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Cheap Mac Mini for Garageband advice please :)

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My quest to get recording continues. Having been through various PC DAW's and considered hardware options, I've been reading 'Garageband for Dummies' and it seems that this is a DAW I can get my head round.

I know absolutely nothing about macs, but I've been looking at the mac mini's due to size, and there seem to be a few going for under £300, which suits the budget.

What spec should I be looking at? At the moment all I want to do is use Garageband (with my midi controller keyboard, and guitar port), but as I'm working from home, it would be good to have a backup computer in case the laptop dies.

Advice and opinions gratefully received, thanks McD.

 

 

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If you can find one of the I7 Quad core models (I think they were around 2.3Ghz) with 16Gb mem on board and if you're lucky a decent size SSD, you'll be set. 

If you find a lower spec model, you can't upgrade the memory and although it's easy to swap out the HDD, it depends on if you are up for opening up the case as it is a little faff. Not impossible though!

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+1 for Dood's suggestions, I've got an 2012 i7 quad core portable rig which can easily handle 24 tracks of simultaneous live Protools recording. Mid-2012 or later Minis should still run the current latest OS which means you're safe from the Apple update trap for a while too.

 

David

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If you are sure the Mac path is for you, i'd give anything older than 2015 a wide swerve. With each new release of MacOS another generation of Macs become obsolete - the next in line are the 2012 line (that will be in September 2020). They are cheap for a reason!! With the 2018 & above models you can upgrade the memory yourself (see youtube for instructions) up to 64gb & you can hook up an external SSD to expand storage. Whatever you do, if you plan to run an OS higher than Sierra - get an SSD, otherwise you will be in for a 20 min wait everytime you boot!

Personally I've got a 2014 Mac Mini with 16gb and a 1tb SSD. It does the job, but it will be soon time for an upgrade.

 

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Mine’s a late 2011 i7 with 16GB of ddr3 RAM and an ssd, so it’s already obsolete!!

check on the minimum operating system for the current version of GarageBand though, as you can’t rollback to an older OS than the machine was built for.

SSD is the single best upgrade for an ageing Mac.

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This is all true, and it's always good to watch for Apple upgrades that can mean your equipment isn't supported (i've binned soundcards before because of this). That said, if you don't always need to run the latest OS then there is plenty of life left in older macs. With our audio Macs at work I try to run the lowest possible version of the OS to maintain the widest gap between what the software needs and older hardware. 

The external SSD option is a good point, as audio tends to eat up space pretty quickly and there is a premium on larger internal drives.

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2 hours ago, sammybee said:

If you are sure the Mac path is for you, i'd give anything older than 2015 a wide swerve.

I would go for the opposite. The 2012 is the last mac mini you can upgrade the disk on. If all you want is a decent machine to make music on, you can stick an SSD in that and it will absolutely fly. That is what I have, it runs really well with garage band and logic.

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Late 2013 iMac i5/2.7ghz/16gb RAM here. I fitted a 1TB SSD earlier this year with very little difficulty. Unbelievable improvements in boot time and performance. I wouldn’t want to try to upgrade the RAM, though. Helluva job.

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52 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

I would go for the opposite. The 2012 is the last mac mini you can upgrade the disk on. If all you want is a decent machine to make music on, you can stick an SSD in that and it will absolutely fly. That is what I have, it runs really well with garage band and logic.

Not true, I did the SSD upgrade on my 2014. Was a piece of p*** with youTube tutorial.

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Fancy that, didn't realise the 2014 was upgradeable like that. Not quite so simple as the 2012 but not hard.

So that is a good option then. Either way, any of those machines are fine for garage band and are much cheaper than current prices.

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Unless you are sold on the small form factor of the Mac Mini look at a second had MacPro.

My current system is a (2010) 5,1: 6 core 3.46Ghz processor and 64GB RAM which cost me £600. Will run Mojave (so long as the graphics card supports "Metal") and is plenty speedy enough for my musical and graphical needs. Also easily upgradable - holds 4 SATA drives and has 3 spare PCI slots for extras such as audio interfaces and RAM drives etc. Also has digital I/O on light pipe connectors.

If you can get away with an older Mac OS, then look at the 3,1 version which supports up to El Capitan, that'll be about £350.

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I have a 2014 11" i7 Macbook Air (8gb RAM, SSD) and a 2012 imac 21.5" (recently upgraded with 16gb RAM and internal SSD - screen off job, hairy!). Both are great machines and have handled everything I've thrown at them so far - garageband wouldn't sweat either of them. I'm not running the latest OS version as it was plagued with problems on release... The laptop cost me 400, the iMac was 300 but seems to be coming down in price now. 

My previous mac mini was a 2011 i5 2.3 with RAM and SSD maxed out and it was a flying machine! 

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Is Catalina the Apple equivalent of Windows 10?

Is this spec any good for £245?

1.40 GHz Intel Dual-Core i5 processor
4GB LPDDR3 1600 MHz memory
Intel HD Graphics 5000
256GB SSD
macOS Catalina 10.15

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10 minutes ago, MacDaddy said:

Is Catalina the Apple equivalent of Windows 10?

Is this spec any good for £245?

