Blog Post

Apple Updates the Mac Mini: More Modern, Even Worse Value


So Apple (s aapl) updated the Mac mini today. It seems it’s pretty much everything the rumor sites were saying, and I can’t help being disappointed.

In my look at the various rumors, one thing I stated was that the price was out of line. I based this on the value of the machine, not the usual ramblings from pundits about the economy. In my view, the mini is overpriced and the upgrades — which only make the machine more modern after nearly a year of stagnation — wouldn’t be enough. Oh, and thanks Apple for pulling the remote from the package, I’d probably just lose it anyway.

Unfortunately, there was no price change, and Apple did nothing beyond the updates to bridge the value gap. The base mini comes with 1GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive. That’s laughable. In a day when even the old, white plastic MacBook comes with 2GB, the base mini is still left stuck at one. Apple has all but admitted that 1GB isn’t enough and yet, there’s the mini, sitting there under-performing. A desktop, machine no less.

It’s probably just as well, since the base mini only has a 120GB hard drive. Geez, Apple, mini or not this is a desktop machine, save the 120GB drives for your base laptop, but a desktop machine deserves more. Thanks for including FireWire, so I can fill up the drive in about 10 minutes.

So, six hundred bucks gets me a 1GB machine that won’t hold much data. Six. Hundred. Dollars. Want a great keyboard or mouse? When you buy an iMac these are included (albeit now without a keypad), so moving to the wireless version of both is only $50. For the mini? Well, they’ll set you back $100, and that’s not even wireless; kick in another $30 for that.

Apple, did it never occur to you that even though this is a BYODKM (bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse) system, you might have, you know, encouraged people to buy your keyboard and mouse? A hundred bucks? Are you drunk? The potential new Mac user sucked in by the supposed low price of the mini, perhaps even thinking Apple’s not so expensive after all, is going to get a shock. I’m not suggesting a wholesale lowering of prices, but rather simply selling a bundle dirt cheap for new mini buyers at the time of purchase.

Finally, yes, you can get the 2GB of memory the machine deserves, and a decent hard drive (320GB), and it’ll only set you back another $200. Eight hundred bucks and you now have a desktop machine that’s at least in the ballpark. Of course, at that price the 2.0GHz processor seems a bit weak but, hey, only another $150 is needed to bump it up to 2.26GHz! Woo hoo! I have a decent machine now, and it’s only $950, though I still have to dig a keyboard and mouse out of the garage.

Apple, barring a reduction in price on machines that do not compete at all, you should have at least tossed in some things to increase the value proposition. The cheap keyboard/mouse bundle as mentioned above, a remote, and maybe a copy of iWork, perhaps. Oh, and that second GB of memory. At $600 I might feel better about that baseline machine. As it is, it’s difficult to recommend the mini to anyone. I’d push the MacBook, but then maybe that’s what you wanted.

It’s hard to think that Apple looks at the potential mini buyer with anything but a bit of disdain. How else would you describe taking a year to update a machine that wasn’t competitive, and replacing it with something even less so? I get the feeling mini sales are just brisk enough that Apple can’t kill the thing, though that would probably be their preference. It appears they’d sooner run Windows Vista on their corporate machines than make the mini a good value.

Oh well, guess I’ll focus on the new iMacs next, those look like a great deal.

32 Responses to “Apple Updates the Mac Mini: More Modern, Even Worse Value”

  1. True, the mini as it stands should sell for $399 or even less. I’d love one, but the price is out of my range for what sort of computer it is. And we all know that the mini is basically a laptop without a monitor and trackpad. Those are laptop parts in there that allow the machine to be so small and that’s why the hard drive is so small as well. When this thing originally was released with the G4 chip in it, I think it was $100 cheaper. What happened Apple? It’s not like they have to pay licensing fees for the OS for crying out loud.

  2. relinashirley

    We’ve had our mini for years and when we decided to nix cable tv, it became our media system. We have a macbook pro for the daily stuff as well as a PC, I believe in having both but I sure do love my Macs.

    Bottom line, after reading all of the back and forth, sounds like many of us are using our mini as a media device…and for that purpose, the Mac mini is perfect! I have an old one, I can only imagine what the new one can do!

