Review Mac Mini 2018/2019 : Half of a computer but made whole with Thunderbolt eGPU!

hey everybody its lines I’ve been in about a decade ago Apple came out with the Mac Mini this is one of the originals right here it was designed to get PC users to switch over to the Mac by providing just the computer and assuming that the person had the monitor keyboard and mouse already to get their switch going if they didn’t want to go out and buy a whole iMac and new display and everything and that Heritage sort of continues here with the new Mac Mini which we’re going to be reviewing today this one costs a lot more in comparison it’s not quite the alternative PC for budget minded consumers but it does have a decent amount of horsepower but as you’ll see in the review it’s really half a computer the other half comes in when you add in an external GPU which we’re going to cover in this review as well to get the full package at that point you’re into iMac territory for cost so we’re going to be taking a closer look at this in just a second but I do want to let you know in the interest of full disclosure that I paid for this with my own funds we’re going to be using this as an editing workstation here on the channel all the opinions you’re about to hear are my own nobody is paying for this review nor is anyone reviewing or approving what you’re about to see before it was uploaded so let’s get into it now and see what this new Mac is all about so let’s take a closer look now at the hardware there’s not much to look at on this device it looks like just a single block of aluminium on the bottom you’ve got a plastic cover that can be popped off for upgrading its RAM the only upgradable portion of the

computer and I found it slides around a bit on the desk as well so it’s well-built but I’m a little worried that it’s a little too slippery they should have put some kind of rubberized coating on the bottom here to make it a little less slick now I paid a lot for this one about $1400 that’s because I went with the i7 processor the base model at $7.99 has a dual core i3 chip which is not bad but I think if you do intend to use this for a number of years you’re probably better off getting the more powerful processor this computer will be replacing a MacBook Pro that we’ve been using for the last seven years so if you get the you know the top-end processor when you buy one of these things you’ll get a lot of life out of it but I think the i3 chip really in the long term is probably not the best way to go now another factor when you are pricing this out is storage the base model comes with only a hundred and twenty eight gigabytes of storage and it is not upgradeable in the past you could upgrade the storage now you can’t because of Apple’s new security chip so you got to buy that storage upfront and 128 gigs may not be enough if you intend to have this be you are only computer or your primary computer that space will run out real quick once you get a few applications installed and start downloading photos and videos and everything so we went with the 256 on this one just because we do most of our video editing on external drives that should be fine for this exercise but generally I think half a terabyte 512 gigs is probably where most people

want to end up or going with the full terabyte so just be ready for that no upgrade options there I went with 8 gigs of RAM though because you can upgrade the memory what you do is pop the base off the bottom of the computer here that will get you into another area that you have to unscrew once in there the RAM is under a cage and unfortunately you have to pop the entire motherboard out to get at it because the RAM is hiding underneath one of these aluminum parts here on the outer case they don’t make it easy but you can get at it so what happens is is that once you are ready to upgrade your RAM you unscrew the motherboard and just kind of push the entire assembly out this black plastic area will just push out you can get it that cage swap out there Ram and put it back in and you’re off and running again but they don’t make it easy and in fact when you go on Apple’s website looking at upgrade options they strongly urge you to go to an Apple store to have them do it for you of course but it can be done yourself I don’t believe it voids the warranty but if you do break anything they’re not going to be very sympathetic to your cause there so just be ready for that this is Apple after all and they don’t want you touching their beautiful computers but unlike their Mac books they actually give you a lot of usable ports on here including for Thunderbolt 3 ports which are highly versatile and very powerful 40 gigabits per second each and that’s enough to drive our external GPU and of course other things that you might want to plug in these are compatible with USB type-c as well so it’ll give you

