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Which Mac Mini M2 Config for Lightroom Classic?

Community Beginner ,
Feb 07, 2023 Feb 07, 2023

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Hello. I am an amateur wildlife photographer. I often return from an outing with 400-600 RAW full-frame images. My current workflow on a 2015 iMac and 2019 MacBook Pro is too slow. I have on order a Mac Mini M2 w. 16GB memory and 512 GB SSD. Do you think this configuration will be significantly faster using a workflow anchored by LR Classic? Adding the M2 Pro chip is +$300. Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

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Community Expert ,
Feb 07, 2023 Feb 07, 2023

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Either of the options you mention will significantly out perform your iMac and MacBook Pro.

 

You may wish to have a look at this Youtube video that compares the M1/M2 and Mac mini https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx8vMlTGUC8&t=1291s

 

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 07, 2023 Feb 07, 2023

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That's a great analysis. I wonder if there's one comparing Photo Mechanic - Capture One - and Lightroom running off the M2 Mini (one at a time, not consecutively.) 🙂

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Community Expert ,
Feb 07, 2023 Feb 07, 2023

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The video I linked to above includies a segment on Capture One. Sadly and unlike Adobe, the vendor has not yet optimised the application to make best use of the increased number of GPU cores.

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Community Expert ,
Feb 07, 2023 Feb 07, 2023

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I should mention that Art Suwansang also has multiple videos testing the various M1 and M2 based Macs when using LrC, LrD, Capture One and Final Cut.

 

https://www.youtube.com/c/ArtIsRight/videos

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Community Expert ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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I have the M1 Mac Mini, with 16GB  and a 1TB SSD, and I've been very pleased with its performance. My only suggestion to you would be to consider upgrading the SSD from 512GB, and also consider the 32GB memory upgrade (as these components are not user-upgradeable, it makes sense to me to over-spec for current needs to allow for future growth).

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Community Expert ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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@Jim Wilde 

 

I don't disagree, but I try to avoid spending other peoples money 😉

 

For example, 32GB is only available if the OP steps up to the base M2 Pro version (10-core CPU and 16-core GPU). So, the price for M2 Pro plus 1TB SSD would be $1899. For an extra $100 the OP could get the base Mac Studio M1 Max (10-core CPU, 24-core GPU, 32GB memory and 512GB SSD). It's also worth noting that 512GB SSD on M2 Mac mini is using only one SSD chip, which has been found to be slower than the same size of SSD on M1 based systems, which use two 256GB SSD paired as RAID 0.

 

The takeaway from above is that Apple don't make the decision making process easy, especially when customers try to factor in what's best approach to future proofing.

 

My personal experience with three M1 Macs (Mac mini M1 8-core CPU and GPU, 16GB memory, 1TB SSD, MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 32GB memory, 2TB SSD, Mac M1 Ultra 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, 64GB memory, 1TB SSD) is that LrC will use every byte of memory available and then some to support the GPU. On the otherhand LrD is now much more frugal with how much memory the GPU takes for itself.

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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Thanks for answering. In you opinion - based on my purchasing an M2 Mac Mini (Not M2 Pro) am I better off upgrading to 24 GB Memory/512 SSD - or - 16 GB Memory/ 1 TB? 

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Community Expert ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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You can control how much of the 512GB SSD you use whereas Lr Classic will use all the memory it can get. When memory runs short, and I can guarantee** that it will if you use the heal/clone tools or AI masks, then Lr Classic will very likely need to swap to disk. So, my money would go on memory as more means less swapping.

 

Regarding the SSD, you should use it for the OS and applications. If your catalog (including previews) doesn't exceed 128GB, then that would leave more 60% or more of the SSD free. Storing your photos on an external drive means that you'll have all that spare SSD space to grow into.

 

** My M1 Ultra has 64GB of memory and still swaps to disk when using Lr Classic heal/clone tools (any of them) on more than a few photos.  Both Camera Raw and Lr Desktop manage memory much better than Lr Classic.

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Community Expert ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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Ian will probably have his own opinion, but in my view it really depends on how you tend to use the internal SSD. Prior to the M1 Mac Mini I had a 2013 MacBook Pro with 16GB ram but only the 512GB SSD. In that configuration I found that having my LrC catalog (with previews) on the internal SSD put a bit too much pressure on the 512GB, so I ended up putting the catalog folder on an external SSD. That was still OK performance-wise, but probably not quite as good as it could have been with the catalog folder on the internal SSD. So when buying the Mac Mini it was an easy decision to make regarding upgrading to the 1TB SSD. The ram upgrade from 8 to 16GB was a bit of a no-brainer, as early adopters on the M1 Mac Mini with only 8GB were reporting memory problems. If I was buying now I personally would still get the 1TB SSD first, with an internal debate about whether to also add the extra RAM to 24GB, so in that sense my own priorities would be SSD first, then RAM if I could afford it. Not an easy decision given our inability to upgrade either SSD or RAM post-purchase.

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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My inclination is to get the 24GB memory because I can't update that in the future; 24GB gives me some breathing room as photo files and post files keep increasing in size. I'd also upgrade base Mini M2 to 512 storage initially. Knowing I can update that with external SSDs in the future. Does this sound like a reasonable approach? 

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Community Expert ,
Feb 08, 2023 Feb 08, 2023

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As I wrote above, Apple don't make the buying decision easy.

 

You can't upgrade the memory on Apple's M1/M2 based computers. Therefore, whatever you buy now is all you'll have until the computer is retired. On the other hand, you can easily add an external SSD such as the Sandisk Extreme for the catalog, previews, etc., and only if it become necessary. So, imo, what you propose is a reasonable approach.

 

 

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New Here ,
Mar 13, 2023 Mar 13, 2023

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According to ArtIsright on youtube for Mac mini M1 vs M2, both having 16GB memory and 512 SSD, M2 has 14% faster write speed and 1% slower read speed. 

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Community Expert ,
Mar 13, 2023 Mar 13, 2023

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He also states many times in every video he has produced for M1 and M2 that the speed of the drive is not the issue that some other reviewers try to make it. 

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