05 January, 2014

Mac Mini vs. Intel NUC (Haswell)

I've been looking at purchasing a small computer that could be used as a small server and/or HTPC. Something that doesn't take up too much space (or power).

To that end I looked at the Apple Mac Mini, primarily because using Mac OS X Server would allow for the most versatility in which operating systems I could use and virtualize. This is purely due to Apple's restrictive licensing, that their operating systems can only be installed on Apple hardware.

However, looking at the price, I started to look for alternatives. 12,495.00 Swedish Kroner (more than 1,400 Euro) for the Mac Mini (for consumers) with the following configuration:
16 GB RAM
256 GB SSD
2.3 GHz Core i7 (3rd. generation aka. Ivy Bridge)

If I select the Mac Mini with OS X Server, the base price would increase 2,200 Swedish Kroner (250 Euro). Add to that an additional 256 GB SSD (totaling 2x 256 GB SSD) and the price would total 18,615 Swedish Kroner (2,100 Euro).

As an alternative I'm looking at the Intel NUC with the 4th. generation Haswell) Core i5-4250U processor, which is less than half the price of the Mac Mini. For the following configuration, the price would be 7,000 Swedish Kroner (790 Euro):
Intel NUC (D54250WYK)
16 GB RAM
480 GB mSATA SSD

Okay, so the differences here are mainly the CPU. A quad-core 3rd. gen. Core i7-3615QM vs. a dual-core 4th. gen Core i5-4250U. No doubt about it, the Core i7 is a faster processor. The main advantage the 4th. gen. Core i5 has, is the much lower power consumption (approx. half). Another difference is the ability to configure 2x 256 GB SSD drives in a RAID, thereby increasing availability and/or speed.

The NUC also lacks Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compared to the Mac Mini. However, this is easily remedied by adding a Wi-Fi Mini PCI-Express card (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260) for the small price of 380 Swedish Kroner (43 Euro), and then you even get 802.11ac (only 802.11n in the current Mac Mini). Now, for a server this is kinda irrellevant. But for an HTPC it would be a nice addition (f.ex. for using Bluetooth peripherals).

Now the only question is... Do I really need yet another computer? :)