIS! Woo-Hoo! | Main | Elliott's $11.5 Million Fixer-Upper »

Friday, 23 February 2024


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

owc does a great thunderbolt dock if you can tolerate another box on your desk. will give you an easy route to another screen if you want


also easy and quick way to upgrade hard drive

no need to buy extra capacity

You can find plenty of demonstrations online that help you with that decision. I think you should look for an older used Mac if you are only buying 16GB of memory. The reason for buying a newer and more expensive M series Mac should be that you are doing some fairly intense computing such as editing large Photoshop files, perhaps multiple files simultaneously. I would recommend a minimum of 32GB. Personally I bought 64GB and wish that I had 128GB. Apple memory and storage are expensive, but the M series computers are expensive regardless.

I rely on my computer-guru friend for advice on all such matters. In 2009, he steered me toward a well equipped Mac Pro tower (and NEC screen). It served my needs well until the end of last year, at which time he advised switching to the Mac Studio M2 Ultra (and an Eizo screen). At age 73, I doubt I’ll ever need another system for my photographic or general computer needs. Same as my philosophy on camera gear: bite the bullet in cost once; save a lot of time and money on interim changes and wants.


For Photoshop and having a lot of browser tabs open, 16GB will reward you more than any other addition to the base configuration. The storage you could just lie and say you'll add a cheaper external drive, but simplicity is just nice. It's easier and that is worth the upgrade cost.

If you were on a production deadline with many images, a Studio starts to make sense, but the Mini is a great workhorse and will be much faster than what you have, so it's a win.

I would opt for at least 24 GN memory (if that is an option). Multiple reasons. 1) On Apple M series processors, memory is shared between cpu and gpu. 2). GPU based image processing is gaining pace, and may only be in its infancy. We see hints of this with the Lightroom Denoise feature. This can take 10-20 mins or longer on early gpu's and 10-30 secs on modern cpu/gpu combos. 3. Camera sensors are always getting bigger. My high specified custom built PC started to crawl when I started to process my Sony A7RV 60MB files. Only improving when I installed a GTX 4070Ti gpu with 12 GB of memory at considerable cost. 4. Screen resolutions are getting larger, with 4k,5k and emerging 8k. These exponentially increase the processing required to render to these screens.

I think 1 TB is the minimum for o/s and apps and maybe your Lr catalog, keeping your data and images on a different storage device.

I recently bought a new MacBook Pro. Initially with 8GB of RAM, which Apple has implied is similar to 16GB in earlier Macs. But soon, when using Apple Photos, I got a message saying that I was short on RAM. Never to the point of impacting whatever I was doing, but I found this alarming as it had never occurred with my previous 16GB MacBook.

So I did some research and found that not everyone agreed that the newer Macs could get by with less memory. And I exchanged the first MacBook for an 18GB model. No more memory alerts.

You can't add memory later, at least in MacBooks, so it's important to decide on that up front. And to keep in mind not just what you need today, but what you'll need toward the end of your computer's life with you.

I bought a Mac Mini M2 in September and have been very happy with it. Mine has 24 GB of "unified memory" and 1 TB SSD. I mostly use Lightroom and Photoshop, and have yet to have any issues with performance.

As I recall, Adobe recommends at least 16 GB of memory, so I'd personally shy away from an 8 GB system, especially since memory is not readily upgradable. Since I plan to keep this for a while (my iMac lasted 10 years), the extra $200 to go from 16 GB to 24 GB wasn't a big factor.

I assume the dock you mention is to get additional ports, which you'll almost certainly want if you get the "non-Pro" version of the Mini. I knew I was going to splurge and get the Studio Display, which has 4 USB-C ports; one is needed to connect to the Mini, but you still net up 3 ports, which is fine for my needs.

I have two external SSDs which I use with Time Machine. Only one is connected at a given time; the other is moved to an off-site location in case of fire, with SSDs swapped monthly. Not the most robust setup, but I'm not dependent on my Mac for my livelihood so I don't want to get involved with RAID and more complex arrangements.

The lack of an SD card reader is an annoyance, but in practical terms not really a big deal. I already had a USB-C SD reader for my MacBook Air, so I just use that with the Mini.

One thing that's become a bit more annoying than I had expected is the placement of the headphone jack, beneath the two USB-A ports. For a while both ports were used, making the jack impossible to access without standing the Mini on its front. If you don't use headphones much, not really an issue.

Despite minor quibbles, I'm very happy with the Mini. Not really anything I would do differently; certainly no regrets getting the Mini instead of the Mac Studio. The newer features in Lightroom, such as AI-based selections, are very responsive. I often work with Lightroom, Photoshop, InDesign, Excel, Word, Mail, and web development tools running, as well as dozens of browser tabs open in Safari and Chrome. No hiccups.

I'd go for 32 GB of RAM. If you have a browser with a lot of windows open you could use up 30% of that or more, especially if the tabs have been open for some time. Then add in photo-processing of large images and you could easily end up pushing the 16GB. Also, programs and operating systems are still getting larger over time.

I'm very glad that I moved up from 16BG to 32GB - no more memory swapping slowdowns.

Adding external storage might be a more cost-effective option if you get storage that can connect via Thunderbolt 4 (or even 3). Since it will be a stationary device it seems like internal SSD isn't so critical to get up front.


