The Future of the Mac Mini (2015)

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Dark Void, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. Dark Void macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #1
    I'm usually not much for speculation threads, but there is seemingly no dedicated discussion here on this sub-forum about the future of the Mac mini and what is potentially on the horizon. There is an older thread that is dated two years back and is rather inactive, and it wasn't created in terms of what we are working with today. I have seen mentions, but there doesn't seem to be a dedicated thread as to what any future redesign or refresh will bring (or if it will be removed entirely). I really enjoy using this product line, as it enabled me, as someone with all of their own computer peripherals already, to own a capable Mac desktop unit while keeping the wallet in mind. I have (and use daily) a 2012 dual-core i5 Mac mini, and after snatching this up new for $500 before the refresh of the line in 2014, I have no interest in ever using anything else as a desktop computer. The Mac Pro is wonderful but terribly expensive, and the Mac mini allows me to use what I have and not pay for anything that I do not need to be buying.

    I will start off by sharing my opinion that this product line has a firm place in the Mac lineup. If you are not counting clamshell notebooks, your only other traditional desktop options are the iMac and the Mac Pro, which start at $1,099 and $2,999 respectively. I do and I don't think that it is fair to include the iMac in comparison, as it is an all-in-one as opposed to a traditional "tower" or "box" style computer, but it is a desktop computer nevertheless. I don't know if the Mac mini will exist as we all know it today in the Mac lineup forever, but it doesn't hurt to have a traditional desktop option (where you aren't paying for the hardware of an all-in-one; in other words you have your own peripherals) that doesn't start anywhere near a few thousand dollars. The Mac mini is perfect for this niche spot, and Apple seems to recognize this by keeping it around for all of this time so far. In my opinion, it makes a wonderful buy for the typical Windows fence sitter.

    I can't offer much speculation in terms of a redesign other than the typical "lighter and thinner" agenda, but I can possibly see fanless designs approaching, much like that in the rMB, utilizing Core M CPUs, even though it runs of of AC power, just to further its stance of "the world's most energy efficient desktop" as Apple claims. I am not suggesting this will be effective or not, but I can definitely see it happening in this small form-factor desktop. I, for one, think the design is fine as it is, and it does not need any sort of major overhaul beyond simple spec bumps and updated ports as time progresses. I would love to see expandability brought back to the Mac mini. I absolutely dislike what was done with the 2014 "redesign" where the RAM was soldered, and trying to upgrade the unit in any way is a no-go. I also, like most, am disappointed that the quad-core CPU options were removed, and that only the dual-core options remain. While I use a dual-core Mac mini at the moment, as I stated I have no desire to mess with any other desktop in the future, but I may have to if quad-core CPUs aren't brought back in these units in the coming years.

    My hopes are that in mid to late 2016, we will have new Mac minis to choose from that have restored upgradability as well as expandability, updated hardware and ports (to be expected) including quad-core CPU options once again, and for the design to be left alone if it is to be altered at the cost of slower, fanless CPUs. What are your thoughts, MacRumors? I would really like to hear any and all opinions.
     
  2. mr.steevo macrumors 65816

    mr.steevo

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    #2
    I wouldn't be surprised if Apple released it's version of a PC on a stick like the Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick 300 for $149. It would be limited but so cheap that Apple would imply it was appropriate to buy a new one every year. You want the newest version of OS X? Buy a new stick.
     
  3. ardchoille50 macrumors 68020

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    #3
    I think the Mac mini will remain. The machine is designed to be an entry-level computer to get people into the OS X ecosystem at a less "painful" price point. This is exactly the machine that got me in, I would not have been able to own a Mac at the current iMac or Mac Pro prices. I don't think the Mac mini is going anywhere any time soon.
     
  4. kwikdeth macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    i think apple will continue to de-power it in a push to move more 4K imacs and ipads (and potentially ipad pros) when they make the inevitable switch to arm-based machines in desktops. that's why we have 1.1ghz macbooks and 1.4ghz minis... testing the water to see if the "average apple customer" will accept less powerful machines on a large scale. i think we'll still have pro machines based off intel, but i fully expect the lower tiers to go ARM in the next 2-3 years.
     
  5. spatlese44 macrumors 6502

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    #5
    I'd agree it's not going away, but while some perceive and buy it as "entry-level" I just see it as a different format. I like not having a screen attached and transport it for use on of our two TVs when not in use with it's main monitor.
     
  6. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #6
    That other thread has diminished traffic because a new mini arrived late last year. A new mini is certainly at least another year away.

    They are good small "entry level" systems. I use one at work, primarily for documentation, another as a server computer, and two as entertainment centers. A fifth one is currently a "spare". They seem to run forever (except for the spinning hard drives).

    I hope they keep selling them and update occasionally, but I wouldn't look to them for a high performance solution!