Gentoo speeds on the USB side or again the full 40 gigabits per second on thunderbolt the choice is yours but you also get a full size HDMI port this will drive a 4k display at 60 Hertz so you can get two 4k displays going at 60 Hertz by using an adapter in one of the Thunderbolt ports along with the HDMI or you can drive a single 5k display if you want more you can plug in a GPU to the thunderbolt and then you’ll have more display options with whatever GPU you choose you also get two full size USB 3.1 gen2 ports here as well that’s an unusual thing for Apple products these days and then you have a headphone jack here which is becoming more rare in Apple products the eastern that I upgraded to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet jack here because that is an option for a hundred bucks I figured since I’m going to be keeping this computer for a while I may as well go with the faster Network as I do intend on upgrading to the ten gigabit here in the studio probably within the next year or so so you can get it configured already with that so you don’t have to have another dongle hanging off and then the power block here I just takes a power cable there’s no power brick because the power supply is internal so that’s nice not a lot of power bricks to have all over the place they built it all into the case here and your power switches here there is a fan on this of course you’ll hear it but it’s not all that loud Apple typically has pretty low key fans and this is certainly one of them even under load I haven’t really been bothered by it all that much although when we get the e GPU going we’ll have a little bit more to discuss about

fan noise let’s take a look now and see how it performs alright let’s boot this thing up and see how fast everything comes to life I have it connected up to a 4k display this is a 60 Hertz monitor from LG that costs just a little over $200 it’s 24 inches in size so it’ll be fairly similar to what a 4k iMac would look like the smaller imax run at 4k versus 5k you can see it comes up very quickly here one of the nice things about the Mac is that it does a very nice job of scaling up to these large displays so you get a very viewable image here that’s not too small but you also get a very sharp image that looks super nice especially when you’re looking at text or photographs everything just looks really really crisp a lot better than it would on a 1080p display and it’s nice to see that even an inexpensive display like this one looks great here so I think you’ll really want to look at getting perhaps a 4k display to pair up with your Mac when you get it the web browsing experience here as you can see is super fast so no real issues there one thing that I did run into with this though is video playback on YouTube so I’m going to run over to my youtube channel here real quick and we’ll pull up one of my 1080p 60 videos that I did recently and yo we always run this just to see how well some of the higher end video can play back on a device like this and YouTube is notoriously bad for the types of video

compression it supports but nonetheless when we’re on a PC that cost less including some of the $200 pcs we’ve looked at we generally don’t get dropped frames when we’re playing back a 60 frames per second video on this device even on Google Chrome and on Safari we’re getting a ton of dropped frames in fact it’s dropped about half of them so far as this video has played out so that performance is a bit of an issue for me here especially out of a six core processor I think you may not see this issue in other means a video playback like if you’re playing back something natively via the QuickTime Player or using Plex or Kodi or something like that but for what YouTube uses here on the web if you watch a lot of YouTube video you might notice those dropped frames it’s not always visible as you’re watching the video here but the stats for nerds here reports a lot of dropped frames here in the process but everything else seems to perform as expected at least for some of the basic tasks that you might do with the computer so I’ve got pages running here and as you can see I’m doing a lot of crazy stuff here with this image and the text is immediately wrapping around that picture of the video is playing back pretty much the same it was before so no problems here just doing the basics with the built-in Intel hardware although I’m a little concerned about the dropped frames that we’re seeing on YouTube there now another thing you might want to do is

play some games on this and that’s where the Intel grab fix on the mac are going to become a problem so let’s boot up rocket league real quick and then we’ll segue into the e GPU and see how adding in another device to the mix here will make a big difference in overall performance so here we’ve got rocket league running again just off of the Intel graphics that are built into that i7 processor and I’m getting frame rates between 25 and 30 frames per second give or take so nothing spectacular here it’s playable but I had to turn the settings all the way down to their lowest settings just to get this frame rate so you know it looks ok but not really ideal especially compared to what it could look like now one thing to keep in mind is that Macs are not great gaming devices to begin with a lot of the games are ported over from Windows and they often don’t really get a lot of performance tweaks so you always will do better gaming on Windows if that’s your intent but if you have a steam account and you’re using a Mac for some tasks around the house or whatever your Steam games on Windows will also show up on the Mac if they’ve been ported over to the Mac without having to buy them again which i think is a great deal so things like rocket League here should run but again not great now what I want to do is take out my eg PU and show you what a difference it can makes