    The Mac mini even inspired us to create a mount just for it so that it can be neatly stored behind our wall-mounted TV.

    It is a wonderful, little computer that saves us $80/month on cable. Sure, the pricing could be lower, but I don’t believe that Apple needs to do much with their pricing – if you can’t afford a Mac, go buy a Dell.

  3. David David

    I just bought the entry machine and upped the memory to 4gigs. I have a FW800 1TB external drive already so the 120GB onboard is fine with me for applications and what not. Love the machine. Yeah, it’s my third string (I have two MBPs that are more powerful), but as a DVD player, music machine / Hulu interface (this mini iis hooked up to an articulated wall mounted 36″ LCD). All is well.

  4. umgrego2,

    “Tom, are you re-reading what you post before posting? If the majority of desktops are sold as systems, then they’re not being sold as BYODKM machines. ”

    Sure they are. A BYODKM machine is just a non-AIO (All In One) machine. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t matter whether I bring my own DKM by buying them at the same time, or use ones sitting in my garage. Either way I had to get my own.

    What I implied, and still believe, is that there are more desktops sold to people as systems with a DKM than there are to people who “re-purpose” a DKM they may already own.

    Apple made a big deal out of BYODKM because, except for the Pro where it’s taken for granted, they didn’t have such an animal.

  5. umgrego2

    “EVERY desktop machine ever sold (that’s not an all-in-one) is a BYODKM machine. I would venture to say that the majority of desktops sold are sold as systems.”

    Tom, are you re-reading what you post before posting? If the majority of desktops are sold as systems, then they’re not being sold as BYODKM machines. Apple is not selling the Mac mini to people who need a keyboard and mouse. You seem to miss this point entirely in your whole article.

    “A hundred bucks?” What exactly is surprising about this? Aluminum casing, 2 2.0 usb ports and styling are what you get on the keyboard alone. And it’s called mighty mouse for a reason. How much does a mouse with those features cost you when it’s from a regular company? Surprise, surprise, Microsoft’s wireless mouse with 4 way scrolling and customizeable buttons is 80, compared with Apple’s 70.

    The Mac mini is aimed at people like me; i’ve got a monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. and want to switch from a windows machine to an apple. Sure, the imac gives great value, but only if you’re in need of a display, which I (and I’m sure a great majority of people replacing their desktops) am not. The 2.26 GHz, 2 Gig RAM, 320 GB HD Mac mini comes to 949 (in Canada) and the 2.66 GHz, 2 Gig RAM, 320 GB HD iMac is 1399. So for 450 more I get 0.4 more processing and an LCD glass display (which I don’t need). What I lose, is energy efficiency.

    People seem to be missing this whole aspect of the mini; it’s not only smaller in physical footprint, but in ecological, too. Which is another reason I’m not interested in shelling out for a new display at this point. I’ll wait until the LED backlit LCDs have become more resaonably priced and continue to use a functioning display in the meantime. And if the change to reasonably priced LED backlighting occurs in the next 2 years, then the Mac mini we purchase today becomes our HTPC and we get the then available iMac.

    And another thing, “You are paying a lot for what you’re getting; in my view there’s little evidence to support otherwise. ” you obviously didn’t read the post which stated, “What is the alternative besides a $400 more expensive iMac that will run OSX? (the local monitor for control is an HP w1907, widescreen DVI input on sale well under $200 due to being discontinued)”

    Tom, the Mac mini may not fit your concept of a budget desktop, but the purpose of the mini was to cast out a lure for people thinking about making the switch. And it fulfills that purpose well, because I (and I suspect others) are being reeled in.

