Find out when we think Apple will release a new Mac mini in the UK - and what new features and design changes you can expect if Apple updates the Mac mini in 2017. (Click here to read the latest version of this article.)
A new Mac mini is expected to launch in 2017, since the line wasn't updated at all in 2015 or 2016; but Apple (as usual) is giving nothing away other than to say that the Mac mini is still "an important product" in its lineup.
Based on past experience and the specs of current Macs, we've got a fair idea of what to expect from the new Mac mini, and when it is likely to arrive. Read on for the next Mac mini's likely release date, specs, design changes and new features.
We'll update this article whenever new information is unearthed, so check back regularly for the latest Mac mini update rumours. And remember to check our Mac buying guide 2017 for current buying advice, and our guide to the best Apple deals.
New Mac mini 2017: Release date
There are four times during a year when Apple has, at least in recent years, held events at which it announces new products. In the past the company has made anouncements in the spring (usually in March), at WWDC in June, at a iPhone-specific event in September, and at an event in October. The company sometimes keeps product updates more low key and just shuts the Apple online store for a few hours while it adds new products to its range.
Now that WWDC has passed without a Mac mini update, despite the fact that Apple updated the iMac and iMac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and even MacBook Air at the event, we are thinking that it's likely that Apple will keep any announcement relating to the Mac mini low key. (Click on the links to read the latest news about those products).
We think it's more likely that a new Mac mini could arrive in September or October 2017, with October being the most likely. After all, Apple last updated the Mac mini in October 2014.
What we're unsure of is whether it'll announce it at a keynote event, or whether it'll just take the Apple Store down and introduce it with little fanfare, like the 2017 iPad. We think that the latter is more likely, unless the company has something particularly exciting planned for it's low-cost Mac.
Will Apple discontinue the Mac mini?
Apple, to paraphrase a colleague, is generally very good at killing its darlings: at knowing when it makes sense to drop a much-loved product or product feature - one which is often still popular and/or profitable - and switch focus to something else that has more of a future. Think the iPod classic or the optical drive, or dropping the headphone port from the iPhone 7.
There are a couple of candidates to be the next iPod classic. The MacBook Air is one. But the Mac mini, which hasn't been updated since 2014 feels surplus to requirements now that the Apple TV is making its claim as a media centre device (although for storing a large number of films the mini remains an excellent choice, offering 500GB as standard and up to 2TB as a configuration option), will be expecting a P45 more than most of Apple's product line-up.
The design of the Mac mini hasn't changed significantly in recent years and is starting to feel a little dated, and the device doesn't have a clear selling point (or at least, Apple isn't doing a good job of communicating one). So it wouldn't surprise us if Apple quietly retired the line. It's either that or give it a radical overhaul.
However, speaking to press in April at a briefing designed to prove Apple still cares about the professional Mac user - and specifically the Mac Pro, Apple’s VP of product marketing Phil Schiller did briefly mention the Mac mini, saying: "The Mac mini is an important product in our lineup and we weren't bringing it up because it's more of a mix of consumer with some pro use. … The Mac Mini remains a product in our lineup, but nothing more to say about it today."
Do you think it's time for Apple to ditch the Mac mini or would you still buy one?
Looking to the future, here's what we expect from a new Mac mini.
2017 Mac mini: Price
There are currently three models of the Mac mini available; the one that's best for you will depend on your budget and computing needs. The cheapest model currently costs £479, the middle model is £679, and the priciest model is £949.
We don't anticipate Apple reducing the price with the new model when it launches, so you can expect similar pricing. Hopefully better specs for your money, though, of course. Which leads us on to...
2017 Mac mini specs: Processor
Intel is shipping Kaby Lake processors that would be suitable for a Mac mini, but even Skylake, the previous generation of Intel processors, would represent a significant power boost over the current, aging, Haswell processors.
Kaby Lake supports Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2, as well as 4K video. The chips are manufactured using a 14nm process, same as Broadwell and Skylake. The next generation, Cannonlake, will switch over to a more accurate 10nm process. As we discuss in our iMac rumour roundup, Intel has laid out a roadmap for its next four generations of processor. After Skylake and Kaby Lake, Intel will release Cannonlake, then Ice Lake in 2018 and Tiger Lake in 2019.
It's highly unlikely that Apple will include an AMD processor in the next generation of Mac minis... unlikely, but not out of the question, given that AMD's new CPUs are set to come out this year. We'd rate the chances of an AMD chip appearing in the 2017 Mac mini as slight.
2017 Mac mini specs: Graphics card
The current range of Mac mini models feature integrated Intel graphics, and we expect this to remain the case in the next generation.
2017 Mac mini specs: RAM
Right now, the entry-level Mac mini features just 4GB RAM as standard, which we think should be ramped up to 8GB in the new entry-level model, as is the case with other Macs like the MacBook Air.
Perhaps Apple will quietly update the RAM while keeping the processor the same, as it has done with the MacBook Air.
2017 Mac mini specs: Storage
The other big change we hope to see in the new Mac mini is the addition of more flash drive options. Currently the 2.8GHz model comes with a Fusion Drive, or you can add 256GB flash storage to that model, or the 2.8GHz model.
While the 500GB hard drive in the current entry-level model (and the 1TB hard drive as standard in the £569 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 altogether, as many workgroups choose the Mac mini as a server and will need the extra capacity and lower prices that HD storage makes possible.
2017 Mac mini specs: Ports
You can expect to see Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C on the new Mac mini as the two standards use the same port. USB-C offers more advantages than just being reversible and thereby easier to connect when you can't see what you're doing.
It offers twice the data throughput of USB 3.0 and the ability to deliver far more power. The latter factor enabled Apple to use USB-C as a combined data and power port and further slim down its laptop design.
2017 Mac mini: Design
It's possible that the 2017 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? (That's 9.8cm wide, 2.3cm high, and a weight of 0.27kg.)
There was some speculation that the reason for the long delay prior to the Mac mini update in 2014 was that Apple was 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's also an Apple TV? Adding Apple TV functionality to a Mac mini would be a great way of getting the Mac mini into people's living rooms as a home entertainment device.
Also... what is the Mac mini?!
Not the no-brainer it might sound like to keen mini-heads: plenty of otherwise tech-savvy folk aren't aware the Mac mini even exists. Indeed, sometimes it seems like Apple itself isn't aware of its presence. That would certainly explain the long gap before the 2014 model was launched.
The Mac mini is Apple's smallest desktop Mac and also its cheapest Mac, at £479. It's a full-blown OS X or macOS Sierra desktop that fits into a self-contained chassis no bigger than a set-top box. It's 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, so that plugging it into a modern TV is a doddle.
There used to be a Mac mini with OS X Server available for £849 but Apple removed that option from the line-up in October 2014.