back to article Mourning Apple's war against sockets? The 2018 Mac mini should be your first port of call

The world's fourth biggest PC company sells three desktop PC lines, but it hadn't updated one of those three for four years. Maybe Apple had forgotten that the humble and unassuming Mac mini was there at all. But it fixed that this week. The Mac mini has been revived as a machine for grown-ups, professionals such as …

Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

> Is any linux distribution from 2007 still supported?

Yes.

RHEL 5 (from March 2007) still has "Extended Life-cycle Support" available until November 2020. This "delivers certain critical-impact security fixes and selected urgent priority bug fixes and troubleshooting for the last minor release" - for a price.

See https://access.redhat.com/support/policy/updates/errata#Life_Cycle_Dates

RHEL 4 (from Feb 2005) is technically still in its "Extended Life Phase", but since support has ended, this doesn't count for much. "No bug fixes, security fixes, hardware enablement or root-cause analysis will be available during this phase". You just get access to the documentation and knowledgebase.

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Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

> Is any linux distribution from 2007 still supported?

RHEL5.

If you pay RedHat for it.

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Re: Features that don't matter.

"Not as small means that it is more maintainable, more flexible, and less likely to cook itself. Smallness is a pretty optional feature in 99% of real consumer use cases. It's not really an advantage."

I beg to differ. Sure, a larger desktop does have benefits in maintenance and heat. This I'll grant. But the small form factor is more flexible, because you can put it in places you can't put the large thing, as well as every place you could put the large thing. As for it being necessary, people live in small places. People live in tiny flats, university housing, etc. You don't always have tons of space to put something. If power is so important, you'll probably use some of that limited space for a full-sized desktop. Still, it can be useful to have the option of a small desktop that leaves more room for the other possessions you may have. A small computer like a mini/NUC/raspberry pi is also much easier to use headless. If you want a system for a room, something that small can be slotted nearly anywhere, including just hanging on the wall if there is no convenient place otherwise. A desktop doesn't have that.

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Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

On the other hand, Apple gave up supporting my 2007 iMac in 2014, even though it still works - only the Bootcamp Windows gets security updates these days.

My 2008 iMac has just gone out of support for new versions of the OS, which did irritate me as the lowest hardware they support for Mojave is less capable than my machine in both GPU and CPU. I can move up to High Sierra from Sierra and still get security fixes or I can do like I have with my 2007 Macbook and install Linux on it and be supported for quite some time. Linux Mint installed without issue and runs snappily on the old hardware.

Official support for Sierra ends September 2019 and, presumably, High Sierra will be around September 2020. That would mean 12 years of support for that hardware. Support for 12 years is pretty good and I am only irritated by the lack of further support because it seems to be artificially enforced given the aforementioned supported spec.

I have to confess that I have a newer machine that is a Hackintosh. That is an acquired taste but I did it because there was no path available where I could have an Apple machine with user upgradeable and replaceable components. I had a sketchy graphics card in the iMac which I only realised was a recall item after the recall ended. It promptly shat itself shortly thereafter. I would have preferred to be able to replace the component myself but didn't have a clean-room to remove the screen and dick about with the internal layout and custom card form factor. This machine will last a very long time and would only be hindered on the macOS front by a change in architecture from x86 to ARM.

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Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

I have a 5k iMac that is just over 3 years old. Cost £2,000 and needs a new main logic board. At a cost of £580.80 which is the price of a whole computer in the windows environment.

I have serious doubts about the iMac design. For anything other than a controlled 20 degree Celsius temperature controlled environment I think they simply end up burning themselves out. My graphics card shat itself. You've got a logic board issue. I simply think they end up running too hot thereby shortening their components' lifespan. They need to come out with a new modular desktop box. The iMac Pro may have plenty of power but I'd wager that using it regularly will come at a heavy cost (excluding purchase price).

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Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

These days? I'm not so sure. Apple's hardware is pretty reliable, but the fact that modern Macs are increasingly soldered together and unupgradable means that "planned obsolescence" is increasingly built into them.

