Apple’s new Mac mini is quickly turning into a ‘disaster’ or something

“Mac mini fans waited a heck of a long time for an update and, upon witnessing Apple’s unveiling of the 2014 Mac mini during October’s iPad event, issued a collective sigh of relief,” Jim Tanous writes for TekRevue. “Finally. Sure, the new model sported the same form factor as its predecessor, and there was seemingly nothing radical to justify Apple’s delay in updating the product, but at least the Mac mini could finally get the “new” features that have been available on other Macs for over a year, such as PCIe-based flash storage, Haswell processors, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Apple also cut the entry level price by $100 to boot, bringing the system back to its original, psychologically significant $499 price point.”

“But it didn’t take long for even this arguably consolation prize-style update to begin to unravel. It was soon revealed that Apple was using soldered RAM in the new Mac minis,” Tanous writes. “Compounding the memory upgrade situation is the company’s choice of CPUs. Yes, they’re Haswell, but they’re not as fast as their 2-plus-year-old Ivy Bridge predecessors. The old 2012 Mac mini lineup included options for both dual- and quad-core CPUs, but the new 2014 models are dual-core only, and the efficiency improvements in Haswell can’t compensate for the loss of those two cores.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Mac mini is an entry-level Mac and Apple did what they had to do in order to get the price below US$500 – a magic price point for luring hapless Windows sufferers into the light. If you want to be able to add third-party RAM and deploy faster processors, then – Newsflash! – you are not a Mac mini customer.

The fact is that Apple’s Mac mini product is an excellent value. Stop blaming Apple because you are trying to shoehorn yourself into the wrong Mac product. You don’t get a Mac with replaceable RAM for under $500. Apple’s RAM margins are a big part of why the entry-level Mac can even start at $499. Furthermore, any budgetary concerns you may have are your own problem, not Apple’s.

UPDATE: 12:56pm EDT: Note to Apple: You are missing something between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. A Mac minitower — a really short “tower,” call it the “Mac mini Pro” — with user-swappable RAM more processor options starting at $799 would go a looong way here (especially with the Mac’s rejuvenated growth). You are leaving money on the table.

61 Comments

  1. “Yes, they’re Haswell, but they’re not as fast as their 2-plus-year-old Ivy Bridge predecessors.”

    So what. How fast does the damn thing need to be to browse Facebook?

      1. Really? It has to be faster than the competition to browse FaceBook? Please give me a benchmark how much faster a FaceBook page refreshes/loads with a CPU/GPU that is, let’s say, 4X faster when the internet is the bottleneck. Oh yea, and tell me how much difference it makes while streaming video and audio when the ISP is throtteling the bandwidth?

        “This computer is so slow” when the problem is a dumb router.

        1. Can anyone explain why Apple could not have offered a souped up version to fill the very role of the mini tower that MDN so evangelises. After all I thought the whole argument for the iPhone C was to upswell to the S so why not do the same with the mini. The present scheme seems to want to present a choice of very basic or big expensive advance to the iMac.

    1. This is a bad move by Apple. MDN’s take is so off the mark. For one QUAD Core is vital in deploying servers. These were awesome file servers, FTP servers and even web servers. You may say niche, I say the opposite. I think the main use case for this machines was just that, servers, media centers. HUGE HUGE MISTAKE on Apple’s part.

      1. Agreed with using a Mac mini as a server. In my old place I had 3 sat next to the ENORMOUS Windoze server, running Mail, file serving, SQL and Time Machine for the growing number of Macs entering the office.

        Apple really should make a MacServe™

  2. I agree with MDN’s take. If the first thing you do when you look at a new computer is imagine that you have to jack up the RAM and change the storage and don’t think the processor is going to be powerful enough, then you’re looking at the wrong computer.

