back to article The late 2014 Apple Mac Mini: The best (and worst) of both worlds

The Mac Mini is a machine I half expected Apple to quietly drop. The decline of the desktop personal computer business in general, and the fact that you’ll never see a Mac Mini as a prominent piece of product placement, means this miniature micro is unlikely to ever to hold a place in Apple's heart like the iMac. Apple Mac …

  1. JDX Gold badge

    "But at least it used to be a doddle to expand the previous incarnation’s memory: rotate the base, unclip the Wi-Fi card’s antenna, unscrew a metal plate, and there’s your RAM slot."

    That's not even nearly true. You simply rotate the base, and the RAM is RIGHT THERE (in the 2012 model anyway).

    I also very much doubt Yosemite is really using 7Gb of RAM out of the box.

  2. jason 7

    Just what were you running exactly???

    "Even with only a handful of basic applications open, this Mini is already consuming just under 7GB of the installed eight."

    I only get that kind of RAM use in Windows if I'm running two or three VMs etc.

    Usual daily usage averages around 3.5GB of the 16GB I have.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Just what were you running exactly???

      He's probably including cache memory?

    2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Just what were you running exactly???

      I use both OSX and Windows, and have to say Windows is now far less RAM-hungry than OS X is.

      I can understand the reviewer's mistaken comment about OS X being "leaner" than Windows, because once upon a time this was indeed the case (10.5/10.6 versus Vista). It's just that since then, Apple's middle-aged-spread has coincided with Microsoft's serious performance improvements in Windows 7 and 8.

      1. Oninoshiko

        Re: Just what were you running exactly???

        I'm glad I'm not this only who found this... odd. Even running a number of not-at-all-basic programs (anyone remember when we had programs, not little apps?) I stay under 8G, on a 16G machine.

      2. Zane
        FAIL

        So how do you measure this?

        "Microsoft's serious performance improvements in Windows 7"

        I wonder where you get this from. Yes, Win7 is faster than XP. However, running Linux Manjaro on the same machine lets Win7 look like a snail. And whenever I switch from Mac to Windows, I have this feeling "oops, did the machine just freeze?". Response time of mouse and keyboard is lousy, and when doing things fast in Outlook, you will see the machine gets locked for periods of up to 60 seconds. I love the spinning mouse pointer 8^(

        /Zane

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: So how do you measure this?

          Outlook is a complete pig but I suspect that its because its pulling stupid data from the server (other email recipients profile pictures) and suffering network/server latency.

          I still find the simplicity of mac mail in Snow Leopard a thing of beautiful simplicity. I'm happy with an email app passing calendar data to the calendar app, rather than trying to do everything in one program.

          If anything I get a bit annoyed at Window's apparent lack of cache-buffer usage. I have 32G RAM and things should fly, but apparently not.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just what were you running exactly???

        My iMac seems to have slowed down considerably since I upgraded the OS.

        I believe it might be the indexer that's slowing things down a lot in the upgrade.

        It's seems like OSX has become a pig just like Windows in the amount of bloatware in the OS.

        This is a huge disappointment.

        On the bright side, I had a 7 year old Dell which I upgraded from XP to Ubuntu.

        It now boots up faster than my wireless router and I can't believe how fast I can run the same Applications! It feels like I have a new machine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just what were you running exactly???

          "My iMac seems to have slowed down considerably since I upgraded the OS.

          I believe it might be the indexer that's slowing things down a lot in the upgrade."

          It is common for OS X upgrades to trigger a re-indexing of the machine. Leave it alone for an hour or two and your performance will return to normal.

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Just what were you running exactly???

          >On the bright side, I had a 7 year old Dell which I upgraded from XP to Ubuntu.

          Just don't forget to switch out the memory hog that is Unity for any one of a myriad of other leaner WM/DE for a double boost. In fact about the only *nix DE even close to Unity in bloat is KDE so its hard to do worse.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Just what were you running exactly???

            You'd be crazy to run one of the more demanding DEs on a machine from the XP era anyway.

            I found Gnome-shell the hardest resource-hit of Unity, KDE and Gnome. Mostly usable on a 2010 single-core AMD custom with 4GB Ram, except with video playback, which saw system struggle, may be due to underpowered embedded graphics, but KDE and Unity did not have the same issues.

            14.04 / 14.10 Unity runs great on an Atom N450 netbook with 2GB Ram, not quite so well with 1GB less though (dash,hud,workspace activation delays hampered its usability).

            If you don't have the whack for these three (or the several newish OSX-ish Gtk3 shells), theres, LXDE, XFCE, or Openbox, Blackbox, Fluxbox, WindowMaker, Pekwm, FVWM, JWM, Awesome, XMonad, i3, Herbstluftwm, Subtle, dwm, Scrotwm, Sawfish.......(or CLFSWM if you are really adventuresome).

        3. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re: Just what were you running exactly???

          My iMac seems to have slowed down considerably since I upgraded the OS.

          Don't upgrade (I'm making the bold assumption that your use of upgrade implies exactly that rather than fresh install) but clone the disk (if not using time machine), format, install, and migrate data etc back where possible. I've always found that in-place upgrades are a touch lack-lustre no matter whether it is Linux, OS X or Windows and generally result in the OS running slower.

      4. Alex Smithe

        Re: Just what were you running exactly???

        For software testing I create a lot of virtual machines, OS X and Windows, and to minimise the size of snapshots, I don't give them more memory than I need to, to do the job. And of course I have the flexibility to specify exactly the amount of RAM that I want.

        And guess what. I can make OS X 10.9 machines work with significantly smaller RAM than Windows 8. Not tried optimising for 10.10 yet, but straight off it doesn't look much different, though it will make use of more memory, when it's available.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just what were you running exactly???

