I tried Apple's recently updated Mini Mac - and it's the way to go if you're looking for macOS desktop on a budget
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- After four years, Apple has finally revised the Mac mini to bring it into modern times.
- The new computer boasts the same overall design, but an upgraded port selection and much better internal specifications.
- For those who want a powerful macOS desktop computer at a reasonable price, the $750 2018 Mac mini is the way to go.
- Read more: The best MacBooks you can you
If you prefer using a Mac and don't mind using a laptop, there are plenty of options for you. You could go for the small and lightweight MacBook, or the slightly more powerful MacBook Air. Or, you could get some serious power with the MacBook Pro.If you want a desktop, however, your options have been a little more limited. Either get an iMac, with its built-in screen, or shell out some serious cash for the ageing Mac Pro. Until recently, the third option would have been a Mac mini that hasn't been updated since 2014, but Apple has finally given the much-loved Mac mini a refresh.
The 2018 Mac mini has a lot going for it. It boasts the same design as the previous Mac mini, but has updated ports, updated internal specs, and is a much better option in 2019. But it also got a bit of a price bump.
Is it worth the cash? We put the 2018 Mac mini to the test.
The design and all the ports you get
Perhaps the first thing to note about the 2018 Mac mini is its design, and if you've seen previous Mac mini models, it'll look immediately familiar.
The device itself is a 7.7-inch square, with a height of 1.4-inches, making it relatively small and compact compared to other desktop computers.On the back of the computer, you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an ethernet port. It's a really nice selection of ports; there's plenty of connectivity for modern, new accessories thanks to the range of Thunderbolt ports, while those with older peripherals can still use them thanks to the USB 3.0 ports. The Ethernet port is upgradeable too - by default, it's a gigabit Ethernet port, but it can be upgraded to a hefty 10-gigabit port. With those ports, you can power up to three 4K displays, which should be more than enough for the vast majority of users.
In general, despite the fact that the Mac mini design has been around for a while, it's a good-looking device. We like the switch from Silver to Space Gray, as it helps ensure the device matches other Apple products. And we think it's a little more sleek too.
The Mac mini's specs
Perhaps more important than design, of course, is what's under the hood, and the 2018 Mac mini is a beast.
The base model isn't all that special - it comes with an 8th-gen quad-core Intel Core i3 processor coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. It's the upgraded models that are really powerful. You can upgrade the computer to offer up to an 8th-gen six-core Intel Core i7 processor, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage. Of course, it'll cost a pretty penny to upgrade those specs - but if you're looking for power in a macOS computer, it's a good option.
The basic specs aren't the only important things to consider. The computer also has Apple's T2 security chip, which at times can act like a coprocessor for things like reading and writing files.
What the Mac mini is like to use
Apple has paid very close attention to the efficiency of the computer too. Most of what we used the device for was pretty lightweight - writing articles in Google Docs, some basic image editing, and so on. At times, however, we were able to put the computer through some heavier use.For example, I do freelance music mixing on the side, and routinely run audio editing programs with sometimes dozens of tracks at once and heavy processing on each of those tracks. The device was easily able to handle that - much more easily than the aging 2012 MacBook Pro I was using for that before getting the Mac mini.
We also did a little light video editing, and while the audio editing we did was probably heavier duty, the computer tore through the video editing easily, though, for heavier video editing you may need to get an external GPU.
Cons to consider
Ultimately, the Mac mini has a lot going for it. It's well-designed, boasting a ton of connectivity, plus it's pretty powerful.
But what's the downside? Well, the main one is the price. The computer now comes in at $750 for the base model, which isn't cheap. Upgrade it, and you'll pay even more. Even despite the fact that the computer should last for at least four or five years, that's still a lot of money to pay for a computer with an i3 chip, not to mention the fact that you'll need to find a mouse, keyboard, and monitor separately.
Read more: The best ultrawide monitors you can buy
The bottom line
All things considered, this is still the best way to get into the macOS ecosystem on a budget. Sure, $750 isn't necessarily a budget price, but when you compare the device to the $1,200 MacBook Air, or the $1,300 MacBook Pro, it's perhaps not so bad.
Is the 2018 Mac mini worth it? For many people, we absolutely think it is. If you're looking for a desktop powered by macOS and don't want to spend the money on an iMac, then the Mac mini is the way to go.
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