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Upgrading Memory and Hard Drive in your Mac mini

by OWC Michael

With the optimization of Apple's Operating System "Snow Leopard," comes the optimization of our memory and hard drive upgrade benchmark testing. All of our tesing shown here has been completed using Apple OS X version 10.6.x in both 64 bit and 32 bit mode where applicable.

Why update and standardize the testing? Our prior benchmark tests were run across different versions of the operating system which could potentially cause slight variations within results. Some of the tests were also re-designed, such as our 21 Step Photoshop action test and its successor the Large-scale 47 Step Photoshop Action Test. The 21 Step test was simply completed too quickly to show significant returns in time once machines were able to accept more than 2GB of total memory.

As a final result, you can now directly compare the performance of contrasting Apple machines such as a Core Solo Mac mini with 2GB of RAM installed versus a Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro with 4GB of memory allowing you to make the most informed decision about upgrading your existing system or the purchase of a new machine.

 

Jump to Results:

See Benchmark Results for Other Models:

  • MacBook Pro 17" Unibody (Coming Soon)
  • MacBook Pro 17" (Coming Soon)
  • MacBook Pro 15" Unibody
  • MacBook Pro 15" (Coming Soon)
  • MacBook Pro 13" (Coming Soon)
  • MacBook 13"
  • iMac
  • Mac Pro Nehalem (Coming Soon)
  • Mac Pro Harpertown & Woodcrest (Coming Soon)
Other World Computing Real World Testing Results

"Adobe Photoshop CS4 Action Test" Results

This test measures the time (in seconds) it takes to execute a custom action script comprising of 47 commonly-used, memory-intensive processes on a 21 megapixel image using Adobe Photoshop CS4. It is designed to represent an average photo editing session of a graphic artist. No other processes are running in the background besides those that keep the machine itself running. This is pure, linear computing where every available resource is on hand for the one test running. Photoshop CS4 is a 32 bit program that has a limit of 3GB of memory that can be used by the program itself so timing should not differentiate greatly with additional memory added to the system.

When CS5 is released from Adobe as a true 64 bit program, we are expecting that any additional memory added to the system is going to speed up a single process like this, but once you have all the memory in the system that the single process can use, and you're running no other processes, the differences in time are very slight. Lower times are better.

You can download the photoshop action script here: OWC Photoshop Bench.atn.zip OWC Photoshop Benchmark

RAM Configuration 2.0GB 4.0GB 6.0GB 8.0GB
Hard Drive Type 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 231.49 223.71 233.54 222.69 222.95 239.05

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 481.90 300.06 258.57 246.54 255.56 248.59 258.54 246.24

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 522.91 338.32 287.24 302.28 288.00 284.09 286.79 284.03

Test Conclusion: As Photoshop itself uses up to 3GB of memory, once the 3GB of memory is installed in the machine, the results flatten out. However, check the tests below to see what adding additional processes at the same time does to overall computation time.

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"Stress Test" Results

Our Stress Test is a variation on the Adobe Photoshop CS4 Action Test where test is performed while iTunes is playing music with the visualizer running. Really, who doesn't have at least a browser, or a mail client, or music playing when using another program on their computer. By their very nature we expect our computers to be able to keep up with our busy lives. While waiting for some code to compile, or your movie to encode, or a file to download... let's face it anytime that bar moves from left to right telling you the computer is busy with something - we all tend to try doing something else. Surf the web, play a quick game, chat online with friends..while we pass the time waiting we use more resources. We just don't want to take more resources away from our main process or we'll slow it down.

This test adds one additional program to represent that additional light computing we do on the side in real life. With the Visualizer on, the resource draw on the machine is not limited to processor power and memory but to the video card and memory allocated for video as well. Lower times are better.

RAM Configuration 2.0GB 4.0GB 6.0GB 8.0GB
Hard Drive Type 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 248.19 242.31 257.26 244.72 252.59 245.09

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 568.10 326.19 288.74 268.44 283.97 267.01 274.95 267.64

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 596.48 366.78 325.88 307.05 308.43 309.41 308.64 308.67

Test Conclusion: Photoshop itself uses up to 3GB of memory and iTunes uses about 1GB for this test. Once the 4GB of memory is installed in the machine, the results flatten out. It is interesting to note on the machines running 2GB of memory alone that the same Photoshop process takes over an additional minute to complete.

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"RAM Hog I Test" Results

This test times how long it takes to run the Adobe Photoshop CS4 Action Test once again when 50% of the installed RAM is allocated to a custom RAM Hog I program. This is designed to replicate steady usage of the machine, such as web surfing, email, streaming media, etc. while waiting for the action to render.

Just because your computer is working on one process, doesn't mean you stop using the computer. It is this multi-tasking ability that make computers such an intregal part of our daily lives and such a powerful tool. This massive ability to multitask is where additional memory added to your computer system does the most good. The more OWC memory you have, the more effective and efficient your overall performance will be. Lower times are better.

RAM Configuration 2.0GB 4.0GB 6.0GB 8.0GB
Hard Drive Type 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 248.19 240.99 233.87 238.12 254.73 224.29

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 512.01 294.15 318.00 262.58 256.84 248.54 255.71 246.98

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 522.28 336.95 290.10 300.45 291.29 286.79 292.66 285.87

Test Conclusion: With additional processes running, the need for additional memory is clear. Once the maximum memory is installed on the machine do we get back to roughly the same computing time of the linear test itself.