      The way OS X handles memory is confusing. It allocates all available physical RAM to the software you're currently running and to the file cache. (What's the point of having the RAM if you don't use it?)

      So even if you're doing very little, it will appear that you have almost no memory available, [almost] regardless of how much RAM you have.

      But really, the memory can quickly be repurposed and running more software (or otherwise using more memory) is no problem.

      What's important is the "Memory Pressure" graph of Activity Monitor. If it's green, that means you effectively have free memory and don't have to worry, regardless of what the numbers say.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    FAIL

    To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

    And it's got no upgradable RAM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

      Neither had the PS3 but that was used for such purposes.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

      They don't market it as a server now but why would that need upgradable RAM, when you can spec it up with the most RAM it can support? That's a cost issue, not a spec issue.

      More importantly, which the article didn't obviously mention(?) is that you cannot buy a quad-core Mini any more. That really hurts for use as a serious desktop or server. My guess is Apple realised the Mini is predominantly used as a media server or basic desktop and doesn't need those things.

      Personally, I immediately bought the cheapest quad-core 2012 Mini from my local store while I still could - I was waiting for a refresh to buy a Mini for fear of buying an older spec, but it turned out the opposite. If I'd known in advance, I might've bought up a load of them and sold them on for a tidy profit!

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Mushroom

        Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

        > They don't market it as a server now but why would that need upgradable RAM,

        Even my last Atari didn't have it's RAM soldered onto the main board.

        A machine doesn't need to be a server. Maintainability and repairability is useful for ANY kind of machine. This is especially true given the fact that OS upgrades tend to demand more out of existing hardware. Plus tech tends to get cheaper over time making various kinds of upgrades more feasible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

          servers on sale

          http://store.apple.com/uk/product/G0NQ0B/A/refurbished-mac-mini-23ghz-quad-core-Intel-Core-i7-with-oS-X-Server

          but its £779 refurb!

          oops, it went in 3 minutes!

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

        Why would you need upgradable RAM? Because you have one set of requirements and then they change or the part goes wrong.

        If you don't think buying extra RAM is reasonable then I assume that replacing a hard drive with a SSD is also out of the question.

    3. Aqua Marina Silver badge

      Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

      They no longer market it as a server machine. They will however let existing and future Mac owners buy the server software for $15

      The real reason for this crippled machine is the current Mac Mini was a threat to the new Mac Pro black-circular-ash-tray edition.

      I was buying Mac Mini quad cores up until last week. And replacing the 4GB ram with 16, and the internal 5400rpm hard disk with a 1TB ssd. This came in under half the cost of the lowest spec Mac Pro, and out performed it. It was irrelevant to me that I'm invalidating the warranty, because of the savings I've made by doing this for an entire floor.

      I can't have been the only person who was doing this because of the stupidly high costs of the Mac Pro.

      Apples response is to do away with the quad core edition, reduce it to a 2 core range and remove the RAM upgrade option. In the new Mac Mini I'm still able to upgrade the HD to an SSD quite easily, but the CPU speed is still 60% of the previous model.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

        Your Mac Mini has a better GPU than the Pro?

        1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

          Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

          For photo editing in Photoshop, it doesn't need to.

        2. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

          Your Mac Mini has a better GPU than the Pro?

          Who gives a fuck? If it even has a screen attached that is generally an indication it isn't a true server but somebody's workstation with a few server apps on it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

          @JDX: Exactly, there's no way the graphics would be better and it's unlikely that the 1TB SATA SSD is going to outperform the PCI-e 1.28GB/s one found in the Mac Pro. It may well outperform on a pure CPU only benchmark though.

          1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

            Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

            In my particular circumstance, each user generates about 200GB of photoshop and illustrator per week. We don't work on new projects from one week to the next, so having a 1TB SSD allows us to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Using the cheapest Mac Pro we would have to archive off to external disc more frequently, or buy larger hard disks. As an example opening an illustrator generated catalog from SATA 5400 RPM disk takes about 10 minutes, opening it from the SSD takes about 40 seconds. Without spending aditional money we can have additional projects going on simultaneously on the cheaper Mac Mini.

            In simple terms I'll repeat that the Mac Mini is outperforming the cheapest Mac Pro, and it costs half the amount.

    4. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Gimp

      Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

      What, a 5400 RPM disc, when we've used 15000 RPM part since the turn of the century? 1 Gb Ethernet that has been around for an equally long time?

      1. Alex Smithe

        Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

        "What, a 5400 RPM disc, when we've used 15000 RPM part since the turn of the century?"

        A modern 5400 drive will stream sequential data faster than a 2000AD 15000 RPM drive. And if you need fast random access, the only way to go is SSD. So there is little justification, and little use of, 15000 RPM drives these days.

        "1 Gb Ethernet that has been around for an equally long time?"

        You can run IP over Thunderbolt. The new Mac Mini had 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports. So 20G IP twice over. Should cluster well.

    5. Alex Smithe

      Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

      My wife bought a car with no place for, and with no, spare wheel.

      When I questioned the wisdom of this, she pointed out that if she had a flat she had no intention of replacing the wheel herself, and hasn't had a flat in the last 150,000 miles of motoring. Things change. Time was I used to carry a spare head gasket and needed it more often than that.

      Apple just radically dropped the price of the mini. My wife wasn't offered 20% of the price of the car for not having a spare wheel.

      Last Mac Mini I bought, I bought with maximum memory that the chipset could support. So how much good did the extra cost and reduced reliability of the socketed memory do me?

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: To think Apple once marketed the Mini as a server machine (do they still do that)?