    1. no. i disagree

      as one who has had more than one mac mini over the years, i like the size, the form factor, and i always up the ram, as i often work with high res photos.

      i think going soldered ram in the mini is a dumb move

      why mac mini ? well maybe i don’t like the new slimline imacs that even the repair shops complain about trying to pry apart the glued together components, making it both more costly to repair and easier to screw up in the process.

      not to mention – admittedly a minor point – but those slim edged screens are uncomfortable to grasp and lift. the old thicker ones are less trouble to horse around

      besides if i want a nice big 27 inch screen i can buy one separately, which i have, and avoid the deconstruction issues of the imac

      1. Yes I was looking forward to the refresh to set myself up with a multi-media mac connected to a big screen. This is still possible, but not as cheaply as before. As before I would have purchased a low end Mac mini, put in aftermarket RAM, and put in aftermarket SSD, keep the original HD, hook it up to a large screen and be done for less than $900. For the same setup now (extra RAM, SSD, HD and big screen) it will cost me more than $1000. Not happy here. Looking for a good used 2013 Mac mini, but their prices are staying high.

  3. I’m going to hazard a guess that most people do not buy MacMinis as entry level computers. I buy them for compact, dad,’inexpensive small to medium sized business servers, departmental servers, and test machines. There is no other appropriate Apple machine for OS X Server. When I read the specs of the new MacMini, I bought a few of the previous models.

    I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but it is a disappointment.

    I am considering going HackInTosh for servers or just using LINUX at this point.

    1. Exactly- it is not the price. It is a desktop that does not require you to buy a display that sports reasonable specs. I have a nice Apple LED Cinema with a Mini Display Port that would like a new Mac mini attached- I do not need or want a laptop or iMac and I already have a Mac Pro.

    2. I think you’re correct – people moving to the Mac platform are usually looking for an entirely new computer, and therefore buy iMacs or MacBook Airs. Mac minis may be secondary Macs or may be bought most often to fit specific uses, like home media servers, etc. I don’t know anyone who has a Mac mini as their primary Mac, although I’m sure some are out there. It does make sense, though, if you already own a large, expensive/nice display and don’t have any reason to replace it.

    3. A friend of mine who’s also used Macs for years (and won an Academy Award for Star Wars way back when) put a bug in my ear about the new HP Z840 Workstations which speed past current Mac Pro’s in graphics, 3D, video and compositing.

      Now I despise PC’s and Windows so it’s telling I would commit the heresy of even considering one. But the Mac Pro currently is limited by Thunderbolt 2 who’s speed equivalent is like a PCIe3 2-4X slot whereas PC’s can be bought with three or more 16X slots (PCIe3 is now standard in PC’s) and are more easily updated, have internal storage, etc.. My friend said I should wait for Thunderbolt 3 or 4 or buy an HP now. I find I do miss the big box advantages of the old Mac Pro (of which I still own two but they are very long in the tooth).

      At any rate Apple took so much time coming out with the current Mac Pro I feel they needed to up their commitment with a one-two punch by upgrading them this year as well though granted they are also limited by Intel’s chip release schedule. PC users don’t wait as long to get these upgraded chipsets as Mac users do.

      So what’s a VFX guy who loves Macs to do? Wait? I sort of wish Apple would just license HP to deal with just the pro market level machines (I know, I know – the previous history of allowing others to make Macs but the average soul won’t invest 5-10,000 in a home machine). Don’t want to deal with Hackintosh headaches either. Suggestions?

      1. Apple has decided to become a boutique marketer of iToys on a massive scale for profit. The profitable, but smaller, professional market they have repeatedly given the finger to despite it having kept the lights on at Apple in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

        The business model they are moving toward is like Banana Republic for electronics- decent stuff vastly overpriced. Screw you if you need replaceable memory, hot swappable internal drives or a decent graphics card- you will take your Intel Iris graphics for your $2k and be happy.

        The performance hit they are taking is by using the low power processors instead of the desktop grade units.

        1. I agree.

          Apple should offer motherboard kits. Do-it-yourself types could then build whatever computer they feel suits their needs. This would also allow Apple to slash its already meager computer product line to focus on more iOfferings for the iCrowd.

