Apple Mac Mini i5 Late 2012 Running Pro Tools On Internal Soundcard - Power Test

11-16-2014 05:25 PM

A few days ago we took the latest Macbook Pro Retina 15” for a spin to see how it handles Pro Tools 11, you can see our Macbook Pro 15” Retina Pro Tools 11 test here.
We’ve been asked to run the same test on a Mac Mini, so we’ve run this test on a Late 2012 i5 which is more or less the same kind of spec as the new mid range model in the latest round of Mac Minis.
This is the basic’ test, just the Mac Mini, internal soundcard and internal drive, it’s just you, your Mac, an iLok, headphones and a USB micro keyboard.
Is it just fit for a few demo tracks or can you get some real work done… find out below.
Test Machine Specification

  • Mac Mini
  • Intel Core i5
  • Processor Speed: 2.5 GHz
  • Number of Processors: 1
  • Total Number of Cores: 2
  • L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
  • L3 Cache: 3 MB
  • Memory: 16 GB
  • Hard drive updated to Crucial M500 SSD

Pro Tools Session Specification

  • Internal Mac soundcard used
  • Pro Tools 11.2.1
  • 96Khz - maximum with internal sound card
  • 24 bit
  • 5 minutes of mono audio, with edits at every 1 second
  • Volume automation recorded on every track
  • Disk cache disabled to emulate native versions of Pro Tools
  • All audio tracks had an instance of Avid Channel Strip and Dverb inserted

Results Of Test

  • 64 Audio tracks reached without buffer errors
  • A mono audio track would record without issue along with 64 audio tracks in playback
  • Instrument tracks were then added
  • 16 MIDI tracks with an instance of AIR Boom running with MIDI data
  • The session would not play at H/W buffer sizes of under 1024, once settled it seemed to run at 1024 without any further issues. The session could be set to 2048 samples if this was required and at this setting the session ran without issue.


One small thing to note. We ran the early tests on this machine with it running 10.8.5 Mountain Lion, however as the test on the Macbook Pro 15” Retina had been conducted using 10.10 Yosemite we decided to upgrade the OS to level the playing field and then run the test again. Oddly enough the performance of Pro Tools on the unqualified 10.10 Yosemite OS was more stable. It exhibited less of the trademark jolty performance metering that often occurs in Pro Tools and ran showing less CPU usage. We do not say this to endorse an upgrade to a yet Avid qualified OS, simply to let you know our findings.
Whilst an i5 Mac Mini is no powerhouse, neither is it useless for use as a machine for Pro Tools, if you’re wanting a budget Mac based computer. Remember this is us running audio at 96K abd through the internal soundcard, not the most likely set-up.
If you want a Quad Core i7 Mac Mini then you are better off getting a last generation Mac Mini Server, you’ll get more bang for your buck for the same kind of money. You get less connectivity but more expandibilty than the current models, our unit has had the memory and drive upgraded, it is not possible to upgrade the memory in a new Mac Mini once it has shipped.
Another alternative if you don’t mind an all-in-one solution is a used iMac, a used 27” iMac 3.1Ghz i5 Quad 16Gb 1Tb will cost you around £900, however as is becoming more common with Macs, make sure that you have the options to upgrade memory and drives - in some of the newer Macs this is not possible… even the Mac Pro.