        My wife bought a car with no place for, and with no, spare wheel.

        When I questioned the wisdom of this, she pointed out that if she had a flat she had no intention of replacing the wheel herself, and hasn't had a flat in the last 150,000 miles of motoring. Things change.

        Sorry, but that logic is just retarded. It equally means that nobody can help you out either. You are waiting for a tow-truck or repairman regardless and may be doing so for a rather long time. Depending on your model of vehicle it may contain an odd-ball tyre size that isn't as widely stocked as you think. If towed it may be to a repair shop rather than your home or destination. If you get a flat on a public holiday or late night/early morning you are equally screwed.

  4. James 51 Silver badge

    The mini is the only mac to make me think I'd like that (and then probably stick *nix on it). The locked down configuration is too much of a draw back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's already *nix. Proper Unix, not Lunix.

      1. Wyrdness

        For desktop *nix, OS X is so far ahead that I've given up hoping that Linux will ever catch it.

        Though for server *nix, OS X is a complete non-starter.

        Much as I love Linux (and use it all day long at work), I still reluctantly pay the 'Apple Tax' and put up with the almost non-upgradable hardware for my home machines, just so that I can enjoy the best deskop OS.

        1. Gunnar Wolf

          Depends on your view...

          At some point, I bought two Macs. I could barely stand the usability of their desktop compared to my traditional Linux environments (and no, I'm not a GNOME or KDE person, I use just a tiling window manager with various applications).

          Maybe a month after I bought both Macs, they both were reinstalled with Linux. And nowadays, several years later, whenever I sit at a Mac, I have to accept the desktop is beautifully unusable. Hell, even give me Windows anyday, I'll take it over MacOS.

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Re: Depends on your view...

            > At some point, I bought two Macs. I could barely stand the usability of their desktop compared to my traditional Linux environments

            Same here. I used Macs as Linux based HTPCs back when that made more sense. Tech moved along quickly and those Minis quickly became obsolete. After that, I had some Macs to play with so I could properly put MacOS through it's paces.

            Suddenly I wasn't interested in recommending Macs to rubes anymore. I was far less impressed with MacOS and Apple software than I thought I would be.

            Although, being stuck using Apple hardware is the single biggest disadvantage of using MacOS. Apple does it's best to ignore sound engineering decisions to favor unmaintainable novelty form factors.

            This blast from the past 80s style soldered on RAM is just more of Apple's usual nonsense.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Depends on your view...

            Installed Linux? To replace a solid BSD? Just because you did not know Xcode includes a full X11 WM and twm? Did n't know about Ports? Or, just get X11 from the usual sites and install it. If you must have Linux to play with, just install a free or paid for virtual machine software package.

            I can not take your opinion of OS X (or Linux) seriously.

            1. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: Depends on your view...

              >To replace a solid BSD?

              And there was me thinking OSX was built on MACH...

              OSX just makes things hard, like trying to do NFS. I tried sharing out an iTunes directory over samba and getting Amarok to suck it in. It didn't go well with (I think) samba on OSX falling over a lot. I rsync'ed the same content to a linux and shared out over NFS and it was so fast I thought it had failed. I think mostly the problem is that so few people use OSX for server tasks, things aren't well tested. There's no FLOSS ISCSI for OSX either as far as I can tell.

              If you want a *nix-like OS for the desktop, I'd go with linux. You can do the others, but its just harder, especially if you have to compile the stuff on ageing hardware. It tried it on a dual cpu G5. KDE took around 14 hours to compile and then it failed. Debian (not my favourite distro), on the other hand, works fine. If you have specific server-type stuff, BSD could be more stable there. X on OSX is a second-class citizen. It's horrifically slow, especially over the network, even gigabit.

              With recent developments, I'd go with Linux over OSX for gaming too. Thanks Valve and all you indie devs!

              Regarding the new model though, it says something when releasing a new model sends prices for the old one through the roof.

      2. NogginTheNog
        FAIL

        "Proper Unix, not Lunix"

        Of course it's petty rivalry and "my version is better than yours" that ultimately killed off the many Unixes as mass market contenders. Ironically it took 'not proper' Linux and FOSS to revitalise what was otherwise a dying architectural cul-de-sac.

        1. Alex Smithe

          Re: "Proper Unix, not Lunix"

          "...that ultimately killed off the many Unixes as mass market contenders..."

          The only 'proper' Unix that was ever a mass market contender was and is OS X. Free BSD is great, but not mass market. Solaris, A/UX, AIX ... never mass market contenders.

      3. JEDIDIAH
        Mushroom

        > It's already *nix. Proper Unix, not Lunix.

        Only to idiots that have never touched a "proper Unix" ever and only care about this stuff as some kind of lame marketing bullet point.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @JEDIDIAH

          You are wrong.

          I suppose you have never worked on a real BSD or Sys V system. I have, since Vax 750s, Pyramids, the first Suns in the 1980s, since working as a developer and designer for one of the larger computer makers in the 1980s and 1990s on a BSD4.3 derivative and many more, including Solaris and Linux today.

          OSX is a fair implementation of BSD. But how would you know?

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Apple would probably think (if they cared to) that the fact you haven't taken the plunge previously probably means you weren't likely to this time either. Therefore no lost sale.

      Unfortunately for those of us who like that stuff - I suspect Apple will continue down the path of less and less user upgradeability.

    3. Alex Smithe

      Locked down?

      What exactly of you imagine is locked down?

      As an Admin user, open a terminal window and type

      sudo su

      and give your password.

      How locked down to you imagine you now are?

      You even know how to use it. Some of Linux's code may not have been stolen from Unix, but all of the underlying command syntax was.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can understand the Mac Mini being non-upgradable, but the Macbook Pro?