  6. YO! Apple! Are you listening?
    I’ve got heaps of Crapple 60-80-120 gig drives. I’ve got piles of useless 256, 512 and even 1 gig RAM chips. I even decorated an 8′ christmas tree with them last year!
    Do you know why? Fry’s: 4 gigs SODIMMs, $25.00. 500 gig Seagate SATAII drive $99.00! Putty knife and 00 screw driver .99 cents!
    A year ago I got tired of waiting on the mini to catch up. This thing is never going to be a desktop. If that is what people want why would you not buy the much better performing iMAC? All I really want it for is a pint size a media player. It’s going to be hooked up to a 50″ LCD and play media from my 4tb Windows Home Server. (Yes! Now WHS even works with Time Machine!)
    Sorry Apple, I bought a PS3. You know why? $399, I brought it home, plugged it in, AND IT JUST WORKS! No Bag-of-hurt, no screw drivers, no problem.
    I’ve had an eight hundred dollar bill, burning a hole in my pocket for a year and a half. Do you know what its going to take to get it? Sony can deliver a player AND game console for $399, so lets see, $799, hum……. Even with the Apple tax its got to have at minimum:
    BR-D and BR-D Player
    Ability to mount and ISO image, (Basically a full working OSX 10.??? Not Apple TV)
    HDMI 1.3a and DVI.
    4 gigs RAM.
    Bluetooth Keyboard and mouse that would look good on my coffee table.
    Because I’m dreaming and because I really don’t want to throw away another drive: 500 gig SATAII.
    If Apple built these specs. Apple could not build these things fast enough. Until then the Mini is a non event. There is no reason to buy it.

  7. All,

    For those saying the mini was never supposed to be an all-in-one solution, or not for editing photos, etc., I’m not getting your point. Of course it’s not an all-in-one, and of course it IS meant for editing photos, etc. To assume iLife is included but Apple doesn’t think you’d use it is rather silly. This thing has more power than the MacBook Air.

    I think what gets lost here is that when Steve Jobs introduced this as a BYODKM computer, too many people thought that it was somehow different than any other desktop machine on the planet. It’s not. EVERY desktop machine ever sold (that’s not an all-in-one) is a BYODKM machine. I would venture to say that the majority of desktops sold are sold as systems. In Apple’s case, they make it a VERY expensive proposition.

    As for owning and using one, I know the guts it contains and how they perform. I also know how OS X performs with only 1GB of memory. There’s very little to refute there.

    I don’t dislike the mini. I think it’s a beautiful machine. And if you want, say, a tiny server or media center you can tuck away, it might be perfect. But that’s not the same as assessing it’s overall value. Apple offers this thing to fill a small niche, instead of the much larger market it could have served. You are paying a lot for what you’re getting; in my view there’s little evidence to support otherwise. It is, BY FAR, the least value in Apple’s entire computer lineup.

    Finally, I’m not criticizing anyone who has or will purchase this machine. What you buy is your business, not mine, and such criticism would be no different than the local Dell and HPers ragging on Apple users for buying a Mac at all. They don’t get it. But my point is that, even among Macs, there are degrees of value, and clearly the mini is the low-point.

  8. @Francois

    It is great to hear that you own a Mac Mini but I believe a lot of those who posted their comments is not through experience but on what they had read in the blogs.


  9. The BEST news about the new Mac mini? The _just discontinued_ models will get blowout price-slashing and finally deliver what Apple should have all along: a mini at $499 or LESS!

    This latest revamp utterly proves Apple is out of touch with the current American/Global economy – and what your dollar buys you in the PC marketplace.

  10. I wonder how many of you have ever use a Mac Mini before commenting. Try one and then come back here to talk about it. No point reading all the stuffs people write about when they the Mac Mini without being hands on.

    The latest iteration may may not give you a lot of hardware but if you think it is just nice for basic work you guys are mistaken.

    Try it on any bloated software of Adobe and it deliver a decent work speed. Even Final Cut Express delivers decently on it.

    BTW on what basis are do you guys based on to comment on the Mac Mini – hands on or hear say.

    My 2¢ – Tom, I am quite disappointed on this article when you pick on its price and not its performance (have you owned and used one before?)

  11. Anonymous

    “So, six hundred bucks gets me a 1GB machine that won’t hold much data. Six. Hundred. Dollars. Want a great keyboard or mouse? When you buy an iMac these are included (albeit now without a keypad), so moving to the wireless version of both is only $50. For the mini? Well, they’ll set you back $100, and that’s not even wireless; kick in another $30 for that.”

    The Mac mini was NEVER intended to be an all-in one solution. It was meant to be a solution for people looking to switch to a mac economically. It was specifically designed for people who wanted to keep their old keyboard, mouse and display. As someone who has experience with Apple from the inside, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that that’s the company’s position on the product.

