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Hardware recommendation advice sought
Chazzozz!! 
16/7/08 5:59:26 PM
Champion

My wife wants me to buy her a Mac, but I'm not sure of which one to get. She wants one to mostly do sorting of our digital photo collection and some editing of said photos, Internet browsing, and document writing. So, nothing too fancy.

She likes the look of the Mac Mini due to the small footprint...and it's "cute". I'm wondering if it's going to have the grunt for some semi-serious photo editing, though. Would I be better off going to an iMac? How easy is the Mini to upgrade later on? (I already saw a thread here with a link to a site that describes what to do, but I'm wondering if anyone's got hands-on experience.)

I'm also wondering about screens. If I buy Mini then what's the biggest screen I can hang off it? Are the Apple screens good for photo editing? I've seen them on display in stores and they look pretty sharp and sexy. Or, should I look for a non-Apple brand?

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TinBane 
17/7/08 8:36:00 AM
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Okay. Brutal honesty?

It depends on what you want to do. The Mac Mini is phenomenally reliable. Given that it uses the exact same HDDs as the laptops, I could diverge and cast some proclamations about how we use laptops, but anyway, trust me, they are reliable. I can PM you details if you want to know.

In terms of what screen, Apple's screens are fantastic and expensive. If you aren't a designer/photographer/movie maker, where colour gamut, brightness, contrast etc has to be picture-perfect, then it's a non-issue. But another screen, and hang it off the mini.

The output of the mini is:
"DVI output port with support for VGA, S-video, and composite video connections via adapter. Connects to external display with digital resolution (DVI) up to 1920 x 1200, analog resolution (VGA) up to 2048 x 1536." (from the Apple store online)

So it will run a full hi-def res monitor via DVI.

It is a little short on grunt now, but the mini has always been the little runt that could, rather than a real imac challenger.

It's much more home-theatre/already got PC equipment/don't have any money aimed.

It's still got a GMA950 rather than the X3100 integrated graphics like the macbook. The iMac has a powerful (relatively) discrete graphics card. The 20" imac has a slight brightness gradient over the screen, making it not the best design machine (unless you hang a good monitor off the side), but it's a fantastic deal, price wise, and if you aren't doing design work, then you'll probably never notice.

In terms of photo editing, what kind of stuff will she do? Things like brightness/contrast/temperature and red eye, or full on photoshopping of photos?

If she likes the cuteness of the mini, maybe she'd be better off with a macbook, and a desktop screen?

You aren't in melbourne, are you? :P

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zephyr 
17/7/08 10:43:13 AM
Hero
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My (now rather dated) G4 Mini happily drives a 24" screen without any performance issues, so I wouldn't worry in that department at all.

Upgradability wise, I'd say you'd want to max out the memory if you get one, but it's relatively cheap if you DIY or get it done by the reseller ;-)

If she doesn't like it then get her an imac and hey, you've got a great little media box there ;)

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Chazzozz!! 
17/7/08 11:59:31 AM
Champion

Thanks for the advice, guys.

As for what type of work she'll be doing, in the beginning it will be simple stuff. As TinBane said, "...brightness/contrast/temperature and red eye..". But, my long-term goal is to gently prod her into doing full-on editing with something like Photoshop/Gimp/whatever. She has a flair for photography and I have plans of eventually getting her a digital SLR for a Christmas or birthday gift, and I want to ensure she has the skill and confidence to do real]/i] post-editing. Small steps for now, though. :)

This is also the reason I'm not afraid to look at the Apple screens as well. I'm concerned about getting something that will have accurate colour representation. I know that just because they say 'Apple' on the front there'll be a price premium. Given that, are they worth the extra money? Do they really perform better than third-party models? Can you suggest another screen that gives the same quality at a lower price point?

As for the MacBook idea, that's not a bad suggestion. I'll look into that, too. My daughter has one and I'm quite impressed with it. The screen is no good for high-quality work, but the portability is attractive.

And, no, I'm not in Melbourne. :)

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TinBane 
17/7/08 1:16:35 PM
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Well, the macbook internals are now faster and more modern than the latest mini. You can shut the screen, and use an external monitor, keyboard and mouse to get the 'big screen' effect. You can run both screens at the same time, but the X3100 may not be able to pump out enough resolution to use the external at native res, hence the shutting of the lid.

A mini with maxed out RAM (3GB?) will run even advanced photoshop stuff really well. If she's not going to be running 40+ layers on a poster sized 600DPI image, then she'll be fine :P

Obviously for the simple stuff, anything over a 1Ghz G4 would do that in iPhoto '08, which I highly recommend.

Resellers should put RAM in for free, at a decent price (not MSY, but then the RAM should come with lifetime warranty). Opening a mini isn't for the faint of heart. I'm sure you have PC skills so you won't static it, but the 'tool' you use is pretty much a sharpened mortar pallette. It freaked me out the first time I did it.

Apple screens are good, no two ways about it. But most screens are going to be fine unless you are doing print medium work, and by print, I mean things like letterheads and publication work, in which case you'd be buying a calibration tool... if you aren't buying a calibration tool, a decent 22" Viewsonic, Benq, LG or whatever would be fine. If you wanted a better screen, the 24" Dells come highly recommended from a lot of atomicans, though I've never used one.

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Chazzozz!! 
17/7/08 4:31:01 PM
Champion

Okay, I think that gives me an excellent idea of what to look for in hardware. Some very useful advice there. :)

You mentioned iPhoto '08...that's part of the iLife suite, correct? It looks like most Macs come bundled with it. How about Photoshop Essentials? Ever used it? The reason I asked is I purchased it for my daughter to use, but so far it's been gathering digital dust on her HDD. If she doesn't use it soon I'm inclined to delete it from her's and install it onto the (potential) new one.

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TinBane 
17/7/08 5:26:26 PM
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Yeah. All macs (except for xserves) come with iLife, and iPhoto is included. I prefer it to photoshop essentials (Thats the photo management software, right?).

I don't tend to use adobe unless I absolutely have to, especially Acrobat and Distiller.

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Chazzozz!! 
17/7/08 7:31:00 PM
Champion

Okay, thanks for taking the time to answer everything honestly. :)

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PC FREAK 
24/7/08 10:51:48 PM
Guru

Personally i find my parents mac mini is under powered. It only has 1GB though.

Its great for what they do which is about the same as what you suggest and there ecstatic over it. They however wont make the leap to photo shop. There great machines, just dont base your sole OS X experience off it.

Mac OS X > *

Seriously on a good machine nothing bogs it down :( (Not literally but stuff that would write off vista is a speed bump in OS X in my experience).

Btw in terms of screens i can highly recommend the BenQ G2400W.

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