    1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Gimp

      Upgradability

      I understand the Macbook Pro is a laptop; enough said.

      Now why didn't they design the Mac Pro so that there's no room for expansion like discs or PCI cards? It comes with one two year old processor and a measly 64 GB or RAM.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Upgradability

        My guess is that they envision that any such upgrades would occur via Thunderbolt and would be contained in an external unit of great beauty. The processor can be upgraded though and it can have 2 graphics cards internally.

        I think that they figure that most units will be used as is and that anything else is likely to be an external component addressed by the 6 Thunderbolt ports etc.

  6. Mage Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Laptop

    It's a laptop without the keyboard and screen built into the case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laptop

      The problem being?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Laptop

        I don't think it runs a laptop CPU. At least the 2012 one doesn't.

        It also doesn't use laptop RAM or laptop hard disk (from what little I know about laptop parts) given that you can fit a standard desktop SATA SSD.

        And laptop motherboards don't generally have 4 USB3 sockets.

        1. Jay 2
          Unhappy

          Re: Laptop

          From my brief research into the latest Mini, Intel classify the the CPU options (I5-4260U, I5-4278U, I5-4308U, I7-4578U) as "Mobile" opposed to "Desktop".

          http://ark.intel.com/products/family/75024/4th-Generation-Intel-Core-i5-Processors#@Mobile

          http://ark.intel.com/products/family/75023/4th-Generation-Intel-Core-i7-Processors#@Mobile

          Given the latest 15" rMBP comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M and potentially a zippier CPU (when fully spec'd), it does have some sub-laptop looks about it. Annoying, as I'm thinking of buying a new Mini.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Laptop

            Interesting. I wonder if that's a new thing or if they did this previously? It would make sense given that low power use and less need for cooling are important on the Mini.

        2. rh587

          Re: Laptop

          "I don't think it runs a laptop CPU. At least the 2012 one doesn't.

          It also doesn't use laptop RAM or laptop hard disk (from what little I know about laptop parts) given that you can fit a standard desktop SATA SSD."

          The 2012 Mac Minis did indeed come with Mobile CPUs, Laptop RAM and 2.5" HDDs - easily replaceable with 2.5" SATA SSDs.

          The current one comes with a -U series Haswell, which is classed as Mobile, and - in the Fusion Drive configuration - a 2.5" HDD tucked underneath the PCIe Flash stick.

          They're quite right, it's a laptop without a screen or peripherals. it used to be quite a modular laptop where you could slot in a second 2.5" drive next to the stock one, change it for an SSD or add your own RAM. Now you can change out the PCIe flash and whatever sits in the SATA bay, but that's it.

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Laptop

            "They're quite right, it's a laptop without a screen or peripherals."

            I can't remember where I read this but "think MacBook Air without the laptop bits".

            For the base model, the mini processor specs look awfully like the MacBook Air processor specs.

            P.S. for lurking pedants: If you look carefully, Apple refer to it as the "Mac mini" rather than "Mac Mini".

        3. Gunnar Wolf

          Re: Laptop

          Well, the main justification for using a slow 5400RPM HDD is the lower power consumption. I label that as a laptop part.

          Also, for a MacOS machine, shipping with embedded graphics seems to follow a similar reasoning. MacOS machines do a lot of compositing, even if just for the base desktop tasks, and do get benefit from a "proper" independent video card.

  7. Jerome

    "There’s a problem for users with Firewire peripherals too: Apple has dropped the Firewire 800 port it had placed on the back of the 2012 model. In its place is a second Thunderbolt port".

    That "problem" should easily be fixed with 25£, which is the cost of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Firewire adapter :-)

    http://store.apple.com/uk/product/MD464ZM/A/thunderbolt-to-firewire-adapter?fnode=51

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Devil

      Huh? WTF?

      > That "problem" should easily be fixed with 25£, which is the cost of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Firewire adapter :-)

      Did you actually read that page? It's full of one star reviews.

  8. Jay 2
    Meh

    My 2008 Mac Pro is getting slightly long in the tooth, and OS X 10.9 has already started to move beyond the capabilities of the hardware, so I doubt 10.10 will be better. So I'm on the lookout for a replacement. The new Mac Pro is out for more than 2500 reasons and I'm not a huge fan of iMacs.

    So am seriously thinking of getting one if these (fully spec'd up i7, 16GB RAM). To be honest I really want to be able to run Elite Dangerous (Bootcamp or native), and I should just be able to get away with this I think. My biggest concern is storage, going from a box with 4 internal disks down to 1. So I'm going to have to have various other Thunderbolt/USB3 disks hanging about to get close to the same as I have now. It's not so much the space, but ensuring that a disk failure doesn't completely wipe me out. I really wish Apple would make something that at least took 2 disks, but that's obviously not going to happen...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      so be sensible and build a proper pc for shit loads less cash...

    2. Stacy

      Crashplan?

      If your concern is disk failure wiping you out then why not do off site backup rather than multiple disks?

      That way you can have a single backup disk at home, and off site back up for if everything should die.

      I used to have lots of back-up disks for the same reason, until I realised that if anything happened to the house I would still lose everything... (Obviously not the biggest problem at the time of it happenning, but would not be great once you are on your feet again).

    3. Mark 65 Silver badge

      I've long been of the opinion that the only way forward is Hackintosh. The attractiveness of the Mini is destroyed by soldered on RAM and no upgrade path. It is unfortunate it is hard to replicate. The Mac Mini + display always seemed a better option than the iMac unless you needed the GPU (which unfortunately I did). The Mac Pro is therefore the only true desktop remaining but the cost is eye-watering and potentially only justified by design houses. The old tower design is certainly easy to replace with something in a much smaller Lian Li or Fractal Design casing. It is definitely what will replace my iMac - the premium is now just insulting.

