Apple's powerful new Mac mini perfectly suits the 'Pro' market, yet the complaints have al...

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in Current Mac Hardware edited October 31
You asked for it and you got it, now let's see if you buy it. The new Mac mini is a fine machine but it's time to find out whether its fans are numerous or just disproportionately loud versus the market it is aimed at.

Detail from the new Mac mini


It may have taken Apple 1,475 days to update the Mac mini, but now it has. The new machine is what you would get if you took nearly every wish of the "professional" Mac mini fan in the world and wrapped it all up in space gray plus 100 percent recycled aluminum.

Only, the Mac mini is a stubborn little computer. You can tell us that before this update, the old Mac mini was being trounced by even cheap Windows machines and we wouldn't disagree. It's been beaten by everything else going and yet people who buy Mac minis hang on to them for an extraordinarily long time.

That is a sign that the Mac mini is a very good product. People also talk about it a lot, which would be another sign but for the chatter is always about how it needs to be improved, or Apple is doomed, or Steve Jobs would never have allowed such a thing -- the latter two being utter nonsense.

Tim Cook during the launch of the 2018 Mac mini


Our first thought when Tim Cook made reference to a "small but mighty computer our users are waiting for" was obviously that this was the Mac mini. Yet our second thought, before the first was really finished, was that maybe this would put an end to complaints about Apple abandoning markets.

It should be the end of the conversation, but it isn't. With this one announcement, Apple should have both quietened Mac mini fans and those who think the company is abandoning professional users in favor of consumers. That's it, job done -- but somehow you just know that the best it's going to do is give Apple a tiny respite.

Steve Jobs introduces the original Mac mini in 2005


Seriously, though, we should be done with all of this. For years we've heard that the Mac mini needs to be faster, it needs to have more RAM, it must have more storage, and it's got to stay cheap. We've been hearing that since the shift to Intel in the Mac mini and we've been hearing that Apple doesn't care about this machine's users before then.

Sometimes the argument is specifically that Apple is only interested in consumers because it won't make a more powerful Mac mini. Other times the argument is specifically that Apple doesn't care about consumers or it would make a better Mac mini. We've yet to hear both arguments simultaneously but it's come very close and we may just have glazed over before it reached that far.

Take the argument about abandoning professional users. Before the October 30 event, a Mac mini would've cost you $499 and you've have got a 1.4GHz machine with 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Since the event, you do start out at $799 but you get a quad-core Intel i3 3.6GHz machine with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage.

That's not including the fact that the new Mac mini comes with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connectors alongside HDMI 2.0, Ethernet, USB 3 and a headphone jack.

It's not touching the fact that you can upgrade to a six-core Intel i7 processor running at 3.2GHz with 64GB RAM and 2TB SSD plus 10 Gigabit Ethernet. That'll cost you -- if you want to max out the Mac mini you'll have to pay $4,199 -- but you can do it.

This new Mac mini is unequivocally a professional tool.

The 2018 Mac mini


Now take the argument that Apple is abandoning consumers. You can't usually have things both ways but this time the answer is precisely the same. This new Mac mini with its base configuration is a consumer tool.

Define pro

Maybe this is a perfect illustration of why the terms pro and consumer don't matter or at least are not mutually exclusive. This one Mac isn't designed for the entire range of users but a consumer who buys today is not going to have to throw it away tomorrow when they become pro users.

You're a pro user if you need or want a fast machine to make money with, and are willing to pay for it. If that's you then you're also likely to want to protect that investment by being able to upgrade the machine later. We're not saying that to then claim it's unreasonable: we're saying it to point out that, hello, the Mac mini is upgradeable.

Specifically, the RAM is. Apple says the RAM in the new Mac mini is socketed SO-DIMM and that means that within limits, you will be able to buy more memory at any time. It has to be compatible and it can't exceed the Mac mini's 64GB ceiling, but it doesn't have to be from Apple and that is always a rather gigantic savings.

