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2014 Mac Mini Review (1.4ghz, £339)

I’ve been a fan of the Mac Mini for a number of years. It’s my favourite Mac. After almost 2 years without an update, I was starting to worry that Apple were planning to drop it from the range

However, last week Apple awoke from its low end slumber with an all new Mac Mini and remarkably, a lower price as well.

Hardware

I can talk about the economics later. For now, let’s look at the hardware itself.

Starting from the outside, the new Mac Mini is a round black aluminium puck, 2.2” tall with a diameter of 6.6”. It’s a small Mac Pro by appearence.

The ports out back are mostly the same as the last generation. Like the Mac Pro, cooling is handled via a large central fan.

Going inside; The entry level model offers a 1.4ghz Dual Core i5 processor with HD 5600 graphics…. If that sounds familier, it’s because the Mac Mini shares it’s processor with the entry level MacBook Air and IMac.

The CPU is comparable to last years entry level 2.6ghz i5. The 1.4ghx clock speed is a little of a misnomer as this haswel based part can boost to 2.6ghz when needed.

The new CPU Is interesting in a number of ways. First, it has mich improved graphics, offering over twice the performance of outgoing the HD4000.

If also has good single threaded performance. With a geekbench score of 2467 its in the top 25% of all macs for single threaded performance.

This CPU also sips power. Apple states that the new Mac mini can run without a fan for most operation as it draws an iPad esque 2.5w of power while idle. When it really gets going, the Mac mini can draw up to 25w.

The CPU is interesting. But not that fast. The responsiveness if the system is mostly down to the new storage system called ‘Storage Bay’

Storage Bay

At its simplest, Storage bay is a slot in the back of the Mac mini where any 2.5” SATA drive can be inserted.

The base Mac Mini has the slot empty, but for £59 the Mac mini can be outfitted with a 1tb hard disk drive.

Storage Bay provides large file storage. The main operating system, boot files and most user files are stored on the integrated 32gb of flash storage for a fast responsive system.

This combo of an SSD core with large capacity HDD backend is impressive. It can be configured as either a fusion drive, or as two separate drives for manual file management.

Last years Mac Mini shipped with a dreadfully slow 5400rpm hard disk. The new Mac mini positively flies in comparison with read and write speed 5 times faster at 500mb/s apiece.

This added performance manages to come with a price reduction

£339

At £339 Apple have returned the Mac Mini to the original price when it was launched in 2004. The Mac mini is price competitive with iPads while offering 4-10x the performance.

For £339 you get the guts of a £700 laptop, with the ability too easily add RAM and storage capacity.

Going up the range, a higher performing i5 models starts at £499 and the top spec model costs £649 with quad core i7 CPU and 128GB of flash storage.

Final Thoughts

The new Mac mini is a return to form for Apple. Getting it out for less than £339 is a small wonder and we must assume Apple is dropping it’s normal margins to get there.

When considering a Mac, the question now is entirely about form factor. Performance at the entry level is now roughly equal whether your looking to a laptop, an ultrabook or a desktop.

If you don’t need portability or extreme performance and your already have a suitable display and mouse then the new Mac mini offers great value.

This article is a spoof review for a product i hope Apple would introduce… I wrote it as i was bored… and its fun to speculate!

Published: 6 September 2014 Permalink

Comment

  1. Mr Bob · Jan 18, 12:44 AM ·

    That’s pretty funny – I got halfway through before realising it was a spoof (at first, I thought you had just made a mistake in describing it as looking like a small Mac Pro). Then when I got to the part about Storage Bay – my first thought was – that’s so cool; and my second thought was – but it doesn’t exist! It’s a shame, but it’s a really good idea which will never exist because if it did, everyone would just buy the cheapest Mac Mini and ‘bring their own’ storage. I think Apple makes a lot of money though the little incremental upgrades to RAM and storage from the base models of Macs (and storage, in the case of iPads and iPhones). I bought the new £399 Mac Mini, which isn’t a million miles from the product you were describing, but absent the Storage Bay. I boot from an external Thunderbolt SSD, which makes it super-fast, and have all my storage on USB 3 hard drives. The internal disk is just a backup drive now. And booting from an SSD means that I don’t really miss the extra RAM (but my computing is fairly light – Office and email, mainly – no doubt some people would miss having 8GB RAM). Anyway, this was a fun read….

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