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Mac mini vs NUC win10
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Mac mini vs NUC win10

Looking to replace my aging i7 windows 10 Lenovo laptop in my studio. Tired of dinky little display port and usb hub, and want a real hdmi port and several USB ports to accommodate wireless mouse, keyboard, interface, dongles, etc.

Am considering either Mac mini M1 8 ram 256 ssd for $699 or intel NUC i5 8th gen or newer which seems to cost more than the Mac. I use iPhone and iPad as my other devices, so I am okay with either OS. I use reaper in the studio and I think the reaper version for Mac is as stable as it is on win 10, correct?

Anyway, any thoughts on a mini type box to replace my laptop would be appreciated - pros/Cons, Mac vs win, etc. thanks.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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🎧 10 years
Is video editing part of your production landscape too ? If so you’ll want to make sure a suitable video card is on board, and whether the NUC form factor supports that (thinking mainly of cooling here).

Is there a reason you’re steering away from the traditional tower/column format...maybe studio space considerations ?

Low track count audio is typically a low processor usage, so fans will rarely even activate...video tends to be a different story...

Last edited by studer58; 2 weeks ago at 08:58 AM..
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Personally I favour a tower in my audio-only studio - more options for upgrades and longevity. I use a W10 laptop or a dedicated hardware recorder for location recording (depending on the channel count required). I do find the Nuc and its ilk intriguing, but it seems that you would be locking in to a smaller, more rigid feature set than you would have with a tower, a small form factor PC, or even another laptop?

Are Nucs even capable enough for video editing?

Last edited by jimjazzdad; 2 weeks ago at 09:06 PM.. Reason: Added question
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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The M1 Mini is far more capable than its predecessors (an M1 Mac Mini with 8 gigs of RAM would likely outperform my 2013 Mac Pro tower with 32 gigs of RAM and two GPUs; even the M1 Macbook Air reportedly outperforms the previous Intel Macbook Pro models), and Reaper has an M1-compatible beta version available. However you should note that it's going to take a while for plugin manufacturers to develop M1-native versions; in the meantime you will have to use Rosetta and may run into compatibility issues. There's a long thread in the "Music Computers" forum on gearslutz dedicated to M1 Macs for audio and it's worth a trawl through that to see some of the considerations. Many plugins have already been updated (e.g., Fabfilter) but some that you use may not.

Reaper has been rock-solid for me on Mac and Windows; in my case it has never crashed on either platform. The version for M1 Macs is still in beta but I haven't seen any reports of problems and it'll probably be an official release soon.

In terms of software, the only thing to keep in mind with Mac vs. Windows is that Mac puts you off-limits from the "big" classical music DAWs like Sequoia, Pyramix, etc., especially now that Windows will no longer run natively on Apple Silicon computers. But if you're happy with Reaper, this probably doesn't matter.

From a hardware perspective my main concern with anything Mac is the limited-to-no opportunities for expansion. You basically have to spec your machine for the future, as you generally won't be able to add RAM or replace the SSD yourself. The initial offering of M1 Macs currently available are just the beginning, and if you can wait until this autumn there should be more choices with more powerful machines that should be able to handle your needs for many years to come. That said, for classical music and basic video, an M1 Mini should be more than adequate for 5-10 years, although if it were me I'd go for 16 GB rather than 8GB of RAM. I am still using a 2014 Mini but it's underpowered; the new M1 Macs are revolutionary and the specs (especially RAM) shouldn't be compared 1-to-1 with Intel Macs or Windows machines, as Apple is making very efficient use of the whole system; you can get by with less RAM than previously required.

The Mini can handle video, even the MacBook Air reportedly runs Final Cut very well and even DaVinci Resolve although I'd have to see that for myself to believe it. The Air is an excellent portable recording laptop since it has no fan, but for your studio machine you'll want more ports and the Mini is good for that; Thunderbolt and USB are expandable via hubs and you can run lots of gear and monitors off a few ports.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Generally, the mini form factor will limit your options for future hardware upgrades. PC desktop deals for the past four months (at least) have been limited. The ones I've seen shortchange the buyer somewhere---low power PSU, built in graphics, only 8 gb memory or if they put in a decent graphics card, then they have a dated CPU. The ones with the better specs have been pricey. There has been a huge demand for computers due to the work at home situation.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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🎧 15 years
I would not go for a Mini if you plan to do video editing on this machine, kind of inadequate video technology compared with iMac etc. It will probably rock for Reaper and other audio, once the plugs etc are upgraded. If you want 1 machine to do both video and audio, maybe wait to see what Apple puts out re: higher end M type computers. But be ready to pay a whole lot more for them.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Thanks for all the informative responses. This machine would be exclusively for audio - I do video on another machine - but I believe you guys have already talked me out of the Mac mini, even though it is a beautiful little box.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
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1 Review written
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I forgot to say that some of the PC makers are using nonstandard cases as well as using motherboards that have proprietary power connections to the power supply. If you want to upgrade their power supply, you're stuck with buying one from them if they have it at a hefty price. I looked at the cost of upgrading from a 300 watt PSU to a 500 watt from one manufacturer, and the price of their 500 watt PSU was several hundred dollars. 500 watts was also the most they offered that would fit.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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🎧 10 years
Given all your typical working conditions: low track count (less than 8), no video editing, Reaper's very low CPU footprint draw...I'd say you could safely get any relatively recent NUC or Mac Mini with the right connection options for your display, necessary USB devices, etc. Even a USB hub would do fine for keyboard, mouse, external drive.

