Apple Mac mini (preview)

The smallest of Macs gets a power boost, but still looks the same

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Apple Mac mini
  • Apple Mac mini
  • Apple Mac mini
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Pros

  • Upgraded internals keep the mini up to date

Cons

  • It's no smaller or sleeker than the last model

Bottom Line

The updated Mac mini gets its makeover internally rather than externally, with Ivy Bridge processors and storage upgrades hidden inside the same cuboid chassis. We would have loved if it got even smaller than it already was, but we're not really going to complain about its size. It's now got the power to compete with other mini-PCs.

Would you buy this?

It didn't even rate its own press release in Apple's end-of-year refresh for its notebooks, desktops and tablets, but the Mac mini deserves some attention: it gets the same Ivy Bridge processor refresh and Fusion Drive storage tech that went into the new iMac.

Apple Mac mini: the hardware

Since the exterior of the Mac mini remains the same — an aluminium unibody shell that has the company's recognisable rounded corners — you'll need to delve a little deeper to see what's changed in the latest iteration.

The Mac mini gets itself a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 from the Ivy Bridge processor line-up , with an optional upgrade to a 2.6GHz quad-core i7 from the more expensive model. The default 4GB of DDR3 RAM can be upgraded to either 8GB or 16GB of RAM in any Mac Mini.

This update in processors also brings along a boost in graphics power — since the mini uses the graphics processor integrated into its CPU, Ivy Bridge's Intel HD Graphics 4000 means 65 per cent more power (according to Apple, at least). It's not going to run any modern games at high resolution but it'll handle any desktop computing task you throw at it.

The mini comes by default with a 500GB hard drive, with 1TB on the more expensive model. The 1TB unit can be upgraded to a 1TB Fusion drive for $300, adding a 128GB flash storage drive that transfers commonly used files from the 1TB spinning disk for fast access without any input needed from the user. A 256GB flash storage option is also available.

The switch to newer processor and motherboard means USB 3.0 is now natively supported, with the mini sporting four USB 3.0 ports alongside Thunderbolt, SDXC, audio in/out, FireWire 800, and Gigabit Ethernet. 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi is also built-in.

A Mac mini with OSX Server is also available; it has effectively the same specs as the high-end Mac mini, but has space for two hard drives, and comes with OSX Server installed on top of the standard OS X Mountain Lion. It can be upgraded with a 1TB Fusion drive, 3TB Fusion drive or up to 768GB of flash storage.

Apple Mac mini: Conclusion

The little Mac mini has always been one of our favourites from the Mac family — it's small and unobtrusive, good-looking, comparatively cheap, and more versatile than it gets credit for. The minor upgrade it gets in this cycle is enough to keep it competitive with other mini PCs from the Windows side of the market.

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