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Adobe After Effects Render Test

We have also run the Total Benchmark created by Brian Maffitt. Adobe After Effects CS4 spawns subprocesses -- one for each core -- when 'multiprocessing' is enabled in After Effects Preferences. Each of those subprocesses can grab up to 3GB of RAM. To adjust the preferences for Multiprocessing go to After Effects > Preferences > Memory & Multiprocessing. We ran our tests with the option to "Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously" checked, "Maximum allocation per CPU" set to 2.09GB, and the "Longer RAM Preview" to "Faster Rendering" slider was left in the middle.

The first comp mostly focuses on raw processing power as it generates a fractal sequence along with a heavily feathered mask, with Colorama, Extract, Wave Warp, Channel Blur, Curves, and Extract all in the mix. The second comp imports the fractal noise movie, and adds several layers and many effects to generate a fun, complex 3D scene. We are comparing the time results of the second test.

Times are given in minutes : seconds. Lower results are better.

 

RAM Configuration 2.0GB 4.0GB 6.0GB 8.0GB
Hard Drive Type 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 9:16 9:17 7:56 7:57 7:56 7:53

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 10:18 10:20 10:16 10:16 8:50 8:50 8:47 8:47

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 11:39 11:39 11:20 11:37 10:00 10:01 10:01 10:00

Test Conclusion: While it makes little difference on this test whether running the machine with a 5400RPM drive or an SSD (mainky because the rendering is done with memory and processor without much disk action) additional memory does make a difference. This is again a very linear test with nothing else run in the background. It is safe to assume that with other processes running, the times would be longer through 6GB and that maxing the memory at 8GB would be the best bet for quickest computing.

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"HALO Frame Rate Test" Results

Recognized as one of the greatest achievements in video game entertainment, the Xbox version of Halo has already sold over 3 million units and continues to be a top seller. The Macintosh version adds 16-person online multiplayer, new vehicles, new weapons, new maps, customizable multiplayer games, the precision of playing with a mouse and keyboard and more.

For our testing, we ran the Timedemo Benchmark from the Intel-native version of the popular game, Halo v2.0.3
When Halo is launched in Timedemo mode, it will run through four fixed cinematic sequences from the game. Once it's finished, it generates a file called Timedemo.txt in the ~Documents\Halo directory. The contents of the file can be examined to see what settings were used in the timedemo, including what the average framerate for the demo was.

Results are the average frame rate (in frames per second) achieved. Higher results are better.

RAM Configuration 2.0GB 4.0GB 6.0GB 8.0GB
Hard Drive Type 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD 5400RPM SSD

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit - - 81.97 94.53 83.59 90.14 79.08 91.46

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 81.80 87.85 81.10 88.77 81.50 89.02 80.94 91.15

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

32 bit 77.40 84.55 77.04 84.63 78.32 84.83 78.00 84.43

Test Conclusion: Across the board the Mac mini gives great frame rates - more than adequate for smooth gaming experiences. But when trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of your machine, installing a Solid State Drive can boost the framerate by as much as 12fps.

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Benchmark Rank Testing Results

To complete the testing of the Mac mini machines, we also ran two popular benchmarking programs, Cinebench and Geekbench on the stock machines as received by Apple. In each benchmarking suite, the machines are run through a series of tests that tax the memory, video card, processors, etc. and issues a score. The higher the score is, the more powerful machine overall you are using. These benchmarks are great if comparing two or more systems against each other, but sadly they do not show any "real-world" perfomance gains in their results.

As an added bonus, we've added the Good, Better, and Best configurations to these scores. Good signifies the stock machine from Apple. Better signifies the machine with approximately the mid-amount of OWC memory that can be installed. Best shows withthe maximum amount of memory the machine can accept. Hover mouse over result, or see chart below, for exact specifications.

CINEBENCH R10 Score

 

Good Better Best

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

5333 5378 5402

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

4794 4819 4845

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

4205 4267 4312
Geekbench (64-bit) Score

 

Good Better Best

Mac mini 2009
2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo

3837 3915 3916

Mac mini 2009
2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo

3496 3564 3565

Mac mini 2009
2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo

3178 3200 3220

CineBench BikeCINEBENCH R10 is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
For our testing purposes, we are using the Multi-CPU Rendering Benchmark Test. Higher scores are better.

Geekbench LogoGeekbench 2.1.3 provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.

Geekbench bridges the generation gap between 32 bit and 64 bit computing by providing both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Find out how fast your current 32-bit applications run today, and how fast your future 64-bit applications will run tomorrow.
Overall results used. Higher scores are better.

Good Configuration:
5400RPM Hitachi 5K500.B 500GB hard drive
2GB memory (1GB + 1GB)
Better Configuration:
7200RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB hard drive
4GB memory (2GB + 2GB)
Best Configuration:
128GB Crucial M225 solid state drive
8GB memory (4GB + 4GB)
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Want to check your setup against our numbers?
System preferecnces were also all left as close to factory defaults as possible with few exceptions. Under the Energy Saver pane, sleep has been turned off for both display and hard disk.

When a specific program is used outside its factory default, the change is noted at the beginning of each test.

No network connection, airport or bluetooth settings are enabled in order to eliminate outside influences to the tests.


Memory & Hard Drive Upgrades
for Mac mini Models