What use is Apple’s Mac mini, anyway?

“A Mac for under $500 is still a really attractive choice for many in the market for a new computer, and Apple certainly sells lots of these to people who don’t want the best Mac but still want a Mac,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld.

“The Mac mini isn’t really so cheap. You need a keyboard. You need a display. You need a mouse,” Evans writes. “And while you may have all these things somewhere in your home, the cold reality is that the existing model is completely outclassed by the entry-level iPad in performance terms.”

“Though Mac mini still has some use as a Mac server, or as a gateway Mac drug for PC switchers, when it comes to more intensive work you’ll inevitably choose a higher-end Mac or an iOS device,” Evans writes. “Mac mini is irrelevant. What does it do well? Nothing, other than some use as a server. Most every other task you might once have invested in Apple’s smallest Mac to achieve can now be transacted on your phone, tablet, or even watch (particularly as a media server). What’s the point of it?”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Poor neglected, ignored, maligned Mac mini.

The Mac mini Pro: It wouldn’t take much for Apple to make the Mac mini into a modern, professional-level machine – April 9, 2018
It’s not quite a Mac mini, but it’s my server – March 15, 2018
Whither Apple’s Mac mini? – December 18, 2017
Apple CEO Cook: The Mac mini will be ‘important part’ of our future product lineup – October 19, 2017
Apple’s apparent antipathy towards the Mac prompts calls for macOS licensing – March 27, 2017
How Tim Cook’s Apple alienated Mac loyalists – December 20, 2016
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016


    1. I like a monitor with a matte finish. The iMac only has the shiny, glossy finish, with a lot of glare and reflection. The Mac mini and Mac Pro are the best choice for users who want a matte finish.

      The various articles suggesting a radical new form factor, like Jonny Evans’ above, have got it wrong. It’s simple: The current size is fine, but it is disgraceful that Apple has failed to keep it updated. It needs a decent quad-core processor (Intel or ARM), and user upgradable components (RAM, storage, etc.)

      1. The iMac display is optically laminated to a cover glass which incorporates a CVD dielectric anti-reflection coating. The total reflections from the display are just a few percent and there is zero distortion of the display image.

        This is far superior to an old school plastic display cover with a matte surface.

        No Macs have had “glossy” high-reflectivity cover glass for more than half a decade. You’re basing your choices on old, outdated information.

        1. Whether you call it glossy or not, it is still highly reflective. I know. I have one of the 2017 27″ models. Very reflective. Too much so at times. A matte finish would be much appreciated as a option.

  1. As a server, the mini can’t be beat. An iMac would pretty strange on top of my kitchen cabinets (aka my server farm). I use Screen Sharing (or Apple Remote Desktop) to control it.

    I use Plex media server and Time Machine backup server every day. Sometimes I start a Handbrake job on it while I use my MacBooks for other stuff.

  2. Any iOS device replacing a Mac mini? NO.

    Amusingly, all the reasons I upgraded the hardware inside my Mac mini, all the reasons I find it extraordinarily functional and useful on my home LAN are advanced / pro level. So much for the Mac mini being a beginner’s Mac. It fills a few niches nicely. What’s a pity is the distracted, oblivious Apple doesn’t notice, doesn’t care, clearly. What an incredible waste.

    Again, a reason for Apple to reorganize, wake up, breathe, take a new account of the present and future and change for the far better.

    1. Yup, I enhanced mine as wwell. I put in a SSD and 16GB RAM. It’s a quick music server as well as photo editing machine. I use it in one part of the house when I’m not using my MBP. They are excellent little servers.

  3. I want to buy a replacement Mac Mini as a work machine for word-processing, email, internet. An iPad will not cut it for what I need and an iMac is overkill. A Mac Mini allows someone like me to have a machine with OS X – which will then place nicely with my MacBook, iPad and iPhone.

    Apple’s ignoring the Mac Mini – like the Mac generally has the potential to break the link of Mac-only products for people such as me. If people end up buying Windows computers for some tasks then the danger is that they feel less need to buy Apple products for others.

  4. It is pretty much a flawless server for a small office. With the thunderbolt ports running a thunderbolt drive array, access is as fast as it gets over gigabit ethernet. Never needs rebooting, other than for security updates, which it still gets from time to time. Long Live the Mac Mini!

  5. I use my 2012 i7 quad-core Mac Mini as a Plex server and it’s hooked directly to my 1080p HDTV. The next Mac Mini I want must have 4K @ 60fps support when I get my first 4K HDTV. I don’t understand why Apple is letting the Mac Mini go to waste. Whenever they show up on the Apple refurbished site, they sell out quickly so there’s definitely some demand for them. I’d rather have a Mac Mini than an AppleTV because the Mac Mini is more powerful and runs OSX. I’m willing to pay for the privilege so what’s Apple’s problem of not having a 4K-ready Mac Mini. The GPU hardware is certainly available for Apple to install. Apple is just leaving money on the table and begging to stay known as the iPhone company.

      1. Plex is awesome. Think of it as having your own personal Netflix server of movies, shows and videos that you own. Rip all of your DVD and Blu-Rays and store them on large capacity drives while Plex provides the database, server, and transcoding on the fly if the format isn’t compatible with the end device. There are Plex client apps for just about anything, so you can access your library from anywhere with a good network connection.

