Mac Mini – Design, Connectivity, Advantages, and More
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Apple’s iconic Mac mini dense desktop delivers more core-processing, storage, and memory potential than ever.
In a polished box brimming with cutting-edge connectivity.
The Design: Old Dog, New Spirit
The new Mac mini doesn’t look much different from its elder siblings unless you flip it around 180 degrees.
Here chassis is matte metal, made up of aluminum that, according to Apple, is 100 percent recycled, partly from the chassis-manufacture remnants of other Macs.
Now only feature on the front or sides is a power-on LED on the front face. A chromed Apple logo is up top.
Though the all-aluminum chassis feel it is stable and inflexible, and it is the same rigid-enough-to-support-an-elephant build as ever.
Try the Mac mini over to view the underside, and you’ll see a plastic disk of a base that elevates the chassis’s metal from the desk surface. Rotating the disk does nothing.
Snooping it up with a thin tool, however, pops it off. Beneath is a perforated panel that goes to the internals, of which, rendering to the company, the only functional element is the RAM.
That is a change. Apple has implemented the reminiscence in the new Mac mini as laptop-style SO-DIMMs.
Her company doesn’t deem this a user-accessible upgrade, though it says authorized service centers and Apple Stores will be able to perform memory upgrades.
That supposed a couple of Apple reps we spoke to suggested usual-suspect memory retailers (I’m thinking folks like Crucial and OWC) might be able to produce memory upgrade kits with instructions.
Once I popped off the bottom, I noted that the perforated panel was held in place by star-headed security screws.
That is a scary removal prospect for most casual users, but it’s a step ahead of the soldered-RAM design that came before.
The Connectivity: A Fresh Array
In its physical connectivity, the Mac mini has seen a complete teardown for the better.
Like on its MacBooks, Apple has gone all-in on USB Type-C ports. On the laptops, that has pushed users to adapt with compliant peripherals or dongles. There’s a little more flexibility here.
The critical array of ports on the Mac mini comprises four Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C ports and two regular USB 3.0 Type-A ones.
If we opt for wired peripherals, we’d imagine the two Type-As to be occupied by a keyboard and mouse, but part of the Mac mini’s appeal is its trim minimalism.
Thus Bluetooth-interface peripherals would save those two ports clear—contingent on your work style and what you do.
You strength spring for Apple’s balancing Magic Keyboard With Numeric Keypad ($149) and the Magic Mouse 2 ($99) or Force Touch-enabled Magic Trackpad 2 ($149), all of which connect wirelessly via Bluetooth.
They fix to add a bunch to the base cost, but I’d factor in these or other wireless peripherals to keep one or both of the Type-A USBs free.
The Apple loaned us the keyboard and the Magic Trackpad 2 for this review. And pairing them with the Mac mini took mere seconds.
The Processor Picks: What the Core?
All of the CPU options in the 2018 Mac mini are, unsurprisingly, Intel 8th Generation chips.
Apple offers the two base models on the Mac mini—the Core i3 version, starting at $799 that we tested.
And a Core i5 version starting at $1,099—can each be ticked up to a Core i7 in Apple’s online configurator.
These are “true” desktop chips—in other words, not the power-saving U-series or Y-series mobile chips seen in some ultra-compact desktops (and in most laptops).
In the sequence of my tests, various programs identified the chip in the testing sample as a “Core i3-8100B,” a processor that didn’t have a formal designation on Intel’s official directory of CPUs when I wrote this.
Nonetheless, it maps closely to the desktop Core i3-8100: four cores and a 3.6GHz base clock.
We do not have the Core i5 or i7 version of the Mac mini to verify the formal rhetoric used to describe those.
Nonetheless, Apple reps I followed up with confirmed that only the Core i7 chip is Hyper-Threading enabled.
That’s the money information for content creators, not emphasized in the tech specs around these chips but useful to know.
The Intel has dialed back support for the thread-doubling technology in its late-model desktop chips (in the 9th Generation Cores we have seen so far.
The Hyper-Threading has only been the province of chips like the elite Core i9-9900K). Which is reflected here in the Core i3 and i5.
Aimed at tasks that push the CPU hard and are threaded to take advantage of as many cores and threads as possible. The cores you get dictate all the lines you can weave.
Trendy some earlier generations, desktop Core i3 CPUs supported Hyper-Threading to get you from two cores to four threads.
However, four-core Core i3 and six-core Core i5 in the 2018 Mac mini are straight four- and six-thread chips.
(Here, Core i5 supports Turbo Boost, though, so however it’s lower clocked at 3GHz. The 4.1GHz boost can jet it at times ahead of the snappy 3.6GHz base of the Core i3.)
Deep connectivity for its size, including four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Memory is SO-DIMM, not soldered.
Configurable up to six cores/12 threads.
New storage (2TB) and RAM (64GB) ceilings.
Top-notch pre-installed software.
RAM non technically a user upgrade.
Not an option for a 2.5-inch hard drive by way of internal mass storage.