    That being said, I think that avid Apple supporters have been a bit pampered by the all-in-one convenience of the iMac. The Mac Mini is a great computer for basic computer usage, and for people looking to switch over without paying an arm and a leg. It’s also a great interim computer to get people accustomed to Apple computers. The chances are much greater that their next computer will BE an iMac because they loved the initial product so much.

  12. It’s the little things like taking the remote away that piss me off. They do this time and time again. Remember all the goodies that we used to get with out iPods? Like docks and cases? Now we’re lucky to still get the stickers I guess. Sure the iMac got better, but I can’t help but notice you have to pay an extra $20 to get the keyboard that was free a week ago. And they lost the remote last time too. So now you’re out another $50 bucks. So they bump the specs a bit, nice. But why all the trade offs? Anybody else notice that for all Apple adds to a device, they always have to evoke some cost saving measure by finding something to take away. I thought technology was getting cheaper?

  13. François

    Regarding the pricing of the mini, I think Apple is afraid to cannibalize the iMac sales and the price is set to upscale casual users to the iMac line. They apply the same kind of logic to the iPods. If you add the keyboard, mouse and RAM to the equation, then, yeah, the iMac appears to be a great value. And you get a screen and a slighty more powerful CPU in the deal. The other users with specific needs for the mini will pay for what they want or need anyway. But I agree that the basic mini model is a little stiff. It should come with 2Gb or RAM and a 250GB hard drive.

  14. Jonmarsh

    Well, like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder. Just yesterday I upgraded a friend’s Intel Mac Mini from the original 512MB of RAM and 80GB HD to 2GB of RAM and 320GB HD. That doesn’t do anything about the graphics system performance, but it’s the best we could do for her system.

    In comparison, this new Mac Mini, which I’ve been waiting for a while, and HOPING it would come out with the feature set it has, is just perfect for my living room Media center Mac/Music server- though it will have an added HD for Video, the internal drive is OK for my full resolution music collection (320 GB model). And with dual outputs (something never before on a Mini) it will drive both the “control” panel monitor, and a projection display (DVI to RGBHV converter to an NEC professional video switching system (multiplexed with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players on HDMI to RGBHV converters).
    USB output for digital audio is fed to a PS Audio DLIII DAC into the main sound system.
    Further audio upgrades and incorporation of audio testing is possible with the FireWire input.
    So, for me, the value proposition is quite clear. What is the alternative besides a $400 more expensive iMac that will run OSX? (the local monitor for control is an HP w1907, widescreen DVI input on sale well under $200 due to being discontinued).


  15. geof bowie

    I think people miss the basic point of the mini altogether. Why is it that, even though we are in a PC dominated world, people think that Apple should provide a computer that is equally priced? You dont see BMW doing their best to compete with a Civic-level car? Why? Because their product is fundamentally better. Go ahead and compare the amount of time and headache that goes into installing and maintaining a comparable Windows box with a mini. Add in the iLife suite and absence of AV apps mucking up your processor, and I guarantee that you wont even need to get to the parts about longevity, customer service and industrial design.

    I dont want to see Apple become the lowest common denominator computer maker. Nor, apparently do they.

    Yes, I agree, the mini COULD be more powerful and capacious. But it also serves as an excellent machine for the casual user (we use them for servers all the time). But again, the point is missed: If you want to edit photos, you really need to spend more than $1000 on a computer. And get a backup drive while youre at it.

  16. I agree with the price, however, not necessarily about the keyboard/mouse issue. I got my Mini a couple years back, and it was a replacement for my Windows box. The whole idea was that I already had the keyboard, mouse, and monitor I wanted to use, so this was literally the desktop replacement I needed (with some memory upgrades of course). However, taking the remote out of the bundle just hurts. There’s no good reason for that. Come on.

  17. ZEDenterprizes

    In fact, I’d love to know (I’m sure it’s out there already), but what IS a good/relatively inexpensive media centre that’ll work nicely with an all-mac setup?

  18. I totally agree with you. The mini is a huge disappointment and not desirable given the high price for limited specs. I have been looking to a secondary desktop/laptop for a while with the entry level Macbook being the best option so far; although what I am really waiting for is a 10″+ screen netbook that I can turn into a Hackintosh.