Apple announced a few new things at their Thursday press event. A new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, as well as an iMac with a Retina Display. But for some people the most exciting announcement came with a cheaper $499 2014 Mac mini.
The Apple invitation to this press event came with a statement which read, “It’s been way too long.” That easily applies to an update to the Mac mini, since Apple hasn’t updated the small form factor desktop computer in two years. The last update came in October 2012. Every other desktop and laptop Apple makes saw updates in that time. Now we finally get a 2014 Mac mini for $100 less than its predecessor, available now at the Apple Store.
The new $499 Mac mini still comes in the small 7.7-inch aluminum box with rounded vertical corners and sharp horizontal edges. Apple expects buyers to add a keyboard and mouse, or hook up ones they already own. There’s also no display in the box either, so buyers will need one of those too.
What’s New Inside the 2014 Mac mini
Inside we get a 4th-gen Intel Core i5 processor coming in three base configuration speeds. This will best the old Mac mini by a generation and mean faster processing of things like rendering video or editing large image files. The three base configurations and their costs are as follows:
- 1.4GHz with 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive – $499
- 2.6GHz with 8GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive – $699
- 2.8GHz with 8GB of RAM 1TB fusion hard drive – $999
The cheapest 2014 Mac mini comes with an Intel HD Graphics 500 display processor. For a little more power, upgrade to the $699 model to not only get the larger 1TB hard-drive and 8GB of memory, but the added Intel Iris Graphics. Intel Iris Graphics are better than the Intel HD Graphics 500, but not as good as some serious computers ready for high-end gaming. It will work with a 4K external display. The $999 version also comes with the Intel Iris Graphics.
All three versions come in the same size enclosure, but the high-end model weighs slightly more at 2.7lbs compared to 2.6lbs.
The 2014 Mac mini will boost wireless performance with 802.11ac that’s also backward compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n speeds. Older versions only had a/b/g/n Wi-fi.
OS X Yosemite on the 2014 Mac mini
The new 2014 Mac mini will ship with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, a significant upgrade over what we get in the older Mac mini. Yosemite’s key new features include:
- New OS design that’s flatter and more colorful, cleaner but similar to earlier versions to make it easy to learn
- Notification center with live features so users can interact with them like widgets
- Continuity features that make it work with an iPhone so users can answer phone calls, send/receive texts, pick up an email they begin on a phone and more.
- Updated Spotlight search
- AirDrop that lets users share files between their iOS device and their Mac
- Instant Hotspot so users can share their phone’s wireless quickly
- iCloud Drive that makes backing up and syncing files between machines and iOS devices
- Improved Safari and Mail apps
- Other built-in app improvements
See many other new features in our OS X Yosemite Release & Feature Roundup.
Ports on 2014 Mac mini
On the back of the new 2014 Mac mini we get, from left to right, the power button, AC cable connector and a Gigabit Ethernet port for wired networking. There’s also an HDMI out port to connect to any HDMI capable display or TV. This makes for a great media center computer in the living room or den.
There are also a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports that gives this computer fast external storage, connection to a Thunderbolt Display or other displays that work with mini-display ports. There are three USB 3 ports, another boost over the previous Mac mini.
Finally, there, we get an SD-card slot and two audio ports for mic or line in and headphone/stereo output.
Available Upgrades on the 2014 Mac mini
For $499 it’s hard to get too upset over what Apple gave Mac mini buyers. However, we wish that it came with a new design and SSD storage in the base model. Some hoped that they would put a 128GB drive in the cheapest version and then bump that storage up from there.
People can still add SSD for an extra cost. To do so, buyers will have to start with the $699 model and customize it with a 256GB SSD for an extra $200. Buyers can add a 1GB flash drive to the $999 model, resulting in a total price of $1,799.
Until we see one, we won’t know if users can upgrade the hard drive themselves for less. Owners could install a second hard drive or replace the installed hard drive on the old version. SSD prices cost much less that what Apple’s charging.
While the cheapest Mac mini costs $500, buyers can go crazy and max out the processor, RAM, storage and add peripherals like a keyboard, mouse, DVD drive and Thunderbolt Display and pay over $3,400.
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