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Discussion Starter #1
I've been considering purchasing a Mac for a while now but never got around to it. Ideally I'd be using the system for photo & audio editing (not much in terms of video).

Right now I've narrowed things down to either an iMac or a Mac Mini. While the iMac would definitely offer better performance (since even the Core i3 in the entry-level iMac would be quite a bit faster than the Core 2 Duo in the Mini), I'm wanting to eventually set up a dual-display setup.

With the 21.5" iMac, I'd be forced to get a completely different display since Apple doesn't sell a separate display in this size. If I wanted the same monitor, I'd have to buy the 27" version and then spend an additional $1000 on the 27" Cinema Display to match. With the Mini however, I could use two other displays (one via HDMI, the other via Displayport/HDMI/DVI (depending what adapters I used). That would be handy.

I guess my question then would be, how much difference would I notice from the Core 2 Duo CPU in the Mini vs. the Core i3 in terms of photo editing performance? For audio editing, I probably wouldn't be pushing the Core 2 CPU all that much (though I realize upgrading to 4GB of RAM would be helpful).

Any suggestions?
 

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I'm not answering your question, but a Mini with a separate display might be better if you upgrade you PCs every couple of years. I tend to keep my displays 2-3 times longer than I keep my PCs.

So while I like the clean setup of an iMac, I went with a Mini and will eventually get one or two 27" Cinema displays. For now, I'm using a couple Dell displays I already had (I spent my display money on a new 11" MacBook Air :)).

I know it's more expensive, but I see myself upgrading the Mini in a couple of years and keeping the displays for much longer.
 

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Core 2 Duo should be more than enough for routine photo editing. (i.e./ what the vast majority of home owners need).

If you intend on doing video editing then I think twice.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I've decided that I'm going to opt for the Mac Mini. I've been playing with one the past few days and I'm actually quite impressed with how responsive it is (it's the first system in a while where I wasn't screaming for my SSD!) Makes me wonder how a Mac would perform with a solid-state drive actually (though I know one isn't available for the Mini, nor would it be easily user-upgradeable to one).
 

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I've owned both.

Right now I'm using a 27 Imac i5. I actually wanted to run a dual screen setup but with the 27 it's screen real estate is so large I actually find myself not missing the second screen!

The Mini will work just fine for photo editing.

Only concern that I have with the Mini running dual screens, and this may have changed but I believe the ram for video is still shared so that may be taxing two screens, especially if they are large hi-res ones.

Another option may be go to Apple's website,>store>refurbished and pick up a refurb unit. Usually save 15% or more. I always buy refurb units, save some money, full warranty and have never had an issue.

My 2c worth.

Welcome to the world of reliable, easy to use computers, Apple
 

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FYI, if you're going to use the Mini with a Dell monitor

For now, I'm using a couple Dell displays I already had.
Just an FYI, one of my Dell monitors is a 23" U2311H IPS panel that has a DisplayPort input. I've read that people have had problems connecting Macs to the DisplayPort input of Dell monitors using the brand of Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cables that Monoprice, and other online stores, sell.

I bought this one and it works fine:
Mini Displayport to Displayport Adapter Cable
 

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I have a 21.5 inch iMac and run a Mini Displayport to DVI from Monoprice on a Dell 17" monitor beside it without any problems...
 

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As you've found, the Mac Mini is no slouch in the processing department.

It's really a well kept secret as many people assume that based on the price and promotion, the Mac Mini is a lesser or crippled machine.

Apple doesn't do much to dispell consumers about this either as they enjoy the much larger profit margins on iMac and Macbooks.

Some will say the Mac Mini lacks the i-core processors or the advanced video cards of the more expensive models. But it runs the same OS and feature set, and is more than adequate for most users and applications. And yes, installing an SSD is a little tricky but the performance boost is impressive and takes the machine from very quiet to virtually silent!
 
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