Everything you need to know about the new Mac mini

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macmini-price

After two long years sitting on the bench, Apple finally updated the humble Mac mini with faster processors, faster Wi-Fi and much better graphics. It also gets a modest price drop, now starting at a reasonable $499 — although you could probably buy two low-end Windows PCs for the same price.

However, the mini is a Macintosh, running OS X Yosemite, and not stinky Windows. It makes for a great media center PC or a starter machine. In fact, everyone here at the Cult of Mac offices is talking about buying one to put under their TV.

“People love Mac mini,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing said in a statement. “It’s a great first Mac or addition to your home network, and the new Mac mini is a nice upgrade packed into an incredibly compact design.”


2014_mac_mini_options

The mini was last updated in October 2012 — an eternity in Apple’s busy product update schedule.

The 2014 models (which come in three basic configurations) have been updated with Intel’s higher-performance 4th-generation (“Haswell”) i5 processors and integrated Iris graphics. While the new processors bring a modest performance improvement over the previous generation chips (see MacBook Air benchmarks for example), the Iris graphics are a solid improvement. The Iris graphics deliver up to 90 percent faster graphics compared to the previous generation. Note, however, that the entry-level $499 mini offers only Intel HD Graphics 5000, which is a much more modest improvement.

The new mini also sees the introduction of Apple’s speedy Fusion Drive, which blends a standard hard drive with flash storage for faster performance and lickety-split boot times.

The Fusion Drive upgrade comes at a price, however. It is offered as as standard only on the high-end model, which starts at $999, and as a $250 option on other configurations. The basic $499 mini comes standard with a 500GB hard drive; and the $699 model with a 1TB hard drive. All the minis can also be configured with up to 1TB of solid-state flash storage.

The new mini also gets much faster Wi-Fi. It’s equipped with the latest 802.11ac “Gigabit” Wi-Fi, which is three times faster than 802.11n, and can reach speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second.

The current Mac mini gets a connectivity upgrade. The 2014 models get an extra Thunderbolt 2 port, bringing the total to two. The pair of ports can deliver an astonishing dual 20-Gbps of data transfer, and can daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt devices on each port, such as hard drives or extra screens. Talking of screens, the new mini can output to two screens, including any size of HDTV via the built-in HDMI port.

The mini has always been loved by hackers and tinkerers like iFixit — who say it’s the most-repairable Mac — and owners too, thanks to its unusually high high resale value.  It measures 7.7-inch-square — and is still BYO display, keyboard, and mouse.

So which one to buy?

Go for the basic $699 option with the 2.6GHz i5, 8GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive.

Why?

The biggest decision to make when buying a new Mac mini is graphics performance. If the mini is going to be a media center PC, graphics performance is key, and you should go for the mid-level ($699) or higher option because of the Intel Iris Graphics, which is significantly improved. If you’re looking for an entry-level Mac for the kids to do homework on, go for the $499 model (which offers Intel HD Graphics 5000).

Don’t bother to upgrade RAM, hard drive or processor. At least, not at Apple’s prices (see the rationale in this previous post about buying a Mac mini). The CPU upgrade will be negligible,  and RAM or HD can be upgraded on your own at much better prices from third-party suppliers.

Disagree? Set us straight in the comments.

Mac mini server

It seems to be sayonara for the Mac mini server, the diminutive file-sharing machine that runs the server version of OS X. It’s disappeared from the online Apple Store. There are now only three configurations of the mini available. There was no formal announcement, but like the iPod Classic, it seems to have been quietly disappeared from the lineup.

  • Dave

    The mini already had Fusion Drive..

    • Eric Weber

      Yes. It was a build to order option only available online before but now it is part of the highest level standard configuration available in stores.

      • Dave

        Fair enough!

      • Eric Weber

        I hope you didn’t take that as being against what you said. I was just clarifying. I agree with you that the article made it sound it was a brand new feature to the Mac Mini and it should be reworded.

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    I think they need a bigger version of the MacMini that’s got the same power as the high end IMacs, but just a headless version. Think of it as a MacMiniPro.

    • Craig Jacobs

      Yes. With upgradable everything.

  • PMB01

    The $499 Mini has no flash upgrade option. Also, the RAM is now soldered to the logic board :(

    • Eric Weber

      Where do you see that about the RAM?

      • PMB01

        LPDDR3. That’s not removable.

      • Ivan

        LPDD Ram doenst mean necessarily that it is soldered.

      • PMB01

        For Apple, it does.

