My workhorse MBP battery started failing while working as a Digital Image Tech on an indie feature film. Shot 6k RED, and needed to be transcoded to 4k ProRes 422 LT (still dont know why they couldn't proxy while filming). About 1tb of footage to transcode per day, with several company moves planned throughout the 8 days. Due to unpredictable power and work conditions on-set, I had to resort to staying back at the hotel for parts of the shoot to keep up with my transcoding and running to-and-from set for card swaps. Yikes. I also had an ASUS workstation laptop as a (not ideal) back-up machine. It was a good paperweight for most of the shoot.
Mac Mini 2018 was just released. Those little things always intrigued me. So in my panic with the failing battery issue, I sprang and got the top Mac mini model available near me as a last resort because I was on the road with no access to my main rig.
Working out of a hotel room with a downed machine, a less than ideal back up machine and a single 4k capable monitor on hand with very few options; it worked in a pinch. With maybe a 10-15% improvement in transcode time from my original machines. Six core I7 CPU, Intel UHD 630 GPU. Nothing to write home about.
Got it home after the job and ran some more testing...to find it just wouldn't cut it for the next gig with similar demands. I had some time in between gigs. So I returned the mini when I found a diamond in the rough...a Lenovo ideapad 330. I know. A Lenovo laptop starting @ $500, equipped with AMD chips offering higher core/thread counts. After making minimal ram (8 to 16) and storage upgrades (256gb sata ssd to 500gb m.2 and 500gb sata hdd) I was seeing colors in my testing. It outperformed my other mobile machines and the mac mini without breaking a sweat.
Its a true consumer machine, not quite the workhorse I can rely on in the work I do. But to think a $500 machine with minimal upgrades was able to outperform a $1200+ Mac mini, that MAYBE would have still missed the cut with a $600 eGPU has me at a loss.
I know. I cant expect to get by doing what I do with a Lenovo Ideapad. It's now a family laptop for day-to-day use. Had the job paid more and offered kit rental, I probably would have lugged my actual work cart with me. If I wasn't a 190 mile drive away from it, I probably would have just ran back home to get it in the middle of the week and save me the hassle. But when you pay someone like a DIT, an integral part to handling the data properly and verifying quality of the footage $200/day for an 8-day shoot, its not feasible for someone to bring a full mobile workstation cart. I couldn't predict my MBP going down when it did. My intrigue in the Mac mini was sort of deflated after. Nice I/O ports, but not exactly a V8 engine under the hood. Considering the price without a screen or other peripherals being included, it just didn't suit my needs.