When will Apple release a new Mac mini in the UK? And what new features and design changes can we expect from the updated 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. Nevertheless, 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 to expect it. We've got all the new Mac mini hints and rumours for you right here. 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.
Last updated, 21 March 2017, with the disappointing news that Apple's "something special" store update includes no new Macs (although we're still hoping for an April launch event); on 21 Feb, to report on Apple's announcement of WWDC 2017, and to briefly discuss the chances of a new Mac mini appearing at the event; and previously with the news that Apple has officially made the Mac mini (Early and late 2009, and mid 2010) vintage and obsolete.
When is the Mac mini 2017 UK release date?
When will the next Mac mini come out? We think March 2017 is a decent bet. (Read more: What to expect at Apple's March 2017 event.)
There were rumours suggesting that Apple would do a low-key update to its Mac desktop range by the end of November 2016, focusing on the Mac Pro but potentially covering the iMac and Mac mini at the same time. But it seems Apple disliked the idea. Instead, we would expect the mini to be updated during the company's usual spring event in March 2017.
But will there be a spring event after all? At time of writing (21 March) there still haven't been any invitations, and Apple has quietly updated its online store with a range of non-Mac launches and announcements: a new 9.7-inch iPad (called simply "iPad"), a new red colour option for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and higher storage options (at the same price) for the iPad mini 4 and iPhone SE. But no new Macs were announced, and we're holding out hope that they will appear at a rather more high-profile event in April.
Availability of chipsets may influence the timing of the launch. The next generation of Intel chips was made available to OEMs in Q4 2016 - they're called Kaby Lake, and it's possible that the new Mac mini could feature processors from this batch. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We'll talk about processors, and other specs, in a later section of this article.
The next slot in Apple's launch calendar after its usual spring event is WWDC. WWDC 2017 has just been announced, and while this event always focuses primarily on software (iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 will be the headline announcements), there is sometimes room for hardware.
If we still don't see a Mac mini update by this point, it's probably safe to assume that Apple has killed off the Mac mini line - a possibility we address in the next section.
Apple last updated the Mac mini on 16 October 2014 after a two-year wait: the previous model came out on 23 October 2012. Mac mini fans are now waiting for the next iteration of the smallest and cheapest 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, is rarely mentioned at events, and 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 since it was first launched 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 at its next Mac launch event. It's either that or give it a radical overhaul.
If Apple does kill off the mini, we'd have to start asking questions about the 'mini' branding in general, and wondering if the iPads are going to be reorganised: there's already a sense that the 'Air' brand is on the way out, across both MacBooks and iPads. But that's a story for another day.
How much will the Mac mini 2017 cost in the UK?
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 - this is a price increase since its launch, likely due to Brexit.
However, 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...
What are the rumoured features of the Mac mini 2017?
It's 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. However, we do expect Kaby Lake, the latest generation of Intel chips.
Intel has now started shipping its Kaby Lake processors. But the key word there is 'started': the Kaby Lake processors that would be suitable for a Mac mini may not appear for some months, assuming Apple decides to plump for a Kaby Lake chipset at all.
According to MacRumors, in fact, mini-appropriate Kaby Lake chips may not roll out until very late 2016 or even early 2017, so any Mac mini launched before then would be limited to Skylake, the previous generation of Intel processors. That would still represent a significant power boost over the current 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.
Read next: Mac mini vs MacBook Air
Our iMac predictions also include new graphics chipsets: Polaris 10, by AMD, which is particularly interesting because it may make the next iMacs VR-ready. But the current range of Mac mini models feature integrated graphics, and we expect this to remain the case in the next generation.
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.
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.
It's felt like the USB port has been on borrowed time ever since Apple launched the first-gen 12-inch MacBook - with its lone USB Type-C (or, more commonly, just USB-C) port for both data and charging - in 2015. Like the optical drive circa 2012, it seems likely that bog-standard USB 3.0 is no longer in Apple's thoughts, and (unless the market rejects USB-C comprehensively, which despite some qualms about there only being one port on the MacBook, hasn't happened yet) it's surely a matter of time before the rest of the Mac line-up switches across to the newer tech.
USB-C offers more advantages than just being reversible and thereby easier to connect when you can't see what you're doing; in theory, 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.
Our feeling is that the Mac mini won't be next on Apple's update list, however - our money's on the revamped MacBook Pro. As a budget-focused (and somewhat neglected) line, the Mac mini isn't likely to get the love and cutting-edge componentry of more favoured products. And power delivery - and the ability to remove extraneous ports and slim down the chassis - is far less of a concern for a static machine like the mini than for a portable like the MacBook.
Will the Mac mini 2017 have a new 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? (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.