I was going to look into a Mac Pro when the update is released but when I saw what Apple had done with the new Mini I placed an order immediately. I've had the fully-loaded version for about a week and so far I'm pleased with the performance.
To me, there is no question that in terms of bang for the buck, the Mini lags behind many other products yet the way I see it, if you are committed to a separate set-up (I have a recent vintage Cinema Display) and you are committed to Mac (been using Macs since the early 1990s), the choices are simply two, namely the Mac Pro and the Mini. So my reasoning in buying the Mini is that it would be enough machine to suit my needs and yet come in at hundreds maybe thousands less than the Mac Pro. The SSD is the high-cost element of this equation. If you put an SSD in the Pro, buying from Apple directly, that means right now that the price for the base Pro with 6Gb of RAM a 500GB SSD and a 1TB 7200 RPM drive would be $4,124. It's true that if you were to forgo the SSD, it would lower the price to $2,724 yet take the SSD out of the Mini equation and it drops from $2,046 (including a Superdrive+magic trackpad+wired keyboard) down to $1,446.
No matter how you work this, if you feel like you need more than 3GB of RAM, drives being as close to equal as possible, the Mac Pro adds more than $1,000 to your final bill before taxes.
So the real question is, how much computer is enough. For me, from what I've seen, the new Mini is enough. I threw a demanding Handbrake job at my old Mini (a 2.53Ghz model with 4GB of RAM) and threw the same assignment at the new model (2.7Ghz+8GB of RAM+SSD). It took the older model about 18 hours, 30 minutes to complete the file with no other work being done at the same time. I let the new machine perform the same task, also not taxiing the system, and the new unit completed the work in about 7 hours, 15 minutes. The new unit fires up from a cold start in about 20 seconds. It ran a massive Civ 5 campaign and only in the final stages did it start to bog down running at high graphics settings and with a massive map with many leaders. I wouldn't even consider trying to run Civ 5 on the older Mini. Period. In the Open GL Cinebench testing the frame rate on the new machine is around 24.5 and the old more like 5.9. The CPU test produced a score of about 1 with the old and around 3 with the new.
An even bigger payoff comes down the road when some significant Thunderbolt external storage solutions come along. The old Mini has been rather unstable running external drives via Firewire 800. My hope is that Thunderbolt will change that dramatically.
I'm not a professional. I consider myself to be a serious hobbyist, doing a lot of Photoshop and now and again tackling video projects. I do a video every year that is presented to an audience numbering in the hundreds, shoot family footage that I like to try and work into polished finished video projects, and so on and so on. For me, my needs do not justify spending an extra $1,000 unless I believe that not doing so would result in an inadequate package. I had come to the conclusion that the old Mini just wasn't enough machine for my needs and was prepared to consider spending around $3,000 for a new Mac Pro. As such, when it appeared to me that Apple was now offering me an adequate package closer to $2,000, I was ecstatic and rushed my order in.
So far, for what it's worth, I have no regrets. The new Mini is a fine little computer packing serious muscle, as I have it configured. I can't speak to what will happen over the long haul. Maybe a year from now I'll decide that the machine isn't good enough after all. Maybe issues will crop up, as they did with the old Mini. Yet so far, I have to say, Bravo Apple. Finally a Mini that has some serious capabilities, giving those of us longing for a mid-range Tower a decent option.
By the way, when I pull a DVD out of the old Mini, it's hot to the touch and from the external on the new set-up stone cold. Taking out the internal DVD drive is a far more significant move than many realize. Without that change, none of the substantial performance gains would have been possible.
This post has been edited by Carmissimo: 03 August 2011 - 03:40 PM