    Will Apple kill the mini line? People have been predicting that since they first came out. They sell well, don't really steal sales from other Macs (the original intent was to make it easy to switch from a PC since you reuse your old keyboard/mouse/display), and represent a small development investment -- only two physical designs in over 10 years.
     
  7. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

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    #7
    Heh, and there's the real killer. They didn't change the physical design but stopped it being upgradeable. I understand the 'thinner and lighter' justification for non-upgradeable parts, but doing that to the Mac Mini without even giving the courtesy of a half-hearted redesign (to at least vaguely rationalise soldered components) really did hurt. :(
     
  8. grcar, Jun 25, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2015

    grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #8
    Ha ha ha ha ha. All you guys must be in Colorado, where I understand the weed is strongest. Back here on earth (under the cloud that looks more than anything like the death star) it is obvious Apple is a music and hand-held all-in-one camera/games/phone company. Some legacy apps require a lot of computing power, but how many people really need to retouch photos to the quality level of a Vogue cover? The natural evolution of the Apple devices will be to thinner and lighter. Word is they are developing something thin as a piece of paper that you can make images on with an energy-efficient stylus; you can doodle or play tic-tac-toe. Can you keep a $600B stock valuation selling notebooks and pencils? Oh, wait ...
     
  9. mr.steevo macrumors 65816

    mr.steevo

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    #9
    And we are the ones high on cannabis? Okay, Earthling.
     
  10. Dark Void thread starter macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #10
    I can see what you mean, but I am not so sure that Apple would ever offer something capable of running OS X for such a small price point, even if the intention was to continually replace it.

    This is basically what I reflect in my initial post, it's great to see someone with similar thoughts. I think it serves as an excellent gateway to those curious about OS X.

    This makes sense in its own right, and I have a similar thought only with weaker Core M CPUs. What makes you think they will go as low as ARM architecture?

    This is a great point. I think they are completely capable machines that will meet the needs of a good amount of users - especially the quad-core CPU 2012 models. I do share in your preference of this over an all-in-one with unwanted hardware such as a built-in display when you already have your own. It is great to be able to remove your Mac mini from its location on the desk and take it else where to be set up with other peripherals and equipment.

    I figure if anything, it will be mid to late 2016 at least as you seem to agree on. I agree with you on the "entry level" bit but I also do not. I believe that some configurations are, and some are not. This is most valid when looking at the 2012 line of configuration options, but I suppose with the 2014 refresh most would agree with you. I agree with the remainder of your post.

    I was gutted to see this as well. I'm not even sure what this design changed accomplished in way of design other than helping out with spending your money on BTO configurations.
     
  11. Crosscreek macrumors 68030

    Crosscreek

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    #11
    After seeing the decimation of the Mac Mini in 2014 I would not expect anything along the lines of the 2012 quad cores again.

    That train has left the station so that leaves either a status quo on case design or something along the lines of a smaller redesign and m core fanless Minis.

    Hard to speculate on Apple but the present case design seems really outdated as far as Apple aesthetics go.
     
  12. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #12
    The 2012 quad-core was really an exceptional system. User replaceable RAM came and went -- the white minis were considered "no user serviceable parts inside" even though one could use a putty knife to get in and add RAM it wasn't something for the average user to attempt.

    Some thoughts:
    The dual drive mini came about to make a server model. At the time (and I bought one) it was a fantastic deal since Snow Leopard Server was $500 you basically got the high end mini with an additional drive for $500, even less as a refurb, I paid $850 total. When Server became an inexpensive upgrade the value of the dual drive mini went down. In fact I replaced that server mini with a 2012 quad-core single drive mini last fall (the old mini still runs, BTW) not considering the dual drive model. The extra drive means more heat in the package and, frankly, with a server you probably will need external drives anyway. I've got 12TB of externals connected to mine.

    I'm an electrical engineer and hate mechanical contacts. Not only are they expensive and take space but they also are failure points. If you can put all the electronics on a single board and solder all components in place the system is much more reliable. I'll take reliability over expandability any day -- you just order what you think you'll need, and if you find out you are wrong later just sell the computer and buy a new one.

    I was building or modifying my computers from 1979 to 2000. The computer I had in 2000 was the one I bought in 1990 only every part but the case had been replaced over the 11 years. When I went to install Windows 2000 it "broke" so much hardware that I took over a week replacing parts getting things running again, I decided never again to do that and just buy off-the-shelf computers as necessary. When I switched to Macs about 10 years ago I realized that was buying into a single vendor environment that would also increase reliability and eliminate the need (and most of the ability) to tinker. Life has become much easier and the computers much more reliable as a result.
     