        It also works as a DVR with devices like the HDHomeRun which can record multiple HD streams over the air or via cable card.

  6. It is a fantastic SOHO or departmental file server. It makes a great at home media server. It is a fine general purpose computer, better than fine since it runs the MacOS. It is a great small business task server. I use them as Document Management Systems. It’s a fine small business email server. It’s a great staging server for web development. You can boot it directly into Windows under bootcamp and run Windows equivalents of all of the above. It is a great VPN server, print server, DHCP server. Truth is, when Apple discontinued the X-Serve, the MacMini quietly took over. For those of us in IT it is a Swiss-Army-knife utility computer. The problem is Apple doesn’t think about people like us. The people who bring Macs into the enterprise. And sadly, were beginning to stop thinking about Apple as well, because well, we don’t need anymore phones. We need enterprise centric machines and services. Apple is more interested in, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and emojis than supporting such technology.

    I still enjoy when clients who typically do not visit the computer room come by and see the MacMini and say, “That’s my server????”

    Now that Apple is gutting macOS Server, I’ve started to convert MacMini servers to bootcamp machines running Windows Server and Microsoft Exchange. Not my preference but the quick and dirty solution to making sure I provide solutions that are supported by the vendors. And you see, that’s where the crack in the happy happy joy joy starts. How long before I start thinking, “Why am I dealing with the Apple stuff at all anymore? It’s clearly targeted at boutique computer users, the folks who do more facebook than anything else. I have vastly more flexibility and choice with Windows and LINUX.”

    1. Apple is pushing people to Windows 10.
      I have a fully ready Windows 10 Pro image up and ready to go at the drop of a hat. Tim Cook, kill the Mac or put some resources behind something other than a $5000 iMac few will buy.

        1. “Is it Apple pushing it or does Apple just see the writing on the wall?”

          It is a self fulfilling prophesy. Believe the future of the Mac Desktop is going to be extremely high end and only for those who want a “stylish” Mac (note the iMac “Pro”) leads to ignoring the rest for years at a time. This leads to very low sales of the ignored product lines and users migrating to other platforms. This then leads to poor sales (or worse) when mediocre products are introduced. Which just continues the spiral.

          Apple needs to find someone with the nerve to bring the Mac back. Tim Cook and the rest of the current gang are NOT those people and no one (yes, NO ONE) among them is that person. The current gang of executives at Apple are all beholding to the bean counters and marketing people — each and every one of them without exception.

          While the non Mac PC world sales are contracting Mac sales should be expanding instead of contracting at an even faster rate than the non Mac PC sales.

          1. Non Mac PC sales are contracting in the desktop form factor, BUT expanding in a different segment. The “thin and powerful, over $1000” segment. Industry trends are that the desktop market is going to continue to decrease as performance gains made in the portable area means that more and more of the population are well served by mobiles (because mobile form factor processors are just going to get better and better).

            Bringing the Mac back, now, would be like bringing the Apple II back when it was clear the Mac was the future.

            1. As well it should be. For everyone that wants a computing device, there’s likely a device out there that is tailored to thier specific needs. Apple has never had a device for everyone, they’ve always gone after specific markets. There were folks that dropped Apple in the transition to the Mac, and there are people that will drop Apple in the transition to iOS.

              The important thing is that Apple replace those that leave with NEW consumers, and they’ll likely continue to shake things up every 20 years to come. The downside, of course, is to those people who grew to become adults ONLY knowing about the existence of THEIR Apple platform and can’t imagine what came before and can’t fathom that anything can come after. This has all happened before, and it’ll happen again.

          2. “Apple needs to find someone with the nerve to bring the Mac back. Tim Cook and the rest of the current gang are NOT those people and no one (yes, NO ONE) among them is that person. The current gang of executives at Apple are all beholding to the bean counters and marketing people — each and every one of them without exception.”

            Amen. Amen. Amen! …

  7. What a waste of an article. Despite 8 years of neglect of the Mac hardware and software, the iPad remains well behind the capability of a Mac for productive, sharing, user-managed work. The I/O of iOs gadgets is intentionally crippled, a walled garden, making it unacceptable for multiplatform environments.

    When you work with multiple clients using different platforms, you need versatility, period. You might not need a supercomputer, sure, but you do need a reliable flexible solid Mac. We can only hope Apple doesn’t abandon the most capable platform it has ever had.

    1. Are people actually paid to write stupid articles like this?

      Does the “author” have any idea of the thousands of operations that I do every week for which there is no iOS software, and require a mouse and a keyboard?

      I am sure this clown is not aware of how the content for his iOS device is produced!

      1. Jonny Evans is a well known, knowledgeable and experienced writer about Apple and especially about Macs. He has written about Apple products for nearly twenty years and before freelancing for Computerworld, he was a regular contributor to Macworld.

        His article is a provocative starting point for a discussion and he makes a number of suggestions about how Mac mini could evolve into something better, but still remain true to the original concept. My take is that he views Mac mini as an undervalued device which needs to be either meaningfully updated or put out of it’s misery.

