2014 Mac Mini – Underwhelmed

Mac Mini – Mini in a Massive Way

I must say, I am forced to agree that the Mac Mini is indeed “mini in a massive way”; perhaps not in the way Apple’s marketing department intended.

You see, for years my home has had a place for a few Apple computers. We have uses ranging from amateur photography to running some downright entrenched software packages.

While I started learning to user computers with an IBM 8088 and have always had some form of PC in my home, I have also been a Mac user since the Quadra 610; way to date myself, huh? My family has two 2009 Macbook Pro 13″ laptops and a pair of 20″ iMacs.

All of these are growing long in the tooth at this point and we were looking to replace at least my wife’s laptop with a new Mac Mini. In fact I had called to order one in late summer of 2014 and decided to cancel at that time since rumor had it I could wait and get an upgraded one in a few months.

Linux rebuilt laptop as a hold-over

In the meantime I rebuilt an old i7 Dell laptop with Linux Mint and my wife was pretty happy with it. Everything “just worked” and it was a slick little machine. I envision it still getting lots of use as a portable going forward.

With all that said the Mac Mini update came and went and “underwhelmed” is the best word I can come up with for the specs when I finally saw them. Needless to say, I did not rush to purchase one as soon as I could. I figured I’d wait for some benchmarks and reviews. When the benchmarks started coming in I was glad I had waited. The new Dual-Core only CPUs that Apple chose to include have terrible performance (especially in multi-threaded tasks) compared to the old CPUs. A late 2012 Mini is up to 70% faster at multi-threaded tasks than the equivalent late 2014 Mini. Add to that the fact that the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, and I “noped” out of that with astonishing rapidity.

So what was our solution? I built a new Mini-ITX PC for my wife for far less money with far better specifications and it’s fully upgradeable. She has found alternate applications that do everything she used to use her old mac for. When it came time for one of the ’09 MBPs to be retired we replaced it with another Windows laptop with the same now familiar applications, now that app lock in had been escaped.

What does the future hold?

I understand the angle that Apple is taking with the Mac Mini – entry-level users, first time buyers, etc., but I also find myself agreeing with the growing consensus that Apple is trying to phase out the Mac Mini as a viable desktop for your average user, in lieu of the iMac and Mac Pro. Their profit margins on the Mini must be tiny, and their brand is so strong at this point that they don’t need a loss leader / low margin machine anymore. The Mini was touted as the machine for migrating PC users to get when it debuted – just plug in your existing mouse, keyboard, and monitor; I think with the expiration of that marketing push, we may well see the Mini die off altogether.

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