  9. cyclical

    For the last 10 years or so we've been using Mac Minis as development servers, and iMacs as desktops - and I kind of have a soft spot for the Mini. While we're hard pressed to get more than 4 years service out of an iMac (indeed we have a cupboard full of broken ones - mostly overheating issues), the Mac Minis just seem to keep on going. We still have a PowerPC version, and while the plastic is now yellowed and starting to crack a little, it's still gives a solid 24 hours a day, happily running batch tasks and database duty.

    The plan going forwards is to transition entirely to Minis with non-apple 27" screens attached - much the same functionality for far less money.

  10. Chas

    Still a great little machine but...

    I'm so glad I got my maxed-out 2012 mini a few months ago. This puppy punches well about its weight. As to the amount of memory it uses, well at the moment I've got 460MB free out of 16GB—that might seem like very little but in actuality, just over 7GB is being used by apps, there's nearly 7GB in the File Cache and when you look at Memory Pressure, Apple's nifty tool for consolidating the various kinds of memory into one easy to read graph, it stubbornly stays green. I've never seen it get to amber even when giving the box a righteous thrashing and the whole machine remains very responsive.

    It's a pity that there's no longer a quad core option but I think that's down to the Haswell quad cores having a different socket, which would necessitate Apple building two different logic boards. All in all, it's a pretty good refresh of the line and the lower price points make it attractive for the first-time buyer.

  11. Bruce Hoult

    Yes, it's very sad that there is no quad core option now. However I don't think it was Apple's choice to make :(

    If you check the aforementioned I5-4260U, I5-4278U, I5-4308U, I7-4578U CPUs you'll find they all use the BGA-1168 socket and the I7-4578U is the newest and highest spec'd chip for that socket. In order to sell a quad core machine Apple would have to use a different motherboard, which isn't really sensible for what would no doubt be a low volume machine, even as Minis go.

    The quad core chips at the moment use socket BGA-1224. (and have a 35W TDP rather than 28W, but that shouldn't be a show stopper).

    I'm sympathetic to the argument that you can build a PC cheaper. My current (i7 4790k) and previous (i7 860) OS X work machines have been home build Hackintoshes using the fastest chip available -- and then overclocking it -- at a fraction of Mac Pro (or even iMac) price.

    However, the iMac is very small unobtrusive and quiet. These new ones also use *6* Watts when sitting idle (http://support.apple.com/en-us/ht3468), which is what most home servers do most of the time. My home made PCs use around 75W sitting idle. Over the course of a year that's a difference of 600 kWh, or about 100 quid less electricity for the Mini. As the 1.4 GHz one only costs 400 quid in the first place, you're probably ahead vs a home made PC within two years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the past, the Mac Mini used the same processors as those that you would find in the MacBook Pro line. Apple decided to change that for 2014. If they could get a higher TDP processor in A MacBook Pro, they could have in the Mac Mini as well. Intel even offers a customizable TDP. It was a decision Apple made, don't defend them.

  12. Mike Bell

    Even with only a handful of basic applications open, this Mini is already consuming just under 7GB of the installed eight

    There's a common misconception that modern Macs are memory-hungry. It's not true - far from it. That's why the last two OS versions can run quite happily on pretty old hardware.

    In Yosemite (in fact since Mavericks) OS X has aggressively made use of the RAM at its disposal (unused RAM is wasted RAM). You would not believe how many users squeal in anguish when the amount of memory in use is indicated as high.

    OS X users should instead look at the "Memory Pressure" trace in Activity Monitor. If it stays in the green, you're OK.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      It's not quite that simple. Memory monitor always stayed green on our Mac, but the difference between 8GB and 16GB was unbelivable, even with only Lightroom and Photoshop open. With only 8GB, having mail and Safari open at the same time led to Photoshop basically hanging while importing from Lightroom, and Memory monitor still didn't say that there was a problem. I've seen older Mac Pros happily chewing through more than 48GB of RAM using Adobe CS.

      Not having upgradable RAM is a bit of a show stopper. When our Mac was bought, 16GB wasn't an option from Apple, and was barely available elsewhere. A year later and suddenly the upgrade option was available from many places. Buying a whole new machine just to change the RAM is plain wrong.

      1. tempemeaty

        "Buying a whole new machine just to change the RAM is plain wrong"

        I agree. That is wrong. I expect better from Apple.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          But now 16Gb IS available... and that's the maximum you can officially install. So unless you can actually cram in more than is supported (you could with some older MacBooks) things are a bit different.

          The main issue is simply it costs you more now. I'm not sure how much more though... Crucial sell 16Gb kits for £125 although of course that way you did end up with 4Gb left over you might be able to sell.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. ACcc

    Very pleased I got the 2012 i7 version last year

    ...Quad core, two hard drives available as an self upgrade option, cheap(ish) off the shelf 16GB RAM without the Apple tax. All told about £700, currently in use a video conversion and VM (Windows Servers) host.

    The drop in multithread performance is stunning (obviously, having half the number of threads)

    http://www.macrumors.com/2014/10/19/mac-mini-2014-benchmark/

    If you add in the soldered RAM, single HDD, dual core i7 as the top spec (and lets not even talk about the price difference that getting a quad core and self upgrading vs dual and buying the RAM from Apple), then it really is a no brainer - if you want a decent Mac Mini, buy a 2012 model.

