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Apple Mac mini review

Apple's small form factor Mac takes a step forward, but not a giant leap

Our Verdict

Product features

  • Processor Core : Quad-core (4 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Excellent new processors
  • USB 3.0
  • Better integrated graphics
  • Faster memory

Against

  • No optical drive
  • No discrete graphics
  • No media centre software
  • SD card reader awkwardly placed

The Apple Mac mini has long been the cheapest way to own a Mac. Since its introduction in January 2005, the small form factor desktop Mac has offered a low-cost alternative to the all-in-one iMac or the high-end Mac Pro.

Although it's sold without a keyboard, mouse or screen, everything else you need is in the box. It's internet-ready, through Ethernet or wireless N, and comes with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and all its bundled apps pre-installed.

The 2012 generation Mac mini is based on an aluminium unibody design. It's available in two models. The cheaper one has a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and a 500GB hard drive, and costs £499 in the UK, AU$699 in Australia or US$599 in the US.

Apple Mac mini 2012 review

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The more expensive late 2012 Mac mini reviewed here has a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, a 1TB hard drive and costs £679/AU$899/US$799. Both models offer 4GB of onboard RAM.

There's also a server version of the high-end model, which includes the server edition of Mountain Lion and twin 1TB hard drives, for £849/AU$1,099/US$999.

At just 19.7cm (7.7 inches) long and wide, 3.6cm (1.4 inches) tall and weighing only 1.22kg (2.7lbs), it's comfortably transportable.

Apple Mac mini 2012 review

If you want to use the same computer at home and at work, for example, you can set up a keyboard, mouse and monitor at each, and then when you're ready to leave, unplug the Mac mini and slip it in your bag.

Since the mid-2010 refresh, the Mac mini's transformer has been built into the body, so the power supply is a cheap figure-of-eight lead.

The Mac mini lost its optical drive with the previous generation, in the summer of 2011, and unsurprisingly, it doesn't make a return here. If you want to use CDs, DVDs or Blu-ray discs, you have to buy an external device such as Apple's own USB SuperDrive, or if you also have computer with an optical drive fitted, a Remote Disc.

Apple Mac mini 2012 review

The 2012 refresh isn't a radical overhaul. It retains the same basic form factor as the last generation of Mac mini, and makes no major changes to its functionality. But it's more than a mere incremental upgrade.

The step up in processors, from the second generation Sandy Bridge chips to the new third-gen Ivy Bridge CPUs, bring a welcome increase in power. Their integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset is around 60% more powerful than the Intel HD Graphics 3000 used in second-generation Core-i processors.

Unfortunately, the discrete graphics chip that made its Mac mini debut in last year's high-end model has now gone, so both 2012 Mac minis rely solely on integrated graphics. This is annoying, considering making room for the discrete chip was given as a reason for dropping the optical drive.

Tech Specs

Product TypeServer
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Green CompliantYes
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Wireless LANYes
Number of Processors Installed1
Total Hard Drive Capacity1 TB
Product FamilyMac mini
Operating SystemMac OS X Server 10.8 Mountain Lion
Brand NameApple
Form FactorUltra Small
Processor Speed2 GHz
Processor TypeCore i7
Maximum Memory8 GB
Standard Memory4 GB
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR, EPEAT Gold
Memory Card ReaderYes
64-bit ProcessingYes
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 3000
BluetoothYes
Graphics Memory CapacityUp to 384 MB
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11n
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
FireWire/i.LINKYes
HDMIYes
Maximum Power Supply Wattage85 W
Total Number of USB Ports4
ThunderboltYes
Memory StandardDDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Height35.6 mm
Width195.6 mm
Depth195.6 mm
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMC936B/A
Product NameMac mini MC936B/A Server
Product LineMac mini
Controller TypeSerial ATA
Manufacturer Part NumberMC936B/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing InformationNow serving up quad-core power.

Mac mini with Lion Server features a 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor that delivers incredible speed and performance, thanks to innovations like Turbo Boost 2.0, Hyper-Threading, and an integrated memory controller. Add in 6MB of L3 cache, and you'll find that Mac mini with Lion Server is packed with power.

It also has two 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives built in, so you can host wikis and websites, back up the data you need, and store just about anything. For the ultimate in performance, choose dual 256GB solid-state drives. This configuration performs up to 60 percent faster in file server tests than a quad-core Xserve with internal SAS drives.

Package Contents
  • Mac mini MC936B/A Entry-level Server
  • HDMI to DVI Adapter
  • Power Cord
  • Printed and Electronic Documentation
Limited Warranty1 Year
Weight (Approximate)1.36 kg