It’s been ages since the Mac mini received an update, so we can see how fans of Apple’s smallest Mac would be happy for any improvements. On the flipside, because the mini hasn’t been updated for four long years, you may have convinced yourself that Apple would make dramatic changes—yet the update is pretty much limited to a processor upgrade.

If you were anticipating a major overhaul, your disappointment is understandable. But get over it, because the new Mac mini is a worthy Mac for $799. In fact, in our benchmarks, its performance is fast enough to give the iMac some competition. If you’re buying a new Mac, you should definitely consider the Mac mini, because you could end up saving some money—and still get a soild, fast Mac.

And if you own an older Mac mini and love the form factor, you’ll want to upgrade. The performance—especially with multi-core professional software—is worth the money. This review takes a look at the $799 Mac mini, which is now Apple’s cheapest Mac.

Who is the Mac mini for?

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 (the first mini came with a VGA-to-DVI adapter) and USB input devices. With the base model priced at $499, it lagged behind Apple’s faster, more expensive Macs, but it was a good performer for the price.

mac mini 2018 hero 02 Dan Masaoka/IDG

The Mac mini has proven to be popular with general consumers and demanding professionals alike.

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.

But that doesn’t mean the mini is no longer for switchers and everyone else. It’s still a good Mac for the general consumer, and in fact, it offers considerable bang for the buck. The main drawback is that there’s no longer a sub-$500 price tag in Apple’s Mac lineup (though the $799 Mac mini is $300 cheaper than the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac).

Inside the Mac mini: CPU, SSD, RAM, T2

During a briefing, Apple told us that faster Mac mini performance was at the top of customers’ wishlists. With that in mind, Apple upgraded the CPU with eighth-generation Intel Core processors—desktop CPUs, not mobile CPUs. Apple says the new Mac mini is up to five times faster than the previous one (which, after all, was released in October 2014).

The CPU in the $799 Mac mini is a 3.6GHz Core i5. This is a quad-core processor that offers two more processing cores than the chip in the previous Mac mini. Note that this particular Mac mini’s CPU doesn’t support Turbo Boost, a feature that allows for a processor to run faster than its stated frequency if the processor is running under its limits for power, current, and temperature. However, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz is available in the 3.0GHz 6-core Core i5 processor that’s spec’d for the $1,099 Mac mini.



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