If it's mid-August it will in all likelihood be the M3 version of the mini. Suggestion as an owner of a number of M-series Macs is to still boost to 16GB. If you're getting a dock in any case, then consider getting a dock that supports M.2 storage (Trebleet) and skip out on the internal upgrade to 1TB, unless a single drive is preferred.

I have not noticed much of a huge speed difference with more or less ram and the newer Macs. They seem to be very good at using the ssd memory like ram, perhaps. I have a Macbook Pro M3, and a Mac Studio M1. The laptop has 8gb of ram, the Studio has 32gb. Hard to tell the speed difference apart in regular usage. Both are speedy. Still, my brain kind of wants at least 16 gb, and I only have 8gb because my wife wanted a lighter Air and I traded with her so I could have all the handy ports.

Mike, do not get too much internal memory. External SSDs are cheaper than internal ones. And internal ones will not be large enough anyway. Nowadays, the transmission speed between the external SSD and the computer is so high, that you will never have a problem with your type of work. My previous MacBook Pro more or less blew up a year ago; it was the model with an overheating problem. I wish I had selected a small internal SSD rather than the biggest available at the time of the purchase and used additional external SSDs. Then I could have continued using the SSDs, even after the computer had blown up.

Have you looked at the M3 iMacs? Very tidy, but with smaller screens (24").

As far as memory is concerned, I imagine that would involve a personal decision about whether you're a writer or a photographer. You could put the Library of Congress on a flash drive, but the same is not so true of photos. 8 gigs is easily enough for a writer, you need *at least* 16 if you're a photographer, and 32 would be better, unless you stick everything up in the cloud.

You don't need a million ports; you need a really good accessory hub, which are relatively cheap. Also, keep those flash drives (thumb drives) in mind. You can now buy a 1T San Disk flash drive for a bit over $100. When I'm writing a novel, which is all the time, I keep working copies on two separate (and small, cheap) San Disk flash drives, and another copy in the cloud.

As I think about it, you really don't need to worry too much about a computer -- you need to think about the various additions you can stick on it. A relatively modest computer with a hub, a variety of flash drives, and access to the cloud would do you. And for photography, a decent monitor is critical.

Used or refurbished M1 studio? That’d do you fine.

I have an M1 studio and it’s great. I think you’d be fine with one of those.

If you do buy directly from Apple, you could also get yourself an Apple Card and pay for it with that. 0% interest with payments spread over 12 months. Plus cash back on top of that. Makes it easier to buy just a little more computer :)

My wife has an M1 Mini from 2-3 years ago, and it has done the job well for everything she needs. Her "needs" are expense tracking (Quicken) web browsing, email, occasional Word and Excel documents, and most importantly Lightroom and Photoshop.

We went with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, then added a 1TB external SSD (might be 2TB... I'd have to look) as her primary storage. She's been very happy with it.

I also do plenty of photo processing on an M1 Macbook Air when traveling, and aside from the small screen, it doesn't seem to buckle under the weight of the raw files. An M2 should be even better.

The thought just this moment occurred to me that it would be very interesting to compare the computing power of Dartmouth's mainframes in the basements and sub-basements of the Kiewit Computer Center—rumored to be 60th on the Defense Department's list of backups in 1976—to the computing power of an M2 Mac Mini.

It’s a little hard to compare the numbers directly, but assuming the mainframes are something like the Honeywell 6000 series, you’re looking at a performance of around 1 million instructions per second.

The base Apple M2’s GPU can manage around 3.6 trillion floating point operations per second.

You could replace the mid-70s mainframe with a modern smartphone and gain a huge performance boost, not to mention cutting the electricity usage to almost nothing.

Your iPhone is far more powerful in terms of raw computing and storage power than the contents of any data center that existed in the mid 70s. For instance, IBMs mainframes at that time could process about 3,000,000 instruction per second; the M2 chip is at least 2.5 billion. State of the art disk storage devices were about 300MB each, or about 15 raw images from a 24MP camera.

On the other hand, Dartmouth’s time sharing system gave access to dozens or hundreds of students and faculty at one time, which none of our mobile devices is set up to do. A Mac Mini could in principle be setup to operate like that.

As for your new machine, I can tell you what I just bought: an M2 Pro Mini with 32GB of main memory and a 1TB internal drive. I primarily use Lightroom, rather than PS, but the new AI features can take 30 seconds or more per image on this machine. I’m very happy with this (Surprisingly) expensive machine.

I have an M2 mini with 16GB. I would suggest not going below 16GB for the RAM no matter what Apple says.

I look forward to seeing the comments here. I had a Late 2012 iMac bought new that I had built with 32G RAM and a 3TB fusion drive because one thing I learned over the years is to have more RAM than you need and one always can use the HD space. Went through two fusion drives covered by Apple. When the third fusion drive was coming to an end in 2022 I bought a used 2019 iMac 5K w/64K RAM and a built in 4TB SSD to hold me over until the Apple M built computers get sussed out.

Mini with 16GB and 1TB and dock is my recommendation.

I have an early 2023 M2 mini with 8 GB RAM and 500 GB SSD. It flies through everything and cost less than $700. My favorite computer ever. Runs very cool.

For future proofing, I'd prefer 16 GB and 1 TB. I can easily add external disk, but the RAM is forever.

Unless you're editing long videos or generating large animations, I doubt you need a Pro or Studio.

