Affiliate Notice : We here at The Tiny Desktop have affiliate marketing links which connect to commercial sites for which we get paid a commission, if you buy the product. The links do not constitute an endorsement. You are under NO obligation to buy these products to use this site.

Why No Mac Mini?

The Mac Mini was arguably the first major small form factor computer. Apple offered it as an entry level desktop to the Apple ecosystem. Of course, one had to provide one’s own monitor, keyboard, and speakers.

Still it was a hit, a major hit. Though it lacked the power of a regular Apple iMac, it came in at around 3 pounds weight.

As time went on, the Mac Mini became a wonder. It had a solid aluminum case. It came with a dedicated graphics chip (dGPU).

But in 2012, Apple released what many considered the finest MacMini realized. One could buy it in regular or server options.

The 2012 Mac Mini came with the option of a
– i7-3720QM CPU (4C/8T – 2.6GHz to 3.6 GHz),
– with an impressive 45W, quad core processor,
– and HD 4000 integrated graphics.
– SSD options were available.

Apple started using integrated graphics (iGPU) on the CPU, which disappointed some who would have preferred a dedicated graphics card or chip (dGPU), but over all the high-end 2012 Mac Mini was a winner. It could support up to 2560 x 1600 displays.

The thing which won the hearts of Mac Mini aficionados was the ease of upgrading. One could add RAM oneself to avoid the outrageous Apple Tax on buying RAM at the time of purchase. One could easily add an SSD as well.

That all ended in 2014 when:

1) Apple removed the quad-core option for the Mac Mini.
2) Apple started soldering in RAM, making user upgrades on RAM impossible.
3) Apple added a second bottom cover to the Mac Mini making it harder to upgrade storage.

The Mac Mini community was outraged. Overnight the prices for the older 2012 model surpassed the prices for the newer model, a curiosity which exists to this very day, 2017.

Then after releasing the 2014 Mac Mini, which was a downgrade of sorts, Apple has refused to update the 2014 model for over three years. It still sells 2014 Mac Mini with the older Haswell technology.

Tim Cook has said that “… the Mac mini will be an important part of the company’s product lineup in the future,” but a lot of people doubt him.

So why has Apple allowed this signature model to deteriorate, and all but die off. What has happened is that a lot of people have gotten tired of waiting, and have started building Hackintoshes to address their need for a modern MacMini.

Still Apple might be able to rescue the model this spring.

How?

With 8th Generation Coffee Lake CPUs, 4 cores are a minimum baseline, even on lower range core i3 CPUs. Much of the Coffee Lake CPUs are 4C/8T which would bring the Mac Mimi back to the 2012 standard.

Apple could offer a Mac Mini with these possible options.

Note:  All the base/turbo frequencies listed below are for standard wattage. Apple could increase or decrease the wattage available to each CPU to change frequencies.  Both Intel and Ryzen allow this.

POSSIBLE MAC MINI OPTIONS
CPU Cores Base Freq. Boost Freq. TDP Graphics
i5-8350U 4C/8T 1.7 GHz 3.6 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620
i7-8550U 4C/8T 1.8 GHz 4.0 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620
i7-8720HK 6C/12T 2.4 GHz 3.6 GHz 45W UHD Graphics 630

The last option is a bit theoretical, as these are based on leaked specs from (Here, Here).

Of course, the astute will note that 2 of the options are mobile CPUs. True! But specs for upcoming i3 and i5 options for Coffee Lake are not out yet; and so I used mobile CPUs for a starting point. But remember that the 2014 Mac Mini model uses low power U chips, coming in at 15W. Earlier models used CPUs, with higher TDP (Wattage). So Apple could choose any spectrum of power it wants.

Anandtech gives a list of Coffee Lake CPUs (Click Here), however, the base and turbo frequencies have not been released yet, so it would be hard to predict which of these chips Apple might use. However, one can make some good guesses.

Apple started using low-power U CPUs, and may not want to go back. If that is so, then Apple will probably stay with U-CPU options.

POSSIBLE LOW POWER U-CPU MAC MINI OPTIONS
CPU Cores Base Freq. Boost Freq. TDP Graphics
i5-8250U 4C/8T 1.6 GHz 3.4 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620
i5-8350U 4C/8T 1.7 GHz 3.6 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620
i7-8550U 4C/8T 1.8 GHz 4.0 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620
i7-8650 4C/8T 1.9 GHz 4.2 GHz 15W UHD Graphics 620

However, this may be Apple’s last chance to rescue the line. Apple could go low-end and only offer 4C/8T options, which might seem an improvement over the present 2C/4T options on the 2014 Mac Mini, which it would be — however, as noted above, 4C is often a minimum base for Coffee Lake processors; and Apple would just be back to offering only low-end options on the Mac Mini. No! Apple should offer at least one higher-end option with 6C/12T to resurrect the Mac Mini line as something both powerful and respectable.

It would also be nice if they could throw in a dedicated Graphics Processing Unit, like the NVIDIA MX 150.

MAC MINI BUYERS ARE AT THE END OF THEIR PATIENCE

The genius of the Mac Mini was that it was not tied to the monitor, as one is on the iMac. The second bit of genius was that the 2012 Mac Mini was user-friendly, upgradeable. If Apple could produce a 2018 Mac Mini with higher end options, and which is also returned to user-upgradeability, then it would be a winner.

That would mean that Apple might have to ditch using some U-CPUs, and return to using mid-range power CPUs, as was the case with the 2012 Mac Mini with the 45W 3720QM CPU.  If Apple would return to mid-range CPU options, it could offer higher-end 6C/12T options on the CPU.

Moreover, Apple must ditch the RAM soldering, and allow the user to upgrade.

If Apple insists only only offering low-power U options, then 6C/12T options are out using the Intel Line. This would remove the Apple Mac Mini from having power desktop options, as it did in 2012. It would be quite a disappointment.

In that case, Apple should have considered possible AMD Ryzen options, where the CPUs are good but AMD’s integrated graphics (iGPU) are great, and would more than compensate for a lack of a dedicated GPU (dGPU).

POSSIBLE AMD RyzeN MAC MINI OPTIONS
CPU Cores Base Freq. Boost Freq. TDP Graphics
R5-2500U 4C/8T 2.0 GHz 3.6 GHz 15W Radeon Vega – 8 Cores
R7-2700U 4C/8T 2.2 GHz 3.8 GHz 15W Radeon Vega – 10 Cores

The Ryzen options are proving to have incredible integrated graphics (iGPU) with amazing power.

If Apple will not provide these reasonable options, it should be time to consider Intel NUCs.