back to article Apple tipped to revive forgotten Macbook Air and Mac mini – report

If Apple hoped that the MacBook Air and Mac mini would die a natural death, it's had to think again. After touting the mini's versatility – from a department server to a home media player – the desktop computer has languished since its last update in 2014, running the Haswell chips that Intel revealed in 2013. A year ago …

  1. ThomH Silver badge

    I want it to be true

    With appropriate expectations — that it'll be expensive, and that nothing inside the box will be upgradeable — I would still love a modern Mac Mini, which to me would be a Mac with reasonable performance to which I can just bring whichever keyboard I want, without having to add yet another to the plentiful array of screens my house already contains.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I want it to be true

      Apple isn't likely to raise the price - they usually slot the new stuff in at the same price as the old stuff. But you're right it probably won't be upgradeable. Not an issue for the CPU since very few people upgrade their CPUs, and the kind of people who do aren't Apple customers anyway, but it would be nice if they'd use SODIMM slots for the RAM instead of soldering it on, but recent history suggests they won't.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: I want it to be true

        One thing though, it might be the same price in $, but the exchange rate on 30th September 2014 was $1.62/£, now it is $1.29, so the price in £ will probably jump a lot.

    2. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: I want it to be true

      They won't hesitate to give you that. The bigger issue is where they epoxy in the SSD and RAM and charge the fucking earth at the point of purchase for improvements. I understand the accountant/MBA theory on fucking the consumer over in this way but I really don't understand the real world practicality of it. At the end of the day you want sales and I think the upsell rate will be lower than expected but the destroy customer relationship one will be higher than first thought.

      Fanboi loyalty only stretches to so many reamings. I have a Hackintosh for just this reason. Sure it can be a pain in the arse with security updates requiring kext fixes but I actually get the hardware I want - modular, upgradeable, didn't cost the earth, and it has a decent quiet cooling system.

  2. djstardust Silver badge

    Hmmmm

    Expensive

    Out of date tech

    Not enough ports

    Non-upgradeable

    Everything you need to know about Apple today.

    1. K Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      If they produced a Mac-Stick... That'd be something I'd consider. But given Apple missed the opportunity to own the Mini market, they will now have to compete against the likes of Intel NUC and other Ultra Small Factor PC's (and even PI's, which actually make awesome media centres), I don't think Apple is going to have much success in this market!

    2. Pavlov's obedient mutt

      Re: Hmmmm

      no, not really.. perhaps everything *you* need to know about Apple today, but plenty of people don't rate those things highly, instead preferring to focus on what they like about OSX and so on.

      But thanks for your opinion.

    3. Ian Joyner

      Re: Hmmmm

      None of your points are true. So you know nothing.

    4. David Shaw

      Re: Hmmmm

      I just bought the new MacBook Pro, 13".

      It was expensive - but great value for money

      It was very up to date tech, my first 8 CPU threads in the shiny small form factor

      it has 4 USB-C, can charge from any, can thunderbolt to/from any

      I bought 16GB RAM, as it is a non-upgradeable block, but I can plug in my eGPU for fun, and I'll later try the RTX 2060 Turing nVidia external upgrade. Will take some typing!

      Apple has some great stuff, still - if you buy with care

  3. Wibble

    If only the Mini were 10mm thick. Size is the only thing that matters. And we must have soldered in RAM & SSD so that a fully configured one can be £6k+

    /sarcasm - wasted on Apple

    Those old Mac Minis were really nice machines.

    1. Oh Matron!

      Current MacBook Pro: USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 4 ports, all daisy chain able. That's more than enough for me

      And as for the external GPU that can even drive the INTERNAL display....

      Yes, not the cheapest thing in the world, but neither is an Aston Martin: And we all know which one you'd want...

      1. Wibble
        Coat

        Wife's MacBook Pro has the useless touch bar, the shitty keys that haven't broken *yet*, and had to add a Chinese magsafe equivalent for the power connector (otherwise the USB-C power connector will wear out) and about £200 of dongles because nothing uses USB-C -- certainly not the iPhone, Thunderbolt display, SSD cards, backup discs, DVD-ROM (yes, they're still needed for archives), countless USB sticks....

