Mac mini 2014 review

on Thursday, October 16, 2014

Power still isn't the name of the game for Apple's cheapest computer

After being left without any significant updates for years, Apple has finally given its lowest-priced Mac, the Mac mini, a refresh.
Starting a new lower price of £399/$499/AU$619, it's still the same shape as before, but with some more modern internals. It starts with a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor with Intel HD 5000 graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive - pretty much the lowest-end iMac without a screen. It's the same kind of power as you get in a MacBook Air, but without the zippiness of flash memory.
Higher end models bring Intel Iris graphics and the option for a Fusion Drive hybrid storage system, though every option limits you to dual-core processors - the quad-core option is gone.
As I said, looking at the new Mac mini, there's little difference to pick out. You now get two Thunderbolt 2 ports on the rear, meaning it can connect to external peripheral at ludicrously fast speeds, but otherwise its still a very nice, very unassuming aluminium slab.
The one I looked at Apple's event felt lighter than previous models (pure flash storage is a configuration option, which will cut its weight), which isn't often the first concern with desktop computers, but the Mac mini's size does make it a bit of a portable option.
The entry-level Mac mini looks like a smart machine - you don't get a lot of processing power for your money, but it's a quiet, capable computer. That said, its 4GB of RAM could be limiting, and it isn't user-upgradeable, so you really do need low expectations of using it for intensive tasks.
In fact, the RAM in all of the new Mac mini models isn't user-upgradeable, as it used to be. Which isn't ideal; Apple's RAM prices continue to be, shall we say, rather on the steep side.
The more expensive models (a £569/$699/AU$869 model with a 2.6GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Intel Iris graphics and a 1TB hard drive; a £799/$999/AU$1,249 model with a 2.8GHz Core i5, 8GB of RAM, Intel Iris and a 1TB Fusion Drive) offer more headroom for tasks such as photo editing or video editing, but it still needs to be accepted that they aren't powerhouses.
That's fine - that was never the Mac mini's forte. We're just glad to see Apple keep it around, and give people a way to grab a new Mac without a screen that's cheaper than ever.


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