IMHO the laptops (probably the Macbook Pros, for the nicer ports and the card reader) are the best value even if the prices are higher. Get a laptop and an external screen. But if you don't want what the laptop does there is no point.

The minimal Mini that I would get is 32Gb and 1TB of disk for $1600 ... a comparable 14 inch Macbook Pro would be $600 or so more than that.

IMHO, you need more than 16GB of memory. Software only gets better.

Also if you know anyone who works at Apple they can get you a 15% employee discount. 🙂

Check out Thom Hogan's article on current Macs. Lots of useful advice including that 8GB is rarely enough.


I'm still using a 2010 MacPro. Still runs faster than I do.

My first computer was a Macintosh SE- then several machine upgrades through the years up to a M1 Max Studio. Been around graphic arts biz and fine art/ teaching since 1995.
Here is my 2¢
M2 Mac mini, 16GB ram (just to future proof)
I lieu of Apple 1T SSD maybe look at external thunderbolt SSD
Apple $400 premium for 1T SSD can maybe be offset by sticking with the 256GB stock drive and buying your own 1T Thunderbolt external.

It might help to know why you need a new computer. There are only two reasons I can think of: It lacks the horsepower to get what you need doing in a reasonable time, or it is no longer fully supported, and OS/App incompatibility is starting to hit. I am assuming it is the second?

It would also help to know more details of what you have now: How much RAM, and how much storage is on board? It is showing signs of stress or incapacity?

Guessing at your needs, I would think the Mini with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage would be fine, however, the prices do go up dramatically as you add more memory. You could probably get by fine with 8GB RAM if you are not doing intensive Photoshop work on a daily basis. Also, if you don’t need to store on-board, but use external drives, why go with 1TB storage?

I think Apple makes lots of money with customers buying more than they actually need. (FOMO I think it’s called.) Very few can convince themselves that the minimum spec is actually all they need. It’s the same reasoning that sells F-150 trucks with V8 engines.

Hi Mike. Remember when you took a week off a couple of months or so ago and reposted an older article every day so that we wouldn't miss you so much? One of them was from when you were shopping for the computer you now use, but people thought you were actually shopping for a new computer now. You got good advice then that still holds.

I bought an M2 Mini last summer to replace my ancient Windows machine. I bought the base model and mostly haven't regretted it. And I edit video.

If you have the money, order more RAM. It's your last chance to do so. 8GB should be plenty for you, but 16GB is a good hedge against future issues. But see below.

Adobe claims to be working on it, but their programs are notoriously dependent on memory, far more than on storage, so that would be another reason to prioritize memory.

But the main reason is that Apple charges exorbitant rates for additional storage. Meanwhile the latest NVMe external Thunderbolt SSDs are very fast. I'd skip the additional internal storage. The one caveat is that, at least at the time I ordered, their base configuration used a single SSD chip rather than two, so performance was compromised. It'll still be ten times faster than your current drive, but you might want to consider upping it just to 512 for the extra bandwidth. Either way, you'll want an external SSD, which gives you much more bang for buck, and the right kind is faster than the base internal SSD, and likely as fast as you'll ever need. Also, external SSDs are constantly getting faster, and can be replaced. The ones you add inside your Mini won't get any faster and can't be replaced (at least not without expert surgery). Good to consider, since SSD chips can wear out.

Good idea to budget for a Thunderbolt hub or dock. The base mini doesn't have enough ports, or an SD card slot and the headphone jack is in an awkward place.

When all is said and done, though, the Mac Studio might be your best choice. The base model comes out of the box with a reasonable number of ports, in the right locations, and more than enough memory and storage. A refurbished M1 is going for $1500 from Apple. (I think M1 would be plenty for your needs.)

Finally, I ordered my Mini from Costco. Costco charged a bit less and offers an extra year on the warranty, and has their own live tech support. (You can still buy Applecare on top of that.) I thought the standard membership fee was worth it for that, but I found a discount deal on that too.

I got a reasonably priced Thunderbolt 3 hub from Monoprice, but it looks like it's been discontinued. https://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-Thunderbolt-DisplayPort-Non-Thunderbolt-136656/dp/B084HPLQ6T

Please feel free to email me w/ any Qs.

Definitely get 16GB of RAM. You can always add external storage via thunderbolt, but you can’t add more RAM after purchase. For docks, I like the ones OWC makes.

A well equipped Mac mini is a deal hard to beat regarding budget.

I would get a M2 Mac mini with 16gb at least, maybe even the 24gb option, more future-proof and with these new macs we can’t upgrade memory later. Photoshop is also becoming more and more memory hungry.

Regarding SSD, I would just point to the middle and get the 512GB. This internal SSD would be for the OS and programs and I would get a Sandisk thunderbolt external SSD for photo storage and other stuff, these external SSDs are super fast anyway and a lot less expensive than getting more internal space.

Add to this a connection hub of choice from a reputable brand like Anker and it’s all set for years!

My daily user is an M1 MacBook Air, 8GB memory, 512GB SSD. But I haven't even installed Photoshop on it, that is only on my 27" (Intel) iMac. I can't imagine using Photoshop on a 13 inch screen!
I rarely feel I'm running out of memory, even with many browser windows and tabs, along with large image files in Preview.
The Apple Silicon machines are astoundingly fast. Screen update is instant, image files load and display without waiting. Partly a benefit of the unified memory.
The base $599 M2 Mac mini model should be completely fine for you. Hard to say if the upgrade to 16MB for $200 will be noticeable in Photoshop. It's not like modern digital camera image files will fit in 24GB of memory, to mention in 8GB. Photoshop has always been efficient at paging to disk, and SSD's are very fast.
Apple's SSD prices are pretty crazy, probably much simpler and affordable to overflow to an external SSD drive.

