The Mac mini was updated in October 2018 in what Apple described as its “biggest update ever”. It was a big update and it had been a long time coming - four years to be exact. A year and a half later Apple has updated the Mac mini again, but this time the only change is that the Mac mini gets twice as much storage as before.
The March 2020 update means that the line up looks like this thanks to the relatively minor changes to the line up:
£799/$799 Mac mini
- 3.6GHz Quad-Core i3 8th generation Processor
- Intel UHD Graphics 630
- NEW: 256GB Storage (up from 128GB SSD)
£1,099/$1,099 Mac mini
- 3.0GHz Six-Core i5 Processor 8th generation (with Turbo Boost to 4.1GHz)
- Intel UHD Graphics 630
- NEW: 512GB Storage (up from 256GB SSD)
That isn't all that has changed though. There are further changes to the build-to-order options:
- 1TB storage: now £200/$200 (was £600/$600)
- 2TB storage now £600/$600 (was £1,200/$1,200)
This is good news if you want more storage - and more storage is no doubt a good thing, but those who were hoping that Apple would update the Mac mini in a more significant fashion will be disappointed.
Luckily, it looks like this won't be the only Mac mini update for 2020, so if you are hoping for a Mac mini with 10th generation processors and other improvements read on to find out what could be in the pipeline.
Why was the Mac mini March update so minor?
We don’t know why Apple didn't make a more significant update to the Mac mini in March 2020. It's possible that Intel’s processor development is holding the new machine back.
There's also another possibility. With rumours circulating that Apple is working on developing its own processors, perhaps we could soon see an Apple processor inside the Mac mini.
The Mac mini isn't the only Mac that doesn't get yearly updates. In 2019 the iMac was updated, but that was its first update since 2017. The iMac moved from 7th-gen quad-core processors to 3.6GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors and 3.0GHz 8th-gen six-core processors, essentially bringing the iMac into line with the Mac mini, which has the exact same processors.
While the MacBook Air was updated in 2019 it wasn't actually a spec update at all, just the addition of True Tone to the display and a £100 discount on the price.
New Mac mini release date, 2020/2021
We're going to ignore the March 2020 Mac mini for now as we don't think that it's the new Mac mini we are all waiting for.
We think that Apple will be intending to update the Mac mini later in the year with newer processors. We hope to see a more significant update to the line up in October 2020.
However, it's worth noting that Apple didn't update the Mac mini for four years prior to the 2018 update. We may well be waiting until 2021 before we see new processors in the Mac mini.
New Mac mini Price
The March 2020 Mac mini still costs £799/$799 for the quad-core model and £1,099/$1,099 for the six-core model. That's no change on the price when the updated Mac mini launched in 2018.
The entry-level MacBook Air, on-the-other-hand, saw a price drop by £100 in 2019 and another £100 in 2020.
The Air is a bit of an exception to the rule. Apple rarely changes prices, other than to adjust them for currency fluctuations as it did with the MacBook Pro in July 2019, which meant that UK consumers saw the top-of-the-range model price increase by £100.
As for whether the Mac mini will ever see a price drop, there are certainly those wishing for one. When Apple introduced the new Mac mini in October 2018 it also put up the price. The Mac mini, which used to be Apple’s cheapest Mac at £499 (and many years previously just £399), now costs £799. It’s still the cheapest Mac, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than it once was.
Will Apple reduced the price of the Mac mini? We very much doubt it. We think that when Apple updates the range the prices will remain exactly the same as they are now.
New Mac mini Design
The March 2020 Mac mini design is no different to the 2018 model. With the announcement of the minor update the the Mac mini in March 2020, Apple emphasised that it is made from 100% recycled aluminium, but that is no different to the 2018 model (assuming the aluminium hasn't replaced the 60% recycled plastic used in that machine).
Announcing the update to the Mac mini in October 2018, Apple revealed that the mini is a popular choice for server farms and that video professionals often string together multiple Mac minis for video editing. As a result, the Mac mini design didn’t change - since doing so would mean that existing set-ups wouldn’t accommodate the new machines.
There was one change to the design though, the Mac mini now comes in Space Grey, the finish that seems to be popular with creative pros (based on the reaction to the introduction of the Space Grey iMac finish with the iMac Pro) and developers (who are big advocates of Dark Mode on the Mac too).
As you will see if you read on, there are calls for some changes to the internals of the Mac mini. While it’s unlikely that Apple will ever make the Mac mini smaller (see our point about server farms above) it could accommodate a discrete graphics card and a better thermal system if there was more room inside the unit. How could Apple make more room, one suggestion is by removing the power supply, which could be separated from the unit in the same way it is with the Mac laptops. We have more information about the calls for graphic improvements below.
Read about the design changes that might be coming to the iMac here.
New Mac mini Spec
The Mac mini saw what Apple descried as its “biggest update ever” in October 2018. The March 2020 update is far less significant, simply boosting the storage options. What can we expect from the next update to the Mac mini?
9th-generation Intel processors could bring 8-cores to the Mac mini as they have the MacBook Pro.
When Apple updated the graphics in the 2018 models the company claimed that they were 60% faster, but that was after a hiatus of four years. TO see similar improvements in the next version of the Mac mini Apple could add the option of discrete graphics. This would be a very popular move, but the Mac may need an improved cooling system. As we suggested earlier, this could be achieved by removing the power supply from inside the box.
The Mac mini when it launched in 2018 also did away with the hard drive/fusion drive options. It’s now only possible to buy a Mac mini with an SSD. We could see the prices of the SSD build-to-order options reduce as they did in July with the MacBook Air. Speaking of which, the entry-level Mac mini currently ships with 128GB SSD as standard, which many feel is too small. Apple could increase the SSD spec across the range, so that we see 256GB and 512GB as standard.
There are also calls for Apple to make the Mac mini easier to upgrade after sale. Currently it is possible to update the RAM in the machines via the hatch at the bottom (shown below) although it’s not as easy to do so as it once was. But once-upon-a-time it was possible to update many more of the components inside the Mac mini and there are many who would like to see a return of this status.