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October 25, 2018

Everything we know about the 2018 Mac mini

by John_A

It’s official: Apple’s second fall 2018 event has been confirmed for October 30 in Brooklyn, New York. Rumor suggest that Apple is going to talk about a new iPad Pro and MacBook, but there’s another device that could also get some attention: The Mac mini.

If you’re a little surprised at that, there’s good reason. It’s been several years since the Mac mini got an update, and Apple has rarely brought up the little desktop computer square, although Tim Cook did say a year ago that, “Our customers have found so many creative and interesting uses for Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.”

Reports now indicate that it’s finally time for an upgrade. Here’s what we know and suspect about a potential Mac mini reveal at the end of October.

A new processor

Some kind of processor upgrade is an obvious choice for the now outdated Mac mini, and rumors back in July indicated that the mini could receive a power boost this year.

But what new processors are we talking about? Well, four generations of Intel Core processors have come and gone since the Mac mini was updated last. The current model runs on dual-core Core i5 or Core i7 processors, so we’d expect Apple to update to something like the 8th-gen Core i5-8400 and Core i7-8700 processors — both of which are six-core CPUs. 9th-gen desktop chips have only begun to roll out from Intel, but the powerful K-series processors are out of the question.

In the realm of pure speculation, one other possibility could be the Core i5-8305G and Core i7-8809G. These are the Intel/AMD hybrid units that include AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics onboard a quad-core, Intel processor. It’s an expensive chip made for miniaturized PCs like the Intel NUC. It would re-frame the Mac mini as a more capable gaming and content creation tool, which brings us to our next point.

Switching to a Pro model

Rumors and leaks have discussed the possibility that Apple will revamp the mini into a mini Pro model that is aimed primarily at professionals who want to keep their display and accessories but switch out for a higher-power model.

In this case, Apple would update not only the processor but also expand the storage options. A Mac mini Pro would also need to add more business-friendly features to the unit, which would presumably sell it at a higher price than the current $500 Mac mini. This theoretical mini Pro would fit in well with Apple’s other October focus, the iPad Pro, as two professional bookends for the event.

Since the mini has found a home in network setups and business data storage, it would make sense for many of these new features to focus on server and network management, allowing the mini to slot into many different data setups across a number of businesses.

SSD hard drive

This one is practically a shoe-in.

The current Mac mini shows its age with options for an HDD, SSD, or fusion drive combination. That was a more common offering a few years ago, but now the market has shifted more fully toward SSD options. We expect a new mini would launch with SSD-only storage, probably offered up to 2TB or more. It’s a simple, sensible move that many other Mac devices, including the iMac Pro and Mac Pro.

Updated ports

Let’s assume that Apple recognizes the mini’s new role in the office and is focusing more on Pro users. This makes it much more likely that the new model will come with additional ports, especially USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 and additional Ethernet ports. This would make it more useful for data management in business situations — and more versatile overall.

But is the mini still an entertainment device? Ultimately, what Apple decides will probably determine whether or not the HDMI port will stay. Entertainment has changed a lot in just the past four or five years, which leaves Apple in a bit of a tricky situation as to how to position the Mac mini.

If Apple decides that the mini is more at home with tasks in the workplace, it may remove the HDMI in favor of other “Pro” connections. But if the mini still has a future as an entertainment device — perhaps like a versatile cousin to Apple TV — then no doubt HDMI will stay. If this is the case, then Apple definitely needs to upgrade video support to 4K as well.

It’s also possible that Apple could cut back ports to only USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 to follow suit with its MacBook Pros.

Refreshed design

While we’ve heard a few rumblings about what a new Mac mini could be like, but very little involving its actual physical appearance. The Mac mini is known for being small, though the definition of small has changed rather quickly over the past few years. Compact PCs that can attach to the back of monitors or fit on your keychain are everywhere you look, and a new Mac mini would have to address the changing context with its size and design.

In terms of materials, that’s also up in the air. Interestingly, Apple has still been making new Mac minis, but only as limited releases. The company has been used purely recycled aluminum from iPhone cases to create Mac minis just for use inside Apple facilities. This doesn’t say much about what Apple may release in October, except that recycled materials could be a part of the plan, but it is an example of how Apple still uses the mini even in its own data architecture.

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • What’s the skinny? Apple may launch a new MacBook with ultrathin design soon

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