Moving up in Mac hardware – from Mac mini to a 27-inch iMac (coming soon)

Good morning, afternoon or evening.  Hopefully this day finds everyone well.  I’m editing this post using only my iPad mini R, so let’s see how this works.

It’s been almost two months since my previous post, and a lot has happened during that time, including my part-time duties as a Purchasing/AP Clerk, ensuring that I had enough financial aid for the upcoming school year…and going back to the drawing board regarding a future replacement for my aging Mac after Apple’s failure to announce new Mac mini hardware during June’s WWDC.

Sure, Yosemite and iOS 8 is nice, but WHAT about the freaking Mac mini!?

You see, I wanted to continue using Mac minis because they made the most economic sense.  I don’t have as much time to play games like I used to because believe it or not my head is either in textbooks or legal fiction than games these days.  Over the past two years however, I’ve purchased Humble Indie Bundles which contained games that simply refuse to run under my current Mac mini’s meager specs (a 256 MB shared VRAM-equipped machine and a meager 2.0 GHz CPU just DOESN’T cut it for today’s games).


On the reverse side, however, the “newest” Mac mini at the time of this writing is over eighteen months old.  The dual-core 2.5 GHz Ivy Bridge is adequate, but if I ever get the urge to play Fez, Dust: An Elysian Tale or a smooth game of Left 4 Dead 2 without turning down the graphics, I’d be out of luck.  I’m also a Borderlands and BioShock fan, and those games demand a smooth frame rate and high resolutions to create immersive experiences.

And uh…it also goes without saying that no matter which hardware I’ll choose, I of course need dependable hardware to do my coursework as well.  With my current machine my wireless connection keeps going in and out, and I’m assuming that due to five years of use and vulnerability to heat from all of the components I’ve added to it.

In short, after WWDC 2014 I went back to the drawing board. It’s been fun using the Mac mini, but the hardware tends to become outdated very quickly, especially the graphics (unless one uses them as home theatre boxes). While one can replace the hard drive and the RAM and (depending on the model) the Bluetooth and wireless antennae, once the CPU and GPU become outdated due to the operating system or the hardware’s age (or in my case, both) it’s over for the machine. It was also fun picking out the monitor, which is almost four years old at the time I’m posting this. The average year for an LCD is three years. Not only that, but since the latest Mavericks update my Logitech mouse is no longer working as it should, with drags barely performing at all, double-clicks when there should be a single-click and in many cases, clicks when there shouldn’t be.

Hmm. Aging, underpowered hardware that needs replacing. Educational stipend in early September. Games already installed on the system that require more horsepower than what’s available on the current machine. The 500 GB HDD that I installed almost four years ago now constantly needs Steam games removed in order to fit new ones. Old USB speakers now showing signs of age. Gee, I guess it’s finally FREAKING time to get new hardware. But if Apple won’t announce a new Mac mini for 2014, then what should one do? Probably the one thing that Apple expects Mac mini users to do…

2013 iMac

So that’s the plan for the first week of September anyway (stipends aren’t released by the university until one week after the semester starts, but students can purchase items allowed by financial aid [books, pens, calculators, et cetera] until then).  I wanted to get a system that wouldn’t age as quickly as my previous Mac, but since going to school is part of my midlife crisis I decided to get the best all-purpose machine that I can afford.  The purchase is also due to common sense, as since the 21-inch models don’t allow user access to the RAM slots, and because I multitask on my coursework well with a 25-inch screen (I do usually run either two LibreOffice windows, a TextEdit/online Accounting homework combo or have the Calculator, Dictionary or Safari window to the right of my main window, I need the 27-inch screen.  Not just because of the slightly higher real estate, but also because I know that this fall’s release of OS X Yosemite will be RAM-heavy (Mavericks gobbles up nearly all of my 8 GBs of RAM) as well as more VRAM hungry than ever, so all 21-inch iMacs and the base 27-inch is out.

Steam's Big Picture Mode (Music Beta)
Steam’s Big Picture Mode (Music Beta)

Steam in Big Picture Mode will also benefit from the hardware. On my current Mac mini with the Nvidia 9400M GPU, BPM will run, but only at a resolution of 1066×600 (!) which crashes, and with playing games while the graphically-intensive (for my machine at least) BPM is running with only 256 MBs of VRAM and nearly all of my main memory used by Mavericks, well…you’ll see where I’m going.

“But James”, you may be wondering, “just get a Windows machine. Buy a Windows 8 machine and then downgrade to W7 for a fraction of the cost of an iMac”. Well, you know, I had such a plan in the back of my mind…until this happened to my mother’s brand new HP laptop:

The latest Windows nightmare: the dreaded "update failure" reversion loop.
The latest Windows nightmare: the dreaded “update failure” reversion loop.

How ironic. It was because of a mandatory Windows Vista update which wrecked part of my motherboard that I purchased my current Mac as an emergency back in July 2009. It took another mandatory Windows-related update error (this time Windows 8.1) to cause me to remain a Mac user in mid-2014.

iMacs, yay

In any case, I made final plans to purchase the high-end 27-inch iMac before Labor Day. Call me crazy but I’d rather pay Apple the extra money and simply use my computer rather than deal with hours and hours of troubleshooting Windows errors. And that previous sentence was not an exaggeration; it took hours into the next day to find a solution for that Windows 8 error. Better to simply throw money at Apple and be able to USE the machines than cut corners on Windows-based hardware and software and deal with headaches.

In any case, a glitch related to WordPress knocked out a paragraph, but what I plan to do for my next post is to create a laundry list of games that I can actually play on the new machine once I get it. These would be games that I already have in my library but can’t run them acceptably or are new games that I now have access to. Until then.

*NOTE:  edited on July 22nd to correct a LARGE number of spelling and grammatical errors due to my using only an iPad mini for editing and posting (including image retrievals).  My apologies.



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