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Ask Max: Is a mini adequate?

Asked on 05/26/2006:

I'm a designer and currently use Quark, Photoshop & Illustrator in my G4 duo paired with a 17" flat screen. Is the new mini combined with a 23" flat screen an upgrade? For the use I described, is the mini adequate?


That's a simple question with a complicated answer. That combination of Intel Mac mini and 23" screen will look good and certainly outperform your old G4 on native Intel applications. However, Quark, Photoshop, and Illustrator are not yet available for purchase as Universal Applications (native speeds on both PowerPC and Intel). Quark is going to be the first of those applications to be released as Universal, but it's not ready for production yet. The underlying problem with using an Intel Mac mini for your type of work is that the software will be running in emulation and that's not the best way to run software with which you make a living.

Another problem with the Intel Mac mini is that it uses Shared Graphics Memory with the system memory. With Shared Graphics Memory the video chipset will reserve 80MB of the system memory for graphics. Your system will have to compete with your graphics for memory resources. That means you need to get more RAM than you would initially think. A gigabyte is a good start, but depending on the file size of your work, you may need more RAM. The Mac mini is a good desktop system but is not appropriate for serious, professional, work.

A better computer for your type of work would be any generation of the Power Mac G5. Your software will work well on that hardware without much modification. It will make quick work of your Quark projects and pay for itself in productivity gains. I think for many design people, the G5 is still the frontrunner of Mac hardware.

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