          1. Give me an f’ing break. You show zero understanding of Apple and their products. As fun as a kit computer would be, it will NEVER happen. EVER. “Apple should…” I read those words on any comment or article and know I’m in for some class A horse shit.
            And Darwin is a Samsung paid troll, I can’t believe folks here are agreeing with his lunacy.
            @peterblood – I hate to say it, but Hackintosh might be the way to go for the time being. I’m giving some consideration to building a couple as render slaves. The pros are fantastic for desktop machines – they’re super quiet, and take up way less space than the aluminum pros – it makes a huge difference. I’m quickly replacing as many as I can in my office. But price/core has always been a problem with Apple if all you need is pure power at a low cost. If you have the budget – a pro for your work machine, a Hackintosh or PC for your renders.

    4. You are spot on. This is exactly how we use them. As small business workhorses. We have a team of 40 developers, and they ALL have mac mini computers that we bump to 16GB of ram for $100 extra using Crucial ram. We purchase the Quad core versions to maximize developer performance. These have been very strong machines.

      The new mini’s are a horrible disappointment. Worse, to configure them near what we have now will cost is about $300 more per unit. We would buy the top of the line Mini for $800, add $100 for ram. Now, a Dual core i7 will cost us $1K, and $200 for 16GB bump, or $1200.

      Given the number of units we purchase, this could be a deal breaker. I was SO happy to have an entire development team on Mac computers, even though our CEO is very price conscious.. but I’m afraid I’ll have to end up going back to ‘PC’ hardware and running Ubunto. (I’d cut of my arm before going to Windows!!)

      1. Sometimes spelling out the time savings with the Mac vs. PC will help the cause.
        $300 more per Mac can be recouped in how much time vs. PC headaches?
        I do agree that it is a step backwards but you have limited choices.

        1. Most likely we will opt for the i5 and the 16GB ram, that puts the unit at the same price point, but dramatically lower performance. A dual core i5 has 2 execution units, a quad core i7 has 8.. That’s 25% the capability. At least a dual core i7 has 4…

          The best argument to stick with the mini will be compatibility with the rest of the team.

    5. I am so close to just building a hackintosh as well.

      I’ve built PC’s for 20 years.. it’s a cakewalk for anyone with any tech knowledge.

      Even though it isn’t a problem now, i’m just a little worried about Apple cutting off the App Store at the account level at some point.
      Would hate to lose all that stuff i’ve purchased over the years, losing access to it on legitimate macs.. really the only thing stopping me now.

    6. Exactly what I did, I was in the market for a couple of Mac Minis waited for the updated models and then went looking for a couple of mid 2012’s.
      Cheaper Ram upgrades and swapping the hard drives when required increase their life expectancy, for me anyway.

  4. I will be in the market for a new Mac mini soon. At first I too was excited about the lower price point. But I quickly realized that the next model up is what I needed. Sure it is $200 more but you get double the ram, a larger hard drive and faster processor.
    The $500 model is truly entry level. Once you accept it for what it is then spending a bit more for a much better speced unit makes sense.

  5. That’s an unfair comment MDN. Not all of us are hapless windows migrants, and not all of us are cheap prick android panhandlers. Some of us want a decent, minimally upgradable computer at a good price and not necessarily $499. That was some apple guru’s idea and not necessarily ours. I think apple can afford to sell an economical computer if it really wants to. Beating up on true apple customers is not cool. Shame on you!

    1. If you can’t afford a $499 Mac mini switch to Microsoft or Google crap.

      If you want a $699 Mac mini but you only want to pay $499 for it, send a letter to Santa before Christmas.

    1. Look Apple, just give us the faster CPU & replaceable RAM option and price it accordingly.

      It is a lot better for customers to run as a headless Mac than buying a Mac Pro, for God’s sake.

  6. ” If you want to be able to add third-party RAM and deploy faster processors, then – Newsflash! – you are not a Mac mini customer.”

    I’m calling Bullshit.

    Some of us need/want a computer that is not an all in one but is not a laptop or $3,000 (by the time taxes factor in) Mac “Pro” (Mac mini Pro- aka The Black Trashcan). It is not exactly a mystery about how to build a basic desktop computer that can adequately run Mac OS X with decent IO, Memory and Graphics- I personally could care less about the styling that dumbs down everything each new iteration.