    And if you want to be able to upgrade the HDD to SSD and still use TRIM don't use Yosemite.

    http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/apples-yosemite-beta-dont-use-trim-with-ssd

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very pleased I got the 2012 i7 version last year

      >> And if you want to be able to upgrade the HDD to SSD and still use TRIM don't use Yosemite.<<

      That link is clearly about a public Beta which is not what's available now

      1. ACcc

        Re: Very pleased I got the 2012 i7 version last year

        Here are one or two accounts that appear to suggest the non-beta version has exactly the same issue...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As has been pointed out this is the best current chip they can put in the logic board without redesigning it. They will be waiting for the Intel refresh so they can redesign a fanless Mac Mini and release it at some point next year. Unfortunately though I think soldering the RAM to the motherboard is a real ***** trick...

  15. stu 4

    Memory

    1/2 of that article was moaning about fixed memory FFS.

    Now, ok it means you have to decide at the start and pay 'apple tax' on it (which is no different from the 'dell tax' or the 'hp tax'...

    But it's hardly a deal breaker. I have 3 mac minis - my very first one (core duo), needed more memory (and I actually stuck a new CPU in it too) when it's role changed (from web surfer to media centre in my house), the rest I just bought with sufficient memory.

    You surely KNOW what memory you need when you buy it - why do you suddenly need more later except for when a machine gets re-purposed like mine ? certainly OSX upgrades never need it.

    That leave the 'apple tax'.

    well... if it DID have 4bg socketed memory it would be 2x2GB... 'cause that's the way of the world with every manufacturer under the sun...

    so, you'd have to buy an 8gb kit (2x4), which would cost you about 60 quid.

    or you could get a single 8gb, keep one of the 2s in there for about 70 quid.

    and apple charge 80 quid.

    it's hardly a frecking massive gap is it ???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Memory

      What if some of that soldered-in RAM goes bad down the road? As in a month after Applecare runs out? RAM still does go bad in this day and age. The Memtest86 screen would not be the only thing turning red when that happens.

  16. Valerion

    Refurb store

    I’m going to get one to keep in the office, to save me carrying a laptop back and forth. I just think I might see if I can find a discounted 2012 model, its initially wobbly HDMI output now long fixed, rather than the current one and grab some extra memory for it. ®

    That is precisely what I have done this morning. The Apple Refurb store is selling them, but they are appearing and disappearing VERY quickly. Twice I got as far as adding into the basket, only for it to be taken out again as someone else had nabbed it. You literally need to be F5'ing every couple of minutes and acting immediately.

    So I got a nice quad-core I7 with 1TB drive for £479. I've then splurged another £100 on 16GB of RAM from elsewhere. The old base models are in there (when they appear) for £339. Bit of a bargain, really.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No upgradeable RAM? We've seen this before...

    Article: "For the sake of perhaps five dollars for the memory slot and the tooling for the removable base, Apple has made its little machines far less attractive for anyone not seeking an appliance."

    Given Apple's past form in not offering MicroSD slots on the iPhone and charging many times more than the cost of a good-quality card for the equivalent difference in storage, I'm inclined to come down on the side of justifiable cynicism here.

    The cost saving on manufacturing may be nice to Apple, but it's the icing on the cake- I suspect the real benefit (and intent) is in being able to charge inflated prices for more RAM *and* the ability to pressure people into paying for more RAM than they might need at the point of purchase (because they won't be able to upgrade later).

    I referred back to the iPhone, but IIRC didn't Apple deliberately cut out the unused RAM sockets on Apple II machines (thus preventing expansion) when they found out people were buying the lower-spec machines and upgrading them more cheaply themselves? Plus ca change.

  18. Alan_Peery

    The Intel NUC might also be of interest...

    http://quietpc.co.uk/sys-ultranuc-pro

    1. ACcc

      Re: The Intel NUC might also be of interest...

      I went for a Gigabyte NUC-type box as a low power XMBC/windows machine (not a patch in Spec comparison with the Mac Mini but entirely fanless and buildable with spares, and the box was only £80 on offer) but before that I was looking at the higher end Pro i7 version as a alternative to getting the Mac.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Intel NUC might also be of interest...

      Those prices certainly explain why Mac mini's have been so popular....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Intel NUC might also be of interest...

      My 2014 Core i5 NUC cost about £600 with all the bits (480Gb mSata at £150 and 16Gb DDR3 RAM at £60) when bought in the spring. Apple charging £240+ for 16Gb RAM is rather cheeky.

  19. Peter 39

    SIMMs

    I've read that a contributing factor leading to soldered-on memory is that there aren't any SIMMs available for the memory that Apple is using here.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: SIMMs

      Yeah, and before they were selling the new Mac Mini, there weren't any PCB manufacturers making the PCBs for it either. Funnily enough, there are now. If Apple says they want to buy memory in a certain format, it will be available.

      I obviously don't know the reason, but soldering the RAM directly on the board will save the cost of the extra PCB, and the sockets. Selling it for the same price means extra profit. Forcing people to trade up to a more expensive one rather than buying a cheap one and seperate RAM elsewhere makes even more profit. Not having people change the RAM avoids lots of service and technical questions about what you can do or because it doesn't work right afterwards. A bit of negative press; people will still buy them; there is almost no negative for Apple.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac Mini for office use -

    I agree with the commenter above, it's just the right job for office applications. We use the 2012 base model and it's really good enough for working with a halfdozen Word files, while having Acrobat reader, Safari, Outlook, and a couple minor applications on. Switching between apps can be a bit slow and so can switching between users, so I was just about to decide on an upgrade; the info on memory use here comes quite handy for that. I think I know just what to do now.

  21. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I've never really understood why anyone would buy one of these - the price alone gives me the heebie-jeebies and I cannot for the life of me understand the "form over function" philosophy it seems to embody. Why anyone would care what the computer itself looks like has always left me scratching my head. Then again, I don't have a glass-topped desk so I rarely cast a glance at mine.