To be fair, with 4 Thundebolt 3 ports you have upgrade paths for GPU and fast storage covered. This was not possible before in the older generations that had Firewire 800 and USB 2. You need only worry about whether the RAM is soldered in. As for the CPU, you should always think a little forward when buying.

Your chief concern would be making sure operating temps remain under control. Do so and these should last a fair while.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

Heat killed 2 out of 2 iMacs our department had. The fans just got louder and louder and even taking it to bits and vacumming the thing out didn't help in the end. It was non recoverable and so a whole machine including the massive monitor was out. I'm sure we could have spent some time getting various bit repaired but time was too short. Swapped for a Mac mini and a standalone (non-Apple) monitor.

Eventually moved the Mac mini over to a mini PC.

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Windows

Not bad

Looking at it the price is up but not by much when you look at it as a workstation the make or break for me would be how noisy it is when you are thrashing it.

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Re: Not bad

Yeah, for me too. If I have a Hoover of a computer in my small office, I’d have to wear headphones the whole time... I’m looking to replace my MBR 15 with something that supports high definition screens and is quiet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not bad

If it's all SSDs, then the only noise is the fan. Which, assuming the design is the same as previous Minis, is very, very quiet.

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At Amis, re: noise while thrashing.

It depends on what you thrash it with & how hard you beat on it.

A foam pool noodle & light bonking won't get much, but a nail studded Cricket bat & full-on-power-smashing usually gets lots of screams...

And from the Mini too!

*Cough*

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Re: Not bad

DELL precision 5510 about 1200 quid, 32GB RAM, 256GB SSD, can drive 2 4k external displays.

Supports USB-C external dock - so single USB-C cable provides, power/ network / displays / esata / usb.

Mine came with dell flavoured ubuntu (14.04).

I run VMs and C++ workloads and it's a decent mobile workstation, which replaced my 2013 MacTop.

If you get it, get the dock. and the 180 watt power supply as the laptop will require 130 watt of supply over and above the draw of the dock itself.

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Re: Not bad

> DELL precision 5510 about 1200 quid, 32GB RAM, 256GB SSD, can drive 2 4k external displays.

Now you're comparing oranges to potatoes. Mini is not nor meant to replace a laptop. Despite having had MacBook Pro's since G4 days, my next laptop will be Thinkpad running Linux. Just don't know which ThinkPad yet.

Reason to switch - Apple's decision to glue / bond everything to chassis - I cannot even replace the liquid damaged keyboard without having to buy a new chassis.

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Re: Not bad

I don’t mind the odd krrckssskrrrk of harddrive, it’s actually a nice noise. No, when my old mini does makemkv and handbrake it sounds like I’m on the launch pad of an aircraft carrier.

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Re: Not bad, Did not offer an opinion on the Mac Mini fwiw.

Not comparing against MacMini - OP asked for a macbook replacement, " I’m looking to replace my MBR 15 with something that supports high definition screens and is quiet."

I recommended the machine I used as a macbook replacement.

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Len
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Happy

That £3,859.00 BTO version Andrew is talking about...

...has:

* 3.2GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz)

* 64GB 2666MHz DDR4

* 2TB SSD storage

* 10 Gigabit Ethernet (Nbase-T Ethernet with support for 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb and 10Gb Ethernet using RJ‑45 connector)

Quite amazing to have the above in such a small package.

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Re: That £3,859.00 BTO version Andrew is talking about...

And as Apple doesn't have a great reputation when it comes to hot hungry CPUs in small places, it will most likely throttle itself big time making it a waste of money.

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Re: That £3,859.00 BTO version Andrew is talking about...

... and you could save a few pound by buying the RAM elsewhere.

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Re: That £3,859.00 BTO version Andrew is talking about...

This style of machine tends to be a problem regardless of who makes it. It's an inherently bad combination of design choices for a power hungry machine.

I had 3 similar boxes from 3 different vendors (including Apple) that all failed the same way for basically the same reason.

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Holmes

My cost of living

never seems to keep up with new and shiny gizmos. I wouldn't mind a decent spec'd mac minis to replace the Mac Pros I'm running ESXi on. I'm sure there would be power savings, but would it offset the cost of new mac minis?

