How the iMac Can be a Better Deal than the Mac mini

The reputation Apple systems have for being overpriced has been a matter of perception for some time. When you purchase a particular brand or system, you’re purchasing a reputation and feature set. The amount you’re willing to pay for something should reflect directly your need for a particular set of features or services that comes with the purchase.

Let’s say you’re set on getting either a Mac mini or an iMac. The first argument for the Mac mini I’ve heard over and over again around the office and in chat rooms is price. It’s cheaper to get a Mac mini than an iMac. Their base prices certainly reflect this fact though when you consider exactly what you get with the iMac, you’ll be surprised to find out exactly how untrue the price advantage really is.

First, you can’t currently buy a Mac mini with the same generation processor you’ll find in the iMac. For this reason, we’ll bump the Mac mini from the lower 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor to the more powerful 2.66GHz one. This adds $150 to the $699 starting price bringing the total to $849.

Next, memory available on a base model iMac starts at 4GB while the Mac mini sports 2GB by default. To even this out, we’ll need to double the RAM which adds $100 to the asking price bringing it to $949. In a previous article, I explained how you can save a lot of money on this upgrade by doing it yourself without voiding your warranty.

Third, you’ll want to take a look at the hard drive. In a Mac mini, you’re started out with a 320GB drive that falls just short of the 500GB offered with the iMac. An upgrade from 320 to 500GB adds $50 to the Mac mini bringing the running total to a respectable $999.00. If you’re wanting to compare the Mac mini to a 27-inch iMac, you’re going to have to consider an external drive to make up the difference with the iMac’s 1TB starting drive capacity.

The Magic Mouse and an Apple Wireless Keyboard don’t come included with a Mac mini as they do an iMac. Adding these boosts, the running tally increases by $138 for a total of $1,137.00.

The final piece of the comparative puzzle comes in the form of a monitor. At this point, we’ve been comparing the Mac mini to a baseline 21.5-inch iMac. If you decide you absolutely want a 27-inch cinema display (built-in to the 27-inch iMac), you’re looking at $999 added for a total of $2,136 for your “cheaper” Mac mini. This exceeds even the price of an upgraded 27-inch iMac.

So unless you come with your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse, you’re going to be taking a slightly bigger financial hit than you would with an iMac in addition to a performance loss from less powerful components. The video card and processors available in the Mac mini are determinably less future proof than the slightly more up-to-date iMac. While this certainly isn’t an absolute comparison including all of the money saving tips you can use to knock down your end total, it is something to consider when deciding between the two.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson