iMac vs. Mac Mini… There’s a lot of debate in the Apple community about what the best desktop setup is – iMac or Mac Mini?
They both have the same chip and they’re both more or less kind of the same, so which is better?
Both sides tend to get really wrapped up in whether one or the other is better.
They think the iMac is better or they think the Mac Mini is better.
But the reality is that Apple never chooses to make a product that directly overlaps with another.
Apple knows that people will want a computer that you can simply take right out of the box and get started on.
On the other hand, they know that people who might be a bit more tech-savvy are going to want a computer that they can customize with their own accessories, namely:
Apple doesn’t make two products for the same category.
When Apple designs one desktop, they do it for one category.
And they make the other for a different set of consumers.
Even though the internals of both products is mostly the same, they have different use cases.
The main difference between the iMac and Mac Mini
The iMac excels at being convenient and giving you what you need right out of the package.
The Mac Mini excels at being adaptable and versatile.
The iMac starts at about the same starting price as an entry-level MacBook Pro.
So you get a much larger screen and great performance for basically the same price as a good laptop.
You get a 4.5K display, a great webcam, great speakers with spatial audio, and you get a mouse and keyboard.
To setup an iMac all you have to do is plug in the power cord and… that’s about it.
The iMac will generally run in the $1,200-$1,300 price for the base model.
The Mac Mini
Sure, the Mac Mini is cheaper and is essentially the same thing.
But it also doesn’t come with a screen. And there are lots of other things you’ll need to provide to get your machine working.
We covered all the best monitors for the Mac Mini in this article.
Then you also need a keyboard and mouse.
Some really like the Logitech mouse that comes with the trackball. You’ll have to charge an iMac mouse.
And some people prefer wired keyboards and mice so they never have to deal with lost Bluetooth connections or simply because they tend to be cheaper.
The Mac Mini speakers do come at the back of the device, but they’re only good in a pinch.
You’re going to want your own speakers, headphones, AirPods, or something else. (The Mac Mini does have an audio jack.)
Many people love the Rokit speakers.
The iMac speakers are good, but they’re not as good as some you can find.
So if you don’t want to be restricted to a 24″ display – it is a bit small – then you can go ahead and get the monitor of your liking, which are typically $300 on up.
If you do decide to really deck out your Mac Mini it will be more expensive than the iMac.
But many don’t mind. They want the Apple system internals, but they don’t want to pay for the small screen and the keyboard and mouse given to them and really want to customize their setup.
Wires and plugs with the Mac Mini
If you do go with the Mac Mini, you’ll be dealing with a lot of plugs.
You’re going to have a plug for the Mac Mini, the monitor, the speakers (if applicable), wires connecting to the Mac Mini (and wires connecting to each other in the case of speakers)…
You’re also going to have an HDMI cord connecting the Mac Mini to the monitor, or you could have a Thunderbolt monitor that involves the same connection.
So, there will be lots of wires and plugs and cables that you’ll have to manage.
That’s something you don’t have to worry about with the iMac.
Limited ports with the iMac
At the same time, the iMac only has a limited number of ports (most models have only two).
So if you need external storage, then that’ll take up half your storage right away.
External speakers also plug in on the side of the side of the monitor, which can look weird.
You get a lot more ports on the Mac Mini.
Neither have an SD card (the old Mac Mini did).
The Mac Mini… by a hair.
The base model of each:
The Mac Mini has an 8-core GPU while the iMac has a 7-core GPU.
In graphics-heavy tasks, you’ll be able to notice the extra GPU core.
But iMac isn’t bad either.
It will be more than sufficient for most tasks. And if you plan on really using your machine for heavy tasks – video editing, software development, graphics-intensive gaming – this is where more add-ons come into play.
You can choose more RAM and heavier-duty internals when buying your device.
You can buy the 8-core GPU for the iMac. It usually costs about an extra $200.
Of course, going from 256GB of storage to 512GB of storage will also cost extra as well.
Complements, not substitutes
These products have very little overlap overall.
If you like the built-in display, then that’s a plus for the iMac.
If you like the ability to have a versatile setup, then the Mac Mini will be more your thing.
That’ll come with more wires, so if you don’t like that you have the iMac.
You’ll go back and forth with the products because a con with one is usually the pro with the other.
They fit together really well in Apple’s desktop setup lineup.
So, a lot of the debate tends to be misplaced when talking about whether one is better than the other.
The iMac and Mac Mini tend to be opposite but complementary products. They are similar but different.
Some people will argue that they might tend to resell computers frequently.
If you already have a great monitor, then the Mac Mini might be a better fit because then you just have to worry about buying the internals and the overall package is not as good of a fit for you.
So if you want to upgrade your setup, you can swap out the Mac Mini every few years to upgrade rather than getting rid of everything.
You could build a setup that’s more expensive than the iMac setup.
But when a new and improved version of the Mac Mini comes up then you’re all ready to go.
You can just swap it out without having to get rid of your display, mouse, keyboard, microphone, camera, and so on.
At the same time, the iMac already has a lot of very good, solid components that might be difficult to simply replace at the same price.
So for many, the iMac can make more sense.
The iMac doesn’t just have everything included, everything matches and is really, really good.
iMac vs. Mac Mini – Which is better?
When it comes to this question, you can’t ask Google, YouTube, your friends, or anybody.
It really comes down to you.
Knowing what you know, which is better for your purposes?
It really boils down to your tastes and preferences that determine which of the two are better.
If you love adaptability and versatility, then the Mac Mini is probably your best shot.
If you love getting set up and ready to go out of the box, and is clean and minimal with its all-in-one nature, then the iMac is probably better suited to your preferences.
On the other hand, if you already have spare monitors, speakers, keyboard, and mouse or trackpad and you need something with lots of ports, then the Mac Mini is probably your machine.
Moreover, you can move your Mac mini between different locations – i.e., say office and home – much easier.
24″ iMac or M1 Mac Mini? Buyer’s guide (Mark Ellis reviews)
M1 Mac Mini vs. iMac – Tech Gear Talk
The iMac vs. Mac Mini debate is an interesting one to discuss, not only because of the difference in form factors but also because they are so different yet complementary at the same time.
The iMac and Mac Mini are both great computers for anyone who wants the power of the Mac system in a desktop format.
The iMac i5 (Intel chip) has everything you need to be productive, the iMac i7 blows most PCs under $5,000 out of the water.
Whether you choose iMac or Mac Mini comes down to taste and preference – if you like portability over versatility then go for the Mini; if you prefer cleanness and minimalism over a versatile set up then iMac is a clear winner.