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Mac OS X Server isn't what it used to be

As your colleague pointed out - https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/29/farewell_to_macos_server/ - a few months ago, Mac OS X Server has been thoroughly gutted. Gone are the mail server, web server, VPN, and more. It's now just a tool for administering other Mac and iOS devices.

Of course you can still use a Mac Mini as a departmental server; but you'll need third party tools, and you can no longer expect Apple to support your efforts.

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Re: Mac OS X Server isn't what it used to be

It's not just the software either. Your options for server hardware should not be iMac or Mac Mini form factors with single hard drive, or Mac Pro with multiple drives (assuming you use one of the older tower type not the new sexy cylinder jobs).

Want a server with enough storage physically attached to store the user profiles and work of a few hundred plus users? Yeah no help there sorry, you'll have to run a Mac Mini to manage the the users and then a Windows/Linux/BSD server or dedicated NAS/SAN appliance for the storage.

Want your server virtualised, as per industry standard operations these days, to help improve reliability and downtime (forget costs this is Apple we're talking about), nope sorry.

Most of us are left having to manage network users on Macs through Active Directory, with maybe a Mac "server" thrown in for extra functionality if required.

Maybe Boris Johnson is secretly running Apple, given the "F*** business" attitude that seems to be prevalent.

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Re: Mac OS X Server isn't what it used to be

I guess you can use it also as a build server, if you write software for macOS.

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Facepalm

Re: Mac OS X Server isn't what it used to be

@Buzzword

Damn, you are right... I checked my install at home, it's running 10.11.6(as far as she goes!) and it has server 5.2 which still has all of those great things, mail, calendar, contacts mail messages, vpn, websites etc... Jump to the Appstore to see what's current, and I'll be damned! I don't see any of those services in "Server.app" any longer. What a waste...

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Unhappy

Re: Mac OS X Server isn't what it used to be

I am almost certain all those services you listed are there, just not easily visible by default. But I agree, Apple is doing us a disservice by making OS X server less relevant.

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Naysayers ...

... all seem to be vociferous Windows advocates - the same old childish dribble.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Naysayers ...

>... all seem to be vociferous Windows advocates - the same old childish dribble.

Nope, us Linux folks also think appletards are soft in the head and the wallet.

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Re: Naysayers ...

It’s human to be afraid of what you don’t know.

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Re: Naysayers ...

"Nope, us Linux folks also think appletards are soft in the head and the wallet."

Not all of us Linux folks.

Some years ago, I decided to get a Mac for my wife, as I didn't really expect her to use my Linux box. Since OS X is Unix and has a terminal app with bash shell, I decided to have a play with it to see what it was like. Surprisingly I found myself using the Mac more and more, until my Linux machine was starting to gather dust. I ended up just using Linux all day at work, and Macs at home. I still resent paying the Apple Tax though. Until this new Mac Mini, I was thinking that my next machine might be a home-built dual-boot OS X / Linux hackintosh, but I'm not sure now that it's worth the effort of hacking/patching ACPI tables to get a stable hackintosh when I could just buy one of these.

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Re: Naysayers ...

"Nope, us Linux folks also think appletards are soft in the head and the wallet."

Nothing soft about my wallet thankyouverymuch

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Re: Naysayers ...

Exactly the same thing. I fought the idea of buying Apple products ever since my old ][c died. Couldn't game on one, couldn't justify the tax, hated the interface, etc. My wife is an artist and wanted to use a Mac because, art! I decided that despite her desire for a new, shiny iMac 27" with 1440 vertical resolution, I'd just build her a nice PC that could do all the same stuff for less (this was 2010). Except that I couldn't. By the time I spec'd the machine to be equally as powerful, RAM, HD, etc. then priced out a similar size and resolution display, the closest I could come was $100 less than the iMac. Without an OS. While I'd be happy to run Linux, there's no way the wife was going to do art on a Linux box. Soo... I reluctantly spent the money for a nice iMac in 2010 and hated it. Hated having to use it as our home computer (shared) at the time. Until, one day, the interface started making more sense, the terminology stuck, the keyboard commands started staying in my memory, etc. Now, I type this on a 2016 MBP (prior to the butterfly abomination keyboards, etc.). I have replaced her 27" with a 5k 27", and my 2012 Mac mini has been upgraded to 16gb of RAM with two SSDs and still takes everything I throw at it despite running 24/7. None of my PCs lasted more than a couple of years at best. The only Mac I've killed was the iMac I sheared the monitor mount off the logic board on when attempting to upgrade it to an SSD. I'll pay for Mac repairs to iMacs from now on... Apple makes some bad calls. Butterfly Keyboards are terrible, the 2 core Mac minis from last gen were way underpowered, etc. But for the most part, their stuff lasts, doesn't require reboots every seven hours come out of sleep mode without a hitch, and are pleasing to the eyes. This new Mini has me wondering if there's a way to justify replacing the 2012 quad core mini I have running as my Plex server/desktop/handbrake/makeMKV machine.

