I am the very proud owner of a 2018 15” MacBook Pro. That has been my only Mac for a little while. And it is fantastic. I have mostly had it connected as a desktop setup. But I like the keyboard so much, I use it with the lid open so that I can use the keyboard instead of the outstanding Magic Keyboard II. The trackpad eliminates the need for an external pointing device as well.
However, notebooks make horrible desktops for reasons that are not worth getting into here. And if you are using one in that capacity as I have been doing, you would be well served to pick up a desktop solution. I was always headed for this device the moment I saw it. But my wife needed a desktop even more than I did. Now, it’s my turn. And I can finally talk about the mini from personal experience. So far, that experience is outstanding. Here’s why:
A 15” notebook has a very large footprint. It takes up an awful lot of desk space. It is okay when a laptop takes up your whole lap. It is not as if you were also trying to balance a plate of nachos on your lap at the same time. But it is a problem when a desktop takes up the entire desk.
The mini does not take up the entire desk. It takes up about a third of the space of a laptop. The external monitor stays exactly where it has always been. So that doesn’t change. I will place the mini underneath the monitor so it will take up zero space that wasn’t already being used. That is one of the advantages of having a durable, flat slab as a computer. They make great monitor stands.
It may not seem like a big deal. But the form factor of the mini allows for greater desk-space flexibility. By being less of a surface hog, it is more productive.
Less Connectivity Hassle
I love the fact that my notebook has 4 USB-C ports and a headphone jack. But I would happily trade two of those ports for a couple of traditional USB ports. The mini has a good mix of USB-C plus legacy ports. So I don’t immediately have to reach for a hub. Using my notebook as a desktop, I actually use two hubs. I had three cables snaking out from it at all times. It was tethered down as if trapped in a spider web.
The mini does not suffer from that problem. Moreover, I never have to disconnect the cables from the computer as I do every other day with my notebook. The mini clears up a lot of connectivity hassle.
How do you define powerful? It is not as clearcut as you might think. It’s not really a metric, but more of a description. We would have to use specific measurements to describe how powerful the Mac mini is. I don’t plan to do that. Benchmarking is a skill best left to the experts. And they have already weighed in on the matter.
I can say that the mini is fast. But like the word powerful, that doesn’t really tell you much beyond how I feel when I use it. I am rocking the $800 base model. I know that for another $300, I could have gotten a much faster computer. But I’m not sure I would have cared. I handles all the tasks I do throughout the course of my day without stutter or hiccup.
I haven’t run into any tasks that make me feel this computer is hobbled in some way. Though technically, I know that it is. I can tell you about the things it doesn’t have that more performant computers have. But it is all just an intellectual exercise. On a day to day basis, I can’t feel any of it. I could race it doing certain tasks against my laptop doing the same tasks, and the mini would lose every time. But outside some contrived setup like that, you will never miss what you’re missing.
Conclusion: It’s Not Just For Hobbyists
People often speak of the mini as that weird little computer that you should only consider if you have some special use-case. But I reject that assessment as utter bonk. The mini is a perfectly acceptable desktop computer for the average person. It is not the machine for hardcore gamers. And it is not a replacement for $10,000 workstations. But for everyone else who needs a powerful computer for real computing tasks, the mini is more than sufficient.
My buying advice is, if you need a new computer but you don’t have any particular special needs that stand out, buy the entry-level mini for $799. I would recommend you hang some extra storage off of it. But otherwise, the new Mac mini is a real computer for real people.