My guess is the greatest potential CPU draw (and hence heat generator) is likely to be plugins for reverbs, noise reduction and similar...with the small form factor of NUC/Mini you really don't want any fans ramping up, as that will be an unwelcome noise distraction...unless you can locate it some distance away via longer extension cables, Bluetooth etc.

Just by getting a more modern device than your current laptop, you'll likely be fine...particularly if your display monitor's needs and plug-in CPU demand are modest. You just don't want high revving cooling fans turning themselves on....hence the recommendation for a tower unit with more spacious, open-plan architecture within if you think you're going to be pushing any processing limits...if your studio space allows it.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
Is Apple making an M1 iMac? If I were to do it all over again, I would opt for an iMac in place of my way-excessive (for what I do) Mac Pro. But my Mac Pro, a 2012 model, still seems to carry on with the latest Pro Tools, Reaper, Altiverb, Hofa and the like. Lots of room, lots of RAM, SSDs. Keeps on ticking and for as little editing I do, especially these days, I think I'm good for now.

Oh and I LOVE! Reaper. By far, the biggest bang for the buck in audio. I am a bit committed to PT 'cause my boss uses it exclusively. There is probably an easy way to transfer a Reaper session into a PT session but I haven't explored it. It would need to be seamless or my boss would be, rightfully, annoyed at have extra "conversion" work.

Gotta look into it.

D.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
Is Apple making an M1 iMac?
As the saying goes, "those who know won't tell, and those who tell don't know." But I have seen reports that an M1 iMac is in the works, along with other models including a redesigned Macbook Air.

Although not generally a fan of all-in-one computers, I did have an iMac for a few years and found it very practical. Apple has discontinued its iMac Pro, and a new base-level M1 iMac would likely blow it out of the water anyway.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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mpdonahue's Avatar
Have you looked at the Phantom Canyon Nuc11?
It is an 11th gen mobile processor and an Nvidia RTX2060 graphics built in.
It costs a few more bucks, but is a great deal for the money. Also the Nuc9 with the i9 9980HK is less, has 8/16 cores and has a real PCIe 16x slot for video card or expansion.
ATB,
-mark
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
Is Apple making an M1 iMac?
M1 Apple Silicon Experiences in Audio
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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king2070lplaya's Avatar
It’s unfortunate that you’re needing the cpu now, given the aforementioned part shortages and how they’re driving prices up on everything from parts to prebuilds.

Apple is certainly enticing right now... that said, I try to never buy the first Gen after any significant change, and that’s why I haven’t bought a new laptop yet despite the M1 hype. It’s a terribly difficult deal to pass up considering how low the prices are, especially compared to the inflated “windows” PC prices.

Feeling very lucky that I got bored last August and built a monster PC for home, immediately before everything went downhill availability- and price-wise.

Only thing I’d say about the NUC is that their fans can get annoying, and that unless you really need the portability, space savings, or you find a really good deal, you’re leaving a good bit of performance on the table (they are basically laptop parts in a small chassis). At school, we bought a couple passively cooled i5 NUCs solely to run the ATEM switching software, which they work great for. Not sure under load how that cooling holds up though.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Hi jnorman,

Tell us a bit about your current I7 computer configuration. For audio work only, I would say just about anything is good enough.

I recently finally replaced two of my 15 year old tablets that I only used for audio work because their GPUs don't support OpenGL framework which prevented me from using some newer plugins. But, I was completely OK with them for high track count recording work. I did swap out the hard drive with SSD, though.

Are there anything your current computer can't do?



Best regards,

Da-Hong
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Da Hong - my current Lenovo is an i7-4500u, 64bit win10, 8 ram, 256gb ssd, and works fine even with some heavy duty plugins. However, the display port (a mini hdmi) is quite fiddly and has to be wiggled regularly. Also, it only has 2 USB ports, one dedicated to the interface, and the other using a usb hub which can be slow and problematic when I need to connect external hdd for backups, etc. so, not really desperate, but...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Is your HDMI port connected to the motherboard or actually a replaceable assembly on your laptop?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
I was just commenting to a colleague this weekend, how very much I hate mini display ports.... Not reliable.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Hi Jnorman,

Assuming you have one USB3 port on the computer, you could use an USB3 to HDMI adapter that also has a couple of USB extension ports built-in. That could take care of all you needs. The video performance would be slow I'd imagine but for audio work that would be just fine.

Something like this?

https://www.amazon.com/QGeeM-Adapter...062879&sr=8-16


Da-Hong
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
If your laptop only has USB 2.0 ports, there's your speed of drive-access bottleneck as regards external drives....so even adding a USB hub as Da-Hong mentions above won't fix that. However it will give you all the additional connectivity (HDMI, USB SD cards etc) you require.

Do some research on hubs, they're not all created equal, and some can burn out after a surprisingly short lifespan. I suspect the best might have their own dedicated wall wart power supply, rather than vampiring off your laptop's USB port's DC power ?

Maybe just get yourself an identical Lenovo laptop now and clone your current one to it, if it's loafing along happily. Then bring it out of storage when your current unit bites the dust (be sure to keep its battery charged above 80% during storage)
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