  13. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

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    #13
    You definitely do have a point. The only issue is that when everything's soldered to the MLB, if one thing fails, it's all gone. So if one components fails, you've also got failed RAM, GPU, CPU, DC-in, headphone jack ... you get the picture.

    I'm not really too bothered about the lack of upgradeability as much as other posters, I think the think that irked me the most is that they didn't even do a redesign to try and vaguely justify making it soldered. They could just have easily kept it upgradeable, and a lot of people I knew loved the Mini for this very reason. Almost a bare-bones computer that could be a real powerhouse with maxed out RAM and an SSD in there.

    In tandem with them releasing worse 'low-cost' hardware in it as well, like that 1.4GHz processor (that they put in the iMac as well, yuck), it just seemed like a good ol' FU to the people who enjoyed the Mini. Furthermore with a 5400rpm drive, that 1.4GHz processor, 4GB RAM and no chance of upgradeability, the people who buy the base Mac Mini are going to get a terrible old experience. It's still a lot of money and they're not going to get an acceptable experience that's synonymous with the "we only think of the consumer" mentality that Apple claim to religiously adhere to.

    I'm all in favour of soldered components in something like the rMBP, which is a real powerhouse. Locking down the Mac Mini, with those sort of specs - whilst keeping the same shell as the upgradeable model - really came across as a money-hungry/planned obsolescence move IMHO.
     
  14. crsh1976 macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    One thing that keeps me hopeful the Mini is nowhere near dead is how PC manufacturers all have jumped (albeit a little late) on the cheap micro desktop PC bandwagon (Dell, HP and Asus all have theirs, at least) - the PC-on-a-stick thing is the next stage (although it's seriously limited for now).

    What has continuously pissed me off with Apple's desktops is how they refuse to boost the Mini too much so it doesn't hurt iMac sales - but I've personally been longing for a headless iMac for years, I can't stand the idea of the all-in-one design for a desktop machine (for the record, I've owned more iMacs than I care to admit, tossing the screen out with the computer every time irks me to no end).

    Even by sticking with notebook-class components, if the Mini would simply gain a low-end discrete graphics card and regain it's upgradability factor (which it lost in the last update), I'd be on board. I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't happen, but I'll keep wishing for it.
     
  15. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #15
    You probably won't buy the base mini (or that base iMac). But both would be fine for grandparents (I ought to watch what I say here being 66) with the mini being the replacement for the crap HP desktop they bought on QVC a few years ago. It also would work fine as an entertainment center computer -- it's twice as fast as the 2009 base models I use. It would also be fine for office use, writers, or as a file server.
     
  16. SpinalTap macrumors regular

    SpinalTap

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    #16
    I'm on my fourth Mac Mini since 2005 (2012 Mac Mini Server). I really hope they don't change the current design.

    However, in thinking on Apple's consideration for the 'bottom line', I can't help but think that Intel's current i7 NUC would fit the bill as an off-the-shelf Mac Mini replacement. It's considerably smaller than the current MM, whose form factor could potentially merge the MM with that of a more powerful AppleTV.
     
  17. Dark Void thread starter macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #17
    Unfortunately you may be correct - but I hope not. I don't see any point in limiting these systems any further unless the only goal is to truly create traffic to other desktop options that are offered. I can agree that it is an older design of course just on paper, although I think it looks quite modern in comparison to everything else that is offered. I honestly can't wrap my head around what a possible redesign would look like beyond thinner and lighter as I mentioned. Perhaps color or finish options but that is it.

    Thanks for your contributions so far. I'm definitely a fan of those 2012 models, biased or not - I think they're the highlight of this system. You can still upgrade the HDD in the 2014 minis, but if I am not mistaken, it voids any sort of warranty, and that is what essentially makes it a no-go unfortunately - unless you don't mind doing so of course. I respect your experience with these systems. I have seen many users use minis for all sorts of different uses - including file servers and HTPCs as you mention.

    Good point - an unfortunate reality.

    I definitely think the soldered RAM is terrible, but I am much more disappointed to see the quad CPUs go. It's almost like a tease. They could be that much more of capable systems, but it isn't going to be allowed. I personally plan on throwing a Crucial BX100 in my mini in the near future, but for right now I definitely don't mind running on the stock mechanical drive. I did however upgrade to 8 GB RAM early on via aftermarket.

    I agree with you - and that's coming from someone running on a 5400 RPM drive. I don't find the system sluggish in the least bit because of a standard mid clock speed processor and a fair amount of memory, but the drive is still working like new but I know it will only be a matter of time before it starts to become sluggish. The mechanical drives unfortunately fail in uploading their performance in terms of longevity in my opinion - but for right now - my system starts up in less than half a minute and my applications launch seemingly instantaneously. Therefore, I plan to run it into the ground.

