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Apple Mac mini review

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

The late 2012 Mac mini refresh brings welcome improvements, but no real surprises. The step up to the new Ivy Bridge processors was inevitable, but the benefits they give us aren't to be taken lightly.

The Mac mini now uses faster 1600MHz DDR3 memory, too. Both versions have 4GB of RAM where the entry-level model had only 2GB before, and the more expensive mini has a 1TB hard drive, where the previous generation used 500GB drives in each.

But there's no radical overhaul. The form factor remains the same, and apart from upgrading to USB 3.0, the connectivity options are unchanged.

We liked

The 2012 Mac mini retains the qualities that endeared us to previous generations of Apple's small form factor Mac. It's very convenient; if you want to use the same computer at home and in the office, you can set up a monitor, keyboard and controller on each desk and carry the small, lightweight mini between the two.

Since the transformer is built into the unit, the power supply is a cheap figure-of-eight cable. You don't even need to carry around a power brick.

The new processors are awesome, giving a significant increase in power, and the USB ports have been upgraded to high-speed USB 3.0. And for those on a budget, the Mac mini is still the cheapest way to buy a Mac, priced at £679/AU$899/US$799 for this more expensive model.

We disliked

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Apple appears to be phasing out the optical drive. It was dropped from the Mac mini in the previous generation, and unsurprisingly, it doesn't make a return here.

We miss the discrete graphics processor we got with the more expensive of the two mid-2011 Mac minis, though improvements to the Intel Core i-series chips' integrated graphics chipset means this isn't as big a loss as you might expect.

We wish Apple had put the SD card reader at the front of the machine. It would be far more accessible there, especially if the Mac mini is used as an under-the-TV media machine.

Final verdict

The hackneyed old phrase, 'an evolution not a revolution' could (to use another hackneyed phrase) be written for the late 2012 Mac mini.

With the Ivy Bridge processors and faster memory already having debuted on other Macs, it was inevitable they'd come to the small form factor Mac with this year's refresh.

Dropping the discrete graphics processor was an unwelcome surprise, though the unexpected but much appreciated Fusion Drive, a hybrid solution combining a hard drive and solid state storage, is a great configuration option.

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