Last 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 last 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
- 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 three 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. New Mac mini machines also did not appear at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference where Apple introduced new iMacs and MacBook Pro machines. It's possible Apple will update the machines at some point in 2018, but we don't know when.
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 eighth-generation chips, 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 eighth-generation chips appropriate for an updated Mac mini were announced by Intel in August of 2017, with additional chips introduced in April of 2018.
Intel's 28W quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors deliver up to 41 percent more frames per second in gameplay or edit 4K video up to 59 percent faster than the previous generation with the same discrete graphics, based on internal benchmark testing.
Intel has also introduced six low-power 35W chips with four to six cores. The current Mac mini uses the same 28W chips used in 13-inch MacBook Pro models, but. previous Mac mini models have used up to 45W chips, so Apple could also potentially adopt these new 35W chips.
One rumor suggests the next high-end Mac mini model "won't be so mini anymore," pointing towards at least one configuration that perhaps has a larger or taller design to accommodate higher-end components.
Apple executives Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller recently announced some upcoming updates to the Mac Pro and iMac lineup, and while no news about the Mac mini was shared, Schiller said the Mac mini is an "important product" in the company's Mac lineup.
"On that I'll say the Mac Mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren't bringing it up because it's more of a mix of consumer with some pro use. ... The Mac Mini remains a product in our lineup, but nothing more to say about it today."
In October of 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook told a MacRumors reader that the Mac mini will be an important part of the Apple product lineup in the future, though he declined to share specific details about a refresh.
"I'm glad you love the Mac mini. We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative and interesting uses for Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward."
According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on "at least three updated Mac models" that include custom co-processors for release as soon as 2018. Those machines include "updated laptops and a new desktop," but more specific information was not provided.
Custom co-processors are currently used in the MacBook Pro for the Touch Bar, and the iMac Pro to power the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, Secure Enclave, a hardware encryption engine, and more.
It's not yet clear which machines will gain new custom co-processors in 2018, nor what those co-processors will do, but possibilities include the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and the Mac mini, if a new model is indeed in the works.
Though Apple says the Mac mini is an important product, there have been no rumors hinting at an update at this time.
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.
How to Buy
Apple's latest Mac mini became available for purchase directly after its October 16, 2014 introduction. It can be purchased 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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