As for the computers in the 1976 Dartmouth basement, your phone could emulate all of them at once, faster than they really ran.

I don't have a mini, but I just bought an M2 MacBook Air for travelling. there is definitely a big improvement over the old Intel Macs but I still use a 27 inch iMac as my main computer (since I love the screen but I use very fast SSDs with it). My experience of using Lightroom and Photoshop with Hasselblad X2D files and Sony A7Riv files - both huge in size is that 16GB with the M2 chip is expensive but probably essential.

Internal storage charged by Apple is outrageous. The mini is a desktop machine and I question whether paying the extra for a 1TB internal storage is worth it. Store your system files on the internal drive and buy a 4TB external SSD for the same price as the upgrade - I bought a Crucial P3+ plus an Acasis Thunderbolt enclosure both of which were on sale on Amazon for just over £200 together - the same price that it would have cost me to upgrade from 5126 GB to 1TB internal. I don't mind having a small external drive on a laptop but there is no reason not to keep one permanently on a desktop machine. In fact I bought 2 and now use the other one as the boot disk/internal storage for the iMac.

I think you'll find the Apple Silicon chip a huge improvement in terms of speed from the older intel chips. I haven't tried one with 8GB but all advice I got was to go for the 16GB - expensive but worth it.

The cheapest way (especially now) to improve the performance of a computer is to add more memory. 16gb would be good. It's been a while since I've used a Mac though but I expect it's much the same.

Sounds good, note that you should max out the RAM since, while Apple Silicon is much better with memory, it is not upgradeable and in a few years you might wish you had it.

I got a dock for my iMac, the OWC 11 port Thunderbolt dock has the card slot on the front for you.


I've been following the Apple Silicon story with interest, and involvement - I have bought devices with such processors.

I have a MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro processor, and an iMac with a standard M1 processor. Both are plenty powerful for my needs - a fair amount of Lightroom Classic usage and some occasional Photoshop, the latter used mainly for focus stacking images.

Both are configured with 16Gb of unified memory and 512Gb storage. I suspect that I could have got away with 8Gb of memory on the iMac, but I feel happier with 16Gb - I intend to keep these computers a very long time, and who knows what memory requirements will be like when they're 8 years old or more? (The MB Pro had 16Gb memory as its minimum.)

I stayed with 512Gb storage in the computers. 256Gb is just too little, but 512Gb is fine. I use iCloud - I have 250Gb of storage there, and that's where my Photos library reside (you can move it), along with many documents. Then I also have a 2Tb SSD , which is where my Lightroom Classic file repository and my iMovie library live. Initially I used a Samsung T5 SSD for this, but recently I bought an Acasis enclosure and a 2TB Samsung 970 EVO+ SSD stick to put in the enclosure. It cost a lot less than Apple's additional price for 2TB! The SSD used Thunderbolt 3, which means it's very fast.

Of course, all this is backed up - I have a two-disk Synology NAS - a DS220j.

To be honest, the MB Pro is way more computer than I need, but it's great to have. The iMac is more run-of-the-mill, but I'm really pleased with it.

Don't worry about the processor level; any of the Apple Silicon versions is great. Do get a minimum of 16GB RAM—8 is not enough IMO. I'd also recommend 1TB SSD, but you can expand externally pretty well. If you can find a refurbished or new old-stock Studio, it's a great computer.

Here is a comparison of an iPhone 13 vs. a Cray 1, the worlds fastes computer in 1978.

My guess is that any computing device you have in your house now might be way faster than the Dartmouth's mainframes.

Cray-1 (1978) versus iPhone13 (2022):

Get more RAM, 16GB is to little even on Apple Silicon. Get at least 64GB and you should be set up for many happy years.

Stuff will work with little RAM, but get more and LR and Photoshop and all the tabs in your browser will start to be responsive also. :-)

My desktop has 32GB of ram, my laptop 16GB, and they're both well over 5 years old. I would not consider anything less than 32GB for a new primary computer today, not for anybody using Photoshop or Lightroom at all seriously. (And browsing in the background while you wait.)

The code space needed may be smaller on the Apple M silicon (though I've seen articles with benchmarks suggesting it isn't), but there's nothing to be done about the data, and it's the data that takes up enough space to matter.

I think Thom Hogan's advice on the topic is good:

"...there’s a minimum bar you should get above: 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD. 32GB should be considered."


HI Mike,
Go for more Ram as that is not user Upgradeable. Smaller hard drive and more Ram. I would say that 1TB of Hard disk space is going to be worth having, smaller not what you want and larger is way to expensive for what you will need.

Mike, I am in the same boat and have been looking on "mac of all trades" I have had good luck with buying used from them in the past

OWC, Other World Computing. Is a nice Rabbit Hole to go down to look at all things Mac. You might want to consider a MacBook Pro or just a MacBook with the right peripherals' as a desktop alternative. Great people to do business with.