      • btsculptor

        It is – I confirmed it with Apple. And canceled my order

    • duckdive

      I’m also interested to see this reference. If it is true, then Apple is up to their old tricks again.

      • PMB01

        It’s true. Notice how they no longer show that convenient cover on the bottom in pictures.

    • Guest
      • Craig Jacobs

        Check your dates.
        (1:55 pm PDT, Oct 26th 2012)

      • eddix00

        Your link is dated October 26, 2012!!

      • Tyler

        im a fool, apologies. Sorry Eddix and Craig.

      • Guest

        wrong model – this link refers to 2012 …

  • michal

    But there is no quad core option… That’s sad, will have to wait for benchmarks, I’m affraid in some tasks ( video exporting) new mini (i7) will be slower then QC i7 late 2012…

  • David M. Cotter

    how can you not mention that there is no quad core option?

    • andrewi

      CoM exists to promote and sell Apple products, not speak critically of them.

  • Guest

    Okay, that was hardly everything I needed to know. It reads more like a sales presentation with a recommendation for a particular model.

    Can I upgrade the RAM on that model? How about the hard drive? What are the specs of the controllers and the system board? Things like that.

  • Craig Jacobs

    This machine is a big step backwards IMO. Soldered RAM, no quad core option, 4K refresh rate is ridiculously slow for an $800 machine. Also HDMI 1.4, not 2.0. This isn’t a good choice for a media machine if you have a 4K TV – 24Hz? yeah, no. I’ve been waiting for this machine, and I’m very disappointed to say the least. Since it has HDMI and 2 TB2 ports can you at least run 3 HD monitors?

    • nostatic

      I completely agree. Plus, Apple screwed up again by not allowing at least 32GB of RAM which the minimum required for heavy Photoshop and video editing. I’ve been waiting two years for this upgrade, only to be epically disappointed today. Boo, Phil Schiller.

    • DurfDiggler

      Where did you find the ram is soldered? I can’t find that. I found this article trying to find the answer. This article makes it seem as though RAM & HDD/SSD can be upgraded at home. But isn’t the SSD PCI-E, not SATA? How’s that work with a Fusion or HDD? Also, There’s no picture of the removable bottom on Apple’s site. Suspicious. Sucks we have to pay such an extreme premium for the “entry level” Mac, which is also seemingly non-upgradable. These top out at $2,200… Might as well tighten your belt and get a lower end Mac Pro which we know you can upgrade memory/storage later. I was so looking forward to replacing my 2010 Core 2 Duo.

      • PMB01

        LPDDR3 RAM listed and the missing pics of the bottom cover mean it is soldered.

      • Ben

        That’s hardly proof. You’re assuming apple has soldered it (probably rightly too) but a lack of a photo of the bottom case isn’t enough to prove an assumption. I hope they haven’t, it kind of ruins the appeal of a mini.

      • PMB01

        Except it is. The rMBP and MBA both have LPDDR3 RAM.

      • andrewi

        That is proof. You cannot purchase LPDDR sticks. They are a Laptop only, soldered on product. I have a laptop with 4GB of LPDDR soldered to the board and a single normal DDR3 slot, but never have I seen, heard or witnessed LPDDR3 sticks.

      • matt

        I’ve seen pictures of the bottom cover. its a cover! it looks like the 2012 cover!! except it shows no sign of it being removable.. heh

        you can see picture of the new cover in the newly published mac mini manual at apple

        the dots that show it being unlocked and locked are missing

      • Ben

        I think we’ll have to wait for a tear-down before we know what can be upgraded. Shame.

      • PMB01

        Also, the base Mac Mini doesn’t have a flash upgrade option; only HDD or Fusion Drive. It probably has the PCIe slot, but we won’t know til iFixit gets ahold of it.

  • chromeronin

    GPU performance ana a media PC, doesn’t mean sqwat. My 2008 MacMini plays HD 1080p video just fine through PLEX, but the latest Mac OS it runs is Lion. If buying just to use under the TV, buy someones machine second hand and let them grab the latest Mini instead. At least the 2008 mini will have a superdrive included for DVDs 8)

  • chromeronin

    I just wish that there was an option to buy the mini with the same specs as even the 21″ iMac There is no reason to cripple it other than marketing as it probably has even more space inside than the back of an iMac screen.

    • DurfDiggler

      I was hoping for this as well. And how the heck does this thing top out at $2,200 with a dual core i7, 16Gb RAM, & (yeah, I know) 1Tb SSD?

    • PMB01

      Actually, the $499 Mac Mini is the same specs as the base 21″ iMac (though the iMac at least has 8GB RAM standard).

