Updated on October 16, 2014.
At a Glance
- Less powerful than other Apple desktop offerings like the iMac and the Mac Pro, the Mac mini is Apple's most affordable and compact desktop computer that's billed as a "bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse" device. It was updated on October 16, 2014, adding Haswell processors, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, PCIe-based flash storage in some models, and Thunderbolt 2.
- Haswell processors
- Intel 5000/Iris integrated graphics
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Thunderbolt 2
- OS X El Capitan
- Prices starting at $499
What's Next for the Mac mini
The Mac mini was last updated in 2014, introducing Haswell processors and features like 802.11ac WiFi and Thunderbolt 2. Given that it's been more than two years since the update, new Mac mini models could come at any time, provided Apple doesn't have plans to retire the Mac mini product line.
Apple held an event in October of 2016 where it refreshed the MacBook Pro, but no updates to the Mac mini were announced. Because the Mac event has come and gone, it's unlikely the Mac mini will see a refresh in 2016, but an update could still come sometime in 2017.
In the past, the Mac mini saw upgrades in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014.
A new Mac mini would likely include Intel's Kaby Lake processors, which would bring significant performance improvements to Apple's most affordable desktop. Apple's Mac mini line uses the same U-Series chips that are found in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Kaby Lake chips appropriate for an updated Mac mini were announced by Intel in January of 2017.
In a recent interaction with employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company has "great desktops" in its roadmap, but it was not clear if he was referring to machines beyond the iMac. The Mac mini was not specifically mentioned and it continues to be unclear when we will see an update.
Current Mac mini
The Mac mini is Apple's smallest desktop computer, positioned as a "bring your own" machine that comes without a mouse, keyboard, or display.
As Apple's least powerful desktop, the Mac mini is equipped with a dual-core processor like much of the company's lineup of portable computers, while its more powerful siblings, the Mac Pro and the iMac, are available in quad-core and higher configurations.
Apple last updated the Mac mini on October 16, 2014, after the compact desktop went more than two years without a refresh.
While the machine did gain several upgrades like Haswell processors with integrated Intel HD 5000/Intel Iris Graphics and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the upgrade was a disappointment to many Mac mini fans as Apple ceased offering both a quad-core processor option and support for dual hard drives.
The Mac mini's 2014 update did not bring any design changes, and the machine continues to offer the same 1.4-inch thin 7.7-inch wide aluminum unibody enclosure that it's sported since 2011.
The Mac mini was the last desktop in Apple's lineup to receive a Haswell upgrade aside from the non-Retina MacBook Pro, and while the new processors bring improved single-core performance, multi-core performance is not as impressive compared to the older quad-core 2012 Mac mini.
Along with new processors and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the Mac mini has gained two Thunderbolt 2 ports, which are accompanied by four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an audio in port, a headphone port, and an IR receiver.
The low-end and mid-tier Mac mini models continue to ship with a 500 GB 5400-rpm hard drive, but upgrade options include 1TB Fusion Drives and fast PCI-based flash storage.
With the Mac mini update, Apple eliminated the quad-core Mac mini with OS X Server option, which previously included 2TB of storage. The new Mac minis ship with a maximum of 2TB of storage.
The Mac mini is available in three different stock configurations and at three separate price points: $499, $699, and $999. On the low end, the Mac mini ships with a 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 5000.
At the middle tier, the Mac mini comes with a 2.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive, and Intel Iris Graphics. At the high end, the Mac mini ships with a 2.8GHz dual-core Core i5, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, and Intel Iris Graphics.
The entry-level Mac mini can be upgraded with 8 to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion Drive.
The mid-level Mac mini can be upgraded with a 3.0GHz dual-core Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, or 256GB flash storage.
The high-end Mac mini can be upgraded with a 3.0GHz dual-core Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of PCIe-based flash storage or a 2TB Fusion Drive, an option that was added in December of 2014.
On October 27, 2016, Apple reduced the prices of 512GB and 1TB flash storage upgrade options across the Mac lineup, including the Mac mini. It's now $100 to $200 cheaper to upgrade the default storage.
A teardown of the 2014 Mac mini revealed that user-installed upgrades for the machine range from difficult to impossible. The RAM is soldered and thus not user replaceable, and while the hard drive is accessible, it is located behind a practically non-removable cover that's protected with Torx Security screws.
The 2014 Mac mini earned a repairability score of 6 out of 10, worse than the 2012 Mac mini's 8 out of 10 score.
Because the RAM on the machine is not user accessible, those who purchase Mac minis are limited to 16GB of RAM that must be acquired directly from Apple when purchasing the machine. That severely shortens the life span of the Mac mini and forces users into purchasing expensive RAM upgrades, a factor that should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a new 2014 Mac mini.
Commenters on the MacRumors forums have expressed significant unhappiness with the Mac mini upgrade as it is, in many ways, a downgrade from 2012 models that offered quad-core processors and improved upgrade options.
While the 2014 Mac mini sees improved single-core performance over 2012 models in benchmarks due to the Haswell processors added to the machines, the same is not true when it comes to multi-core performance.
According to Geekbench 3 benchmarks, the high-end late 2012 Mac minis that shipped with quad-core Ivy Bridge processors offer better multi-core performance than the new 2014 dual-core Haswell Mac minis. Two less cores results in significantly decreased performance on multi-core tests, with the higher-end 3.0GHz Core i7 Mac mini scoring 70 percent worse than 2012 models.
Which Mac mini to Buy
Planning to buy a Mac mini? Make sure to check out our guide on which Mac mini to buy. It provides a walkthrough of each of the three different models, the differences between them, available Mac mini upgrades, and other cost considerations to take into account when purchasing a Mac mini.
If you're in need of a display for your Mac mini, make sure to check out our 4K and 5K Display Buyer's Guide.
How to Buy
Apple's latest Mac mini became available for purchase directly after its October 16, 2014 introduction. It can be bought from the online Apple Store, with all base configurations shipping immediately or available for same-day pickup at Apple retail stores. Custom configurations generally take just a few extra days before shipping.
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