        Mine's the silver one with the selection of connectors actually built into the MacBook Pro. Strange, but until you loose them you don't realise just how much you use them.

        1. K Silver badge

          To be fair, you can pick-up one of the knock-off USB-C hyper-docks for about £25-30 from Amazon... which are ok to travel with, but crap for desktop use!

          You want a proper Thunderbolt-3 dock? That'll cost you about £300... I gambled and bought a used Dell TB15 for £50 from eBay, which apparently is not "compatible" with a Macbook Pro, but this is just Apple protecting its "approved" Peripherals cartel, using the TB3Enabler hack and it works perfectly!

      2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        RE: "...an Aston Martin: And we all know which one you'd want..."

        I'd rather have a Ford Sport Ka than an Aston Martin. If only they sold them here in the USA. And it would be a cold day in Heck before I buy anything Apple.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Don't give them ideas, the 2014 refresh was bad enough.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I do hope the new Mini is much slimmer and smaller. Not because of any aesthetic consideration, but to make it too small to fit an HDD base model.

      My mother is very happy using the base model current gen Mac Mini - upgraded with a suitable, inexpensive SSD, of course. Before the upgrade I did try it out a bit, and it was just horrible.

  4. Marty McFly
    Go

    Ready to buy

    I have had the money budgeted & set aside for a Mac Mini upgrade for several years now. Just been waiting on the big fruit company to fill my needs.

    Walked in to an Apple store recently and got a 'How can I help you' from a T-shirt wearing PFY. I said I was looking for an updated Mac Mini. He mumbled 'Yeah, me too' and walked away.

  5. ElNumbre

    I shall call it Mini-Me

    The last but one generation of Mac Minis were appealing - compact, Thunderbolt, upgradable post purchase in terms of storage and RAM. But then they buggered it by making RAM soldered, and charging a not insignificant premium for the top spec model.

    I shall await an iFixit teartown of the new one to see if it is user repairable or upgradeable, or if it is likely to experience the same support woes of the iMac Pro ala Linus Tech Tips, before investing, especially when there is now a lot more choice of ultra small form factor desktops.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I shall call it Mini-Me

      I seriously doubt that they'll suddenly decide that this one should allow hardware modifications. In general, depending on use case, the base config would probably work for a lot of people. For technical users like us, four gigs of memory is limiting, but if you're using it headless or as a basic computing device for a nontechnical family, it isn't that bad. You could run into storage limits with the 128GB SSD, but it fills up a lot more slowly than windows does, so I'd call it doable.

      For me, the Mac Mini has been out-of-date long enough to weaken its position in the small box market. For a while, the Mac Mini was really the only usable computer at that size. Anything else at that size was ridiculously underpowered and/or expensive. Even after that, the system compared well against the usable, sort of, alternatives. I remember helping a friend decide on a small machine to use as a media system in early 2015. We considered various options, including the raspberry pi (then version 2) and the intel compute stick, but they just couldn't compare to the mac mini. The raspberry pi didn't have built-in networking and required a lot of cabling to set up the required storage. The compute stick had an atom processor which wouldn't be very fast, and was said to overheat a lot. The mac mini allowed all of that to be stored in one convenient unit, with enough processing to do most tasks and storage sufficient for a small media collection.

      The small computers have caught up, and probably overtaken. Now that the raspberry pi has WiFi, which frees up a USB port, and a much faster processor, it can do most if not all tasks a headless mac mini would do. It still needs external storage if used as a media machine, but that's only one thing to connect. I doubt that the compute stick is very good yet, but there are small machines with intel processors as well. These are smaller than the mac is, they offer more options for modification later on, and they give you a lot more performance for the price.

  6. tempemeaty
    Mushroom

    I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

    I think the mac mini was one of the best things they ever made. I thought so much of it I have one and love the little thing. That said. The macOS has become a POS that is more broken with each update. To make matters worse, Tim Cook is now using Apple for politically correct anti-conservatism censorship activism. Keep the politics to yourself a-hole. Apple's latest product is of poor quality, it's CEO is an activist and I wouldn't touch another iThing ever again. All I wanted was products. Products that just worked...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

      > Keep the politics to yourself a-hole.

