Review: Mac Mini (2012) for Video Editing

This review is part of the overall Mac Mini (2012) review.

Importing huge video files is breezy with USB 3, SD card slot, SSD and Fusion Drive.

Fusion Drive is helps save time during file importing but after that it doesn't really impact the performance during video editing.

My videos are usually 1080P at 25FPS so the comments below are regarding those settings.

I use both iMovie 11 and Final Cut Pro X. Both are snappy on the Mac Mini. Scrubbing 1080P videos through the timeline updates the viewer instantly.

I've also tried editing with the original video files on USB 3 and Firewire 800 external drives (Western Digital My Passport 5400RPM) and there's no lag or stutter while skimming. There's no difference when choosing to edit video off either USB 3 and Firewire 800. The difference is only speed when you're transferring files.

Depending on what applications you use, you might not get the multi-core advantage to rendering. For example, iMovie doesn't maximize the use of all cores while rendering video.

Final Cut Pro X makes use of multi-core when exporting so it's faster than iMovie. The only time I feel the fans speeding up is while Final Cut is encoding.

Just for comparison against my old Mac Pro quad 3Ghz, I downloaded these two videos below, imported and then exported them using Final Cut Pro X.

Chinatown Mid Autumn Festival Sketchwalk (2m15s video at 1920 by 1080, 25fps):
Mac Pro: 14m07s
Mac Mini: 7m37s

Kampong Glam Sketchwalk (2m16s video at 1280 by 720, 25fps):
Mac Pro: 6m15s
Mac Mini: 3m35s

The 2012 Mac Mini is almost twice as fast as the 2006 Mac Pro when it comes to rendering videos. Impressive! And at less than half the price.

And Final Cut Pro X is about two times faster than iMovie. From the Activity Monitor, I see that it actually uses around two cores for rendering as compared to one for iMovie, which is about 40% vs 25% CPU usage. Even Final Cut Pro X does not use all 4 cores. Final Cut's usage of processing power really varies, and I don't know according to what criteria.

Using other applications while rendering affects the overall export time.

When it comes to running effects on Final Cut Pro X, things get slower. You'll want to check out tests that compare this Mac Mini to the iMac with a dedicated GPU.


Importing huge files
But importing huge files, I mean importing more than 4GB of files. It seems after the first 4GB is imported (using the SSD), the speed of import slows down drastically afterwards. OSX will take its time to readjust the Fusion partition for best use of the SSD and slow hard drive, and during this period of time, even copying files to USB3 drives are limited by the hard drive speed.

Editing 4K
Editing 4K video is quite a challenge. Scrubbing the video isn't that responsive but it's not surprising given that 4K video is really data-heavy. It still can be done though, slowly. The main problem is I cannot get the Mac Mini to export 4K video. That option is not available when exporting.

Overall recommendation

I can't confirm whether the Mac Mini is good enough for professional video editing because I don't have cameras that shot at 1080P at 50FPS or 60FPS. But what I can say is it's definitely powerful enough for general purpose video editing, such as videos for events, friends' parties.

The best Mac Mini to get for video editing is the middle model with 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.

Video encoding is very dependent on processor so it might be worth to upgrade to 2.6Ghz quad-core. However, the counterpoint is, if Final Cut is not using all the cores, then why bother upgrading?

If you go for the standard 4GB RAM, the video RAM is only 512MB. If you top up to 8GB RAM total, the video RAM increase to 768MB.

Editing off either USB 3 and Firewire 800 has no difference in terms of performance even when the hard drives are 5400RPM. Firewire drives are usually more expensive and in this case price does not equate to better performance.

Back to the main Mac Mini (2012) review.



I've been very disappointed

I've been very disappointed that that iMovie 11 only uses 25% CPU overall across 4 cores on my new mac mini 2012 core i7 while exporting / converting an edited clip.

I figured it would breeze through rendering and converting it at blazing speed. Instead I have a roughly 20 DV minute clip (DV camera import) and it needs 20 minutes to save it back after trimming?

Mind you, no transitions, no resizing, ... not a single fancy thing. Just export via quicktime with original settings, size, highest quality as to not degrade the footage.

So will FCP do this in less than half the time, maybe even a quarter?

Thanks Parka,

Thanks Parka,

In activity monitor, iMovie uses all 4 cores and uses 4 threads of the 8, at only ~25%.
Hard drive I/O doesn't even reach 10MB/s.

I always used to think that my computer was slow, G4, G5 or C2D ... but that clearly is ruled out with this system. I understand Apple wants to leave overhead for other apps to run etc, but I have multiple systems and would like to kick iMovie in overdrive as a foreground process.

