Review: Apple Mac mini perfect for basic computing

The Apple Mac mini (2018) is probably the most-anticipated Mac computer, as its previous update was way back in 2014.

First launched in 2005, the Mac mini was marketed as a low-cost Mac machine for those switching from the Windows platform. It does not come with a mouse and keyboard, as the idea is to let Windows switchers use their current peripherals.

The Mac mini's basic design has gone relatively unchanged through four generations. The 2018 version continues to have a squarish aluminium unibody, which measures 19.7 by 19.7cm and is a mere 3.6cm thick. Weighing just 1.3kg, it can be easily moved around the table.

The latest model comes in a space-grey finish. The 2014 model was silver. Personally, I prefer the new look.

At its rear are four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Gone are the SD card slot and Thunderbolt 2 ports that are found in the 2014 model.

Internally, there has been a redesign, with a bigger fan and larger air vents for better cooling.

The 2018 model uses conventional system memory slots, so users can upgrade the memory. With the 2014 model, system memory cannot be upgraded as they are permanently soldered to the motherboard. Apple advises users not to perform such upgrades on their own, but get qualified technicians to do so.

The review unit is the entry-level model, with 8GB of system memory and 128GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. Both specifications are pretty meagre by today's computing standard.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: From $1,179

    PROCESSOR:  From eighth-generation Intel Core i3 3.6GHz quad-core processor (up to Intel Core i7 3.2GHz six-core processor)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 630

    SYSTEM MEMORY: From 8GB (up to 64GB)

    STORAGE: From 128GB SSD (up to 2TB SSD)

    PORTS: 4 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Ethernet

    WEIGHT:  1.3kg

  • RATING

     

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Not to mention, the new Mac mini comes only with the Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated graphics processing unit, which is not exactly a powerhouse.

Nonetheless, performance is not too shabby. In the Geekbench 4 benchmark tests, the review unit scored 4,723 points (single-core) and 14,436 points (multi-core) - better than a latest MacBook Air with comparable specifications which scored 3,690 (single-core) and 7,831 (multi-core).

For daily computing tasks such as Web surfing, word processing, iPhone back-ups and occasional photo-editing work with apps such as Pixelmator, the Mac mini is more than adequate.

If you want to use the Mac mini for serious video editing or gaming, consider getting the BlackMagic eGPU ($1,149) external graphic processing unit that features a Radeon Pro 580 graphics card with 8GB of video memory.

The only real downer of the new Mac mini is its price-to-specs ratio. While the review entry-level model costs only $1,179, a fully souped-up version with a better Intel Core i7 processor, 64GB of system memory and 2TB of SSD storage will set you back by a staggering $5,819. Comparatively, you can get the top model of the21.5-inch Retina iMac (with 1TB SSD) for $4,008.

That said, if all you need is a Mac for basic daily computing, you can always customise the Mac mini with 16GB of system memory and 1TB of SSD storage at a more affordable $2,739.

• Verdict: The Apple Mac mini (2018) may be a tad under-powered for its price. But if you do not have much table-top space or need a basic Mac, this model is still the best thing to get.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Apple Mac mini perfect for basic computing'. Print Edition | Subscribe