Mac mini: Everything you need to know about Apple’s affordable desktop Mac

Roman Loyola
20 December, 2017
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Mac mini, 2TB, macworld australiaThe Mac mini is Apple’s entry-level desktop Mac. It’s slower than Apple’s other desktop computers – the iMac and the Mac Pro – but it remains fast enough for general-purpose use. Apple targets first-time Mac users with the Mac mini, but longtime Mac users like the price and use the Mac mini as a server or an entertainment Mac connected to a TV.

The Mac mini models that Apple currently sells were originally released in October 2014. Three years is a long time to call a computer ‘new’. Apple has made no mention of its plans for the Mac mini, unlike the company’s other neglected desktop computer, the Mac Pro. Apple CEO Tim Cook did tell a MacRumors reader that the Mac mini is “an important part of [Apple's] product line going forward.” Cook did not elaborate on what Apple’s plans are.

Still, there’s only one other Mac available for under $1000: the MacBook Air. If you’re still interested in the Mac mini, you can learn more here about its features, specifications, prices, and more.

Mac mini: Specifications

Apple sells three Mac mini models.

$749: 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 CPU, 4GB of memory, 5,400-rpm 500GB hard drive and integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU.

$1049: 2.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 5,400-rpm 1TB hard drive and integrated Intel Iris Graphics.

$1499: 2.8GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 1TB Fusion Drive and integrated Intel Iris Graphics.

The Mac mini does not include a display, keyboard or mouse, so you’ll have to provide your own. Or you can customise your order to include these devices as extra-cost options.

Since the Mac mini lacks an optical drive, you need to buy an external USB optical drive if you want to read or burn CDs and DVDs.

AppleCare+ is available for the Mac mini for $119, which extends the standard one-year warranty to three years.

Mac mini: Connectivity

The Mac mini has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It also has four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports and an SDXC card slot. It also has a gigabit ethernet port, in case you want to connect to a wired network.

To connect a display, you can use the HDMI port or a Thunderbolt 2 port. You might have to buy an adapter if your display doesn’t have either HDMI or Mini DisplayPort (which connects to the Mac mini’s Thunderbolt port). If you own a display with VGA and/or DVI output, you’ll need either the Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA Adapter ($29 on the Apple Store) or the Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI Adapter ($29 on the Apple Store).

Mac mini: Speed

The Mac mini won’t set any speed records. It’s among the slowest Macs in Apple’s lineup. But don’t judge its performance too harshly. For general use (writing, email, web, social media) and for editing short videos, the Mac mini does just fine.

Macworld’s buying advice

For new Mac users switching from a PC, the Mac mini is an excellent machine, if you don’t mind not having the latest processors. It’s a great choice for shoppers on a budget, or for someone who wants a second computer in the home. It handles everyday usage well. If, however, you want to use a Mac as a production machine for video editing or some other task that requires substantial processing power, consider an iMac.


5 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Andrew Dudman says:

    Still using my 2010 Mac mini as a general home office computer. Last year upgraded the RAM and added a Samsung evo 850 SSD. The system now runs more than adequately for most routine competing uses and performance wise is not discernibly different from my 2017 MacBook Pro. In fact, it is my go to machine for report writing.

    Although I have no reason to upgrade to a new Mac mini reliability of a 7 year old machine does raise some concerns so I ensure my backup system is working correctly. My reason for not upgrading is primarily that the replacement machines offer fewer connectivity options and no longer allow RAM and hard drives upgrades. My old machine even has a built-in CD Drive which I regularly use for ripping CDs to my iTunes library

    I kind of understand why Apple don’t allow aftermarket upgradability with the modern range of Mac laptops where size, weight and heat management all become concerns. On the other hand Mac Mini is a desk top machine and as such size and weight are less relevant. The same complaint could be levelled at the new generation of iMacs.

    Apple needs a work horse machine and the Mac mini is almost the perfect machine for routine computing where mobility is not required and sometimes not even desirable, upgradeability work make it perfect.

  2. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    I agree. My Mac mini is approaching four years old and, after an SSD upgrade, runs quite nicely.

  3. Jamie says:

    Except once again it is a crippled machine, storage and memory cannot be upgraded so you have to buy it from Apple already having what you forsee as your maximum requirement and it is also extremely expensive when compared to a PC, especially given the ago of its internals.

  4. Taylor says:

    Yes, the Mac Mini is really capable! I run my entire Mac OS system on a 512gb SSD inside an OWC external case plugged in to one of the USB ports. I boot and run the system from that and then use the internal terabyte hard drive as my cloud storage “folder”, so everything saved to it is backed up. I got the Late 2014 2.6ghz i5 model with 8gb of RAM months ago and currently have it running High Sierra. My daily use is running visual/audio/design software like Blender, AutoCAD, Sculptris, Affinity Photo, Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, etc. I’ve been really impressed with this Mac, and especially with the deal I got when I bought it from B&H. I have yet to have slow downs that actually affect my work. In fact, it performs identically with my 2016 i7 and i5 MBPs for what I use it for. I can have the same count of triangles and polygons happening on my mini as I do on my MBPs for my work and have the same experience without the loud fans and hot surface the laptops give me. Modeling, slicing, printing: flawless. I absolutely love the mini more than I thought I would. I bought it on a whim and now use it for drafting, designing, modeling, 3D printing, image creation and editing, HD audio and video work (I don’t work in 4K) and on and on. I only bought a Magic Keyboard and mouse as an after thought just because I loved having this mini on my desk and wanted to complete the look. I wish Apple gave the mini more attention. I would buy a new model immediately. USB-C, better 4K output, maybe a nice space gray frame…

  5. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    I’ve had the storage in mine upgraded from the original 5400rpm drive to an SSD. I got a tech to do it.

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