Unfortunately it sounds I may have to spend $$$ on FCP, which advanced features I don't need.

Hi Parka.

Hi Parka.

I am primarily going to want a machine to use it extensivly for image editing on Lightroom, some very basic video editing in Premire and maybe fool around a little bit on some 3D Application. Would you recommend that I go with a Mac Mini or build my own hackintosh?

Thank you!

Thank you!

For the speeds the USB3 is reaching, editing Apple ProRes 4444 (41.25 MB/s bitrate) directly from a USB3 disk could be done without dropping frames and should deliver at least 2 streams of data, while Apple ProRes 422 HQ (27.5 MB/s bitrate) would work flawless with even more streams! :D

The fusion drive looks unbelievable, but I'm sure it was reading only from the SSD side, I wonder which could be the speed on real world usage, when media is mixed between both drives.

PS1: By the way, what's the difference between "My Passport" and "My Passport Mac"? The filesystem?

PS2: Thanks for this reviews! You use your Mac as I do at home (Lightroom + Video Editing on FCPx) so this was very helpful. I'm about to change my Mac mini (late 2009) for a new one, I was just waiting for the USB3 connector to do the switch.

Greetings from sunny

Greetings from sunny California. Hi I found your reviews here and helpful information. What is a good workflow for storing FCPX video? I have a 2011 MB Pro i7 quad core (USB 2.0 ver) but importing my raw HD video started to fill my HD quickly so I am using an external G-Tech FW800 drive to store video files within saved FCPX Events.

Are you saying that USB 3.0 only speeds up the transfer of files during import but no speed increase in editing or exporting movie files? FW800 seems to work fine without any latency or bottlenecks so I am debating whether to spend money on a Thunderbolt drive since I can't use USB 3.0. thanks!

Hi Parka thanks for sharing

Hi Parka thanks for sharing your tips.

I am using a MB Pro 2.2GHZ i7 quadcore 16GB RAM Snow Leopard, and a 750GB Momentus Hybrid as my main drive but installed an OWC 120GB SSD with Diskdoubler (removed DVD bay) and Mtn Lion to run some newer apps. I need Snow as my main OS since I use some 3D apps that don't work in Lion or Mtn Lion and run FCP mainly from that drive. FCPX does run very fast on the OWC SSD. I use a 2012 MP Air with only 4GB of RAM as my away machine and it also runs FCPX amazingly well. It actually seems smoother than my MP Pro in Snow Leopard. If I have some time later I may post some benchmarks to share with you.

FYI, Thunderbolt seems to be finally dropping in price, Amazon has the Seagate 1TB for $179USD and here the Buffalo drives go for about $180-$200. There are also LaCie Little Big Disk refurbs available for around $225. But FW800 and USB 3.0 (for the MB Air) is good enough for now so I will wait for more price drops.

BTW your S'pore videos look great, very clear and nice vivid color. What type of camera are you using for that?


Hi Parka

Hi Parka

Thanks a LOT for your extensive test for video editing with the mac mini. Very useful, really. There is one thing I wanted to check with you: you say that if you top up to 8Gb RAM the video RAM increases to 768Mb.

Is it some kind of shared memory, or is it Apple who places more video ram when you buy a Mac Mini with 8Gb?

I am asking because I am of course planning to purchase the model with less RAM and buy the RAM separately. Except if the graphic card is different of course.


Hi Parka,

Hi Parka,

Thanks for these tests, they are very helpful. I was considering a refurbished 2.7 2011 iMac, but after reading about how much vram the new mini can share, it should be fine for me.


Hi, great conversation

Hi, great conversation happening here.
I am thinking of getting 2.3quad-core 4GB RAM now (for the same purposes home editing) and then buying my own RAM later on (maybe going straight to 16GB) and slotting it in myself.

The second to last paragraph reads: "If you go for the standard 4GB RAM, the video RAM is only 512MB. If you top up to 8GB RAM total, the video RAM increase to 768MB."
I am interested to know if this allocation happen automatically or is this programmed by apple when it is bought/put together?

I dont have a lot of knowldge in this fiel, I'd appretiate your advise. If it needs to be configured by manifacturer I could scrounge and pay for it now.



If FCPX is only using 2 cores in your testing...why not go with a 2 core mini with a faster CPU...would rendering (as you state) not benefit from the extra speed since only 2 cores are being used anyways? Other the other cores in a quad useful for other "stuff"? I know FCPX does other things in the backround (thumbnails, rolling, anti shake these benefit from the other cores while rendering?

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