remember at 1080p now lowest possible settings getting around 25 or 30 frames per second let’s see what happens when we put in that Thunderbolt GPU we’re gonna look at that box first and then see what it does with rocket League so this is an eg PU we reviewed this about a year ago this is called the ik IDEO node and what it consists of is a pretty ugly looking box here that is currently opened up and it has a slot for a desktop GPU card in this case we’re using an AMD base card this is an MSI rx 580 card which is compatible with the Mac and one of the important things you have to look out for with the Mac is that Apple doesn’t like Nvidia cards so you have to go with an AMD card that’s compatible and what I’m gonna do is put a link down below to Apple’s support page where they let you know which cards work with it they also make some recommendations on enclosures I like this one because it’s no frills it’s about $200 and it works and it’s been great on the PC it also works here on the Mac but again you need to make sure you get a compatible card and in this case we’re running with this rx 580 card that also cost about two hundred dollars so about four hundred dollars and change for the case and the card and the way it works is actually pretty

simple is that you take out the Thunderbolt three cable that it comes with you plug it into the Thunderbolt port here on this side and then connect the other end to the Thunderbolt port on the back of the Mac and then what you do is just move the HDMI cable over to the card here on the back to get the best performance now one of the things that will happen is that if you don’t move the HDMI over it will pass the video through the Mac’s internal HDMI out port or through one of the other Thunderbolt ports but what I found in my testing is that you’ll lose a little performance doing that so you’ll want to connect the HDMI up to the e GPU to your monitor and that will give you the best performance I did read on the Apple support page though that if you’re using the File Vault on your hard drive you have to have it plugged into the Mac initially when you boot it up and then you can switch it over which is kind of a pain so if you don’t want to deal with that it looks like you have to leave File Vault off for now but otherwise it’s a pretty quick and easy process so let me put the case back on this and boot up the computer and we’ll see what this EGP u gets us for a performance alright so the e GPU is now attached and we’re running the same game here with the same low settings at 1080p and now we’re well above 100 frames per

second it goes anywhere between like a hundred and 175 frames per second depending on what’s going on on-screen and of course now we can jump in and maybe increase the image quality a bit here so let me do that real quick and we’ll see what we get when we turn all the settings up on high alright so now we’ve got the settings turned all the way up the highest possible settings at 1080p and we’re getting between 60 and 75 frames per second here as we’re playing the game it looks great and we’ve got a very fast and playable framerate in fact it is faster with the e GPU at highest settings than it was on the lowest possible settings with the built-in in tell hardware now one thing to keep in mind though with this setup is that if we were running rocket League even with this external GPU on a PC we would probably see better performance than what we’re seeing out of the Mac a lot of the Mac games again are not all that optimized for performance but nonetheless you can see what a difference at least on a game that an e GPU will make but the differences don’t end there let’s take a look now at Final Cut Pro so here we have Final Cut Pro running on our little Mac Mini here and I’ve got this benchmark called the Bruce X test and what this does is it renders out this crazy video file it’s two seconds long

but it runs at 5k and this is really something that can tax a low-end Mac pretty heavily and when I ran that test on the Mac Mini here without the GPU it took about 80 seconds 80.5 was the average over the course of running this export three times so basically a minute and a half give or take when we ran it with the EGP you hear this rendered out in only 20 seconds 20.5 was the average on that a significant performance increase using the GPU with Final Cut Pro for this particular project I think for the kind of video that I do here on the channel which is mostly clip strength strung together and just exporting out as an h.264 probably wouldn’t be that big of a difference but something like this where you’ve got a lot of transparency and a lot of the animation going on Final Cut can make use of the GPU on here and deliver significantly greater performance out of the same computer but what really got me was that my wife’s MacBook Pro 13 which was the entry-level model from two years ago that one did better on the Bruce X test than this one did her Mac has an i5 processor dual core but it has the Intel iris graphics built in and it was able to render out that file in about sixty nine and a half seconds compared to the 80 or so that it took out of the Mac Mini with its internal graphics that’s a pretty significant difference especially given how much faster it should be versus my wife’s computer from two years ago so I think if they had maybe