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Devil

Re: Naysayers ...

> It’s human to be afraid of what you don’t know.

What makes you think we haven't "been there" and done that? What makes you think we haven't been there and done that multiple times going all the way back to the 68K days?

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Re: Naysayers ...

I found Apple style apps too limiting and it seemed silly to run mostly Free Software on a non-libre OS.

The subtle gratuitous differences in MacOS just annoyed the other users in my household. Lack o of that "pervasive 3rd party support" also didn't help.

Then there's that whole problem with doing something slightly "creative". Apple users don't seem to appreciate power users that push boundaries. Windows the OS may be crap but the user community is far less pedestrian.

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Re: Naysayers ...

... but the free-loads tend to be a little more well-informed and civilised (well, with a few exceptions) than the average Windows advocate/lobbyist.

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Windows

some of these comments get on my wick

Can we stop all the Apple basing .... it's tedious.

All this willy waving about it not being powerful enough for your use case is just juvenile bollocks. Well done, you can find a higher spec machine for less money - you must be hung like a blue whale - happy now ?

If people knowingly want to spend more on a Mac - let them. Some folk waste money on flash cars or fancy meals ....

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TRT
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Re: some of these comments get on my wick

I think there's a few people on here who like to troll the dedicated Apple users and get some perverse pleasure out of doing so. I call it Macsterbaiting.

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Re: some of these comments get on my wick

I think the issue is that many comments are bigging up the plus points, and are blind to the faults of their chosen platform.

In many cases it's not facts, it's feelings.

Where there *are* facts, people don't have the same set of priorities.

Reminds me of something...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: some of these comments get on my wick

>Macsterbaiting.

I thought that's what iTards did when they received their latest new fruit ?

At least you're making Tim O'Grady's Paul Cook's day.

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Re: some of these comments get on my wick<

I think there's a few people on here who like to troll the dedicated Apple users and get some perverse pleasure out of doing so. I call it Macsterbaiting.

So it that what all of you Apple fainbois get up to at night?

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Re: some of these comments get on my wick<

Read the context you ermm macsterbaiter...

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Apple mini for the price of an Alienware gaming rig with i7/16GB/PCIe M.2 SSD/1070Ti

Apple an be admired for the ability to punch people in the face and get boat loads of money in return :).

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Re: Apple mini for the price of an Alienware gaming rig with i7/16GB/PCIe M.2 SSD/1070Ti

"Apple mini for the price of an Alienware gaming rig with i7/16GB/PCIe M.2 SSD/1070Ti"

Doesn't matter. You might as well say "Apple mini for the price of a three piece suite" - if you're in the market for a Mac, an Alienware gaming rig isn't going to be a suitable alternative.

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Please sir - I want some more...

We bought an original line Mac Mini G4 when they were first released. We were tired of Win2k/XP and really wanted a change; something capable and elegant yet fun.

The base model seemed good value even if a little more pricey than the equivalent spec PC. The promise of an essentially open sourced OS plus a generally willing attitude to make stuff work nicely - especially with our Nokia S40 & S60 phones - was a big factor in deciding to quit MS/PC land. Its ability to work with HD video as standard was definitely a big plus and, if we remember rightly again, ahead of its time.

