The 2018 Mac Mini should have been...

The 2018 Mac Mini should have been fantastic. It should have been awesome. It should have been totally mesmerising. It should have been a technological firestorm... but it didn't even heat up. It should have been awesome, but it was awful.

The 2018 mac Mini was disappointing.

Everyone was waiting for the new Mac Mini.

It hadn't been updated since 2014, it had a cult following, there were plenty of people who loved the Mac Mini. Some of those people saw it as the cheap entry-point into owning an Apple desktop PC. Others took advantage of its no-display, no-keyboard, no-mouse, no-frills approach, and stacked them up one on top of the other and used them as file servers, mail servers, wiki hosts, intranet hosts, directory servers, and more.

The 2012 Mac Mini with its quad-core Intel processor and serviceable / user-upgradable RAM was amazing value. You could buy the cheap one, then take it apart and upgrade it yourself, getting a more powerful computer with Apple's OS-X at a great price. It was the perfect machine to use as a file server in the office, and as an email server.

The 2014 version disappointed many customers by only getting dual-core processors, and limited RAM options. The RAM was no longer user-upgradable, so you had to pay extra and buy the version you needed from Apple.

Then, Apple forgot about the Mini, and it had no hardware upgrades for 4 years.

The 2018 Mac Mini refresh was meant to be a revival, with Apple's Phil Schiller assuring us all that the next Mac Mini would be for Pro customers, and would be amaaaaaazink.

The 2018 Mac Mini is...

The new Mac Mini was meant to be Pro. It was only so-so.

The new Mac Mini comes inbuilt wifi and Bluetooth, and the following selection of ports:

Power, Ethernet, 4x USBC Thunderbolt ports, HDMI,2x USBA ports, and a headphone jack.

Missing from the back of the machine is the audio-in jack, and the SD card slot.

Internally, the SATA hard drive has been replaced with a Solid State Drive, and the non-replaceable RAM of the 2014 version has reverted back to being "serviceable" by technicians, but not really user-replaceable, because you now have to completely dis-assemble the entire machine to get to the RAM, instead of just unscrewing the base and replacing the RAM.

Other than the new Mac Mini coming in Space Grey, and having four Thunderbolt ports, there's nothing amazing about it. It's a boring grey box with no powerful components inside.

Comparing Apples with Intels

Even if you go through the options list and specify the top-tier components, you get:

  • 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 6-core processor

  • 64GB of 2666mHz DDR4 memory

  • 2TB of SSD storage

  • 10-Gigabit Ethernet network port

  • Intel Integrated Graphics

  • (no keyboard, no mouse, no monitor)

  • Ports: power, Ethernet, four Thunderbolt, one HDMI, two USBA, headphone jack, Bluetooth, Wifi.

You'll pay AUD $6,659 for that configuration, without a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and you'll still be stuck with Intel integrated graphics.

Alternatively, I can go shopping at Intel and buy the Intel NUC PC with:

  • Intel Core i7-8705G at MHz

  • Bring your own RAM (up to 32GB)

  • Bring your own storage

  • Intel Integrated Graphics

  • AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Dedicated Graphics

  • (no keyboard, no mouse, no monitor)

  • Ports: Rear: Power, two Thunderbolt, two Mini-DisplayPort, one HDMI, four USBA, two Ethernet ports, optical audio out

  • Ports: Front: SD card slot, two USBA, one USBC, one HDMI, one audio-out/headphone jack

Intel is happy to sell me all of that, for AUD $1400.

I'd have to add my own RAM and SSD.

The RAM would cost around AUD $350 for the maximum 32GB DDR4 -2400 The SSD around AUD $150 for a 512GB Samsung M2 drive or AUD $850 for the 2TB SSD.

Add the PC at $1400, 32GB RAM at $350 and the 2TB SSD at $850 = AUD $2600

Even if you added another AUD $350 for another 32GB of RAM to make the RAM of the Apple and Intel equal at 64GB each, you're still only looking at AUD $2950, which is less than half the cost of the full-spec Mac Mini at AUD $6,659, and you're getting dedicated graphics, more ports, and more power, for less money.

Well, the Intel NUC is everything that the Apple Mac Mini should have been, and more.

If Intel could do it, and sell it at half the price, why can't Apple achieve even half of the NUC's power and ports?

The NUC might be in a plastic case, versus the aluminium case of the Apple machine, but that's not worth double the money.

Sorry Apple: we love Intel.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas


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