      You don't practice what you preach. How does that work exactly?

      1. tempemeaty
        Happy

        Re: I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

        "You don't practice what you preach. How does that work exactly?"

        Thank you for the enlightenment. Next time I'll try to remember that wanting an absence of politics is politics.

    2. Marty McFly
      Holmes

      Re: I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

      Doesn't matter what the company is. Nor does it matter what is the political the hot-topic. Any company that engages in political activism runs the high risk of alienating potential customers who have an an opposing viewpoint.

      Myself for example, I am quietly boycotting four different companies which have come out publicly supporting political views different from my own. My choice as a consumer. It has been tough for me because I do like a number of the products. Maybe I am just one of the few who will put principles first. But I will note that some of those companies have recently posted slower than expected growth.

      As a shareholder I would be upset with any company I am invested in which is focusing on politics. Leadership should be focused on only one thing - increasing shareholder value.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

        Shareholder value? Long term gains or short term asset stripping / cutting costs through endless redundancies that results long term in a broken business?

      2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: I don't believe anything Apple does is worth looking at anymore

        Er, would this be the "Apple supporting gay rights" issue? Most people don't think of this as a political issue you know: they think of it as fucking obvious, and I think we can safely presume this includes the resoundingly gay Mr Tim Cook.

        I'm sure the loss of a few customers still stuck in the bronze age won't trouble the CEO of a trillion dollar company too much.

  7. Borg.King

    I love my Mac Mini

    1. It's my home server,

    2. It captures video from my home security cameras

    3. I can Remote Desktop into it

    4. It sits nicely hidden away in my networking cabinet - behind the towels, the sheets and the 2 bumper packs of toilet rolls :)

    I would love a new one though. Faster (i7), more RAM (32GB), 2TB+ HD. One HDMI port, and a handful of Thunderbolt / USB C would do it.

    (Plus I can use one for Windows and get rid of my wife's desk space consuming Dell tower too.)

    1. Sampler

      Re: I love my Mac Mini

      For the wife, get her an Intel NUC (or ilk) - we got one for work to run a 60" QHD TV in a meeting room and when we moved office and it was no longer required it found a new purpose as my home TV PC.

      We got a middle of the road model (i5) and put 32GB RAM in it and a fast 256gb SSD (all that's needed for OS and apps, actually, a bit overkill) and it's a joy to use, would make a perfect every day PC for all tasks that don't require an enthusiasts GPU in the box and certainly less than the price of a mac mini.

      You can pick between m2 or full sata drives and upgrade the ram yourself; chips are baked to the board but usually when I update a chip I need to update the board and memory as everything has a new socket anyway...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I love my Mac Mini

        The NUCs are great. You can get them in anything from bare bones configuration to fully working systems built to your spec by an authorised Intel distributor with a 3 year warranty. And they are cheap!

  8. Nezumi
    Meh

    Aren't the server parts of MacOS server being killed off?

    I thought I read that MacOS Server is essentially dead moving forward. I humbly apologise if I'm wrong.

    If I'm right, how the **** can a departmental server be a use case? Linux or Windows perhaps?

    1. Jason Hindle

      Re: Aren't the server parts of MacOS server being killed off?

      Linux and the commoditisation of server hardware pretty much killed Apple in the server space. I suppose there might be some use for OSX server (or server-ish) in an all (or mostly) Apple environment?

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Aren't the server parts of MacOS server being killed off?

      Presumably you can install all the usual BSD server stuff via ports?

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Aren't the server parts of MacOS server being killed off?

      MacOS Server is essentially a small app suite so there's little reason to kill it. It's a pretty nice front-end for aging Unix tools that are otherwise difficult to configure with significant prior experience.

      A better question would be whether or not open source keeps supporting MacOS as it drifts away from the usual FreeBSD.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't need it yet...

    I won't be in the market quite yet as my "late 2012" Mac Mini is fantastic! Well it was a bit rubbish to begin with but an upgrade to SSD changed that. I wouldn't buy any new computer that still relied on a hard disk.

