After more than four years unloved and un-updated, the new Mac Mini is back, with a vengeance. What's interesting is just how close my spec for what I called the Mac Mini Pro, way back in April came to what Apple announced today, including the Space Gray color.
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What Apple announced today is, essentially, a Mac Mini Pro. This new machine starts at $799, but fully maxed out, it can cost as much as $4,199.
First, let's start with the processor. The base Mac Mini now starts with a 3.0Ghz 4-core Coffee Lake i3 processor. It can be configured for up to a 3.2Ghz 6-core Intel Core i7 (which Apple claims can be Turbo Boosted up to 4.6Ghz). Moving from the i5 to the i7 will cost you an extra $200.
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The new Mac Mini also includes an Apple T2 security processor, which allows for "enabling on-the-fly data encryption, secure boot and up to 30 times faster HEVC video transcoding." Usually, the T2 also enables "Hey Siri," but Apple didn't mention that in its announcement for the Mini.
Memory, which previously maxed on the Mac Mini at 16GB, can now be configured up to 64GB. The base model ships with 8GB RAM, but Apple specifically mentioned that memory is on SO-DIMMs.
I reached out to Apple about this and was told: "Yes, Mac Mini is configurable up to 64GB and uses industry-standard DDR4 SO-DIMMs. While we don't consider the memory directly end-user accessible, service providers can access the internals of the Mac Mini to upgrade the memory."
This is the best of both worlds, because Apple's RAM upgrades cost $200 to go to 16GB, $600 to go to 32GB, and a whopping $1,400 to go to 2666MHz DDR 4-based 64GB RAM.
If RAM is upgradeable after purchase, this is a big thing. A quick look at the Crucial site today (RAM prices change constantly) show that that same 64GB upgrade can be had for $879, $521 less than Apple charges. Even better, it means you can get an affordable Mac Mini and later, as your needs change, can grow your RAM footprint.
Storage also can be increased (but it looks like only during purchase). The base model starts with 128GB SSD flash storage (which is way faster than the spinning platters that used to ship on the old Mac Minis and is also faster than the SSD upgrades I did to my Mac Minis).
Upgrades cost $200 to go to 512GB, $600 to go to 1TB, and a painful $1,400 to go to 2TB SSD.
Here's an exciting development. You can get a standard 1GB Ethernet port standard. But for a surprisingly reasonable $100, you can upgrade to a 1GB/10GB Ethernet port. This essentially future-proofs the Mac Mini for a while.
This new beast actually adds ports over the previous Mac Mini. There are four Thunderbolt 3 ports (which also support USB-C). In addition, I am thrilled to see two USB 3 ports available, for compatibility to older devices. Add to that an HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack and this becomes a very versatile device.
Rounding out the specs for this powerful little machine are 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking compatible with 802.11a, b, g, and n. It also includes a Bluetooth 5.0 radio as well.
The device has Intel UHD Graphics 630, which is fine for most tasks. Power video folks are likely to want to add an external GPU, which is possible with the new Mac Mini's USB-C ports.
So there you go. It's a long time coming. I won't say it was worth the wait, because waiting four years without even a processor upgrade is insane. That said, it's a relief to see this machine back in the lineup with new life.
And since I know you're going to ask, yes I'm going to buy one (more, if memory can be upgraded after purchase).
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