Mike, I would advise you to closely compare the prices of both an M2 Mac Mini and an M2 Pro Mac Mini, both with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. You might be surprised how close they are. Check out Apple’s own U.S. online store, any other retailer you want and Expercom, an Apple preferred vendor that often has discounts when Apple does not:


At Christmas, I purchased a Mac Studio with M2 Max chip, 64GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. I don’t think I’ll regret deciding not to wait for the M3 family.

And while you may be able to get by with 8GB of RAM, going with 16GB will reduce the mount of memory swapping that takes place with the SSD when the machine needs it. That can extend the life of your SSD.

And, finally, while Apple has optimized its system on a chip quite well, 8GB of RAM is still not equal to 16GB on an Intel Mac or Windows machine. If you can afford 16 gigs, go for it.

I got a Mac mini (M2) a few months ago and then got this: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1629589-REG/satechi_st_abhfs_type_c_aluminum_stand_and.html/?ap=y&ap=y&smp=y&smp=y&lsft=BI%3A6879&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAoeGuBhCBARIsAGfKY7x25nXk1yC8rLpuQGK3tn4xz__F1-3NHVpDSrSy5ktpKOro4vGzVUAaAqjYEALw_wcB. Very happy!

If you don't already shop there check out www.macsales.com. I buy all my computers and exterals from them - just bought a Macbook Air (M1 chip) as a matter of fact. Their products are refurbished but I've never had a problem with performance or longevity. And their prices are much better than retail. In addition to Apple products they offer lots of options on external hard drives, RAM expansions, etc.

ok this will be long winded: you can discover your hard disk usage by using the follow command:

Apple Menu>System Settings>General(left side of window)>About(top of list)>Storage Settings.

Alternate approach: Apple Menu>About This Mac>More Info
Instruction sequence could vary depending on you OS.

kinda depends on your current disk size and usage how much you need going forward. You'll pay $200 to go from 500 Gbytes to 1.9 Tbytes.

Menmory usage is more techy. You have to use Activity Monitor. It's located in Utilities Folder inside Appplications folder. It has a button top center of its window labelled Memory. This will all memory in use.

Btw I have an i7 iMac with 8 Gbytes of memory using 5 Gig and I don't run a lot of apps at once. OTOH my spouse has an 8 Gig M2 laptop running Excel,Word,PowerPoint, Outlook, Zoom at once. I'll to really load it up and see what happens.

So you may not need 16 Gig of RAM (costs money) and an external hard drive of storage would be cheaper but you have to manage it.

Why the pressure to replace? AppleCare running out? I'm in the same boat considering a 32 G M2 Studio cause a similarly tricked out Mini would cost almost the same and the Studio has more connectivity, more power. It will probably be the last desktop I ever buy so I'm going all in.

If you have questions, you have my email!

With Apple Silicon, you cannot upgrade memory - either internal storage or RAM - after purchase. The way it comes from the factory is how it will be forever, because it is all in one ginorumus chip. You can add external hard drives, but RAM is fixed, so do your future self a favour and get the 16 now. For obscure technical reasons, the 8 is actually slower on memory access as well, so 16 is the sweet spot now.

You could wait a few months until the M3 mini is announced - maybe at WWDC Apple event in June? Because a Mac is good for 5 to 7 years, and the M2 is already "old" now, you will be giving your future self a few more years on the back end IF you can afford to wait.

Heat is not an issue with the Apple Silicon - not ever, dead issue for someone like you. My daughter has the M2 mini, and I've never heard the fan come on. I have an M1 Studio, and I have never heard its fan either, even though I do a lot more difficult computing than my daughter does.

Invest in a port extender module thing that goes under the mini. It has the same footprint so it is virtually invisible, but it can give you all the ports you are missing.

If you are going to keep your current monitor, you need to talk to the Apple people to see if you will be happy with that. You may need some adapters to get the right connection to plug it in as well.

Go to the refurbished section of the Apple store and save a bit of money that way.

Good luck

As someone still using a laptop from 2009 (first generation i7 processor, long ago upgraded to 16GB RAM and SSD storage) I can tell you that just using the Internet and having a few tabs open in your browser now requires more free RAM than most computers sold with only a decade ago.

So, while I don't know squat about Macs, I will suggest that you go with more RAM. While you may think you get by fine with 8GB, if you dig a little deeper you'll likely learn that in the background your computer is constantly writing to your storage drive. If you have an SSD, this won't slow things down much, but it will decrease the lifespan of your SSD.

I think the 8 GByte Mac mini is just to meet a certain price point. I wouldn’t recommend it - start at at least 16Gbyte. The only upgrade path if you decide you need more RAM later is to buy a new Mac.

Processor wise, you’ll probably be fine with the plain M2. Sometime last year, I benchmarked a number of laptops around my office against my iPhone SE - and the iPhone won! So the M2 will hold its own unless you are doing something numerically intensive or video related stuff.

With regard to the Dartmouth main frame, your phone, never mind your computer, will have passed it years ago.

I do a lot of graphics with my writing.
About a year ago I did an upgrade to the M2 chip in a MacBook Air. I have 24GB ram - great when I'm working on multiple programs at a time - and 1TB storage about half filled.
I considered the mini but having the display allows taking it on trips and has a built-in camera - worth the extra cost, although I only use a 38" Dell Curved Monitor for everyday use.

