I had already prepared one script for a review of my Mac mini, but I have never actually published it. Now, it’s about two years since I put down the first word of that script, but I feel radically different about the stuff I had written.
The only thing I haven’t changed my opinion on is the design. The look of the rounded aluminum case hasn’t grown old on me even after 3 years of ownership, and people who see this computer for the first time keep asking whether there is a “full computer inside that”.
By that, they mean whether it is powerful enough to work on Office documents and store pictures from a smartphone. But little do they know, about what this small box is capable of. We can talk specs all day long, but that will not conclude anything. Let’s talk usability.
Office documents and photo editing? Not a slightest problem. Web browsing with many tabs open? No problem. Audio editing? Fine. 1080p video work? Still good. 4K video playback? Without dropping a frame. Driving a huge, 34″ LG UltraWide monitor? Works like any other display. And given I have the iPhone 7 Plus, I thought I would take advantage of the 4K video capabilities. Even editing that is perfectly doable on the tiny Mac mini with 4-year-old internals in Final Cut Pro X.
How good exactly? It took about 9.5 minutes exporting a 4-minute 4K video from Final Cut. The same footage inside DaVinci Resolve on my custom PC with a quad-core i7 and the GTX1080? 21.5 minutes.
The last thing, which could interest someone in regards to performance is gaming, but just don’t ever game on a Mac. There is no point in that…
Now, the I/O. It has the “boring old-fashioned” ports, meaning they are not all USB-C. All of them are on the back, to preserve the clean look of the device, with only a small status LED and IR port poking through the metal at the front. Notably, the power port, Ethernet, FireWire, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 4 regular USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and 3.5 mm audio in / out ports.
We are speaking about a desktop computer designed by Apple, so it also has some other nice features. For example, there is no external power brick, and of course, WiFi and Bluetooth are integrated as well. Not to mention, the fan is only audible during intensive tasks.
Apple also hasn’t given up yet on supporting this machine. I am on the latest version of the macOS operating system, with new features like Siri and application Handoff without any significant hit on overall speed. On the other hand, I personally feel like the software quality control and stability has been slowly, but steadily, decreasing over the past couple of years. This is not related only to this particular Mac. Just look at what’s going on with the latest MacBook Pros.
To conclude, I am happy with my Mac mini, especially considering the age and what I use it for. Without a doubt, this machine can serve as a more than adequate family computer and a very good entry into the Apple computer ecosystem, without costing a fortune. (But don’t get the absolute base model.) Despite that, the truth is, that it is early 2017 and the latest Mac mini you can get is from 2014, with Apple having no plans to upgrade it in the near future.
Also keep in mind, that the bottom plate of the newest Mac mini can no longer be taken off to clean the inside or do a simple memory upgrade.