Mac mini 2014 teardown reveals major letdowns


Mac mini 2014 refresh turns out to be a great disappointment to many would-be buyers who waited 2 years for the upgrade. The new Mac mini sports a brand new Haswell processor compared with Ivy Bride processor in the 2012 model. It has better graphics performance with Intel HD 5000 in the low end model and Intel Iris in the mid and high end model. It comes with two Thunderbolt 2 ports compared with a single first-gen Thunderbolt in 2012 model. And it uses faster PCIe for SSD and has a faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The entry model is now at $499, which is $100 dollar cheaper than last-gen. All are attractive offering from Apple until you look further into the details and compare them with 2012 models.

As elaborated by the teardown and thus confirming the fears of many would-be upgraders, the RAM in late 2014 Mac mini is soldered in. That means you have to decide on the amount of RAM required upfront when you order the machine, and Apple RAM is notoriously more expensive than what you can buy elsewhere.

Late 2014 Mac mini models

The entry level model comes with only 4G of RAM for the $499 price. This model is suitable if you intend the Mac mini as a media player for your HDTV, or for light computing usage. For higher 8G or 16G RAM requirement, the mid and high end models are more attractive buys.

Beside the RAM being not upgradeable, any upgrade of the hard drive will also void the warranty. In fact Apple is changing Mac mini to be user-unfriendly by guarding the metal opening with Torx TR6 tamper-proof screws. In previous model you can open the metal cap with just a twist.

Mac mini 2014 comes with a single SATA port for hard drive and an PICe slot for SSD. Compare this with two SATA ports in 2012 model. There is no longer a server model option with dual drive RAID configuration as in 2012 line up. Apple obviously intends the new Mac mini to be just entry level Macs, as hard drive is not user upgradeable and the maximum capacity for build-to-order hard drive is 1 TB. All these pisses many small businesses who rely on running Mac as server, and now there is no obvious lower cost upgrade path.

2014 Mac mini vs 2012 Mac mini multi core performance

To add insult to injury, all models in new Mac mini are dual-core and there is no quad core processor option. A newly released GeekBench benchmark by Primate Labs shows that the high end tier 2012 Mac mini, which has a quad-core Ivy Bridge processors, outperform the 2014 dual-core models by wide margin for multi-core performance. If you intend to run Mac mini as a server, track down the 2012 quad-core model while you can.

Mac mini 2014 is a downgrade in many ways. But if you don’t intend for a quad core processor and a server setup, the improved graphics, single-core CPU performance and Wi-Fi is worth considering.

Does Apple realise there is a void in their line up for a mid-range Mac without a build-in LCD screen?