I am thinking of replacing my 2015 5K iMac. I have two options:
a new M1 iMac
an M1 Mac Mini with a suitable monitor, etc.
Option one is the simplest choice and would meet my needs, but I wondered if there was any advantage in the mini. To get the mini with the same configuration, with a new keyboard and mouse would leave me with about £500–550 pounds for the monitor. I know nothing about external monitors, so if any of you can advise on that and give me a good reason why the mini might be a better bet, I’d love to hear it.
Hi Marc, have you considered buying a Macbook air M1 and the same size monitor as an iMac? It costs about the same, but you have a portable Mac and two monitors, which is a real plus for daily work. A good keyboard and trackpad are already included.
The advantage of an iMac is that it’s all in one. The disadvantage of an iMac is that it’s all in one. That is, it forces you to replace the computer and monitor on the same cycle, whether you want to or not.
Faced with the same choice, I got the Mac Studio and an external monitor.
I love the iMac but still went for the Mini because of the iMac’s coil whine. I. e. the chirping noise reported by some people when the backlight is set to low. And they said it appears more or less with all iMacs. I could not verify that statement because I don’t know anybody who owns an M1 iMac. But since I got both pretty squeamish eyes and ears I went for the Mini.
When I had first heard about the coil whine I had checked out alternatives and found that only LG offers a 24" 4k monitor (they are the manufacturer of the iMac’s display too). At that time the whole package of Mini, monitor, trackpad, and keyboard were more expensive than the iMac. But recently LG lowered the price for the monitor and I found a third party vendor for the Mini that had BTO configurations in stock for even a lower price than Apple, so I purchased.
And now comes the funny part: When I use the monitor’s speakers I hear a crackling sound and sometimes some kind of swoosh when the audio starts. The Mini’s internal audio output is (crappy but) okay, so is audio output trough the audio port.
Since the Mini and the LG display can only be connected by Thunderbolt and I neither own a Thunderbolt device nor know anybody who does I can’t tell what causes the problem. LG did replace the cable but to no avail. I took the Mini to an Apple Store and we did not hear any crackling sound. But there a Studio Display was connected to it and not a LG one. And they played music at the Apple Store and lots of people were talking.
So finally I sent in the Monitor to an LG service partner of and I am waiting for the result.
I heard about some MacBooks having audio problems but they were different then mine and seem to be resolved with the latest Monterey update.
I refuse to believe that the crackling is a common issue with this combo because the monitor is manufactured explicitly for Macs. So I hope it is due to a faulty device which finally will be determined.
Beside from my personal struggles:
The LG 23,7 Zoll UltraFine™ 4K Monitor has a very fine display (my old one is HD only I have to add).
Everything besides the display is ugly as all non-Apple displays.
Unlike the iMac it is height adjustable!
The iMac looks so cool … until you plug in all the back up disks and other devices. You might go for a single USB-C or even Thunderbolt hub connected to only one of its ports on the back of the iMac if that gives you enough ports. But if not in comparison the cable solution is better with the Mini—it does not have to sit right in front of you, only the monitor does. One Thunderbolt cable and a power plug and that’s it. In this combination the Mini is a bit like the iMacs external power brick, just a slightly bigger (I would have loved if the iMac’s external power brick would not only have LAN and power ports but USB-C ones too; that would have allowed to make lots of cables vanish under the desk.
Reports of Bluetooth and sometimes WiFi problems when USB-devices are used with the Mini: I have almost never faced them with my old 2012 Mini (with the one exception of a bad USB hub) but in the short time with the new M1 Mini three times already. Luckily I had an old mouse in a drawer to be able to restart the Mini.
In summa: What the hell, Apple? This is the machine I want to work with for the upcoming years!
I recently bought an amazing 27" Dell monitor for $225 or so. I think the Mini is a better choice. Upgrades are cheaper going forward, since you don’t have to replace everything all at once. Upgrade the monitor every few years, upgrade the Mac Mini at a different time.