    Apple is just being a bunch of cheap bastards dumping Macbook Air components into a box. Apple could at least have offered the same spec options for GPU/CPU that are offered on the vastly overpriced iMac- which are assembled in China by people who make way less than a burger flipper in these United States.

    1. Errr… “after the RAM dies”? I’ve owned countless computers since the late 1970s and never has the RAM died. There may be an environmental argument to be made here, but it isn’t about RAM.

  7. I think the point is that apple needs something that fits in-between the mini and the pro. A four core mini would have satisfied my needs, and a pro is a bit overkill. I run large screens, so iMac isn’t an option. Something like a mini pro, or pro mini would be an awesome choice. All of that said, I’m resigned to the fact that I will probably have to go Pro to get what will meet my requirements.

    1. An i7 CPU with a minimum of Iris Pro graphics as a BTO option would be fine. The soldered in RAM is just a cheap tactic to force people to buy Apple’s overpriced RAM. With plug in RAM you could avoid Apple’s overpriced RAM and roll your own.

      1. Exactly.. Apple wanted like $250 for me to upgrade my RAM in my iMac at time of purchase.. I picked it up for $100.

        Same with my MBP, at the least it’s twice the cost from Apple.

        And before anyone says it’s tested and will work better than off the shelf 3rd party stuff.. Apple’s RAM I got with my iMac.. is an off brand i’ve never heard of. I have Crucial in now.

        If Apple used Crucial or some well known RAM manufacturer.. I could maybe understand the high cost. But apple doesn’t, they use the cheapest companies they can find, and sell for a TON higher.
        Going on the Apple discussion board posters have shown over the years that Apple did not use the same company for all of their RAM. Some have one company, others have another. Depending on size and model.. there were even more brands that Apple used through the years, they never stuck with one company.

  8. I replaced an 4 year old iMac with a new Mac Mini and couldn’t be happier!

    I went with the 2.8Ghz w/ Fusion Drive model, not the $499 model. It is markedly faster than it’s predecessor and more than capable of handling anything / everything I’ve thrown at it. I don’t do video or photo editing, so I didn’t see the need for a $2500 5k iMac as a replacement. This fit my needs and budget much better!

  9. Please, don’t try and justify this update…they cut its balls off so you will buy a more expensive computer.

    This has NOTHING to do with a “plan” and all to do with profit.

    apple use to say they would never make junk…well they just did. The new Mac Mini is a piece of junk…crap I wouldn’t give to my baby son.

      1. He’d literally outgrow it by the time he was 3 (it’ll be too slow to run any education graphic driven program).

        Seriously, this update is absolutely a piece of junk.

  10. I was all prepared to spend $2,000+ on a fully-loaded Mac Mini. Lack of four cores shot that in the foot. I don’t want to spend $4,000 on a beefed-up Mac Pro (paying for a pair of GPUs I’ll never use). I do need those four cores. I should probably see if I can still buy an older Mac Mini. Makes me sorry I waited (for once).

  11. I waited for the new mini and I’m glad I got it instead of a 2012 model.

    It’s much faster than the MacPro it replaced and, unlike the 2012 model, has two thunderbolt ports. THOSE make all the difference.

    Get it with the fusion drive and having system ram not upgradable is not even a small deal, let alone a big deal.

    BTW – the LaCie thunderbolt external drive is perfect in every way.

    1. Um….just how ancient was the MacPro you replaced? Are you sure that your “MacPro” was not in actuality a G5 PowerMac?

      —————————————————————————-

      Thus said, the problem with both Apple’s lobotimized mini as well as MDN’s take (which is merely “Give us the xMac!”) is that neither move was wise.

      At Apple, by removing upgradability in the mini, they _increased_ the technology gap in their two-unit ‘headless desktop’ product line, which degrades their ability to have the fewest number of products satisfy the broadest range of consumers.

      At at MDN, while there certainly is a cadre of serious amateurs who would love to have an xMac (because it lets them avoid dropping more cash for a nMP), the biggest “NO” factor is that the grim marketplace reality – – not just at Apple – – is that the desktop market has been in steep decline and will increase cannibalization amongst the remaining survivors.

