Mac mini 2014 review

A welcome upgrade, Apple's latest Mac mini lives for the moment

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Our Verdict

The Mac mini gets a new processor, upgraded Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 2, but its lack of upgradability and a quad-core option may be a deal-breaker for some.

For

  • Still small and quiet
  • Two Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • Energy efficient
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Against

  • RAM isn't user-upgradable
  • No quad-core options
  • Can't run 4K at 60Hz
Ratings in depth

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First launched in 2005, Apple's Mac mini has never received the same design plaudits as the MacBook Air, but it has been almost as influential upon the competition. The titular computer's square shape, minimal appearance and compact nature can be seen in devices such as Intel's NUC, Samsung's Chromebox and, more recently, Sky's Now TV box.

Even so, it's fair to say that the Mac mini probably hasn't received as much love as Apple's other products over the years. It's a safe bet; consistent and dependable, evolving quietly in the background without requiring headline-grabbing specs - like the iMac 5K's dazzling display, or the iPad Air 2's impossibly thin dimensions - to stand out from the crowd.

It comes as little surprise, then, to find that Apple's new Mac mini is indistinguishable from its predecessor, the Late 2012 Mac mini. They may look the same on the outside, but under the hood, the changes are numerous, with the most significant being the switch from Intel's Ivy Bridge chip to Haswell.

Mac mini and MacBook Air
It's still hip to be square

The Mac mini has traditionally been the cheapest way to own a Mac as it comes without a keyboard, mouse or monitor. The computer is internet-ready out of the box, and if you already have Apple or third-party peripherals you can be up and running within minutes. The latest Mac mini models come pre-loaded with the latest version of OS X, Yosemite 10.10, which features a closer symmetry with iOS 8 and a slick new design. We won't cover Yosemite in detail in this article, but you can read all about it in our OS X 10.10 Yosemite full review.

There are three new Mac mini systems in Apple's refreshed line-up. The entry-level Mac mini now costs £399 ($499), making it one of the company's most affordable computing devices ever. It comes with an Intel Core-i5 CPU clocked to 1.4GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz), 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. Next along, the mid-range model comes in at £569 ($699) and houses a 2.6GHz Core-i5 CPU (Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz) backed up by 8GB of RAM.

Mac mini
Yosemite has an iOS-inspired design

Those seeking more computing power short of having to buy an iMac or a MacBook Pro should consider the top-end Mac mini, the machine featured in our review, which costs £799 ($999) and comes with a 2.8GHz Intel Core-i5 CPU (Turbo Boost to 3.3GHz), a 1TB Fusion Drive and Intel Iris Graphics. For extra cost, it is also configurable with a dual-core Intel Core-i7 CPU clocked at 3.0GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz) for maximum horsepower.

The higher-end Mac mini is still £100 ($157) cheaper than the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac, which comes with a 1.4GHz Intel Core-i5 CPU (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz), 8GB of RAM, a 500GB HDD and Intel's integrated HD Graphics 5000.