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I am contemplating purchasing a mac mini. However, now that Apple has just released newer models of the mac minis, I find myself a bit confused.

Basically, my requirements are: A mac to learn and develop ios apps, within a $700 budget.

Apple hardware is expensive and because I will also need to purchase an iPhone and iPad, I want to ensure that if I buy a Mac Mini it should at least last me for 3-4 years (i.e., support iOS development for 3-4 years) with only the occasional RAM or HD upgrades needed.

My doubts are:

  1. Is it prudent to buy the cheaper 2012 Mac Mini model, and just upgrade the RAM and HD, rather than opting for the 2014 mac mini? (I do not see any significant differences in the hardware between the 2012 and 2014 model except for the better processor and integrated graphic support.)

  2. The newer 2014 Mac Minis come with the 4th generation (Haswell) intel processors, while the 2012 mac mini models come with older i5 and i7 processors. Seeing that the lowest specs of the 2014 mac mini is 1.4 Ghz i5, how much weight should be given to the processor considering future compatibility when it comes to future mac OS X releases?

  3. How is apple's hardware support for older models, in general?

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    just something to keep in mind, the new mac minis are not upgradable. The ram is soldered in and not upgradable. So order it with 16gb if your looking to the future. macrumors.com/2014/10/17/mac-mini-soldered-ram – tron_jones Oct 18 '14 at 2:39
  • @tron_jones: Ouch, that's a deal breaker for me. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. – Sam Oct 18 '14 at 23:32
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  1. Buy the "Basic" (as they call it in Apple Store) 2012 Mac mini and replace HD and RAM yourself is the most economical way. It's also the power user move.

a) While leaving the factory HD in place, you can put in a second drive such as a SSD at where the optical bay used to be. You can dual boot two OS X installations. One can be the daily OS, the other 1) as extra storage for less frequented files, 2) as Time Machine backup location, and 3) as beefed-up Recovery Mode if the primary fails. I don't know if you can put a 2nd drive into the 2014 model.

b) Dual drive and merge them into your own fusion drive.

c) Upgrade to a 3rd-party 16 GB RAM. The price cannot be cheaper given the amount of time it has been out in the market.

  1. Haswell's raison is saving energy. It makes a lot of sense on MBP and MBA. And 2014 Mac mini DOES use less power than the 2012 model, but that's a moot point.

Compatibility is less concerning if you consider performance. An iPhone 4 is compatible with iOS 7, but that's not preferable, and a 4S can technically run iOS 8 but only sluggishly and without many features. You COULD install Yosemite on 2009 Mac mini, but would you do it?

  1. Great. I fixed/tweaked my MBP, Mac mini, and MBA for 4 years now without ever going to the genius bar, hat in hand. So apple's support did a great job of staying out of my way. I'm serious. When I had a Dell, I chose to add years to my warranty because the company is the the only place you can turn to. Because apple has sold so many and kept its lines simple, there ought to be somebody out there doing what you're doing.

I don't know if you agree that Apple has placed Mac mini into that peculiar spot in its line-up: iPod Touch is the thing that's not an iPhone; iPad mini (2014) is that thing that is not a iPhone 6 Plus. Mac Mini is the thing that is not a Mac Pro. Apple's not going to be pushing the boundaries with it. That's my guess.

  • Based on your inputs, and others, I've decided to go for the Mac Mini 2012 MD388xx/A (i7, 4GB, 1TB) model - I feel this quad core model gives the best bang for the money spent, and will offer better resale value in the future as there are no more mac mini's with the i7. – Sam Oct 18 '14 at 23:43
  • More than 2-core is useful if you use/write multi-threaded programs. If there is a single-thread intensive task, OS X simply dump that into one core and run everything else on the other. Extra 2 cores don't make it twice as fast, only 50% faster 10% of the times. Tampered/customized machines may not hold the same resell value. – fartheraway Oct 18 '14 at 23:48
  • The numbers are my experience. – fartheraway Oct 18 '14 at 23:54
  • @fartherway: Well, as you pointed out, the OS manages this. And I am sure Mac OS will (hopefully) become better at utilizing all the cores overtime. I settled on the Mac Mini 2012 MD388xx for another reason (apart from the quad core) - the RAM isn't soldered. – Sam Dec 1 '14 at 14:31

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