Hi @fto, In fact I already have an upscaled M1 MBA, so I’ll give your suggestion some thought. I have a mouse to go with the MBA … with a significant tremor, a trackpad doesn’t cut it for me for precision for image/video/audio editing.
So an Apple Studio display and a separate keyboard (I don’t want to be typing on a keyboard to the side of the monitor!) is a third option.
@xiamenese Depending on what you expect from a monitor, colors, resolution, … don’t forget: you are buying a monitor for the next 10 years, at least. So, don’t buy it too small, not 24-inch, not 27-inch, but 32-inch.
I have this one and I’m very happy with it. A good compromise of the characteristics and very ergonomic. LG 32UK550.
Last year I traded in my 27" 2017 iMac for a MacBook Pro 14", and bought the 27" 4K LG 27UP850 UDH monitor. It is a step down in quality from the iMac’s screen, as you’d expect, but it’s still a very good screen to my eyes.
I don’t do graphics, so I’m very happy with keeping the £500+ extra it would have cost to upgrade to a 5K model — I wanted the larger screen, so I couldn’t save money by going down to 24".
I didn’t go for a 34" monitor, though I was tempted, because at the time there was a definite consensus that some monitor models had problems with M1 Macs — the fact that no-one could agree which those monitors were meant that I decided to stick with the 27". But I have the laptop’s screen as a second display, so it wasn’t too limiting.
I ordered directly from LG (Germany) and they had a 26 % discount (down from 749 € to 548 € on the monitor minus another 5 % first time customer discount. Weird that they stick to what seems to be the original price in the UK. Or maybe not weird but just Moptop taxes.
This and another 150 € off on the 16 GB RAM/1 TB SSD Mini allowed me to even get the more expensive black trackpad and keyboard with number pad (a bit off on both here too) and still save a bit over an iMac with the same specs.
The different ports specs is something one has to ponder about not just for aesthetical reasons: The iMac has four (two in the base model that I would not recommend) USB-C ports, two of them Thunderbolt. The Mini has two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports and two USB-A (3.0) ports.
When you go for a Thunderbolt display like the LG one one that would mean one of the Mini’s TB ports is occupied already. The LG Ultrafine itself on the other hand has another three USB-C ports, a second one of which is a TB one. But they are on its back side and in use would give you lots of visible cables like they would on the back of the iMac.
Being connected through TB allows you to alter the brightness by the Mini’s keyboard. Actually the LG Ultrafine has no buttons at all. It does have a brightness sensor but not True Tone. Its speakers are, my personal struggles aside, okay but offer no spatial audio. You should take into consideration that it does have neither camera nor microphone. Not so good if you do a lot of video conferences or on the contrary do not have anybody at all to talk to besides Siri. (But a bezel it has to clamp your iPhone to and use that shine new Ventura feature the name of which I forgot.)
Before I had the 2012 Mini I had a 2006 iMac which I loved (my first computer after the ZX 81 that was not grey/beige). But like @drmajorbob said, two devices instead of one means that you don’t have to replace both at the same time.
I really liked the Studio Display I have seen in the Apple Store. So adding it to your MBA wouldn’t be the worst of ideas, I’d say. Then again: In case of failure you would be on the safer side with two computers and two displays.
It’s really as simple as plugging one cable from the dock into the laptop, and all the peripherals are connected. Given the power of the M1 MBA (which is what I use), it makes more sense to me to connect what you have to some peripherals, rather than buy a whole new computer.
Thank you for all your advice. I think I’ve finally made up my mind.
While I really like the iMac, as @kewms says, the disadvantage is that it’s all in one, and I think separating display from computer would be a long term benefit.
I lust after an Apple Studio monitor, however, although my MBA is intrinsically powerful enough for video editing, as it has no fan running a long session of Final Cut Pro while also driving a Studio Display could well end up with the CPU being throttled back to prevent overheating.
So my current thought is to go with the Mac mini with the Apple Keyboard, as I really like the Touch ID on my MBA as it saves lots of hassle (I’ll think about extended vs compact), and probably the LG 23.7" Ultrafine 4K monitor.