    As for memory, it came with 4GB and used all of it all the time but the "memory pressure" diagnostic metric was normally low. It was just the way the OS worked. I eventually upgraded to 16GB and it made virtually no difference for normal use.

    I don't think user-upgradeability would be necessary or desirable in a new model. 8GB + small SSD is just fine. If you can afford any Mac you don't need to penny-pinch, and unlike tower PCs where there's bags of room to work, working on them is a total pain anyway.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: I don't need it yet...

      As for memory, it came with 4GB and used all of it all the time but the "memory pressure" diagnostic metric was normally low. It was just the way the OS worked. I eventually upgraded to 16GB and it made virtually no difference for normal use.

      Horses for courses and all that. My sister-in-law had a 4GB Mac Mini and complained about how slow it was, so I upgraded it to 16GB and then she was happy with it. Mind you, she usually has 20+ tabs open on her browser and at least one Excel spreadsheet open as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't need it yet...

        "My sister-in-law had a 4GB Mac Mini and complained about how slow it was, so I upgraded it to 16GB ... Mind you, she usually has 20+ tabs open on her browser and at least one Excel spreadsheet open as well."

        - Having started from the same spec I think the bottleneck was the hard drive. Excel + Safari should only be taking up a fraction of a GB. In my case I was also programming in Netbeans, crunching through many years of stock market data, watching Netflix, playing lossless audio through a DAC, and it was all fine in 4GB after upgrading to SSD. Your solution got around the bottleneck by allowing the OS to cache lots of files, mine drastically reduced the file access time, but they both worked. In future I'd always specify an SSD but I wouldn't worry about being able to add more RAM - most applications don't need it.

        1. David Shaw

          Re: I don't need it yet...

          I still have an 11" MBAir with just 2GB, it does work much better with the aftermarket SSD blade 300GB+ upgrade (from OWC, I think) as it flies compared to the original sluggish apple 64gb proprietry nvme stick.

          So, old MBA RAM, doesnt seem to be an issue, but I'm also fitting/buying 16GB where I can.

          my hexacore video editing macpro works great with 12GB

  10. Guildencrantz

    The Mac Mini was the best Mac because not a vulgar wasteful Veblen good unlike the rest of Apple's lineup.

  11. -tim

    I've been waiting to buy one for a long time

    For me to buy a computer, I demand replaceable hard drives (yes 2 need to fix in the box). I have to have expandable ram. 16 gig just isn't enough for some workloads. I would like the thing to have so many ports it looks like a USB switch. I like the internal power supply and I don't care about the size. It would be nice if I can get 6+ years out of it.

    Why don't they roll these out in time for the start of the University class semesters?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been waiting to buy one for a long time

      It would be a very specialist workload that needs 16GB. The Mini and most laptops would not be suitable. Unless you specifically need Mac OS you could look into building your own computer. Since you don't care about the size that makes it easy to use standard parts. If you are competent to do upgrades why not start from scratch? It's good fun.

      I would recommend installing the OS to an SSD, and adding a hard drive or two for storing media. The difference booting off an SSD is so phenomenal it would be a shame not to do it. You can get a Samsung EVO that's easily big enough for well under £100 these days.

  12. msknight Silver badge

    Only the Air was worth the money

    ...but I won't buy a new one.

    I've had a iPhone for work. I own a couple of their little TV bricks. I bought an Air, and a few other things over the years and there are some conclusions I've come to...

    1) They aren't fool proof. The first iPhone I was issued, was faulty right out of the box. I think I'm lucky that this prevented me from going glassey eyed at their products. They're just like everyone else out there.

    2) The functionality inside the walled garden sucks. I ended up jailbreaking everything (except the iPhone, which was my employers, and went back after a year, because the whiteness of the screen hurt my eyes after a few minutes of use) ... and even after jailbreaking, the products didn't add much to my life. They lasted a few weeks, but they eventually went into the drawer, never to be used again.