      Overall, the basic attitude from Apple is that these midrange power-amateur users should accept buying a hopped-up iMac.

      Personally, I’m waffling ambivalently on that approach, because while I wouldn’t really mind spending the extra bucks every few years for a nice new display (integrated), my bigger concerns are that tweaking an iMac gets very expensive to have it simply match my current configuration/capability which I have in my current 2012 Mac Pro…specifically for data storage for my photograph: Boot SSD + 4TB RAID0/data + 2*(4TB/Redunant TimeMachine) + shadow mirrored Boot drive + Optical.

      Plus there’s other externals & peripherals, and sure, I will inevitably offload much of my big data into Thunderbolt external array(s), but that’s the “Apple Tax” for simply being forced to change my form factor because Apple afforded no other alternatives…it does not enhance my current capabilities, which means that from the perspective of a consumer following his own best interests, Apple has motivated me to delay a major upgrade for as long as I reasonably can…which means that Apple is shooting themselves in their own financial foot.

      And naturally, I’m not alone in making such rational decisions.

      -hh

      1. Apple continues to screw over its desktop customers with lack of user configurability and then Cook & Co wonders why the sales of the latest desktop Macs are relatively weak.

        Who in their right mind would buy a new Mac mini that underperforms a used 2011 Mac mini, not to mention a 2008 Mac Pro?

        People understand that portable machines have to give up performance and user options in order to make them light and small. And sure, iMac sales are great for a large number of basic computer users who don’t mind the expansion limitations or get forced into a bundled display. But for a considerable number of desktop power users, such packaging limitations should never drive desktop design. Cook is totally out to lunch if he thinks that Mac desktop users care more about thinness than they do about performance, configurability, and value. Desktop users look at specs.

        The reason that Hackintoshes even exist is because Apple doesn’t listen to its longtime power desktop Mac users anymore. Apple abandoned the rack market, the server market, and the desktop user-configurable markets. Soldered memory and sealed cases are replacing what used to be really long-term value machines that could grow with the user. That doesn’t fly with the longtime Apple users who justified high initial purchase price by knowing that the durable Macs could be upgraded over time (both internally and externally!) to keep ’em current, or to add specialized capabilities via PCI cards no original computer maker could offer. If one actually does need custom capabilities, Apple now demands that you buy overpriced thunderbolt enclosures and cables to litter your desk, which is both ugly and costly — and it can’t possibly be faster than internal PCI slots, which is exactly what Thunderbolt (PCI-E) is based on.

        Does anyone have an informed guess on how big the Hackintosh market is? It may be far bigger than Apple realizes. All those users could easily be back in Apple’s camp if only Apple would get off its increasingly fat ass and offer a high-value middle tier desktop Mac that people have been asking for for 5+ years. But now that Apple is an iToy maker first and foremost, maybe Cook just doesn’t care. After all, Apple continues to lose out to other platforms in small business and enterprise markets that still buy millions, if not billions, in computers every year. Apple is now a money-focused corporation, not a user-focused computer maker.

        Sales of the 2013+ trashcan Mac Pro are poor because it misses the mainstream prosumer, server, and most enterprise markets.

        Prices of used pre-2013 Mac Pros remain super high, no surprise. If you want value, get an old Mac Pro instead of limiting yourself to a castrated Mac mini.

        1. Mike, I agree with a lot of your points (and also empathize as a fellow desktop power user).

          Overall, what I’m afraid of is what you say, namely that Apple has swung too far into ‘money focused’ instead of building the best products for their users…and that means those that have been buying for decades, not the hoola-hoop fad crowd.

          I do have to include a caveat, however, which is that without business segments which make money, then the other stuff becomes unaffordable – – however, Apple does need to also recognize that those folk that have voted with their wallet with a DIY Hackintosh _used to be_ their strongest grass roots advocates.

          To this end, I very much do agree that the question of what is the marketshare of Hackintoshes is a very profound question…and while I’m 100% sure that Apple knows this metric, that doesn’t mean that it will make it out to “Open Literature” and the Mac-centric website readers.

          -hh

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