The Mac mini has been Apples on-again off-again de facto low-budget desktop, but recently it hasnt received the love many have hoped for. There are only a handful of very low-end PCs less expensive than the Mac mini with current components. Its $400 less than the newest MacBook Air.
This tiny box comes in three price models, so we tested the mid-range $699 model which comes with a 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1 terabyte (TB) hard drive, and of course the latest version of OS X Yosemite.
Desktop computers are great, but good luck lugging them anywhere. In the process of writing this review, my test unit travelled as much as most laptops driving through my office. The tiny frame — it looks like a huge Apple TV — is twice as thick as the typical ultrabook and three fourths as wide and easy enough to throw in a bag with the requisite power cable. Sure, travel will still require packing away a mouse and keyboard, but who doesn’t have a stash of Bluetooth-friendly travel gear these days?
Just don’t expect to take it to Starbucks…you’ll need a monitor for that. Until Apple makes the iPad work as an external display, that dream will have to wait. But, if you’ve got a home office, work office, and maybe even a spare HDMI port on the TV, the Mac mini can easily make the rounds with little effort.
The real beauty of this portable desktop is that it’s as travel-friendly as a desktop can be and still packs a wallop of a punch. With a 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 and 8GB of RAM, there’s little the Mac mini can’t do. It can easily replace and improve on any MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, as well as any older 21.5-inch iMacs, assuming you put a little more down for the mid-range model. This is where the gorgeous box computer starts to get a little murky.
Power users will find that all three Mac mini models are lacking, but not by much. Without any improvements, the base $500 model is as powerful as a MacBook Air for nearly half the price. The same is true when comparing the Mac mini to all MacBooks except for the high-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros: Nothing competes in price.
So if you’re going to get massive savings, get the best value, too. By upgrading the Mac mini to 16GB of RAM and a Fusion Drive (or, if you prefer, undergo the harsh task of installing your own solid state drive to improve performance) the Mac mini ends up at $1,100 with the power of a $1,700 iMac. With those components, you’ll have no problem running Xcode, Adobe Illustrator, a dozen browser tabs, every chat app you can think of, and then some, all at once. All without any slowdown.
For super-high performance, this isn’t the right computer; the iMac or Mac Pro are better choices. But the Mac mini actually works for the price-conscious professional. It has the horsepower without sacrificing space. The Mac mini is the best ultraportable desktop you can buy, and it’s the most inexpensive and cost-effective Mac out there. Just don’t skimp on the extras, because you won’t be upgrading it. See more…