        It’s interesting to note that he says ” What does it do well? Nothing, other than some use as a server”. Look at this thread and you’ll how many readers are saying that it’s a great server for them while only two or three readers said they use it primarily as a general purpose computer.. His argument is essentially that in many cases, other than using it as a server, what most people use their Mac mini for can be done at least as well or sometimes better with a different Apple product.

        For my part, I don’t have a Mac mini, but have been very tempted to get one because Apple TV is a poor choice in the UK due to the fact that as far as I’m aware, there is still no way of watching 4oD ( a major UK broadcast streaming service ) on Apple TV, but a Mac mini would make that possible and still do the other things which mattered to me with Apple TV. However as Jonny pointed out, existing Apple products can often do jobs at least as well as a Mac mini and in my case, my iPad allows me to view 4oD and other services on my TV. However it’s still a minor hassle setting it up compared to having something always plugged in and ready to go. It’s just not that much hassle and it’s not done so often that I feel inclined to spend $500 to resolve it. I could certainly find a good use for one or two Mac minis, but I have better ideas for spending that sum of money.

    2. “well behind the capability of a Mac”
      Well behind, BUT close enough to peel off ever increasing numbers of folks that don’t need a Mac. The number of folks that absolUTEly NEEEEED a Mac will continue to decrease over time.

        1. The fact that iOS device sales overshadow Mac device sales by a HUGE amount means that MOST people’s needs are met with mobile devices. There are a few million whose needs aren’t met by mobile devices and Apple is selling over 4 million Mac devices to those satisfied customers every year. That’s two good sized groups (iOS and macOS) of satisfied customers. Who’s not satisfied? Probably hundreds of thousands that want a Mac that Apple doesn’t make, like something as expandable/powerful as a top of the line Windows PC.

          And, the fact still remains that the kind of people who would have bought a Mac 10 years ago (iPad was introduced in 2010) to check their email, surf the internet, watch youtube and check facebook are now buying iPads or iPhones to check email, surf the internet, watch youtube and check facebook. As mobile devices get more powerful, larger parts of the market will see them as a viable option.

          1. The fact remains that you are totally clueless time and time again on this topic. Your extrapolations of data points and personal opinion of users needs is just that, and WRONG AGAIN …

  8. Most people do not buy the price leader entry Mac mini. This is a straw man fanboi piece.
    I will get the cookies down on a low shelf for those who like to squint at an iPhone for everything.
    1- It is a Macintosh- a real computer unlike the locked down iPad and iPhone.
    2- It is a headless Mac- no need for electrical tape on your webcam for privacy.

    I have a Mac mini hooked up to an H-P UHD 32” Monitor sitting at a desk in an extra bedroom with a nice backlit Logitech Keyboard and an Apple Trackpad. Sound from a set of Focals. When I am working online this setup does just fine- far better than the MacBook Pro Retina laptop or my iPad Pro. The boot disc is an external SSD connected via USB 3 and a ProBox has 4 internal HDs for media backup.

    I have an old Mac Pro Workstation beast running headless, so I have plenty of horsepower on call for transcoding or other intensive computing.

    If my Mac mini dies I can plug in another and keep on. If your iPad dies you are FUBAR- everything is locked inside and failure of anything means you are dead. If my monitor dies I can plug in any HDMI TV and keep on.

    Headless Macs are always the way to go.

  9. Xcode… I need Xcode for iOS app development. Have 4 of them operate as Jenkins slave running builds and testsuites on Sim and target. Mini 16 GB ram is my main workhorse. I got a company Windows 10 laptop that’s twice the power of the Mini but the IT departement knows how to break its back with 80+ company spyware processes. They leave the Macs alone ( for now…)

  10. On a mac mini today, I run software that Steve Jobs once referred to as a truck on a farm. As Steve explained, there would likely be more types of vehicles one day soon, not resembling trucks on a farm, and that would make some people uncomfortable. And as Tim Cook understands all too well for some of us, the computing world today has an appetite for far more little commuter cars than robust farm trucks.

    1. “the computing world today has an appetite for far more little commuter cars than robust farm trucks.”

      i get your analogy but it sort of falls apart a bit today.

      Ford just recently stopped nearly all future production of “little commuter cars'”, is keeping it’s trucks and focusing on big robust SUVs. Seems like people just want tools to get the job done and found ‘little cars’ inadequate.

      NPR : “Ford To Ditch Cars In North America, Focus On Trucks And SUVs”

    2. Guess what: those little commuter cars are hauled to where they are sold by the trucks, the food the drivers of those little commuter cars is hauled by truck, I could go on for thousands more examples.

      If my point is not made, then there is no hope.

  11. Boys, there’s more anger toward Apple than I’ve ever seen since I’ve been using, studying, researching Macs, 1986. We are mad at Apple. Jerks don’t seem to care about Macs for a few years now.

    1. Oh, it’s just the internet. Back when the Apple II was being left behind, all the anger was in user group meetings. Same exact small number of people that are pissed, but echoes louder when you’ve got the internet involved. The vast majority of folks really just can’t bothered, they’re trying to post to Instagram.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.