True, you're stuck with the storage that you buy when you order and it's not possible to put a greater capacity or faster drive later. Yet this Mac mini doesn't come with old-style SATA storage running at 550 MB/sec. This is at least four times faster in theory and in our experience, SSDs like this are in practice six times faster.

Detail of the 2018 Mac mini showing the processor


Then, too, you are also stuck with the processor that chose at time of order. You won't get any disagreement about that from us. Except that hoping to swap out the processor when the entire machine is designed around that from technical, electrical and thermodynamics seems less professional and more like tinkering for the sake of it.

And, nearly nobody does it. Nearly nobody has ever done it, and Apple hasn't given explicit ability to do so since well before the second coming of Jobs.

If you find yourself needing a faster processor in a couple of years, buy the version of the Mac mini that Apple sells then, since either you've already made your money back from a professional standpoint, or your cost of ownership is less than a dollar a day.

Pros and cons

Last year we got the iMac Pro. This year we've got the Mac mini, a pro machine in all but name. Some time in 2019 we'll get the Mac Pro.

Also this year, we got a 12.9 inch iPad Pro with 1TB storage and which under the right circumstances can drive a 5K external monitor. It's also got an Apple A12X Bionic chip which the company claims "makes iPad Pro faster than most PC laptops."

Alongside all of these professional tools there are consumer ones to match. There is the basic iPad from $329, there is the iPhone XR from $749, and there is this new Mac mini from $799.

Insofar as it ever has and probably ever will, Apple is addressing both the consumer and the professional market. Or as we'd rather see it, the casual user and the heavy-duty one.

So let us please just abandon the complaints that Apple is not serving this market or that and instead concentrate on the far more important issues facing us all, such as why there wasn't an iMac update at this October 30 event.

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magman1979
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 189
    and... where is the Mac Pro?
    williamlondondysamoriadocno42
  • Reply 2 of 189
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,714administrator
    and... where is the Mac Pro?
    FTA: "Last year we got the iMac Pro. This year we've got the Mac mini, a pro machine in all but name. Some time in 2019 we'll get the Mac Pro."
    redgeminipawilliamlondonking editor the gratecornchipcaladanianStrangeDaysmagman1979SpamSandwichfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 189
    The Mac mini is not a bad machine. But if I wanted to make a pro machine I would have added a better GPU option. Anything in the 1050 or 560 range would be fine. Apple even shows one benchmark with an external GPU. So Apple is aware that people might want more GPU power. 

    Not all Mac minis would need a faster GPU, but this will in no way make Pro users that looking for a new desktop happy. Especially with no new iMacs.
    pakittwilliamlondondocno42
  • Reply 4 of 189
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    The complaints about them not meeting the needs of the pro market were not wrong, they are just out of date now. Some time maybe ~2 years ago they decided to do something about it and we are now seeing the fruits of that. And frankly its fantastic. 

    I honestly think it was their plan at one point to become a purely consumer company but something changed their mind ~2 years ago. Maybe if Tim does a biography one day we will find out what it was.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 189
    rcfarcfa Posts: 729member
    The one thing that is missing: ECC RAM, otherwise, particularly in combination with an eGPU, this is a killer machine.
    williamlondonprismaticscornchipcaladanianmagman1979docno42watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 189
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,797member
    All in all yesterday's announcements were remarkable and demonstrate that Apple is both: 1) listening to its customers and responding appropriately, and 2) continuing to push the outer edges of the envelope in product categories that it dominates in the presence of little to no real competition, like the iPad. They could simply ride all their cash cows and reap the profits built on customer loyalty, but they are staying in the game and playing hard. They are always taking big swings, e.g., anyone else hearing about a flood of competitive 7 nm technology products?, and constantly improving how they serve their customers at both the product level and the overall customer experience level, from initial purchase to everyday user experience to service and support - all the while doing everything they can do to be considerate stewards of environmental and human rights concerns in the communities they serve. All of this sounds okay, I guess, but you know how the old saying goes:

