I got my hands on a 2012 Mac Mini, nobody was really doing work with anymore, today. To prevent it from getting covered in dust and living a hardware afterlife in a drawer of a Berlin office building, I asked if I am allowed to take it home with me. I initially thought of replacing my rather beefy home server (I have radius, a VPN and a media centre running amongst a 3D printing interface and some render applications) with it. But somehow I fell in love with the idea of actually using it as my desktop computer.
About four hours later I am writing this blog post on said Macintosh computer.
I mean, the hardware isn’t much different than what I was used to during high school sporting my 2012 11.6” MacBook Air, the machine I coded my first professional gigs on and got comfortable designing things with the Adobe CS (now CC). I gave that machine to a good friend of mine who was starting her university degree and needed a laptop some time ago, and she’s still happily using that machine.
The Mac Mini has a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, an Intel HD 4000 graphics chip, which felt like enough for the coding and graphics work I do. However I plan on upgrading the RAM (which is still possible for the Mac Mini 6,1) to 8 Gig and replacing the (sadly painfully slow) HDD with a decent SSD.
Is It Still Enough As A Daily Driver?
Before I’m going to answer that question, I feel like stressing the main point why I am doing this: Some time ago I started to question wether it’s really necessary to always upgrade hardware periodically, as I did every five years. While having faster computers may seem nice, I felt like that compute power alone isn’t a criteria anymore to me, wether I should buy hardware or not. Hands down, I’m able to do most parts of my Job on a 2013 MacBook Pro and a 2019 MacBook Pro equally well (I still prefer the 2013-ish keyboard though); so what matters to me is, if the device is green enough as in having a low-power consumption and if it’s kinda durable.
Since I occasionally play video games, I decided to place my gaming rig, I used as a daily driver for work I did at home as well, into my server rack and use the steam in-home streaming service to stream the games from that gaming rig to the late 2012 Mini. My local network is fast enough to stream most of the single player games I am playing without noticeable latency, and the one multiplayer game I’m playing (CS:Go) runs on the Mini quite well.
My work set-up consists of tmux, vim, gcc, golang and nodejs; sometimes I do use Atom as well since I do like the syntax highlighting of some lesser known programming languages better than what I could come up with in VIM. Since I don’t have to virtualise environments on my local machine, the most heaviest chunk of my workflow isn’t happening on the Mini anyways.
Is It Enough?
To give a short and direct answer: Yes. And it kinda surprised me at first, since it almost has become a dust catcher in an office building because nobody wanted to work on such old hardware anymore. I know that there are a few nice to have compatibility things missing, e.g. USB-C, since I replaced most of my hardware with USB-C compatible hardware the last years and a dedicated GPU would be nice as well for certain tasks, but all in all it’s a super usable computer and from now on, it’ll hopefully be my daily driver for the years to come.