    As for the figures on how hungry Windows is, all I can say is that my laptop never consumes anything like 7 GB unless I make it do so. I've filled the 8 gig I fitted to it three years after I bought it only once, in a deliberate effort to crash it which failed miserably. It typically uses less than half the memory installed, floating higher when I start Oracle (I use the lappy as a lab machine sometimes).

    I would think that the mini-Mac would be unattractive even to solid Mac users/buyers given the massive and inexplicable downsides, but it is there money and their choice and I don't think them less than human for wanting one.

  22. phuzz Silver badge
    Happy

    There is some pretty sexy innards in that thing, all matt black and mmmmmmmm

    Excuse me, I need to go for a little lie down...

  23. Bailey

    I bought one (mid range i5/1TB/Iris) as it's the cheapest way of using Keynote. Had to send the first one back as it couldn't run dual-monitors, but the second one seems to be behaving itself a little better, although I still have lingering doubts about the co-operation between the HDMI and 2 x Thunderbolts.

    I think despite the obvious upgrade drawbacks, the Mac Mini still has a place in the Apple ecosystem - namely the only product in their entire line-up that seems immune from Apple Tax, the tax that guarantees yesterday's tech at tomorrow's prices.

    Still ain't a patch on a PC, though!

  24. Marty McFly

    The Reg nails it

    I have three older MMs. I was all ready to upgrade, but a lack of expandable RAM will kill that for me. The Reg is right - this is a BIG limitation that Apple has imposed. In my opinion, it is a move that may very well kill the platform with this generation.

  25. bex

    memory Usage

    OSX memory usage is far higher than on an equivalent windows machine, anyone who says otherwise is just wrong.

  26. Slap

    I was waiting

    I was waiting for the new Mac mini, but this is so disappointing. The idea is, that when you release a new version of a product, it's supposed to be better, not worse, than the preceding model.

    I have a 2011 iMac at home and I thought that maybe the next Mac mini, with a bit of alteration, would suffice as a replacement. Alas no, so I opended up my iMac and put a 1TB SSD into it to get a couple of years more useful life out of it.

    I'm known as a bit of a Mac man amongst my peers, and am often asked the question "which would be the best Mac to buy". Previously I would always be able to pick a new model that suited their requirements, but I'm now saying buy a recent second hand one.

  27. Dan Paul

    Any Apple Hardware is OBVIOUSLY Overpriced.

    Five months ago I bought an ASUS ITX style Z97I-Plus mobo, 4.00 Ghz I7 quadcore (unlocked), ASUS R9280 3 Gig videocard, CoolerMaster CPU water cooler, Corsair HX750 750 watt fully modular power supply, 16 Gig ram, Win 7 Pro, LG Bluray Burner and a 256 Gig Samsung 840 Pro SSD. Everything fits nicely in a slick looking Corasair Obsidian 250D R case.

    I paid under $1,300 for everything from Newegg. Since the mobo has UEFI Bios, I could likely make it a Hackintosh if I wanted.

    In any case it's the best PC/Media center I could build for the money, I can upgrade it if I needed to, but more importantly it's completely repairable.

    Why for god sakes would anyone buy a desktop computer that can't be upgraded or repaired?

    How is a Mac mini worth similar money? It appears that it is not. You know the saying, a fool and his money are soon parted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any Apple Hardware is OBVIOUSLY Overpriced.

      How is a Mac mini worth similar money? It appears that it is not.

      you probably had to put that all together yourself and mess around with drivers as well as a fair old while updating Windows 7 to squash all those security holes and buffer overflow issues. With this you plug in what two cables and you are good to go? For some people they are willing to pay for the convenience. Plus despite them offering new updates for free for some people it is worth an extra 100 to 200 just to avoid having to run Windows...

      The inability to upgrade the RAM on these things is shocking though they are trying to make everything sealed and more iPhone/ iPad like. Not a good move in my opinion, but Apple won't be fussed if one or two don't buy it as a result of their move. It is hardly a major revenue stream for Apple and that will be the way they are looking at it, but if they start to annoy their loyal Mac customers they may find that they aren't there when they need them next when their iRange dries up.

  28. Gannettt

    This is really disappointing. I have a mid-2010 Mac Mini (the last one to have an optical drive built in) with a Core 2 Duo. Maxed it out to 8Gb ram. Even with Mavericks it ran very smoothly, and did everything I used it for (desktop stuff and light content creation). But when I installed Yosemite, it now runs like a dog. I am downgrading to Mavericks again at the weekend.

    These used to be great machines, but it looks like Apple are trying to maintain their high margins by cheapening the construction of their machines. I love OSX, but I'm seriously considering a Windows machine next time, especially withe Win10 on the horizon. i even like the look of the Surface Pro 3...ahem!

    Sorry, Apple, you've been making some very curious decisions lately, and you're losing customers because of it.

    1. Steven Raith

      No, no, no - you're doing it wrong.

      Buy an SSD for it, all your problems will go away.

      I have a 2008 Macbook with 2.0ghz C2D, 8gb RAM and Samsung SSD830 running Yosemite and it's fine. It'll give you a serious performance boost overall. Get a USB 3.0 HDD caddy and throw your old disk in there, bosh, job jobbed.

      Still cheaper than replacing the whole machine, and will likely give you a couple of years more use out of it.

      Steven "never passes up an opportunity to justify an upgrade" R

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple can go to hell.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very powerful and cost effective for this sort of machine

    I recently built an HTPC. The goal was to build something close to the size, performance, and quietness of the Mac Mini. Conventional wisdom about the "Apple tax" made me think I could do this for hundreds of dollars less than a Mac Mini.

