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Mac Mini - Worth Paying for OS X Server?

Posted on 2013-11-25
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Last Modified: 2014-01-06
I am looking for a computer I can put in my family room for my three kids to use (second, fourth, fifth grades).

Primary uses will be homework and pre-teen computer activity.

I have been looking at Mac Minis, as we have moved our laptops over to the Mac platform and we have monitors and keyboards left over from now-retired PCs.

I am interested in opinions on which of the three mini options would make sense for my family:
http://store.apple.com/us/buy-mac/mac-mini

I can locate the computer near our TV, so it could double as an entertainment system as well.

My specific question is whether OS X server is something that is worth buying (the third option has OS X server, while the other two do not) - I have not used it personally and am not clear on the benefits for a home configuration.

My wife does also work from home, so if there are home office benefits to OS X Server we could leverage those for her business. She runs a photography business and tends to have large data management issues due to all of the picture files she deals with.

Any input would be much appreciated.
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Question by:Brian Clausen
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by:LectricX
LectricX earned 100 total points
ID: 39675463
You can buy a regular Mac Mini, and upgrade to OS X Server for $19.99

You may want to read up on the software differences, on apple's website, starting with:
http://www.apple.com/osx/server/servers-made-easy/

The biggest difference in the hardware versions is how much storage you'll get.  So it becomes a question about you.  

The smallest is 500GB, then 1x1tb drive, the largest is 2 x 1tb drives.
Questions you should answer for yourself are:
  Would you put the 2 x 1tb drives in a raid array so if one fails you still have your data, or would you plug in an external drive and do backups?  (shouldn't you do backups anyways)?

Do you want to plug in external storage to expand the storage?  or do you want as much storage inside as possible?
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Eoin OSullivan earned 350 total points
ID: 39675486
1. I don't see any reason to buy the OSX server model of MacMini for your purposes .. it has 2 x 1Tb drives and $20 OSX Server upgrade for $200 extra - which is bad value.

2. I recommend the base MacMini model for $599 as $200 extra for 500Gb extra HD space in the middle model is overpriced.  Unfortunately Apple have always overcharged for RAM and HD and unless you're buying a MacBook Air or iPad you have options to upgrade yourself for less if you want.

3. As the MacMini has no fan it makes a great home entertainment server as it is very quiet although it has no DVD drive anymore so cannot play them.  I'd recommend you buy a 2TB USB3 external drive and plug it into the Mac Mini to extend the storage for movies, tv, music and photos.  The MacMini could also have shared folders which other computer users could access and store images/photos.

4. Personally I prefer to plug an AppleTV device into the TV and use AirPlay to stream music, media etc. to the TV rather than actually plugging the MacMini into the TV.  The AppleTV interface is easier to control on a TV with a remote rather than having a full OSX desktop on your TV which will require keyboard and mouse to control.
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by:Brian Clausen
ID: 39675496
Thanks for the feedback.

We have numerous external storage devices on our home network, so we would use an external source for data backup vs needing to go down the raid array path (we have a 4TB and a 2TB external drive already on the local network).

It sounds like I can go for the low-level or mid-level version of the mini and then upgrade to OS X Server if I need to down the road, as the processor and the memory are the same between the $799 and $999 versions.

What is general opinion on spending the extra $200 to go from the $599 processor to the $799 quad-core Intel i7?
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by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 39675500
You'll not really see the benefits of the i5 vs i7 processor for normal home/Internet usage.  RAM is more important and you can upgrade that yourself afterwards
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by:Eoin OSullivan
Eoin OSullivan earned 350 total points
ID: 39675519
No - upgrade the RAM .. you CANNOT upgrade the processor yourself
$78 to go to 8GB
€143 to go to 16GB
http://www.crucial.com/store/listparts.aspx?model=Mac%20Mini%202.5GHz%20Dual-Core%20Intel%20Core%20i5%20-%20Late%202012&Cat=RAM

Compare that to the upgrade prices on the Apple Store and you'll see what I mean about apple overcharging ($100 and $200 for 8gb and 16gb upgrades)
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by:strung
strung earned 50 total points
ID: 39675533
The major advantage to Mac Server is that it allows more than 10 simultaneous connections. Unless you need that, or want to run your own e-mail server, there is no need for Mac server.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Brian Clausen
ID: 39676135
Thanks for all of the feedback. The ability to do the RAM upgrade (and not the processor) makes sense.

I will keep the RAM upgrade option and the OS X Server upgrade option in my back pocket and save the $400 difference between the $599 and $999 versions.

This helped a bunch - thanks guys.
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Author Comment

by:Brian Clausen
ID: 39761018
The base Mac mini has worked out great - I got it at Best Buy for $529 on a Black Friday sale.

So far it has been very popular with the family - although it is getting mostly worked out on Minecraft, YouTube and web browsing. I hope to see it getting some homework action now that school is back in.

Thanks for the input on this one.
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Expert Comment

by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 39761346
Glad it worked out for you
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