Mac Mini 2018: a 10 month review

Specs: Mac Mini i5, 16 GB RAM, 256GB SSD. Monitor: Calibrated LG 32UD59-B using the included HDMI high-speed cable. Accessories: Two USB 3.1 4-port hubs, a few fast external drives, and an external LG DVD+/-RW External Drive GP60NS50.

I’ll be honest, the first several months of using my new computer was quite bad. Thankfully, software updates made by Adobe and Apple have smoothed out most of the bugs so I’m not going to dwell on it here.

The good: overall I’m happy with the reliability of everything. I mostly use Adobe Photoshop and Bridge and both currently perform well with the high-resolution photos I work on every day. Occasionally when my computer is working really hard, it will heat to ~100ºC and start throttling down the speed. This used to happen much more than it does now so I believe that my Adobe products are playing nicer with the Mac OS now.

With the purchase of two USB 4-port hubs I have more than enough USB ports on the machine. I was worried about a few of my devices not getting enough power from the hub to charge or operate them but I’ve found that is not the case. I’m able to charge my Garmin watches and power my ext. DVD player from the hub which is nice as ports on the Mac are limited.

Using an affordable 32″ monitor with the Mac is a dream come true. The LG 32UD59-B is a gorgeous display and it’s really stepped up my photo editing game. The one drawback is that it’s an IPS monitor which means the picture quality degrades when viewed at an angle. It’s a matte finish which doesn’t have to be cleaned as often as a glossy display like the iMac. It’s a 4k monitor but I do not run it at that high of a resolution because text gets very small and unreadable.

I’ve been using the default Mac OS app Font Book for font management and it’s been working pretty well for me. It did take some time to set up my fonts but that’s another story.

I’m a fan of all the software updates Apple provides with its supported products. For the most part, they create leaner, more secure systems and that’s vital whether you notice the differences or not. Mac OS 11 is slated to arrive next month. That update will “break” a few older apps that run on 32-bit technology. I’ve been keeping my apps up to date as much as I can so I think I may just lose functionality of one desktop utility that I use every day (DragThing).

The bad: I upgraded to a 256GB SSD with the Mac. It was expensive and it’s really not enough space for everything I’d like to do on my local drive. Apple charges its customers too much for hardware upgrades (like SSD and RAM) and it’s pretty sad. A 1TB drive would have been a nice local storage size for me but certainly not worth an additional $400 + tax. As it stands, my system/apps use about half of my SSD storage space and I use the other half for the photo files I’m working on at the moment. Then when the project is complete, I add those files onto external hard drives for storage and backup.

The graphics card shipping in the Mac Mini 2018s are an underpowered Intel UHD Graphics 630 processor. They really could have put in a better card for the money they charge for this computer. On the indoor cycling game Zwift, I get ‘basic’ profile, 720p resolution, average 22 fps which is actually worse than my 2011 iMac used to perform. That’s two steps back for Apple hardware in seven years.

The healing brush in Photoshop 2019 is better than it was months ago but is far from perfect. For whatever reason, the brush doesn’t “heal” in realtime, so retouching is much slower and more frustrating than I ever remember it being. I’m hoping they are still sorting this out because it’s a widely-known issue in the retouching community.

I still miss the old minimalist aluminum Apple IR remote that I could use to quickly turn up or down the volume of iTunes or a DVD. Now I need to access the Remote app on my iPad and it’s a pain and takes several more steps to do.

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