About the computer. I think you're looking at something reasonable. In my experience, adding RAM is more cost-effective in boosting performance than modest increases in CPU speed (less than 2x). And if it's a cost trade-off between storage and RAM, I'd pick the RAM. You can add external flash drives for a lot less than Apple will charge for the same number of terabytes, but you can't upgrade the RAM once it's soldered onto the motherboard.

Maybe just buy a 16 inch MacBook Pro with the newest M3 chip and be done with it. All in one package. Very, very high performance. Attach a monitor if you need to....

Nothing you are doing with Photoshop will require higher performance. I guarantee it. And you can easily take it on the road. Which you might find delightful.

SXSW is coming up here in Austin....

I'd go with the M2 vanilla and 16GB RAM and add an OWC Thunderbolt 11-port dock for all your connectivity needs. SD card slot, USB and headphone jack in the front. That dock has made my life with the "ports on the front are ugly" iMac much nicer!


To best answer the question, there first needs to be a question.

How is your current computer not fulfilling your needs?

If it is adequate, buy the same spec again.

Things have moved on so much that a basic spec Mac Mimi will still be a massive upgrade in every respect. Anything more than 16gh is pointless unless you are sure you'll be doing video editing. And you won't. Not in this lifetime.

Hi Mike, see Thom Hogan’s recommendation here https://www.bythom.com/reviews--books/recommended-mac-hardware.html

Mac Mimi...

Phone screens are so small.

I'm a Windows user so I don't have much to add to the discussion. However, while making your choice, consider recent advancements in Lightroom and Photoshop. Until recently, Adobe's photo editing software didn't use graphics accelerators, now they do. Also, lightroom's new Denoise demands a lot of horsepower to run quickly.

For the last five or ten years, Adobe's photo editing software didn't require the latest and greatest chipset. That might be changing with the introduction of AI tools (I find Lightroom's Denoise to be as revolutionary as the first DSLRs with clean ISO 3200) If you buy a lower-spec computer, you might not have the power to run the next big update. You should get 16GB of RAM or more, even on an Apple machine.

I went through the computer research process back in November and placed an order on Cyber Monday. I spent at least twenty hours, maybe even forty hours, learning everything about the current lineup of Windows laptops. Three months later, I've forgotten all of it.

My new laptop is great, it chews through photo-related tasks with ease. I find myself doing more photography and posting photos more because the faster computer makes my workflow less of a drag.

Enjoy your upgrade. Just don't spend too much time shopping.

I'm using a Mac Airbook M1 with 8gb of ram and a 250gb internal hard drive. It plugs into a hub that includes an sd card reader and connections to a large monitor and a 2tb solid state hard drive and additional usb ports.
It has all the power I need for Photoshop and LR use. The operating system and programs are on the internal hard drive and my files are on the external drive. The hub also connects to a NAS back up system which also backs up to cloud storage.
I do some big prints with a moderate amount of PS and LR and Topaz manipulation. The Airbook M1 handles all that comfortably. Being an Airbook I can easily unplug it and take it with the external hard drive any time I want to travel.
I have photographer friends with a similar set up and we all think this is fine for general photo usage. If you are going to do video work, you need more memory, 16gb at least.If you do plenty of large images with lots of complex editing, you need more Ram as well but this is outside my experience.
I find the Airbook to be good as I travel with it. If not, the mini. The M2 versions are a little faster and on the Airbook the screen is slightly better.
If you use Windows programs, you can run them all perfectly well, and fast, on the Mac Airbook by installing Parallels. I use Parallels because I use MS Publisher and I have hundreds of files I need for business in this program. There is no Apple equivalent unfortunately. I didn't know this when I went from Windows to Apple Airbook. It is the only regret I have about the Airbook solution.
The other big deal about the new Apple M1 and later machines is how much cooler they run. This has to mean they are chewing less power.

You ought to peruse Adobe Photoshops system requirements, which notes that while 8GB of RAM meets the minimum requirements, 16GB is recommended. There are other requirements, including minimum and recommended GPU memory, among other requirements.

I'm probably not any more computer literate than you, but I will chime in with my piece of anecdata. I have a 2020 M1 Macbook Air with 8gb or RAM, and it occasionally gives me RAM limit warnings. I'm not a power user, but at any given time I always have a couple browsers open with mulitiple tabs, Microsoft Word and Excel, Photos, pdfs, and some other odds and ends running. If I could do it over again I'd order my laptop with 16gb of RAM.

I would be very wary of buying an Apple silicon Mac with only 8 GB of RAM. The relatively low amount of RAM in newer Macs is compensated for by using the internal SSD storage as virtual RAM. There are concerns this will affect the longevity of the internal SSD storage, which is reliable for only so many writes. Get at least 16 GB of RAM. External storage is cheap. 512 GB to 1 GB internal storage should be fine.

My family has been a Mac family for most of the past two decades. But I have come to intensely dislike Apple’s practice of making their computers obsolete after 5 to 7 years by releasing yearly, largely pointless (and buggy), major macOS versions that cannot be officially installed on those computers. And don’t get me started on software that I no longer runs on macOS versions after Mojave. I was recently given a fairly well-speced Lenovo Windows 11 laptop computer that cost about as much as the lowest-end MacBook Air. It runs the latest versions of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop just fine. Legacy DOS and older Windows programs too, if needed.