put in one of those intel AMD hybrid processors in here that probably would have been a better pick because the graphics on this are sorely lacking for a mac at this price point and you might want to look at maybe one of those macbook pro 13 because it’s in sale graphics on that particular model are a little better than they are here and i also ran the Geekbench benchmark here to compare it with some other Mac’s that we’ve looked at our our multi-core CPU score here is very high twenty one thousand one eight one and you can see that blows away everything else we’ve looked at recently including the macbook pro 13 from this year and that result comes from the Geekbench website so you can see CPU wise we’re doing just fine here but check out the GPU score we’re below where that MacBook Pro is in fact we’re pretty much in line with the MacBook Air when it comes to graphics performance here but once you plug in that rx 580 GPU you go way up there to 132,000 790 so again I think the graphics here are severely lacking for the price point and that’s going to impact a lot of higher-end tasks that you might do with this computer and even some mundane tasks do better check out that YouTube video we were watching before no dropped frames here at all whereas before we were dropping about half the frames playing back this very same video on the Intel hardware that’s built into the Mac Mini so it should be performing better for the price here even off that Intel chip and it’s really evident here now that we have the e GPU attached and we’re not getting any drop frames at all

was something that really shouldn’t be taxing an i7 processor one bit so maybe there’s some driver issues that Apple needs to work out with the internal graphics but again I’m surprised that we’re seeing even better performance here with video playback which is something these Intel chips typically do very well but the process of connecting the GPU is seamless you plug it in and you are up and running really no problems there at all there is a way to force applications to use the GPU if you go into the get info there’s an option to have it prefer the external GPU and that will always ensure that the GPU is what is powering the application when you do get them running but again I do suggest that you plug in your monitor directly to the GPU versus the internal hardware for better performance so altogether I’m a bit disappointed with what this machine is delivering especially given we’ve got that six core processor inside given that I bought this for a video editing workstation I’m really not going to get the performance I would expect out of something like this unless I have the big GPU connected up to it and that’s where you might get into maybe looking at the MacBook Pro instead because I can easily take that computer away and make it a portable machine whereas this one is chained to the desk and chained to its GPU to get its maximum performance now of course the MacBook Pros don’t have the same speed graphics that we’ll have here with the RX 580 but I have the option to use it if I wanted to when I’m at home and then have something usable while I’m out on the road which you don’t get here the MacBook Pros can cost a little bit more with a similar configuration but nonetheless you will probably be disappointed with the graphics output that they’ve included inside of the Mac Mini here and

hopefully that might be something they decide to improve in the future they also price this in a really weird way so when you start looking at this versus an iMac there’s really no cost advantage especially when you are adding in your graphics so once you get all this stuff configured here you might be looking at an iMac price for everything that you decide to put into it and then the iMac might have a better display as a result so go on Apple’s website take a look around I’ll put some links down in the video description for all the stuff that I added here but this is far from a slam dunk I think it’s going to accomplish what we set out to do here in the studio but given what I’m seeing now out of the performance here I might go back and look and see if a MacBook Pro might be a better option for our video workstation here probably not but I do think there might be some value to portability even if the graphics aren’t as fast they’ll still be faster even on the base model MacBook Pro than we’re seeing out of a significantly upgraded Mac Mini so that’s going to do it for the Mac Mini let me know what you thought down in the comments below and until next time this is LAN Simon thanks for watching this channel is brought to you by lon TV supporters including gold-level supporters Kris Allegretto the four guys with quarters podcast Tom Albrecht gerard Newberg and Kali Ann Kumar if you want to help the channel you can by contributing as little as a dollar a month head over to LAN TV slash support to learn more and don’t forget to subscribe

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