If you wanted a high-performance Mac server before Apple discontinued the XServe, the choice would have been obvious. Today, however, Apple offers two server solutions: the Mac Pro server and Mac Mini server. Which begs the question: Which one’s better?
Fortunately, Apple published an extensive guide weighing the pros and cons of each system. Unfortunately, though, they never said which one to get! The guide just ends rather anti-climatically at “they’re both good”.
So, using their own data, let’s anwser the the burning question: which one should we get?
Both Mac Mini’s and Mac Pro’s will need some creative mounting in order to fit in the standard datacenter rack that the XServe called home, although there are several third-party mounting solutions that work quite well.
With regards to space, 2 modern Mac Mini’s can fit side-by-side in 1U of rack space.
Mac Pro’s can also fit side-by-side at 12U high, taking a combined 6U of space each. However, they are still a whopping 12U high, so there will be wasted space if your rack isn’t a multiple of 12.
Verdict: Although this isn’t something you can “win” at, per se, the Mac Mini’s clearly have an advantage by being able to squeeze into any free slot in the rack, something the Mac Pro simply can’t do.
According to the charts Apple published around the demise of the XServe, a then current Mac Mini Server ran at about 25-30% the capacity of an XServe. Double that for 2 per U, and it’s about 60% of an XServe per U.
The Mac Pro server takes up about 6U (2 Pro’s per 12U = 6U/Pro) and runs at about 100-130%, yielding about 20%/U.
Verdict: The Mac Mini server wins by a landslide with almost 3 times the prossing power per U as the Mac Pro.
Just about every modern Mac Mini uses about 11W when idle, for about 22W/U.
The power used by a Mac Pro varies based on configuration, but the one Apple used in their comparison uses 145W when idle. Divide that by the (ideal) 6U each Pro uses, and the result is about 24W/U.
Verdict: The Mac Mini is better. Not dramatically, but better nonetheless.
Disclaimer: cost and configuration can vary and, although I tried to stay as close to Apple’s benchmarks as possible, your configuration may differ.
A Mac Mini Server costs around $1100, or about $2200/U.
A Mac Pro Server costs around $4600, or about $760/U.
The Mini is around three times as powerful, though, so multiply the Pro’s cost per unit by 3 and the result is $2280.
Verdict: As far as cost per computing power goes, it’s a tie. However, the Mac Mini’s take up far less space, which translates into far lower hosting costs, so this round goes to them.
Although the Mac Pro makes a great desktop workstation, it just can’t compete with the Minis’ sheer force of numbers in the datacenter. They’re simply smaller, more convienent, and more powerful than an equivently equiped Mac Pro Server.
So, to answer the question: get a Mini. Get lots of Minis.