    I've noticed this as well. I've seen one from Asus if I remember correctly that looks kind of similar to a mini.

    This is basically what I am left thinking as well at this point - doesn't seem to be any other reason to limit the mini.

    Albeit quite expensive, at least minis have TB I/O for eGPUs ... but not very practical. I would LOVE to see the mini gain what you're talking about here. Notebook GPUs are actually quite capable.

    I wouldn't mind a design change so long as it isn't changed at the cost of hardware performance. In other words, I don't want a thinner desktop with a low-clock speed energy efficient processor or entirely soldered hardware. I really hope it remains as close to a traditional desktop as possible and upgradability is restored.
     
  18. Crosscreek macrumors 68030

    Crosscreek

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    #18
    IMHO Apple would rather drive desktop users to an iMac by offering a M core processor set up like the Macbook with a couple of USB type c ports as the only Mac Mini option.

    The iMac actually is a better buy in hardware as far as performance to price compared to what a BTO Mini costs. I'm one that said I will never buy an all in one and next year when Skylark shows up I will be ready for a new machine. I hope to see a headless iMac at that time but have almost 0.0 faith that will happen. My 2012 Mini at that time will become my media server full time.

    I maybe forced in 2016 to go back on my AIO feelings and go iMac to get another quad core processor but I certainly hope not.
     
  19. Partron22 macrumors 68000

    Partron22

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    #19
    Fashion comes and goes at Apple. With iPad sales cooling, and cell sales nearing saturation, we may see a re-emphasis on desktop units in a couple years.
    They have their place in the ecosystem, but that's been distorted by the extremely rapid growth in other segments.
    I doubt we'll see Major revolutions with iPad 7, iPhone 12 or Watch 4. That'll leave more resources available for making a better mini (etc).
     
  20. Dark Void thread starter macrumors 68030

    Dark Void

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    #20
    I am not sure that this is the particular agenda but I could see it happening.

    Possibly, but the main difference is that with the mini you are not paying for what you may not need. The display is the best example of this. Of course you need a display with a computer, but if you already have one that you prefer and only want one display total, the iMac wouldn't be a good choice as its an all-in-one. The mini and traditional desktop computers in general are much more versatile than AIOs, especially the mini considering it is much more likely to fit in a standard bag and act as a mobile unit. You seem to realize this, but I am just reiterating.

    This is precisely what I fear - although I am not really a fan of the iMac or AIOs in general. I will have to look at other options if quad CPUs aren't brought back to the minis in a future refresh unfortunately.

    I am hoping the mini is going to get the attention that it deserves. It's such a versatile system and it just makes sense. This may seem like a biased opinion but I truly think that it has a lot to offer. For people like myself who are kind of old school in the sense where I don't care for things like Retina, IPS, 4k, 5k, etc - it's great to have such an affordable desktop unit that I can connect my mechanical board and standard 1080P monitor to without having to pay for things I don't need such as the high quality display of an AIO.

    I realize the entry iMac is still only 1080P but I already have a monitor that I am very satisfied with, and I don't need two displays. Therefore if I can cut the cost of that out, as well as the inclusion of a keyboard and mouse, then its the best option for me. This isn't counting the fact that the entry iMac is underpowered (not in comparison to the 2014 minis) anyway.

    In my opinion, being able to spend $500 on a 2.5 GHz i5 desktop running OS X and then being able to spend an extra $150 on RAM and a fair sized SSD while using my own mouse, board, and 1080P display is an exceptional value in comparison to what else is offered. It's unfortunate that the 2014 refresh has generally put a stop to this in terms of value. I'd have to spend more that now just to get a similar system without the SSD.
     
  21. grcar Suspended

    grcar

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    #21
    I disagree. It is pretty easy to see the design evolution; people just do not want to admit it. For example, I predict the mini will be integrated into some typical desktop device: for example, a clock. They could make the mini even smaller with a handy clock face on top and let your iPhone double as an entry device and increase the price. Oh, wait ... they did that already. See how easy it is to read Tim Cook's mind?
     
  22. newellj macrumors 601

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    #22
    So are you telling us that the new design/engineering mantra in Cupertino is: "Watch it!"? ;)
     
  23. applelover4u macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Its all about what the investors and board wants! If the majority of the investors have investments or business with the factors or product items that fullfill the mac mini then the investors will push the CEO to continue to sell the mac mini.
    This was an example
     
  24. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

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    #24
    Nope. The resources will go toward the Apple TV, Apple Car, and Apple Washer-Drier combo. :)
     
  25. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

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    #25
    A good point, that was not recognised in the hue and cry over the loss of user upgradability that came with the 2014 Mac Mini.

    Most folks are not geeks with an inclination to tinker. We (as I am among them) want something that just works. Apple are more interested in satisfying most folks than pandering to geeks.
     

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