1.40 GHz Intel Dual-Core i5 processor
4GB LPDDR3 1600 MHz memory
Intel HD Graphics 5000
256GB SSD
macOS Catalina 10.15

It's ok for the money but woefully low on memory and SSD space. I can't comment if this model can be upgraded, but, given the costs to do the upgrade, you might be better off looking for something nearer the spec I mentioned. Processor speed is also going to have you head scratching as soon as you start running virtual instruments in you DAW. 

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7 minutes ago, Dood said:

It's ok for the money but woefully low on memory and SSD space. I can't comment if this model can be upgraded, but, given the costs to do the upgrade, you might be better off looking for something nearer the spec I mentioned. Processor speed is also going to have you head scratching as soon as you start running virtual instruments in you DAW. 

that's gonna be eBay then!

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Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, MacDaddy said:

Is Catalina the Apple equivalent of Windows 10?

Is this spec any good for £245?

1.40 GHz Intel Dual-Core i5 processor
4GB LPDDR3 1600 MHz memory
Intel HD Graphics 5000
256GB SSD
macOS Catalina 10.15

If you mean is Catalina the latest version of Mac OS, then yes. However unlike Windows, Apple make few concessions to backwards compatibility - it's one of the strengths of Mac OS but it's also one of it's weaknesses. For music in particular it is usually recommended to be one major OS version behind the latest - therefore IMO at the moment Mojave is the version to be running. You'll find that many of the smaller software developers - often those doing freeware - are slow to update their offerings to be compatible, and music software (VSTs and and software instruments) are often a long way behind.

As others have said the RAM is woefully under-spec'd in that Mac. I couldn't recommend less than 8GB at the VERY minimum, and ideally for music you will want 16GB or more. The OS on it's own will take up nearly all of 8GB so on an 8GB Mac you're into swap disc usage as soon as you open you first program. The SSD size IMO isn't so critical. Ideally you would be using an external drive for saving all your music projects and save the internal SSD for the OS and applications.

Edited by BigRedX

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2 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

If you mean is Catalina the latest version of Mac OS, then yes. However unlike Windows, Apple make few concessions to backwards compatibility - it's one of the strengths of Mac OS but it's also one of it's weaknesses. For music in particular it is usually recommended to be one major OS version behind the latest - therefore IMO at the moment Mojave is the version to be running. You'll find that many of the smaller software developers - often those doing freeware - are slow to update their offerings to be compatible, and music software (VSTs and and software instruments) are often a long way behind.

As others have said the RAM is woefully under-spec'd in that Mac. I couldn't recommend less than 8GB at the VERY minimum, and ideally for music you will want 16GB or more. The OS on it's own will take up nearly all of 8GB so on an 8GB Mac you're into swap disc usage as soon as you open you first program. The SSD size IMO isn't so critical. Ideally you would be using an external drive for saving all your music projects and save the internal SSD for the OS and applications.

does the processor make a difference on Macs? There seems to be many different generations around of the i5 and i7?

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8 minutes ago, MacDaddy said:

does the processor make a difference on Macs? There seems to be many different generations around of the i5 and i7?

The processor makes a difference, but not as much as you would think. But the thing is, the i3/5/7 are a decade old now. They come out with a new one every year (in fact the first number is the year) and although you can generally say that i3 < i5 < i7 (and now i9), its not so clear cut as to whether a newer i5 is worse than an older i7.

But there are comparison sites.

The only think you can say for definate is that a spinny disk (ie, non SSD) is only really useful to store things that you are not working on. Luckily the mac has been doing that for a lot longer by default, unluckily apple are very tight with sizes and very keen on non standard / upgradeable disks.

 

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When it comes to processors you also have to check the number of cores and whether or not your software can make use of multiple cores. Some music software doesn't.

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Apple Mac Mini i5 Dual Core With 16GB RAM & 256Gb SSD Boxed. cleanly installed with MacOS High Sierra (10.13) 

£295. Is this a good deal?

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I'm currently bidding on a Mac mini, i7, 16GB RAM, and SSD storage.

 

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7 hours ago, MacDaddy said:

I'm currently bidding on a Mac mini, i7, 16GB RAM, and SSD storage.

 

That will run Garageband easily and super fast, good luck. Let us know how you get on with it :)

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On 27/06/2020 at 08:22, skidder652003 said:

That will run Garageband easily and super fast, good luck. Let us know how you get on with it :)

I've been outbid on 3 mac mini's. So I'm looking at a MacBook Pro. 2.4GHz i5, 256GB SSD, and 16GB RAM. Late 2013 running Catalina.

The screen has the staingate thing though, although it doesn't look too bad in use? If I get it cheap enough I could always hook it up to another monitor? 

s-l1600.jpg

s-l1600.jpg

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22 minutes ago, MacDaddy said:

I've been outbid on 3 mac mini's. So I'm looking at a MacBook Pro. 2.4GHz i5, 256GB SSD, and 16GB RAM. Late 2013 running Catalina.

The screen has the staingate thing though, although it doesn't look too bad in use? If I get it cheap enough I could always hook it up to another monitor? 

s-l1600.jpg

Nah, that is just the reflection of the skirting board :)

Not sure what the stain thing is. I haven't kept up. Looks fine straight on, which is the only way I tend to use mine.

That is almost the same spec as my main mac, except mine is an i7 with 512g. I have no reason to upgrade it, it does everything really well. Although my battery is getting a bit poor now, will have to replace that soon,.

 

 

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