November 7th, 2014 to November 7th 2018. That is the launch dates for the 2014 and then the 2018 Mac Minis.
4 years between a refresh, while arguably not as long as the current Mac Pro, It is still a long lapse between release dates. While the 2014 model was met with criticism for performance compared to the 2012 model, the newest iteration of the Mac Mini fixes the flaws and improves upon the idea of how small and powerful a Mac Mini can be.
I purchased my first Mac in 2012. An mid tier model with only a 500GB HDD, 8GB of Ram and the base model i5 CPU. For me it was as an excellent machine that served me through university and then home projects until i eventually moved and gave the machine to family, where it humbly served as a solid small mac until it was sold.
That Mac made a solid impression on me, and even as a frequent iPad user, I never ended up going back to smaller desktop macs, just laptops – purely for portability.
Fast-forward to 2019 and I decided to dive back into Desktop Macs and rather than tether a laptop like I had done for 2 years I pulled the trigger on a new Mac Mini.
Its been 2 weeks with the machine and I can say without a doubt the faults of the past have been rectified and thoroughly improved and further iterated on.
My configuration sits in the high-mid tier bracket. Being the 6 Core i5, 8GB of Ram and a 256GB SSD.
For what I do on my day to day and after hours work the current configuration smashes everything out of the ball park. Xcode for the iOS simulator, running 2 monitors with plenty of tabs open in Chrome and Firefox as well as playing podcasts behind the scenes.
Running all this on 8GB of ram can sometimes seem to stress the machine (I have iStat Menus running monitoring, CPU Load and Ram usage), but MacOS is so well optimised, that 8GB of Ram is still nothing to shake a stick at.
In my tests, the CPU handling most of the load, with the internal Intel Graphics an also help with some more Graphically intensive tasks too. Playing Stellaris at 1080P on Medium settings, the game handles well on the machine with only starting to drop frames when the galaxy starts showing more and more civilisation on the map as exploration continues through the mid to late game.
It should be noted though that without a proper cooling mat, it does spike into the higher 70s to 80s, even in the 90 degree Celcius mark during the day to day usage. There is a thread on this here. After consulting some friends who are Apple fans & former Apple Employees, I remedied this with a cooling pad and it now doesn’t spike any further than 65 Degrees on the day to day tasks which is where I was noticing the spike in temps.
I/O and Design
The 2018 Mac Mini comes back into the fold with a big bang. Being a modern Mac, its equipped with 4 Thunderbolt 3 Ports, 2 USB-A Ports, a Full size HDMI Port and either 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet or Nbase-T Ethernet with support for 1Gb, 2.5Gb, 5Gb and 10Gb Ethernet through the an RJ‑45 connector, the latter configurable at checkout, as well as Apple’s T2 Security chip.
One main benefit of the configuration is the varied Intel CPU performance options. Starting at a Quad Core Core i3 at 3.6 Ghz, and all the way up to a Core i7 3.2Ghz 6-Core CPU that can Turbo Boost up to 4.6Ghz.
These port arrays come as a comfortable change compared to 1, 2 or 4 USB-C Ports on the various MacBook laptops, and sit more comfortably inline with the iMac with its foray of standard USB-C ports and its Thunderbolt lineup.
One of the fall backs of the newer Mini however side from the heat, is the higher starting price of the unit. Gone are the days of the Less than $1000AUD Mac product, and with the starting 8GB of Ram as well as the price Apple charges for their Ram in their varying Mac devices, as well as SSD prices, the unit cant get quite expensive.
A final comment on the huge improvements to the newer Mac Mini, lies within the addition of the Thunderbolt 3 Ports.
Apple have had External GPU support for a number of years with their Thunderbolt 3 supporting Macs, and the Mac Mini is no exception to that. Taking advantage of these ports, one can include an external GPU enclosure like a Razer Core X and use an AMD GPU for native MacOS support or you can look on the web for NVIDIA card support.
The new Mac Mini improves on its weaker sibling, with stronger CPUs, more Ram and storage options and a wide array of compatibility with Thunderbolt 3.
However these benefits do come as a trade off in a starting price, and heating issues with the CPU spiking well around 85 Degrees Celsius.
If you consider the newest Mac Mini for your desk, be sure to pay for as much Ram as you can afford, and consider getting a stronger CPU to future proof yourself.