    You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the time.
    williamlondonhkforumjasenj1cornchipracerhomie3magman1979MisterKitfastasleeplaytechPickUrPoison
  • Reply 7 of 189
    This is finally and truly the headless iMac which I called it and it's even better because you can upgrade the RAM later vs. the 21.5" iMac which you can't. Apple just hit the bull's eye.
    edited October 31 newBelieverhkforumcornchipStrangeDaysmagman1979dtb200watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 189
    This is a hostile, lopsided article that fails to understand users needs.

    I am no Mac Mini enthusiast or buyer, but I can relate to the user’s arguments of a reasonably cost effective Mac for those who aren’t seeking portability and who already own a monitor, keyboard etc. For Apple to slap them with such high prices is not going to go well. There should’ve been a well configured option for $499, then charge whatever  for the pro. They sure know how to pull off such options for the iPad. 
    pakittwilliamlondonGeorgeBMacPylonstechprod1gytylersdaddysamoriaStayPuftZombieblastdoorlaytech
  • Reply 9 of 189
    pakittpakitt Posts: 152member
    The Mac Mini was launched and intended as an affordable Mac option for migrating PC users to the macOS world. The basic version was less than 500$. It seems that everybody forgets that. Now the Mini is clearly something else. It is not the "most affordable Mac desktop" anymore. Period. The price, the specs, everything indicates their strategy for this product has radically changed. You want an "affordable" Mac? get an iOS iPad/iPhone. macOS for the "masses"? None for you.
    polymniacaladaniandysamoriadocno42
  • Reply 10 of 189
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    The answer to the question of whether a company should listen to its customers, or instead take a "we know best" approach, is that it should be we know best with consumers and should listen to pros. And indeed Apple seems to be taking this approach now with the in house team of creative pros giving input in to design, which has been mentioned in the past.
  • Reply 11 of 189
    maxkraft said:
    The Mac mini is not a bad machine. But if I wanted to make a pro machine I would have added a better GPU option. Anything in the 1050 or 560 range would be fine. Apple even shows one benchmark with an external GPU. So Apple is aware that people might want more GPU power. 

    Not all Mac minis would need a faster GPU, but this will in no way make Pro users that looking for a new desktop happy. Especially with no new iMacs.
    MacPro feature. 
    prismaticswilliamlondonandrewj5790cornchipMisterKitfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 189
    ipilyaipilya Posts: 185member
    I do swift and web-technologies development. I have been through the wringer (literally) with the 2016 and now the 2018 MBP 15". I am going to hand my 2018 MBP back to Apple and will instead opt for an iPad / Mac mini setup. Since I have a 2014 MBP as a backup, this setup is starting to make sense. I am not sure what complaints people can truly have... but for me... honestly... I have none.
    chiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 189
    rcfa said:
    The one thing that is missing: ECC RAM, otherwise, particularly in combination with an eGPU, this is a killer machine.
    MacPro feature. 
    williamlondonandrewj5790cornchipdewmeStrangeDaysfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 189
    This is a hostile, lopsided article that fails to understand users needs.

    I am no Mac Mini enthusiast or buyer, but I can relate to the user’s arguments of a reasonably cost effective Mac for those who aren’t seeking portability and who already own a monitor, keyboard etc. For Apple to slap them with such high prices is not going to go well. There should’ve been a well configured option for $499, then charge whatever  for the pro. They sure know how to pull off such options for the iPad. 
    Apple charging high prices won’t go well for them? Do you hear yourself? That’s exactly what Apple does! And they’ve been quite successful. 
    newBelieverwilliamlondonmike1andrewj5790cornchipuniscapeStrangeDaysmwhitetmaymagman1979
  • Reply 15 of 189
    Nicely put, AI.

