Mac mini 2018 Reviews Roundup: Long-Awaited Update Should Impress Fans and Pro Users, But Upgrade Options Can Get Pricey
The first round of Mac mini reviews were published online this morning. Below we've highlighted some of the key takeaways from around the web ahead of Apple's official November 7 launch.
Four years in the waiting, the new Mac mini comes in Space Gray, features 4- and 6-core 8th-Generation Intel Core processors, four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, support for up to 64GB RAM, and up to 2TB of solid-state storage. It also includes Apple's T2 chip for added security.
On the new Mac mini's largely unchanged design:
Six Colors's Jason Snell:
In the last few years, Intel has pushed the idea of extremely small desktop PCs, leading people like me to speculate that perhaps the next Mac mini would be even more mini. That didn’t happen. Instead, Apple has decided to use the existing Mac mini design, a low-lying slab of machined aluminum with curved edges. The only real difference is that now it’s darker, the old silver look replaced with a new space gray finish.
On Apple's port choices for the Mac mini:
TechCrunch's Brian Heater:
The biggest turn on the I/O side of things, however, is the inclusion of an impressive four Thunderbolt 3 ports. That’s the same number found on the iMac Pro and twice as many as you get on the 2017 standard iMac. It opens things up to a lot more computing versatility. As far as my own desk is concerned, I welcome the ability to power the LG 4K monitor Apple sent along for testing purposes.
The ports are different, and versatile. Like the iMac Pro, the Mac mini recognizes that it’s useful to offer both USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 and USB-A ports. There are four of those Thunderbolt 3 ports, two classic USB-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack, and Ethernet—Gigabit by default, with up to 10Gb Nbase-T Ethernet available as a $100 option. You can hang two 4K displays or one 5K display off of the Thunderbolt 3 ports. You can use adapters to connect to Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 2 or to give yourself more USB-A or… really, whatever you can think of. It’s a lot of ports.
On Apple's upgrade choices for the Mac mini:
Macworld's Roman Loyola:
The $799 model comes with a 128GB drive, but if that isn’t enough, Apple offers upgrades all the way up to 2TB if you’re willing to pay. The SSDs are PCI-e cards and Apple doesn’t consider them user-upgradeable. So, if you prefer to house your storage inside the computer instead of attaching an external drive, you might consider shelling out more money for an upgrade.
The $799 Mac mini comes standard with 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory, installed as a pair of 4GB SO-DIMMs. The mini supports a maximum of 64GB, and you can upgrade the memory later, but Apple doesn’t consider the Mac mini to be user-configurable, and it recommends that memory upgrades be performed by a certified Apple service provider.
Six Color's's Jason Snell:
Today the Mac mini is about flexibility and filling niches. This update allows it to span a wide range from basic server needs all the way up to high-end applications that require a great deal of processor power, fast storage, ultra-fast networking, and even beyond (via Thunderbolt 3). The high-end configurations might actually provide enough power for people to consider them over buying the Mac Pro, whenever it comes out.
On the new Mac mini's performance:
The big story to me is how incredibly fast this thing is. Granted, I’m testing the fastest CPU offered, but damn.
Geekbench results are very strong. The i7 Mac Mini scored better on single-core performance than every other Mac today (!) at 5912, and its multi-core score of nearly 24,740 beats every Mac to date except the iMac Pro and the old 12-core 2013 Mac Pro.
"Performance-competitive with pro Macs" was not high on my prediction list for a Mac Mini update, but here we are.
CNET's Lori Grunin:
For many pros, it may be hamstrung by Intel's integrated graphics processor. I'm not saying it needs a powerful gaming or rendering GPU. A Kaby Lake G CPU, for example, would be a nice alternative to the i3 simply to make the system low-end VR ready, to take some of the video decoding burden or to help reduce overhead in audio production.
Apple really seems to be betting on external GPUs as a solution for much of its graphics woes. But one of the benefits of the Mini is that it's mini. Having to make space for a big eGPU just for better-than-basic graphics acceleration kind of defeats the purpose of a tiny system, especially when you're likely going to be hanging a multitude of external drives and other accessories off it as well.
TechCrunch's Brian Heater:
Even the lowest-speced version should be plenty fine for most tasks. I've shifted my standard tech blogger work flow over the machine for the last couple of days and am perfectly happy with the results. On the other hand, if your workload requires anything processor or graphics intensive, you're going to want to pimp this thing out — or seriously consider picking up a desktop with the word "Pro" in the name.
On the Mac mini's price:
Apple lent me a high-end configuration for review — 6-core i7, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD — which would cost $2499 (much of which is the SSD). This would’ve sounded crazy to spend on a Mac Mini a few years ago, but when it’s specced up like this, it’s targeting a much higher-end market than the previous model could. Compared to similarly specced iMacs and MacBook Pros, the pricing is generally reasonable.
TechCrunch's Brian Heater:
For the budget-strapped, it’s also easy to flinch at the $300 price increase on the base-level. While it’s true that the components are pricier this time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the company has priced out the true entry-level user this time out, in favor of offering a product that’s more of a gateway into the Pro ecosystem.
Review and Unboxing Videos
Pricing on the Mac mini starts at $799 for the base model with a 3.6GHz processor, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM and goes up to $4,199 for a maxed out machine with 3.2GHz Core i7 processor, 64GB RAM, a 2TB SSD, and the upgraded 10Gb Ethernet option.
The Mac mini is available for purchase from Apple's online store. Orders will be delivered on November 7, the day that it will be available for purchase in retail stores.