    3) The one exception was the Macbook Air... but only after installing Mint. I found that the OS didn't give me options I needed, such as fine control over the compression of the web cam recording software, and other things. At the time I had a slow DSL connection at home, and needed fine control over various bits and pieces, that the OS didn't give me.

    4) There were a few down sides to the Air... the lack of ports, and also the half depth SD Card slot. So annoying that I couldn't use the slot as a, "permanent," storage expansion, without having an SD card sticking out. I'm probably not the only one that felt this, as an SD card came out specifically designed for that slot, so that it would fit as flush as possible. I also had electrical interference on the headphone port which was only solved by hooking up an external DAC and doing analogue conversion outside the Mac.

    5) In continuation of 4... Apple's reduction of ports means I'm very unlikely to buy another Air, even if I was intending to install Mint on it... I think I'm lucky to have got an Air before they killed too many ports. Combine that with the attitude of Apple itself... and I look after my kit... but I dread the day that the Air finally breaks down. Some of that is after watching Louis Rossmann and what is actually inside the products, and Apple's broken promises to its customers.

    So I won't be going for these products. As time has gone on, I've learned more and more about Apple... and I don't like what I've seen.

  13. Disk0
    Coat

    Some design tips to help sell this thing

    - VESA mount so it can attach to the back of a monitor

    - Lots of fast, dedicated ports - for networking, power, displays, audio, and i/o.

    - RAM and SSD slots

    - Fingerprint scanner for those security conscious folks who think that is useful

    - The semi-transparent top of the case features a lit trackpad + touch keyboard so you don't even really need external input devices

    - A discrete graphics option - even if relatively modest, a dedicated graphics card would extend the usefulness

    - Built-in "Sleep battery" that allows you to transport the machine without having to switch it off. Instant on when you plug it in

    - Can use your iPhone for input and display

    - macOS X version 2.0 features support for turning off all the crud we have been stuffed with since 10.6

    - macOS X 2.0 running on 128 core ARM processor

    - Intel processor can be used in "Windows VM" mode for games and utilities

    - Not square, and not some ridiculous size that doesn't fit anywhere

    - Available in vantablack, polished chrome, rubberized or brick finish

    - Built-in wireless phone charger for the upcoming connectorless iPhone

    - Can be powered by mains, PoE, USB, 12V car battery, wireless charger, or a potato

    - Cell antenna + hardware with phone jamming and sweet Stingray action

    - The lid opens and you can toast a sandwich or waffle in it

    and lastly

    - Free with the purchase of my next box of cereal

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Some design tips to help sell this thing

      - Free with the purchase of my next box of cereal

      And for those of us who don't eat cereal?

    2. Dave559 Bronze badge

      Re: Some design tips to help sell this thing

      I actually do have half a suspicion that if a new Mac Mini is forthcoming (yay!), then it won’t be entirely surprising if it will be ARM based…

  14. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    nice, but...

    I have delusional moments where I think it might be nice to have one Mac device around the house (Mac, not that iFad crap). Then I watch some of Louis Rossman's videos on the nightmare of fixing Apple hardware, and realize just how bad the HW is, that on top of the Walled Garden(tm) that is the Apple ecosystem.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: nice, but...

      If you don't like the Mac system, don't buy one. But for all its faults, which I don't deny, it is not a walled garden. When you set one up, you have root access already with most terminal tools. Installing development tools is easy, and installing other packages can be done without much difficulty. They have an appstore, but you can sideload and most applications do. It isn't perfect, but there is little they prevent you from doing to the software. As for the hardware, they are indeed difficult to repair. I might recommend getting an older one, which usually had discrete memory slots at least.

      I wouldn't be surprised if apple does turn their macs into a walled garden later on, but they haven't done that yet and if they do, I can hold any mac I have on the version before that, which will continue to function until I find a new thing to replace it with.

  15. onefang Silver badge

    Many years ago I bought a Mac Mini. So that I could have a development and test system for Mac OS X, purely for cross platform compatibility (same reason I have Windows). At the time the Mac Mini was the only Apple computer you could buy that didn't include a screen & keyboard & mouse. I have a perfectly usable KVM, and bugger all extra desk space. If it ever dies, I'd want something similar for the same reasons.

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