    Maybe the most telling thing is that Apple did not buy into the AMD GPU option seen in the Intel NUC 8.

    This is the Mac Pro 2013 lesson learned, as outlined in that extraordinary "modular" group interview. Apple is saying a modular eGPU is the way to go if you need more than Intel's integrated graphics. This could well be a preview of what to expect from the Mac Pro. A central module with CPU, RAM, core SSD storage with integrated Apple security silicon, and basic graphics (from Intel or Apple -- both companies have been investing in GPU development). Then a separate module for the GPU.

    The fact they did not introduce a Thunderbolt 3 display yesterday is probably also telling in some way I can't quite see. That's a first for the Mac mini, which up to 2015 always had a current Apple display that could be used with it. It could mean a slight form-factor change upcoming for the 2019 iMac and iMac Pro refreshes, as the new displays are introduced -- they may be different enough to require changes (unlike the 2017 display refresh).
    edited October 31 andrewj5790magman1979fastasleepPickUrPoisonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 189
    19831983 Posts: 1,126member
    A good article that isn’t tainted by fanboyism or by putting down other brands and companies for once.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 189
    PTSD PTSD Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Thermodynamics, indeed. 

    I was waiting for the newest Mac Mini to see if that nasty, inefficient case-design had been fixed. It wasn’t, so I bought the most expensive, 27” Retina iMac (not the Pro). 

    I could have gotten the iMac Pro, but it’s rather more than I need, as I drift into retirement. 

    My complaint about the Mac Mini (after owning five of them, all generations) is that they overheat. The one on my desk is sitting on a wire rack in the open air, with a USB-powered fan underneath it.

    Even so, it gets hot periodically, according to SMC Fan Control. Even with the fan manually cranked as fast as it goes. 

    My office and my desk are NOT hot, nor poorly ventilated. I like my A/C, too. The Mac Mini just does not have a good design that allows for good enough airflow, and the chips age quickly as a direct result. 

    I’ve bought my last Mac Mini.  The current one is crashing horribly, and I have to power it down and restart if I want to get any work done.

    I have been a professional Mac consultant since 1985, by the way.  I’ve seen Mac Minis with similar heating issues with dozens of clients. I want a computer that will last me ten years. My Mac Minis tend to last maybe three or four. 
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamdysamoria
  • Reply 18 of 189
    smaffeismaffei Posts: 203member
    ipilya said:
    I do swift and web-technologies development. I have been through the wringer (literally) with the 2016 and now the 2018 MBP 15". I am going to hand my 2018 MBP back to Apple and will instead opt for an iPad / Mac mini setup. Since I have a 2014 MBP as a backup, this setup is starting to make sense. I am not sure what complaints people can truly have... but for me... honestly... I have none.
    How and what are you developing with Swift on an iPad?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 189
    The problem that I see is not the technology or even the base price. It's the storage size. If you're upgrading Apple's SSD is so expensive it costs thousands more than the one you're replacing. If you used a 500GB hard drive odds are the 128GB SSD isn't going to cut it. To match the space we had (not to mention plan for growth as storage can't be updated) tends to add up to $1000 or more to the base price of Apple's units. To put 128 on a $799 machine today is an insult. Just like Apple shipping iMacs with HDD's still. 
    williamlondontylersdadentropyszoetmb
  • Reply 20 of 189
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,714administrator
    This is a hostile, lopsided article that fails to understand users needs.

    I am no Mac Mini enthusiast or buyer, but I can relate to the user’s arguments of a reasonably cost effective Mac for those who aren’t seeking portability and who already own a monitor, keyboard etc. For Apple to slap them with such high prices is not going to go well. There should’ve been a well configured option for $499, then charge whatever  for the pro. They sure know how to pull off such options for the iPad. 
    Pot/kettle situation, here.
    king editor the grateandrewj5790williamlondonpolymniaStrangeDaysmagman1979fastasleepwatto_cobra
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