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 Post subject: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:44 pm 
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I'm planning to buy a Mac Mini to use in an audio-recording environment. It will get plenty of general-purpose use as well. I want to get it with an SSD, and I'm hoping to keep it as quiet as possible. These are some configurations that I'm considering:

1) Middle Model (Dual Core, 2.5GHz i5 or 2.7GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon HD 6630M)
2) Server Model (Quad Core, 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD or 2x256GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 3000)

The specs for the Mac Mini do say "Sound pressure level (operator position): 16 dBA at idle". I think that is for the version with a hard disk. I don't know how much louder it gets when the system is not "at idle". These are my questions:

1) How noisy are these types of machines in practice? Quiet enough for recording?
2) Will my choice of model, processor and number of SSDs affect how quiet the machine is?
3) Could I control the noise level by adjusting the machine's position and what surrounds it?

For the last question, I'm wondering about putting the machine on top of a foam pad and maybe putting some sort of padding several inches behind the vent. That sort of thing.

Any suggestions or ideas that you might offer would be great. Thanks!
-Brian from Canada


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:15 am 
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I don't use or support Macs but, in my opinion...

brian_canada wrote:
2) Will my choice of model, processor and number of SSDs affect how quiet the machine is?

Almost certainly. Intel or dedicated graphics for instance will change the amout of heat the box needs to dissipate.

brian_canada wrote:
3) Could I control the noise level by adjusting the machine's position and what surrounds it?

If you absolutely need a Mac and want absolute silence, the ultimate fix is to put the box in a different room. Then you can use any Mac.
But I guess you can devise less radical solutions if you have old sound-proofing gear you can reuse to make your own little Mac nest.

I'm not sure there are people experienced with Macs around here. If not, seek advice elsewhere because our general musings aren't going to be very useful.


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 11:04 am 
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The mac mini uses a small, blower style fan for cooling. These are typically not silent, If you had to have a mac and need it to be silent a hackintosh may be the best bet.

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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:20 am 
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Thank you for your comments. I think I should clarify things a little bit. The Mini has a single variable-speed fan. The hotter the system runs, the louder it will be. I'd like to learn more about the components, so I can make better choices (with regards to noise). I will likely choose one of these:

A) Dual Core 2.5GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon HD 6630M
B) Dual Core 2.7GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon HD 6630M
C) Quad Core 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD or 2x256GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 3000
D) Quad Core 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD or 2x256GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 3000

"D" appeals to me for performance and storage capacity reasons, but I would like to consider noise output as well. Do any of these look like they would run considerably hotter than the others?

For those who are curious, here is a link to a "teardown" of the current Mac Mini:

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Mac-Mini ... own/6131/1

Thanks!

-Brian from Canada


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:24 pm 
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Posts: 325
Location: CA, USA
I was just about to post about the Mac Mini because I'm considering getting one to use as a sort of low-end DAW. But found this thread. I too would like to know how noisy it is.

There might be an announcement regarding a Mac Mini update (Ivy Bridge) at the Apple Event tomorrow (2012-03-07).


Last edited by toronado455 on Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:39 pm 
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Location: CA, USA
brian_canada wrote:
For those who are curious, here is a link to a "teardown" of the current Mac Mini:
http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Mac-Mini ... own/6131/1


You know what I find quite nice about the iFixit report:
Quote:
No proprietary screws are found within the device.
You can easily upgrade your RAM and hard drive, as well as add a secondary drive.

You could have a small SSD for OS, and a regular HHD for your files/projects/samples. All contained within the device. Of course keeping that HDD outside the Mac Mini enclosure would decrease heat and probably noise from the Mac Mini Fan. This is just speculation on my part.

Edit: Also, I wonder which runs cooler, the model with the AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics processor, or the one with integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000?


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:52 am 
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Does anyone know how the three CPUs compare to each other in terms of heat output? They are "Dual Core 2.5GHz i5", "Dual Core 2.7GHz i7" and "Quad Core 2.0GHz i7". I don't have the exact model numbers. Will the i5/i7 difference or the number of cores make a big difference in heat (and noise) output? Could anyone estimate the percentage differences in heat output for these? Thanks!

-Brian from Canada


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:16 am 
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It's impossible to know without knowing the specific models that ship with the Minis. Maybe some Mac heads know (assuming Apple is shipping the same CPUs in all the Minis).
Even if you knew the CPU model, you might have trouble finding useful data (if the CPU is uncommon).
But there's one thing you can predict: you'd probably get more multi-threaded processing power for the same heat output with an under-clocked quad.

In response to your specific questions: a quad runs a lot hotter at load if the frequency is the same, i7s may run a bit hotter depending on the load (again, assuming the same frequency) and the models with Intel graphics consume less power (everything else being equal)

Whatever model you pick, if you're very concerned about noise, you'll probably end up modding the mini. Opening up the cover, removing or unplugging the stock fan and mounting your own large fan on top of the mobo should do the trick if Apple doesn't stop the Mini from running without the expected fan speed reading (see SPCR's Microserver review for the type of solution you would have to resort to in that case).
Or you could use a larger Mac/Hackintosh.


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:57 am 
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I have both a 2011 base model Mac Mini (2.3ghz 8gb RAM & 120GB SSD) And a 2009 2.0ghz C2D mac mini.

I'm personalty very disappointed with the new mini from a noise perspective. At idle it's fairly quite but noticeably louder the the 2009 model.

The problem is that typical of apple cooling is somewhat of an afterthought, the 2009 model's CPU idles in the mid 40's the new model idles in the mid 60's (this is after replacing the stock thermal paste with AS5, it was 4c worse before I did that)

With the new model the fan has to ramp up a lot more often than the old model, for example when watching Netflix or Youtube the CPU heats up to 89-91c in an 18-20c ambient room. At that point the mini becomes really rather loud. Fire up a game and it's very loud indeed.

As such I will be returning mine.


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:07 pm 
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Sandy Bridge in Macs was a nice performance bump..but was a letdown for thermal/noise across the board. The Mac Mini tends to use the CPUs/chipset from the MacBook and usually is an August refresh... My expectation is the 2012 Mini with IvyBridge will be a lot quieter than the 2011.

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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 11:06 pm 
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CA_Steve wrote:
My expectation is the 2012 Mini with IvyBridge will be a lot quieter than the 2011.


Let's hope so. Why do you think the IvyBridge will run quieter?


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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:03 am 
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Intel has stated that the Ivy Bridge CPU uses 50% less power at the Sandy Bridge CPU performance level. On the other side, they've increased the GPU transistor count...but that won't matter unless the DAW s/w uses the gpu for acceleration. As an example, desktop TDP for quads has gone from 95W for SNB to 77W for IVB. Less power->less heat -> quieter fan profile.

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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:23 am 
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FYI, the cpu's in the mac mini are:
i5-2415M 2.3GHz dual 3MB cache 35W TDP
i5-2520M 2.5GHz dual 3MB cache 35W
i7-2620M 2.7GHz dual 4MB cache 35W
i7-2635QM 2GHz quad in the server model 6MB cache 45W

The three duals will use ~ the same power at the same loading. You'd only notice a difference if your app runs the CPU at 100%, and then it'd be a small difference as power use is proportional to frequency.

Adding the Radeon card will increase power use over the IGP.

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 Post subject: Re: Mac Mini (choosing and customizing)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:50 am 
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Thanks to everyone for all of the comments. I really appreciate the help. I have decided to wait for the IvyBridge-based models before purchasing a new machine.

-Brian from Canada


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