    As it turns out, my expectations were WAY off. A mini-ITX board with a low profile cooler is already basically the same size as a Mini, and that's before you add a drive and a power supply. I ended up going with one of the smallest mini-ITX cases on the market, the Antec ISK 110, and it's still about twice the volume of a Mini and that's not counting the external power brick it requires. Disappointing. And even using the cheapest available components on Newegg, it ended up costing over $300, and that's before the cost of Windows. I would have been happier just buying the Mini. It would have been roughly the same price for a superior computer.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The year-long wait for Intel’s impressive Haswell processor to come to the Mini is over, and that’s very welcome. Ditto the addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The quid pro quo is the loss of upgradeable RAM."

    The loss of a quad-core processor option as well. The 2014 "update" is really a downgrade.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    language

    Isn't it amazing that the only comment that contained any swearing came from someone promoting that we should all give up Apple and go build a PC.

    I suspect it's the same type of person who puts me off Facebook and all that because of the use of bad language. No wonder the world is seeping into a cesspit of doom and despair.

  33. pieman

    Its definitely a problem the ram can not be upgradable, I hate the way apple is going with hardware. But what you get out of the expensive box with a mac is a computer that just works I agree with ACCcc. I have worked with macs for years and they just go on and on. I have recently had to build a windows 7 pc for accounts and it has been a bit of a trial. I have also been experimenting with linux and freebsd for various applications and for me becasue I am not a sys admin macs work every time. You might pay a couple of hundred quid over the cost of a PC but you will save money in the long term on digging around in a terminal. For me the windows GUI has always been a bit of a basket case and has always felt a bit of a barrier to what I wanted to do.. and the bloat with windows...The Mac OS GUi is mature compared to the linux distros i have tried and feels like you are in control and its not going to fall over even if you are in their walled garden and I hate that. This is why I am choosing a macs. Cowering for the inevitable flaming!;-)

  34. JayArr8

    The Mini is a great thowaway....

    I love the Mini. I have a 2011 model and ready to replace it. It's the perfectly priced throwaway, because it doesn't have an expensive monitor like the iMac. Monitors rarely go out of date, but processors certainly do. But I'll wait until the Feb updates with new processors.

    And let's remember, Apple wants you to buy their memory rather than Crucial mem. So, they solder it in. It's cheap enough now that it doesn't matter. Just get all the mem you can.

  35. Sil

    What's the point of a desktop computer with the perfs and limitations of a 2012 laptop?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to think the same thing and I built my own computers for ~15 years.

      I bought a Mini 2 years ago and never looked back. You never realize what an eyesore an ATX mini-tower case is until it's gone. The Mini is also quieter than any computer I could hope to build myself (and I'm a regular SPCR reader). And the Mini is massively faster than my old Core 2 Quad so I'm not bothered by the "laptop" performance. And I know that I'll be able to sell the Mini in a few years and still get a significant amount of money back, vs. a home-built PC where you're lucky to get $75 regardless of what's in it. My only regret is that I didn't get the Mini much, much sooner.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Desire to upgrade RAM is mostly psychological

    This "need" to be able to upgrade RAM in the Mini is mostly psychological. You could do it before, now you can't. Trigger typical animalistic knee-jerk reaction you have when somebody takes something away from you.

    A strong case could be made that GPU upgrades are more useful than RAM upgrades these days. At this point I want to be able to drive a 4k display at 60Hz with good performance much more than I want 8GB of RAM. But where is all the indignation about Apple soldering on the GPU (CPU)?

    Also, Apple has been soldering the RAM into most of their laptops for a few years now. This decision triggered gigabytes of hate-posts when it was made but that turned out to be much ado about nothing. The laptops sell well and the customers are satisfied. It will eventually be the same with the Mini.

    Full disclosure, I have a 2012 Mini with RAM slots. I like that I have the slots but I'm not going to kid myself, I don't think I'll ever upgrade the RAM.

  37. Glenn Amspaugh

    Apple Refurb; save cash

    At the bottom of the main Apple Store web page, you can find a link to their refurb store. For recent versions of hardware, can usually save $100-$200 dollars (3£ - 5£ if my conversion maths is correct). Refurbs come in new cases, with regular packaging and 1 year warranty like new stuff. In order to recycle components from returns and stuff (boards, drives, RAM, etc), they have to be labeled as refurbs. Just got 3 iPad minis for $200 each. They shipped directly from China factory.

  38. Alistair Silver badge
    Linux

    OSX is apparently ill

    7Gb for a base system and a couple of applications open?

    Fedora 20 on an I7 laptop with:

    2 Vms (one windows one linux)

    systemd (*gag*)

    samba

    Mariadb (under 3Gb of sample data)

    httpd,

    kvm tools

    two large spreadsheets

    firefox with 11 tabs open

    <5G of ram out of my 24 consumed.

    Either OSX is pooched or you have your buffer/cache in that value, and it doesnt count.

    1. pieman

      Re: OSX is apparently ill

      You are a very lucky man? Alistair? My experience of fedora albeit a linux newbie has been somewhat different. trying to get samba working for instance or getting drives to mount at startup is touch and go. unless you are seriously into the terminal.

      You must spend all your time keeping that lot going ? ... for some IT illiterate people something that just works out of the box with a reasonably degree of sensible GUI IT skills is the answer to making money in most small buisness'.

  39. CJ Hinke

    The Mac Mini Fusion Drive is the worst computer I ever owned, and I've been using Mac since 1984. Apple replaced one and I finally demanded a refund when the second failed.

    Do yourself a favour--don't buy one!

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