In recent months, I've been looking to upgrade my Final Cut Pro desktop editing rig. I wanted something that could last me for at least the next two to three years and give me a smooth workflow; I also wanted to spend less than $ 2000 total. If you are in a similar situation, read on. For under $ 2000, I set up a Mac mini video editing setup that works well with Final Cut Pro X.
Mac mini & RAM
The Mac mini model I picked up is the basic six-core i5 variant with 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. I managed to garden it for $ 929 on Amazon. Unfortunately, the $ 929 sale is no longer available, but I think even $ 1,029.99 is a great computer. As far as performance goes, the i5 for my use will be good, but 8 GB RAM (2x 4 GB) and 256 GB RAM will not cut it.
I went out and got 1
Video: Mac mini video editing setup
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When the time comes, I can replace the 4 GB module in there with another 16 GB stick to get a total of 32 GB. If you are looking to upgrade RAM in your Mini, Jeff made a great video with a simple step by step installation guide.
Adding in extra 16 GB of RAM has been quite useful overall. With applications that are very RAM hungry like Chrome and some Adobe applications, you can definitely see a difference.
When addressing storage, there was really only one avenue I could have taken that way the Mac mini is built without the ability to replace internal storage. I scoured the internet looking for a remote station that would fit my fancy and desired budget.
Finally, I decided on Shell from Fledging. It's a small, portable Thunderbolt 3 drive, and I've loved using it so far. Their Amazon listing announces 2,000 MB / s + read & write transfer rates, and when you cast this drive on the Blackmagic Disk test, it clearly does just that.
Shell is $ 385 for the 1TB version, and for that price, I have to say it's a great option. It's just a little taller and thicker than a Samsung T5, and smaller than a Samsung X5. I like that it has an aluminum chassis that matches the aesthetics of the Mac mini; It's not exactly gray, but it will.
Another really good thing about having a high capacity external Thunderbolt 3 drive is that it allows me to get work done while on the go. I often find myself working on a video in the office, and then continue my work on MacBook Air after leaving. All I need to do is create a Final Cut library on Fledging SSD and I can retrieve exactly where I left off.
Undoubtedly the most important aspect of this upgrade setup is the GPU. As we all know, the Mac mini does not come with a dedicated graphics card, which may prove to be a major bottleneck in my work.
The PowerColor Mini Pro (review) is an all-in-one eGPU solution that holds an AMD RX 570 GPU with 8 GB of video RAM. Color and graphics work make up most of my workload, and I wouldn't be able to edit as fast as I want on a machine without external graphics.
You can hook this box on Amazon for $ 480 right now, and for those who want to use a 570 GPU remotely, this may be the best way to do it. It's a little cheaper than what you can spend on getting a GPU and chassis separately.
You can really say that PowerColor put a lot of work into making the chassis as small as possible, which is great for portability. It is less than 4 inches wide and can easily be sneaked behind a screen if you do not want the GPU to be viewed on a desktop layout.
Clearly, weight is no problem either. You can easily carry this box with one hand and even travel with it. The heaviest part of the whole set-up is actually the power supply, which makes sense given how small the box itself is.
I took the PowerColor Mini Pro with me on a trip to New York recently. I used it with MacBook Air to color Canon RAW recordings, and it accelerated the process considerably.
The PowerColor Mini Pro has two front USB 3.0 ports next to the Thunderbolt 3 port. It also has a gigabit Ethernet port if you need one. The graphics card has 2 HDMI ports, 2 DisplayPort connections and a DVI port. You should have no problem connecting eGPU to any modern screen layout.
My biggest complaint with the Mini Pro box is the fan noise. Although not very heavy, the GPU is noticeably loud (around 50 db idle). This is something to get used to when I come from an almost dead Mac mini setup, but it is a necessary sacrifice in my eyes to get the required performance boost.
 Mac mini video editing setup benchmarks
I did a few benchmarks to show the increase in performance when I added all external devices. The reference used was the BruceX reference. From the Website:
BruceX is a small Final Cut Pro X XML file that you import into Final Cut Pro. It creates a very short, high-resolution timeline: 5120 at 2700 (at 23,975 fps). It uses standard Final Cut generators, titles and transitions. Because it uses many layers of composite content, it requires a lot of GPU RAM.
Here are the results:
- Using the internal SSD and GPU to export, it took: 1:59:91
- Using the Shell SSD and Mini Pro to export, it took: 1:17:95
Since this is a setup built for my personal workflow, I made a simple reproduction of a 5 minute video. This is the OnePlus 7T v iPhone 11 comparison video. The timeline consists of color classified clips with transitions and effects.
- Using the internal SSD and GPU to render, it took: 36:21:44
- Using Shell SSD and Mini Pro to render, it took: 27:32:71  That's a pretty drastic difference for me, and for the extra $ 800 upgrades it's definitely worth it. Regardless of the reference numbers per se, overall performance and flowability have increased significantly with this layout. With this rig I am no longer forced to play recordings in Final Cut Pro in performance mode. I can regularly play full quality recordings, which has been a very enjoyable experience.
9to5Mac & # 39; s Take
Overall, this has been a great rig for the award to work with and edit videos. And with the expandability provided by the Mac mini and the eGPU box, I can make several upgrades in a row for more performance gains. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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