Mac mini review roundup: Apple has done the right thing, and the price is justified

Reviews of the new MacBook Air may have been somewhat lacking in enthusiasm, but those for the 2018 Mac mini have been almost universally positive. The typical Mac mini review can be summarised as saying that the market for the device has moved on, and Apple has recognized that fact.

Where the Mac mini was once an entry-level device designed to persuade people to switch from Windows desktop PCs, today most people use laptops – and the mini has found a new niche as a semi-pro machine. What Apple has done here is to adapt to the market, giving it the machine it really wants – and being willing to sacrifice entry-level consumers in the process …


CNET says it will have a final Mac mini review once it has completed all its testing, but says it is impressed so far – with one big reservation. It also says pricing is about par with comparable Windows machines.

In the 2018 models, Apple’s delivered a great upgrade, with only one possible drawback.

In addition to modernizing the connection options with USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, updating to HDMI 2.0 and offering a 10Gb Ethernet option, Apple fixed one of the big complaints about the 2014 model: soldered memory. Upgradable memory is back, and it takes two industry-standard DDR4 SO-DIMMs.

But like most Apple products, it’s not really end-user upgradable, requiring a trip to a service center. This undercuts one of the perks, namely being able to buy less expensive memory elsewhere […]

Though the price of entry has gone up from $500 to $800 (£400 to £800 or AU$620 to AU$1,249), much faster than the pace of inflation over the same period, it’s still not out of line. The comparable Windows configurations in a compact design — and there really aren’t many — are actually pretty expensive in comparison. Examples include the HP Z2 Mini G4 workstation (about $1,000 for an i3-8100, 8GB and 256GB SSD) or the HP EliteDesk 800 G4 (almost $1,300 for an i3-8100T, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD).


Macworld says that the ‘switcher’ market Apple once targeted does still exist, but it’s no longer the primary market.

The Mac mini made its debut in 2005, and was marketed as the affordable entry-point for Mac newcomers. All it needed was an external display […] and USB input devices […]

But as it turned out, the Mac mini found a market with pro users thanks to its small footprint. It’s been popular with software developers and content creators, and has even found a home in co-location data centers. In response, Apple changed its Mac mini message, targeting professionals and touting the mini’s performance instead of its affordability. Apple’s Mac mini website calls the new Mac “All workhorse” and the whole “switcher” messaging of the original Mac mini is gone […]

Whether you should upgrade from the previous Mac mini is a no-brainer: Do it. If you use apps that can take advantage of multiple cores, you’ll see a huge improvement that’s well worth the cost. Even if you don’t use multi-core apps and use only consumer-level software, you’ll see a marked improvement in speed. You may have to buy a USB hub and a video adapter, but it’s worth it.

Marco Arment

Marco Arment, in his Mac mini review, said the new machine is ‘spectacular,’ and while it’s expensive, that’s justified by the spec.

The 2018 Mac Mini is […] spectacular. It makes almost nothing worse and almost everything better, finally bringing the Mac Mini into the modern age […]

The point of the Mac Mini is to be as versatile as possible, addressing lots of diverse and edge-case needs that the other Macs can’t with their vastly different form factors and more opinionated designs. The Mac Mini needs to be a utility product, not a design statement. (Although, even as someone tired of space-gray everything, I have to admit that the Mini looks fantastic in its new color.)

The base price has increased to $800, and that’s not great. It’s partly justifiable because it’s much higher-end than before — the processors are much better, the architecture is higher-end and includes big advances like the T2, and all-SSD is standard — but it’s still an expensive product in absolute terms […]

The only spec that lets it down is the Intel GPU. It’s fast enough for common tasks, but if your workload benefits from a strong GPU, you’re better off going for an iMac or a 15-inch MacBook Pro, or considering an eGPU setup […] But that’s it — aside from price, that’s the only downside. The GPU sucks. Everything else is awesome.

Six Colors

Six Colors says that where the Mac mini was once the entry-level machine, it now makes sense to re-invent it as a semi-pro one.

Apple and the Mac are in very different place today. Most of the Macs it sells are laptops. The concept of the low-end desktop switcher feels outmoded. (Which is not to say there aren’t any, just that there maybe aren’t as many as there might have been in 2005.)

In the intervening 13 years, the Mac mini has become something different. As the one Mac without a built-in monitor that isn’t an expensive and large Mac Pro, it’s become a bit of a Swiss army knife, fitting as a tiny Internet or file server (I’ve had a Mac mini running in my house more or less constantly for more than a decade), running lights and audio in theaters and at rock concerts, and thousands of other small niches that are vitally important for the people who live in them […]

This new Mac mini is exactly what it needs to be. Today the Mac mini is about flexibility and filling niches. This update allows it to span a wide range from basic server needs all the way up to high-end applications that require a great deal of processor power, fast storage, ultra-fast networking, and even beyond (via Thunderbolt 3). The high-end configurations might actually provide enough power for people to consider them over buying the Mac Pro, whenever it comes out. It remains to be seen just what ground the Mac Pro will cover, and what its starting price might be. The Mac mini may have just become the best (and best value) tool for somewhat high-end jobs that don’t require Xeon processors in large enclosures.


TechCrunch says that Apple has clearly rethought its desktop lineup, and isn’t afraid to price some people out of the market.

Apple edges the desktop toward Pro territory, pricing entry-level buyers out in the process […]

The whole of the company’s desktop line has clearly gotten a rethink over the course of the last year, including the addition of the iMac Pro, and the still MIA Mac Pro.

The Mini has long been Apple’s entry-level desktop. The $499 price tag on the 2014 model certainly highlighted this fact. With a $300 price bump, the latest version still represents the lowest cost path into the world of desktop Macs, but arguably removes “entry” from the equation […]

But Mini has carved an interesting niche for itself […] the product’s small, flat design has made it an interesting candidate for a server […] That unexpected use case is a big part of the reason the company stuck to the same dimensions this time out — a number of third parties already produce accessories built to those specifics, so why not make it as easy as possible to swap out for a new unit? The footprint also means the computer is easily stackable, for workloads that require the output of multiple machines at once […]

The Mini is still the best-priced gateway into a desktop Mac ecosystem, but the definition of entry-level has clearly shifted for Apple since the last ‘go round.


ZDNet argues in its Mac mini review that the modular nature of a Mac mini setup remains a benefit, and actually makes it more appealing than an iMac.

You can connect whatever accessories you want. Prefer a mechanical keyboard from Razer, an Amazon Basics mouse, and a 1080p display? No problem. That’s part of the appeal to the Mac mini. It can be as expensive of a setup, accessory wise, as you want. Or it can be overly simple, and that’s just fine, too […]

For the past four years, Mac mini users have wanted more from the desktop-like portable computer. And with the 2018 model, Apple has delivered. Even the base model is something I could see myself using on a daily basis, and when I realistically look at my use, I’m not a “Pro” user. I’m an average user who dabbles in pro features.

If I were in need of a new desktop computer at this very moment, my search would start with — and it’s entirely possible it would end with — the Mac mini, as opposed to an iMac. The versatility it offers, combined with performance, is just too compelling.

There aren’t as many Mac mini reviews as there are for the MacBook Air. It’s a relatively niche machine these days, and that’s reflected in interest levels when it comes to writing about it. But the view we see is remarkably consistent: that Apple got this one right.

Do you share that perspective? Or do you think Apple should still have offered a $499 base model? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo: TechCrunch

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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