Get the M2 Mac Mini with 16gb RAM. If you can afford it get 1TB SSD, if not get 500GB SSD and buy an external SSD when you need more space. I use an OWC Thunderbolt dock to get all the extra ports I need. A Mac with any version of Apple Silicon will blow away what you are now using speed wise, it's actually kind of startling. I use a 2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Max processor and 32gb RAM. It is incredibly fast at anything I use it for. I used to always have a laptop and a desktop as I travel a lot, but no longer need to with this Mac. I plug it into an OWC thunderbolt dock and use an external keyboard and trackpad when I am working at my desk which is currently driving a Benq photo monitor that displays 99% of Adobe RGB color space and is pretty nifty.

I'd tell you you pegged things about right. I'd probably spring for the 24GB over the 16GB just so you can get a couple more years out of the system.

Two years ago, I upgraded my MBP 13 i7 to an M1 and it was perfect for my travel machine and though it had "only" 16 GB ram, it ran circles around my souped-up MacPro 2009.

So last year, after 13 years, I upgraded the MacPro to a MacStudio running an M1, 64GB and 2 TB and it's perfect for my needs for another dozen years I can hope.

Though the MacPro and MBP 13 were both functional, they were showing their age. Both new systems simply run circles around their older siblings and my workflow is much faster and more efficient.

Plus, I can now take advantage of all the newer software versions and other features that the older systems were never designed for.

While I was at it, external drives were upgraded to faster boxes and SSDs so more time savings and reliability.

It took a few weeks to transfer files from my old drives (about 40TB of images) and now I'm no longer running a dozen and a half drives like I did before.

Best of all, my two "vintage" Epson printers, a 17" and 44" communicate and run just fine.

Although it took time and cost more than I had planned, it was an upgrade well worth it all!

update to my last comment. Re: the laptop I mentioned is a M2 Pro with 16 Gig of RAM. So to run a suite of apps 16 is definitely indicated.

Photoshop does very well on Apple silicon and the M2 is sufficiently powerful to run photoshop well. There is no need for the Pro or Max upgrades to the processor for Photoshop but there is a good reason for two upgrade of other kinds: The memory should be at least 24 GB (this is, unfortunately, only available with the Pro CPU) or 32 GB and also the 512 GB internal SSD. Main on-chip memory of 24 or 32 GB is plenty for both Photoshop and task-switching (e.g., for many open windows) because of the way the M-series chips handle task switching and exchanging task "images" in memory. This task exchange process interacts with the speed of the path from memory to the SSD. Because of this the 512 GB SSD (at least) is a good idea because it is implemented with (at least) two SSD memory chips on two separate channels thus resulting in twice the SSD input/output bandwidth. This bandwidth maximizes task switching speed and also loading and processing photographic images.

I think 16 GB RAM is a good floor. In the MacMini line, getting more than that is harder to justify price-wise, but 8 GB is too little for multitasking.

It would be useful to understand how many and what kind of peripherals you'll be connecting. What kind of monitor? External hard drives, probably, but in what flavor? Mouse and keyboard, sure, but anything else special? The reason I ask is there's a subtle difference in the MacMini line between the M2 and the M2 Pro processors, in which the "Pro" processor gets an additional thunderbolt bus. This means 2 extra thunderbolt ports, but also means a great deal if you were, for example, hanging a 5K monitor off of one bus (2 TB ports share one bus; a 5K monitor use the majority of the bandwidth of one bus, unless its an Studio Display) and then wanting to have really fast throughput for something like a fast thunderbolt external drive -- or a external thunderbolt-driven dock which in turn has a lot of peripherals hanging off of it.

A pretty common power-user set up is to get a thunderbolt-powered bus dock, and connect one's high-resolution monitor through it. One cable connects to a bunch of peripherals and a monitor ... easy to disconnect for travel. Obviously more for macbooks than macminis, but undeniably elegant.

I'll guess your monitor is sub-5K, and I'll guess external drives you have are hard drives or at the least not Thunderbolt-interfaced SS drives; so perhaps the extra thunderbolt bus, and processor bump (at +$300) isn't worth it. But if, e.g., an Apple Studio Display is in your future, or future 10GBe networking, consider the utility of an extra thunderbolt bus.

Finally, there's a way to get really fast "internal" storage without paying the Apple tax, by having a dock that contains M.2 SSD storage in it. Again, thunderbolt here is the key: only that bus can support internal-like SSD speeds. Have a look at fellow photographer Derrick Story's review of a Satechi offer: https://thedigitalstory.com/2023/07/satechi-gmac-mini-stand-and-hub-review.html

I would strongly suggest getting as much RAM as you feel you can stretch to, as that isn't expandable once you've committed to it.

I'd also recommend getting 1TB of internal storage if you're planning to use this computer for many years. While the operating system shouldn't exceed 512GB in size, the modern tendency to "bloatware" would leave me nervous that won't always be so. (Perhaps that's paranoia - but even paranoids can have enemies).

As to mainframes vs PCs and other computers - the defining characteristic of the mainframe isn't so much CPU capacity as the ability to deal with a lot of input/output from a lot of devices.

As an example: where I work there was a pilot project with a transaction switch running on a high-performance non-mainframe system, for one of our customers. Performance dropped below acceptable levels once about 2,000 point-of-sale terminals had been migrated - despite still having plenty of remaining CPU capacity. When asked how many terminals our mainframe managed, our answer was "a bit more than a quarter of a million". The system being evaluated was not rated as suitable.


I recently replaced my 15 year old Mini with a brand new one. These thoughts are based on that experience.

