Performance of Rack on 2018 Mac Mini?

Hey all.

Curious if any of you are running VCV Rack on a 2018 Mac Mini. I’m looking at the i7 model because running it on my MacbookPro instantly kicks the fans on high. I’m wondering if it has the same effect on the new Mini.


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Oh dang i’ve been wondering the exact same thing!

For info, Rack works definitively better on my Mac Mini 2012 i5 2,5 16 Go than on my MBP 2015 i5 2,7 , 8 Go. :wink:

Hi there - first time poster here.

I’ve just been getting into VCV Rack. It runs really well on my 2009 Mac Pro, which has an NVidia GTX750 Ti graphics card which I added a few years ago.

I’m pretty much stuck on High Sierra though (which could be OK except that I want to keep XCode up to date), unless I get a new graphics card, so I’m looking at the 2018 i7 Mac Mini.

CPU wise this machine would run rings around the Mac Pro, but I think the Intel integrated graphics would be well underpowered in comparison to the GTX750 Ti. So it’s not a completely straight upgrade.

I know that VCV Rack thrives on a decent GPU, so I’m a bit unsure about whether the Mac Mini will be OK for VCV Rack.

Does anyone have any advice on this?

Many thanks

Hi Andy. Welcome to the community! Yeah, I’m now convinced that on the CPU side everything would be fine. But now looking at that graphics card, I have the same question. Can anyone else weigh in on on this yet?

Is everyone with >30% CPU usage with an empty rack using Intel HD Graphics?

What is it with Macs? My crappy seven-year-old Windows box with an old i7 and HD graphics does fine with Rack.

(ducks from flaming barbs …)


Running on MacBook Pro 2017 (Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640), CPU is using 10% on v1 and 0.6. Rack is empty, (nearly) full screen, 100% zoom.

If I add a few modules, the jet takes off. Audio-8 shows 79% idle, but CPU usage goes up to 50% - 60% (v1). Instruments says 50% is in stepping the engines, the remainder drawing to the screen (22% in nvgEndFrame(), 13% in Widget::draw(), 7% in swapBuffersNSGL, 5% in Scene::step(), the remainder mostly in _glfw*()).

Setting "frameRateLimit" in v1’s settings.json to 15.0 reduces CPU usage to 28%. Thanks for adding this option.

The 2018 Mac Mini only has integrated graphics so you’ll definitely regret it. I looked at it the other day and it’s a shame because it’s a fine machine otherwise. There is the option of using an external thunderbolt 3 graphics card with it, but that means even more money. Besides, that small box will thermally throttle quickly, like a laptop. Not a good choice for a Rack machine, unfortunately :unamused:

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As a data point, my late-2013 13" MBP has massive trouble running VCV. It has an Intel Iris 1536 MB for graphics. An empty rack causes all fans to almost immediately turn on to full blast.

Can’t speak to the 2018 i7, but I have a 2012 i7 that I maxed the ram and installed an ssd on the boot drive. I would have to say that it depends greatly on a number of things. But the fans don’t spin up for me and performance is acceptable.

It’s not the mac… it’s the user… I have an 8 year old mac mini i7 and I have no complaints.

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Do you go for patches with loads of modules?

Thermally it actually appears quite good. Surprises me too. The fan noise (which is what I REALLY care about) is apparently remarkably low. Check out the measurements in this article:

The external GPU idea is a good one though. Yeah, more money, but compared with a decent sized eurorack system a maxed mini, external graphics, and some midi controllers still comes in as a bargain. :slight_smile:

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I’ll go with good old Linus as an expert any day, and I think his review is quite good:

My own summary would be something like this:

  • If you really want a Mac, the Mac Mini 2018 is the best bang for the buck, by far.
  • It has good connectivity (relative to other Macs) and accomodates fast CPU’s, which is nice.
  • But… with the stock GPU (or rather, lack of) it’s a no-go for running VCV Rack. If you want it you have to buy an external Thunderbolt 3 GPU, and only an AMD one at that, which probably won’t come so cheap.
  • And the thing runs really hot, so even though they might have managed to actually keep the fan noise down, the risk of early component damage and thermal throttling, when using the CPU heavily (like when running Rack) is big.

So: Doable, with an external GPU, but pricey and certainly far from an optimal bang-for-buck Rack machine. Only to be done if someone insists on having MacOS I think. I think I’ll repeat my mantra: The right machine for Rack is desktop, desktop, desktop, with good cooling, and a Mac Mini is not really a desktop, more like a laptop squeezed into a different shape :slight_smile: As Apple would say: Size is all that matters.

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On my 2018 Mac Mini with i7 and intel graphics, I get about 6% cpu use with a really completely empty rack, and around 33% when the rack is populated with the v1 default template. This is using the latest v1 build that was made available recently.

But I think those cpu stats are per core. If I change engine thread options using the menu in VCV, I can get a lot of fan activity and some very large numbers. eg on 12 threads I can get cpu usage showing 1115%, and with 6 threads I can get 522%. (using mac activity monitor).

I do not have a long and extensive history of using VCV rack, so I dont have any large patch files to use as benchmarks or any prior knowledge about what sort of performance to expect on various hardware.

But I do have an egpu for this machine, which I have not attempted to use when running VCV rack at all yet. If there is something useful I can do with this combo to inform other people, just let me know, I will have time to try things in the coming weeks. I will only do stuff with various v1 builds or github versions though, I dont use pre-v1 VCV at all now.

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Interesting comments in this thread, thanks.

I’ve just taken the plunge and a new i7 mini has arrived. I’ll report back when I’ve had a chance to get stuck in, but it’s going to be a while until I have the time to get it set up and migrate from my old machine. Could be 2 or 3 weeks until I’ve had a good go with VCV Rack.

Rack performance isn’t the be all and end all to me - my patches are quite light at the moment, although I do have one more demanding patch that I built to put the old Mac Pro through its paces, so I’ll try that.

If it doesn’t work well, then hanging onto the Mac Pro as a dedicated rack machine (perhaps under Windows - it runs windows 10 nicely) could be an option, or selling it and the graphics card and putting the proceeds towards an egpu could also be an option, although not sure I could afford that just at the moment.


thanks for the update! very curious to hear how it all shakes out in practice

Thanks for chiming in Steve! And yes, I’d love to hear about how adding the eGPU impacts performance, fan noise, heat, etc. I believe in V1.0 there’s the ability to change both sample rate and frame refresh rate, so it would be interesting to learn how boosting/cutting those things impact the machine. Thanks!

Yeah, I pretty much have to have Mac OS. When I take the plunge, I’ll probably pick up one of these too:

It’s not cheap, per se, but for an eGPU it’s about as low as you can go. (Hey it’s less than the cost of many high-end Euro modules. : ) It’s not the most powerful GPU by far, but I’m guessing that VCV mainly needs something that’s just better than stock. This should suffice.

Of course the new 1.0 feature where you can turn DOWN the frame rate might make this discussion moot. :slight_smile:

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