Apple Mac Mini review: A Macintosh that's easy on the wallet

Not all the changes to the Mac Mini are for the best

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Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Fantastic design with small footprint
  • Good connectivity
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • RAM is not upgradable
  • Closed-off design
  • Does not come with keyboard or mouse

Would you buy this?

Apple's Mac Mini has a low $619 price, is unobtrusively styled and proves versatile in that it can be used as an everyday computer or a sophisticated media player.

Dated or timeless?

Three years have passed since the Mac Mini received a cosmetic makeover. Aluminium still conforms to the simplistic shape of a flattened cube. Black is used for the Apple logo and for the panel housing the ports. Pride is evidently taken in its construction, and in bundling a premium material with minimalist design, the Mac Mini’s appearance leans away from dated and towards timeless.

Even the USB 3.0 ports, of which there are four, have their inner lip coloured black in camouflage. The power brick is built into the enclosure so that the plug is small and accommodating. Tiny details like these make the Mac Mini feel special.

One for everyone

Apple offers three versions of the Mac Mini, all of which are powered by the Haswell generation of Intel core i5 processors. The introductory model has a 1.4GHz dual-core processor (Turbo boost to 2.7GHz), Intel HD Graphics 5000, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It has a retail price off $619.

Our review unit topped the range with a 2.8GHz dual-core CPU (Turbo boost to 3.3GHz), Intel Iris graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB fusion drive. A Mac Mini with this configuration is more than double the price at $1249.

A mid range model is offered with the same specs for $869, although its processor is a 2.6GHz dual core with a turbo boost to 3.1GHz. We believe this setup will prove most popular.

Closed gardens

Older Mac Minis could be upgraded over time, with the removable black base granting access to some swappable components. Apple has made some changes to the design of the replacement model that limit future upgrades.

Accessing the circuitry is harder with the introduction of an obtrusive metal plate. Removing it is a matter of having on hand a specialist Torx screwdriver. Another obstacle is the fact the RAM is soldered directly onto the circuitry and therefore cannot be upgraded,

Being able to upgrade components in the Mac Mini was a strong point. People who bought the 2011 model could swap out the RAM and hard drive for higher performing components and, because the looks haven’t changed in years, dated Mac Mini’s would benefit from an as-new shine. It is a shame that is no longer the case.

Opting for the top-tier model is one way to fend off obsolescence. This is the version being reviewed by Good Gear Guide and it performed admirably in our routine tests.

Everyday performance

The core i5 processor proved competent in our Blender 3D test. It took 24 seconds to render an image, which for comparison’s sake, is much slower than the 13 seconds of the flagship 27-inch iMac.

We also transcoded a .mp4 Full HD video to one optimised for the web using the Mac Mini. The 136MB file was reduced to 27MB in 33 seconds.

The Mac Mini reviewed by Good Gear Guide comes with a drive that bundles a 128GB SSD with a 1TB hard drive. Regular files are stored on the solid-state drive so that files can be retrieved quickly.

Results for the storage drive outperformed those achieved by the 27-inch iMac. The Mac Mini achieved a write speed of 448.9MB/s and a read speed of 715.9MB/s in BlackMagic’s storage speed test.

The Mac Mini runs Apple’s OS X Yosemite (10.10.2) operating system. Anyone with an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple TV will appreciate how well other Apple products work with the Mac Mini. Jumping across to Apple if you already own one of these devices is like having one foot already in the door.

Final thought

Apple’s Mac Mini will take word processing, emailing and web-browsing in its stride. Mature software and refined hardware ensures all multimedia needs — whether it’s photos, music or videos — are generously catered. This computer is one that can be used everyday.

Demanding users keen on OS X should consider Apple’s range of iMac computers or the company’s powerhouse Mac Pro. It is a shame Apple has limited what parts can be upgraded as it makes the Mac Mini a less attractive proposition.

The design may be three years old, which is an eternity in the technology space, though the simplicity of it ensures it is timeless. Mac Mini’s nesting alongside televisions and set-top boxes will only add charm to entertainment set-ups, and that’s something too few PCs can do.

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