It's been nearly two years since Apple last updated the Mac mini. The last update was on 23 October 2012 and even those changes were modest. The whole of 2013 passed and the Mac mini languished untouched by Apple. Therefore it's not surprising that many are asking the question: "When is the new Mac mini coming out?" Well, we've scoured the net to bring you Macworld UK's best guess of the new Mac mini's release date, specs and UK price.
Apple has given nothing away about the new Mac mini. But based on past experience and the existing specs of other Macs, it is easy to surmise what to expect from the new Mac mini. In this story we round up the latest information based on what we deem to be credible rumours and speculation, and our own analysis of Apple rumours. We'll update this story as new rumours and evidence comes in, so keep checking back. And when Apple makes its announcement we can all have a good laugh at how wrong we were.
2014 Mac mini release date: When is the new Mac mini coming out?
The Mac mini is the only Mac that hasn't been updated since 2012, so you can see why we're expecting Apple to announce a new Mac mini soon.
The good news is the long-neglected Mac mini may finally get an update this month, if reports are to be believed.
A source told MacRumors that the Mac mini could get an update in October, alongside the new iPad Air and the launch of OS X Yosemite.
However, since Intel’s Broadwell chips aren’t likely to be shipping in time to allow for an update as early as October, it may well be that the new Mac mini won’t ship until next year - although even a Haswell processor refresh would be a step up from the older processors currently featuring in the Mac mini.
However, we wouldn't count on it. There have been numberous rumours over the years that Apple was soon to update the Mac mini. For example, a forum poster on MacRumours claimed to have contacted a Computer Store in Belgium and been told that a new Mac mini would launch at the end of February 2014, but clearly that didn't happen.
Plus at the end of July 2014, an update to a Boot Camp support document referenced a "mid-2014" Mac mini, which suggested that a new Mac mini was about to launch.But no such Mac materialised. Some Apple watchers have suggested that the company updated the document by mistake, and that it actually meant to update the Retina MacBook Pro version of the document following its refresh on 29 July.
What is the Mac mini?
It's understandable that you might not be aware the the Mac mini even exists - sometimes it looks like even Apple isn't aware of its presence.
The Mac mini is Apple's smallest desktop Mac and also its cheapest Mac, at £499. It's a full-blown OS X desktop that fits into a self-contained chassis no bigger than a set-top box. An inexpensive living room Mac that lacks the power of even some MacBooks and comes with no keyboard, mouse or display, but one that works perfectly as the centre of your digital home – not least because it comes with HDMI sockets making plugging it into a modern TV a doddle.
There is also a Mac mini with OS X server available for £849.
Why is the Mac mini delayed?
Perhaps there is not really a hold up. Apple's never been that regimented about its Mac mini upgrade cycle. In the past it's waited a year and a half between update to the system, so this delay may not be a delay at all.
However, it seems most likely that the reason for the delay is that Apple is waiting for Intel to ship the new Broadwell chips - successors to Haswell (which never even made it into the Mac mini).
The good news is that despite rumours of major delays, Intel has confirmed that it is finally shipping the Broadwell chips, this could be good news for anyone awaiting the new Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac and Mac mini. Except that it's the wrong sort of Broadwell chips. Intel is shipping Broadwell Core M processors and Apple will use Broadwell U chips which might not ship until 2015.
In a conference call about Intel's second-quarter results on 15 July, Intel's chief executive Brian Krzanich confirmed Intel’s hardware partners will have Broadwell systems on store shelves in the run up to Christmas, so it's still possible that we will see Broadwell processors in Macs this year, but it's starting to look more and more unlikely.
Even winter seems a long way away to those who have been waiting for updates to Macs for so long. We are sure that Apple is equally frustrated with Intel.
It's likely that the lack of Broadwell availability is the reason for the minor update to the MacBook Pro with Retina display, which happened on 29 July. All five models got a spec boost and price cut, but no Broadwell processors yet.
Is Apple going to discontinue the Mac mini?
We hope that Apple won't decide to discontinue the Mac mini, but we have speculated about whether Apple might discontinue the Mac mini in this article. We think that Apple could decide that, with desktop sales in decline, it doesn't make enough money out of the Mac mini. But we also suggest there is a market for the device, and that in the future it could become even more important for Apple.
2014 Mac mini rumours: Design
It's possible that the Mac mini will get a new design. We're not expecting a major visual or build redesign, but it is certainly possible that it could get thinner and smaller, especially since it no longer has to accommodate a CD drive.
Right now the dimensions are 3.6cm high, 19.7cm wide, and it weighs 1.22kg. How about a Mac mini that has similar dimensions to an Apple TV (9.8cm wide, 2.3cm high, 0.27kg).
There has been some speculation that the reason for the long delay is that Apple is looking at redesiging the Mac mini along the lines of the Mac Pro.
This was probably intended as an April Fool's Day prank, but we like this render of a flat Mac mini, as seen on Apple User.
Even better, how about a Mac mini that was also an Apple TV!
2014 Mac mini rumours: Specs & features
At the moment the entry-level Mac mini offers a 2.5GHz dual-core processor (Intel Ivy Bridge), 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, and Intel's HD Graphics 4000.
Compare this to the next cheapest Mac, the entry level MacBook Air with it's 1.4GHz dual-core processor (Haswell), 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and Intel's HD Graphics 5000 (for £749).
Alternatively, the new entry-level iMac has a 1.4GHz Dual-Core (Haswell) processor, 8GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, and Intel HD graphics 5000. It costs £899.
Of course both the MacBook Air and iMac include a screen, so the increased price (£350, £650) partly allows for that. After all, you could easily end up spending £350 on a screen to go with your Mac mini.
With that in mind the Mac mini is not a good deal right now. For this reason we expect that Apple will soon add the Intel Haswell chip to the Mac mini: a more powerful, but less power-hungry processor. The move to Haswell means a couple of things. Haswell processors will boost general speed, to an extent. But much more important is their effect on graphics performance. According to Intel its Iris integrated graphics are able to double or triple the performance of existing Ivy Bridge chips, so the Mac mini should become a viable games machine for all but the most graphics intense games.
Currently the Mac mini features 4GB RAM as standard, we would like to see ramped that up to 8GB in the next model.
The other big change we hope to see in the 2014 Mac mini is a flash drive (it is currently only possible to add a 128GB SSD drive as a build to order option). While the 500GB hard drive in the current entry level model (and the 1TB hard drive in the £679 model and the 2TB hard drives in the Server model) might appear attractive to some, flash memory is so much faster that we believe it is well worth the compromise of storing additional files on an external hard drive. However, it seems unlikely that Apple would do away with the hard drive storage option all together as many workgroups choose the Mac mini as a server and will need the extra capacity and lower prices that HD storage makes possible.
Another likely upgrade is 802.11ac Wi-Fi. So-called 'Gigabit' Wi-Fi offers speeds up to three times as fast as existing 802.11n wireless networks. This doesn't mean your broadband will reach speeds of 1 Gigabit per second, but it does mean that the Mac mini won't be the bottleneck in your home network, especially if you happen to be streaming video from it.
According to the Computer Store Belgium source, the new Mac mini will have Core i5 and i7 variants and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
2014 Mac mini rumours: New Mac mini price in UK
Despite its reputation for scalping consumers Apple makes excellent use of the falling price of components to maintain its margin without adding to the price to consumers. The most recent upgrade of the Mac mini saw the price remain the same, and in a time of low inflation we expect this trend to continue.
So the new Mac mini should cost around £499 inc VAT for the basic model, rising to £679 inc VAT for the model with 1TB storage.