There was even a complementing DTV/Firewire receiver which Apple marketed with gusto at the time (although this has sunk without trace since) as a well as the Griffin FireWave - a 5.1 Dolby AC3 interface. We couldn't afford it at the time but the promise of having a novel and capable home theatre/gaming platform was certainly something to look forward to.

Plus it could run Halo!

Upgrades were pricey: If memory serves it cost us £399 for the base model with 512MB RAM and the basic superdrive which could read but not write DVDs. The options for 1GB and DVD burner were outrageously expensive - another £150 or so. We waited about a year and fitted our own RAM and optical upgrade for less than £50.

It served us well as our main desktop and did loads of photo's and video which would have been more tedious on a PC platform. But when Apple hobbled it after just a couple of years by ending support for PowerPC - no Snow Leopard too - we couldn't really see sense in plowing more money Apples way. It's a shame because the rest of the world was really warming up to the Apple ecosystem at the time with hardware & peripheral support getting better.

We considered an upgrade, perhaps to the iMac, but with Steve Jobs' stubborn refusal to incorporate Blu-Ray into the range we decided not to bother with Apple any further.

Our Mac Mini still lives on as a basic file and print server and it works delightfully still. But with the initial outlay and its subsequent assassination by Apple we can't help feeling we deserved better for the dosh - maybe we're not alone?

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Never a budget option?

I am typing this on my late 2012 unibody MacMini. I bought it just before they refreshed the line in 2014 and made it far worse... no quad-core option, less upgradability.

It cost less than £500 for an i7 with 8Gb RAM (which I upgraded). That was a bargain really for a Mac.

So what does the new one get me for all the extra cash? 1Tb SSD as standard? Proper GPU? And can I still upgrade the disk and RAM or have they dropped that feature? Mine is a little erratic and I have thought about replacing it so this is good timing - but for "comfortably over £1000" maybe I might as well get a MacBook or iMac?

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Anonymous Coward

re. I had a front-row seat in 2005 when the Mac mini was launched*

presumably, given the star leading to a black hole, this must have been the moment when Mr Orlowski asked THE question which has made the register so famous worldwide for being not blacklisted (and yet!) by apple :)

Or was it calling them a "Cult" more than once? (A fair assessment! :)

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Windows

Re: re. I had a front-row seat in 2005 when the Mac mini was launched*

Whatever happened to Front Row, eh? It was perfect for a Mac Mini so of course Apple got rid of it.

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mini TOSLINK gone?

When I looked at it, the specs seem to imply that the combination headphone/microphone/mini-toslink port is now just a headphone/microphone port. That means my only option for digital audio output may be the HDMI port, which is a lot harder to split into two channels to send into both zone A and zone B of my stereo system.

I like several aspects of the unit, but that item does concern me if confirmed.

Of course, my late 2014 mac mini shows no sign of needing replacement any year soon, so by the time I do replace it, Apple may have another unit out, and my (already ten year old) stereo may be ready for a replacement as well.

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Really, Mr. Orlowski

A quick trip to Apple's Website would tell you that the current (2017 vintage) iMac models offer a headphone jack, 4 x USB-3 ports, 2 x USB-C ports, and a Gbit Ethernet RJ-45 port — and an SDXC card slot. Admittedly, no HDMI port, but with an inbuilt Retina display that's better than anything standalone display of the same size you can find....

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Where as the Mac Mini might be a well made a decent bit of kit, it is NOT a server. (Although apple price it like it is)

It reminds me of when I used to work for a local education authority around 15 years ago, we used to get schools going with cheaper quotes from other IT business for 'servers' for the school network than the ones we would provide.

When you went out an looked at what they had bought, they were just a PC in a tower case and often no better specs than the ones they had on the desks for the students to use, but with Windows server installed on it. And they wondered why they would begin to fail after a couple of years of being left running 24/7, right after any warranty they had with the original company had ran out.

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Meh

There's no reason for a Mac Mini to not have held its price since the 2005 launch

Compare and contrast with Intel NUCs and similar.

If they're hoping that people will buy a Mac Mini because of its operating system, they could at least put some effort into that as well. So far all that seems to change is an extra 0.5 GB of RAM required per major release.

But given that NUCs and Macs have similar hardware, NUCs are easily Hackintoshable.

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