Most of my advice is redundant to what others have said, so I'll be terse: 8 Gbyte isn't enough RAM, especially if you want to use one or more high density displays (4K pixels or more). We programmers are really good at adding new features and performance improvements that require "just a little extra RAM"; it would be a shame to have to replace an 8 Gbyte machine in just 3-4 years with a 16 GByte machine. Any Apple Silicon processor ("M chip") is more than you need for Photoshop - you don't need an M3.

Undersized vents fit in the Apple "if it looks neat, it must be better" philosophy, so overheating can be a problem. If you are handy with tools, iFixit.com has procedures and tools to open the case, then you can clean the vents with a hand-blower like the ones recommended for blowing dust off camera lenses. ("Caned air" products are not recommended.) I brought an ailing laptop back to life just this way. If opening the case scares you, any local computer service shop can do this for you.

You can get your SD reader in front with a USB cable and an external reader. (Your dock might have the reader built-in.)

Internal storage is expensive. Firewire disks are nearly as fast and cheaper. USB disks are cheap. If I were pinching pennies, I'd have a three tiered storage system. Minimal internal storage for the operating system and very frequently use files. A medium sized firewire disk for working storage, e.g., images being actively editited and photoshop scratch files. One or more cheap, big, USB disks for storage of things are are accessed occasionally -- in my case, this is most of my photos and my entire music collection.

Many contributors have suggested that you use external SSD storage (which, evidently, requires a docking station). I found it difficult to source a top notch docking station with enough USB 3.2 ports, so I bought an Aceele USB 3.2 Gen 2 Hub mit 4 USB-C-Anschlüssen for € 22.95 waiting for a better solution. But it works very well and meets all my requirements.

When I buy an Apple product I scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the refurb link. The product you get has been QC'd by Apple not just batch tested. Also, it's considered new for warranty and Apple Care purposes. All that you lose out on is the fancy packaging. I saved $560 on my MacBook Pro in the fall.

Befuddled by all the possibilities and options, I decided to call the help line at Apple, spoke to the girl about my needs and she advised a model and internal memories that would fit my needs - including the photography bits.

She said, "No need to pay too much for the high end types which are meant to suit the needs of gamers."

A lot of great comments. Here's what I finally did.

I purchased, right at the end of December 2023, a 2021 M1 Max 16.2" MacBook Pro with 32GiB of memory and 1 TiB of SSD. It had everything (maxed core count). I purchased it for roughly $2K. Why? Because even though it was already two years old, it still worked quite well and offered unbelievable performance; such is the quality of Apple Silicon.

Further, it was on sale at half the price of its initial 2021 MSRP.

Tech such as this has reached a point where the gains each generation grow slimmer, while the price stays the same or creeps upward. Unless you're willing to spend $6K or more for a current M3 Max machine, you're better off just purchasing something similar to what I purchased when they hit substantial discounting due to sales. I don't believe you'll notice any difference, and your wallet will certainly appreciate not spending as much.

Hey Mike, I see there's a ton of advice already. If you're using multiple monitors at home all the time, then the most cost effective choice is the Mac Mini. If you're a browser tab hoarder, then maybe go to 16 GB of RAM--but I've been on 8 GB on both M1 and M2 machines and really never wanted for more.

If you're only using one monitor, I might suggest that you consider a MacBook Air (I have the M2 15" version). You can plug it in at home and run it like the Mini, but you can also grab it when you visit Illinois. I have a relatively ancient 27" iMac (2010)--I would seriously love a 30" iMac on the new silicon--but I really do enjoy having the MacBook Air and the 15" screen is a nices size for me. And those batteries last a hell of a long time (around 20 hours), so you can get a lot of stuff done before you need to plug back in.

(And yes, I'd lust for a Mac Studio with a couple of the Pro XDR Displays--but it would be such overkill...)

I think a Studio is probably overkill for what you do, Mike. I'm running a 2020 M1 mini 16 gb ram and 1 tb storage. It comfortably copes with processing gigabyte plus TIFF image files - not super instant but not slow either, and anything smaller is dealt with effectively instantaneously. It never overheats or is noisy. I've only had a problem crashing once, when I loaded some dodgy software- soon fixed. I've have a couple of multi-terabyte hard drives running on Thunderbolt 3 daisy-chained off the back for double stored image files (I run pretty much everything else through dropbox - including .jpg of all final images), and a LG 5k monitor (I'm a single monitor guy). It hasn't skipped a beat since I bought it.

If I were buying now, I'd punt for new M2 mini but max out the RAM at 32 gb (which, in my experience, tends to be more important than extra cores, etc. etc.) If you keep only your OS and application files on the internal SSD and store all files on external drives, you could save a fair bit by specifying 512gb SSD, as well; but I like a bit of extra room.

I have an M2 Pro in my work laptop, as it is the appropriate brushed aluminum jewelry to issue to developers. Unlike its predecessor with an Intel chip, it mostly stays cool and quiet.

Of course, being a developer, I took that as a challenge. So what if ten things it used to do in sequence were done in parallel instead? Sure enough, heat built up, and the fans started turning.

Nothing particularly revalatory happened between M1 and its successors. If you go with a used M1 Mac Mini, you will be fine, and you can avoid some of the Apple Tax. You can also worry less about pet hairs being sucked into the chassis, since the fan won't run nearly as much.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007