  • i-Melda

    A rip-off! Waiting for an upgrade becomes a downgrade :P

  • lastcookie

    Hugely disappointed in the changes to the mini lineup in 2 areas – no high end processor (quad-core i7) option and no user upgrade option for RAM.

  • Fofer

    The advice about not upgrading the RAM at time of purchase to save money and do it via third-party later instead is WRONG and could potentially misguide someone’s purchase. The venerable MacEnterprise listserv has confirmed definitively that the RAM is soldered on these boxes, and also “there is no connector for a second drive and the second drive bay is also gone. It’s also trickier to open, using suction cup and torx security bits.”

    Buy your Mac mini with the RAM you want, because that’s all it’s gonna get for the life of the product!

  • gpatrick95

    I guarantee most users would have preferred a couple more USB ports over a second thunderbolt port, especially since many will be using half of the available USBs just for a keyboard and a mouse. I bet over half the mac mini owners never own a single thunderbolt peripheral, much less two.

    I’d have really liked to have seen at least one USB port and the SDXC slot on the front, maybe under a flip-down cover to keep the external appearance “apple-pretty.”

  • Ben Vincent

    This downgrade is the straw that broke this camels back. I’m just not confident enough to go Hackintosh so it looks like after 20 years of using Macs it’s time to say goodbye.

    • Jon

      I was waiting to see what the Mac Mini would offer, but I think I’ll just spend my money on building a PC.

    • andrewi

      Buy one from ebay. That’s my recommendation.

  • Buck Virga-Hyatt

    OS X Server is now free with any new Mac. So any of them can now be made into a Mac Mini Server.

    • Grizzly Media

      Do you have a url for this? I’m not seeing confirmation anywhere…

  • Grizzly Media

    Sorry Leander but this is a shockingly bad article… Like a party political broadcast!! The new mac mini is in many ways a downgrade… Apple no doubt don’t make as much on them as iMacs so are trying to stop customers who need the power of quad core for apps like Logic and FCPX from using Mini’s. As mentioned all cpu’s are now only Dualcore.. My 2011 Quadcore i7 will slay any of these in cpu ratings, which means plugin and track counts for media producers and services workload in server environments. The Ram IS fixed.. no more SO-DIMM slots… huge mistake. The mini has been the enthusiasts mac.. start with a basic config and throw in bigger drives and bigger ram chips.. I have hopes we can still do the drives..even if it means OWC or similar dropin PCIe SSD’s on some models but ram upgrades ARE GONE…. Plz folks stop posting old 2012 links and read properly. So to recap this Mac mini has been rejigged to almost force some users to buy iMacs..or even up sales figures for the (admittedly wonderful) Mac Pro as many were buying quad core mini’s and using those instead…. Apple is not playing nice and shame on Leander for such a terrible article..he’s better than this when he puts his mind to it..

  • Dr_Jezz

    Many have speculated that the Mac mini also includes soldered RAM, which has now beenconfirmed by Macminicolo’s Brian Stucki. According to Stucki, the RAM in the Mac mini is “not user accessible,” …

    soldered RAM and no quad core – just another step down in my estimation Apple …

  • ThreeCheeseFondue

    Apple is barely disguising its contempt for the bottom end with its long-awaited refresh of the mac mini. “F em”, I think I can hear the Apple top brass saying. Apple aren’t interested in flogging boxes that let people buy OEM memory and hard drives and displays to connect to a low-priced Apple box. For Apple, the solution is to force you to pay in the region of 4x the market rate for memory, 5x for accessories, 2x for monitors and 2x for storage. And the only reason a lot of people even consider doing so, is because Apple bought out Logic years ago and forced it off the PC. Bar stewards, I’ll always hate them for it, and I hate them even more for this crappy long-awaited downgrade.

  • R-Dubs

    Real fanboy review. Doesn’t point out any negatives, and there’s many. Old model already had fusion. Quad core i7 option, now not available. Also previously allowed user mods like poss (more reasonably priced) Hd upgrades (SSD), and likewise ram upgrades w/out voiding warranty (or APP). Maybe better gpu performance but cpu dual core i5’s unlikely to be better than quad core i7’s. Previous model Quad core, w/ 16Gb ram from crucial and maybe an SSD would be better imo, particularly for those running Logic etc.

  • Mini me

    This inaccurate article proves this site is not worth a revisit

  • Tim Martin

    Reports are that MacMini Late 2014 – RAM is soldered and NOT UPGRADEABLE …

  • btsculptor

    You can not upgrade the memory yourself. It is soldered to te motherboard. You have to pay Apple’s price for installed memory.