It's been well over a year 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 we go, so keep checking back. And when Apple makes its announcement we can all have a good laugh at how wrong we were.
When is the new Mac mini coming out?
The Mac mini was the only Mac left in Apple's range not to have been updated in 2013 (actually, that's not completely true: the MacBook Pro without Retina display remains, but didn't get an update either and the Mac Pro just squeezed a redesign in December 2013, but very few people had received one by mid January). So you can see why we're expecting Apple to announce a new Mac mini in the next few weeks.
The latest rumours suggest that the Mac mini may be updated in February. A forum poster on MacRumours is claiming to have contacted a Computer Store in Belgium and been told that a new Mac mini will launch at the end of February.
According to the Computer Store Belgium source, the new Mac mini will have Core i5 and i7 variants and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
That's not the only rumour suggesting a new Mac mini is coming soon. If you look at the comments below this story, reader Helicoidee is suggesting that French Apple reseller FNAC has told that no Mac minis are available in its 20 shops around Paris. The shortage of stock is often an indication that new models will be shipping soon. However, availability in the Apple Store is not constrained, with pick up today for US residents, and shipping within 24 hours to the UK.
What is the Mac mini?
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.
2014 Mac mini specs
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 1.3GHx dual-core processor (Haswell), 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and Intel's HD Graphics 5000 (for £849).
Alternatively, the entry-level iMac has a 2.7GHz Quad-Core (Haswell) processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, and Intel Iris Pro graphics. It costs £1,149.
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. 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.
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.
2014 Mac mini design
Another big question is: "Will the new Mac mini have 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).
Even better, how about a Mac mini that was also an Apple TV!
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.