Mac mini (Late 2014) 2.8GHz

Ap­ple’s baby Mac gets an up­grade – and a down­grade

Mac Format - - RATED | KIT - £799 Man­u­fac­turer Ap­ple, ap­ Pro­ces­sor 2.8GHz dual-core In­tel Core i5 Stor­age 1TB Fu­sion Drive Mem­ory 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 Graph­ics In­tel Iris Graph­ics More ca­pa­ble graph­ics Faster Wi-Fi and ports No quad-core op­tion – shame Sealed pack­age e

Ap­ple giveth, and Ap­ple taketh away. After a cou­ple of years of ne­glect, the lovely lit­tle Mac mini has been up­dated, bring­ing sub­stan­tially faster graph­ics, faster Wi-Fi, more and faster Thun­der­bolt con­nec­tions and a cheaper en­try point, but at the same time we’ve lost the abil­ity to up­grade the RAM our­selves, lost the op­tion for a quad­core con­fig­u­ra­tion, and lost the server vari­ant that had two 1TB hard disks inside the chas­sis. (There’s also no op­ti­cal drive, un­sur­pris­ingly, and now no FireWire ports, though if you need to use FireWire pe­riph­er­als you can buy an adapter – Ap­ple’s is £25 – to con­vert one or both of the Thun­der­bolt ports.)

Here we’re re­view­ing the top-end model – 2.8GHz i5, 8GB RAM and a 1TB Fu­sion Drive, Ap­ple’s hy­brid disk tech­nol­ogy that pairs (in this case) a PCIe-con­nected fast SSD with a hard disk, to get the speed ben­e­fits of SSD with­out its high price. It scores fairly well in raw num­ber-crunch­ing bench­marks such as Geek­bench, but note that be­cause it has only two cores (for four threads) rather than the four cores (eight threads) of the pre­vi­ous topend model, the multi-core re­sult is much lower. It’s hard to be de­fin­i­tive about whether this is a step for­ward or back­ward; if you fre­quently push your Mac to do many com­plex things at once and/or use multi-core aware apps, the pre­vi­ous high-end Mac mini might ac­tu­ally have been com­pu­ta­tion­ally more ca­pa­ble, but this new one, to put it crudely, is ‘faster at do­ing fewer things’.

The In­tel Iris Graph­ics chipset is ir­refutably much more ca­pa­ble, but even here don’t run away with the idea this is a Mac with much in the way of gaming chops. We got 18fps (frames per sec­ond) in our stan­dard Bat­man Arkham City bench­mark, and 7.6fps in the new Tomb Raider. To be sure, you can turn the set­tings down in both un­til you get a us­able re­sult, but while the Iris (not Iris Pro) graph­ics we have here are plenty ca­pa­ble of pow­er­ing the Mac’s UI, un­less your gaming needs are very mod­est, this is not the Mac for you.

Don’t buy a Mac mini be­cause it’s ‘cheap’; by the time you add a screen to this one, it might not be much cheaper than an iMac. You might be more pro­duc­tive with a slower Mac­Book Air for about the same price just be­cause it’s more flex­i­ble, or get so much more from a more pow­er­ful iMac that it negates the price dif­fer­ence.

What’s more, you now need to be sure that a Mac mini is con­fig­ured right be­fore you buy it, since you can no longer even up­grade the RAM. Hap­pily, 8GB is enough for gen­eral com­put­ing, es­pe­cially when paired with an SSD, but con­sider the £160 3.0GHz i7 up­grade if you do heavy cre­ative tasks, or the £240 512GB pure-SSD up­grade for bet­ter re­spon­sive­ness. Christo­pher Phin

Ap­ple has reded­i­cated the Mac mini to the role of mod­est but ca­pa­ble. Good – for the right peo­ple.

The Mac mini has stepped up a gear in terms of per­for­mance, but it no longer of­fers the up­grade op­tions un­der the chas­sis.

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