Yesterday, Apple held a special event announcing a number of anticipated new products, including a new iPad Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Mini.
A lot of people were expecting, among other things, a new iMac to be announced as well. But no such luck.
Still, the Mac Mini had not seen a refresh in four years. That’s quite a long time for any Apple product. And Apple has confirmed it will now have upgradeable memory, post-purchase.
Now that’s no small thing.
But now that the Mac Mini is back and up to snuff with today’s tech standards, is it worth purchasing over last year’s iMac?
In this day and age, the Mac Mini is a strange little beast. It’s not (exactly) portable like a laptop. It’s not a full-packaged deal like an all-in-one desktop. And it’s certainly no high-performance, fully customizable gaming PC.
The Mac Mini is just a really small… computer.
So before we get into the comparison between the new Mac Minis and the most recent iMacs, here’s a quick rundown of the 2018 Mac Mini min and max specs, without too much of the nitty-gritty, just to see how it fares:
- Processor: 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 up to 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7
- Storage Capacity: 128GB SSD up to 2TB SSD
- Memory: 8GB up to 64GB
- Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630
- Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), Two USB 3, HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm headphone jack
All of that is leaps and bounds ahead of the 2014 model. And the new Mini starts out, with minimum specs, at just under $800.
If you add in the Apple mouse and keyboard that come standard with every iMac (and not with the Mac Mini), it comes out to be nearly $1,000.
Next, throw in a $100 21.5-inch monitor, and you’re just about at $1,099, the exact cost of the the lowest-end iMac, an all-in-one with the same 21.5-inch screen size (non-4K, though, mind you).
But here’s the thing… that low-end iMac isn’t quad-core, and it doesn’t come packing with a solid-state drive or the latest generation Intel processor.
Now, chances are, if you’re considering buying a “low-end” machine, cores and solid state drives and general “newness” may not be a major selling point for you.
For the same price, that basic 21.5-inch iMac might just be worth it for the convenience of not having to think about separate accessories and the desk space that a monitor and 60 square-inch computer will take up.
Plus, while it’s not solid-state or fusion, you’ll get a 1TB hard drive standard with the iMac.
But let’s raise the stakes a bit anyway, shall we?
Let’s say you’re looking to pay $1,500 for an iMac (pretty much the average cost of a new Mac), with a 21.5 inch 4K display, the standard minimum 8GB of RAM, last year’s 3.0GHz quad-core i5 processor, an upgraded 256GB SSD and a dedicated graphics card.
What kind of Mac Mini would $1,500 get you?
First of all, there aren’t many 4K displays out there at under 22 inches. So to keep the technology as fair as we can, let’s say you go with a 28-inch 4K display for $300 (it’s possible). That’s already a one-up for the Mac Mini.
Then you’ve got your Apple mouse and Apple keyboard, so that’s another $180-$200.
Now you’re basically looking at a $1,000 Mac Mini. And for $1,000 you pretty much just get the lowest-end Mac Mini we outlined above, except with a 256GB SSD. No dedicated graphics memory, and an i3 instead of an i5 processor, which are negatives, but the same RAM, the same number of cores, the same hard drive, and a much larger screen.
But then for just $100 more (which can easily be saved by buying a non-Apple mouse and keyboard), you can get a Mac Mini with an 8th generation 6-core i5 Intel chip, with all other specs remaining the same.
Oh, but wait. If you want something bigger and sharper, A 5K 27-inch iMac with 256GB of solid state storage runs you $1,899, while Apple’s recommendation of the 5K “Ultra Fine” monitor from LG costs a good $1,300 all on its own.
I could go on listing side-by-side comparisons of better and better Mac Mini and iMac models until next year, but the fact is that the ultimate conclusion would still be the same: everything is a trade off.
Apple seems to have orchestrated the builds of their two lower-end desktop computers (compared of course to the outlandishly expensive iMac Pro and Mac Pro) to be such that no two spec configurations are exactly the same. No Mac Mini model has dedicated graphics. No iMac has an 8th generation or 6-core processor.
If graphics are your thing, or if you like the all-Apple casing of the iMac, the Mac Mini might not be for you.
If those things aren’t important, and you like the freedom that comes with being able to upgrade to a bigger or newer monitor–maybe not now, but sometime down the road–then the Mac Mini has you covered for a price that’s hard to beat (when it comes to Macs).
So, as much as I like to get definitive answers on things myself, it all really just depends on what over what you prioritize. And that seems to just be the way that Apple has designed it.
That said, at least with the Mac Mini your new computer is unlikely to get replaced by a newer model for another four years or so… maybe.
Anyway, we would love to hear your thoughts on Apple’s latest and greatest. Thinking of getting the new Mac Mini? Or perhaps waiting until the next refresh of iMacs?
Let us know down below, and don’t forget to share this page with friends and family and social media.