Posts Tagged ‘apple’

2014 Mac Mini vs. 2012 Mac Mini

Long story short: The previous generation (2012) of the Apple Mac Mini wins in a landslide.


I’ve been considering upgrading my home desktop computer system for a while now. I still like my 30-inch Apple Cinema Display and my peripherals, but my first-generation Mac Pro has been looking a bit long in the tooth of late. A few months ago I had set my sights on a new Mac Mini to be its replacement.

Then I saw the Mac Mini had last been updated in fall of 2012. Every consumer guide and Mac-savvy pal I knew told me, “Wait until after the October Apple event before you buy.” So I was patient, and I waited.

Today Apple unveiled its new Mac Mini models. And I was not impressed.

Yes, it’s nice that the new Mini has a Haswell processor, a step forward from the previous generation’s Ivy Bridge chips — or so it might seem. And yes, the new Mini has two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports and improved 802.11ac wireless. Very nice.

You know what it doesn’t have? For starters, a Firewire 800 port for my legacy peripherals. For another, it lacks the option at time of purchase to upgrade its processor with a quad core. The new Mac Mini only offers the dual core i7 Haswell processor on its top-tier model.

Maybe you’re thinking, “So what? It’s a new chip, dude!” Think again. Only one dual-core Haswell processor matches the specs of the Mac Mini’s new top-tier configuration, and that’s the i7-4578U. Now compare it using Intel’s own data sheets to Intel’s quad-core i7-3720QM processor, which drives the top-end model of the 2012 Mac Mini.

If those charts make you shake your head, here’s an easier comparison table: Geekbench rates various Mac processors in an apples-to-apples benchmark test. The i7-4578U is the processor in the recently launched (mid-2014) 13-inch MacBook Pro; in a 64-bit multicore test, it earns a benchmark score of 7209 (2500 is the base score, and higher is better). The i7-3720QM quad-core earns a score of 12681. In other words, it beats the pants off the new Haswell dual core processor.

Of course, one could try to justify the change by arguing that Apple switched to dual cores to reduce energy usage and make the new Mini the most energy-efficient home computer it could be. But while that would be a laudable goal in a laptop, or a tablet, or a phone, it makes less sense for a desktop system. Still, I would have accepted the premise if only Apple had been willing to leave open the possibility of a more robust platform for those of us who weren’t interested in buying a hobbled system.

But those aren’t the only strikes against the new Mac Mini. Apple changed the RAM in the Mini to LPDDR3, so it needs to be soldered into the system at the factory and isn’t user-serviceable after sale. In other words, if you’re thinking you’ll pick up a new Mac Mini on the cheap and upgrade it with some less expensive third-party RAM after it arrives, you’re in for a rude surprise. If you want more RAM in that Mini, you’ll need to pay the Apple tax to get it, and you’ll need to commit to it up front when you make the purchase.

Bottom line for me: This isn’t what I was waiting for, Apple. You just lost what should have been an easy sale. I’ve ordered a late 2012 model of the Mac Mini from a third party who still had one in stock that met my needs: a 2.6 GHz i7 quad core Mac Mini with two 256GB Solid State Drives. Sure, it only has 4GB of RAM, but at least I can upgrade this one to 16GB without a soldering iron. And because the quad-core processor isn’t a total wuss, if someone wants to invent 16GB RAM chips that fit this bad boy, my new (old) Mac Mini can theoretically handle up to 32GB of RAM (unlike the fancy new Mini, whose processors can’t handle more than 16GB of RAM, not that users could upgrade it after purchase, anyway).

Apple blew it today, and I won’t forget it any time soon.


Wanna cut the cord? Do the math first.

I had this great idea about a week ago: Tired of paying outrageous fees for cable television, I decided it was time to “cut the cord.”

Of course, I still wanted to see all my favorite shows. And be able to record them. But I didn’t want to pay TiVo’s monthly fees — after all, ending monthly fees was to be the whole point of this effort.

I jumped online and did some research. At first, I thought it would be easy. All I’d need would be an amplified digital antenna to pull in HD signals over the air, and a subscription-free DVR to record the content. Then I could cut my cable TV package and ramp up my Internet service, and still come out ahead in a relatively short period of time.

But then I saw the potential of adding AppleTV to the mix, to leverage my house full of Apple hardware. It wouldn’t cost that much more; so, why not?

But now I had a dilemma. With so many worthy peripherals in the living room, to which one would I connect the Ethernet hard line I had planned to run from the router in my office to the entertainment center in the living room?

Easily fixed, I decided. For a small additional cost, I could add an Ethernet switch, and then my Blu-ray player, PS3, AppleTV, and new subscription-free DVR would all have hard-wired cat6a gigabit Ethernet connections. Problem solved, right?


When I started diagramming my planned new data network (because I’m that kind of OCD), I realized that my TV has only two HDMI inputs, both of which are already in use. The new DVR and AppleTV only offer HDMI outputs. What was I to do now?

Obviously, I needed to add a new HD A/V amplifier/receiver. Of course, the new receiver would not be compatible with my 22-year-old speakers (which are currently connected to my 22-year-old stereo receiver). So I’d need new speakers, too.

Did my problems end there? Of course not.

Next, I realized my first-generation Mac Pro desktop computer is too antiquated to run the requisite OS and software to interact with AppleTV. If I were to upgrade just the Macbook Pro laptop, there’s a risk it would no longer be able to “talk” to the desktop tower.

Figuring I was due for a system upgrade after six years, I looked into buying a new Mac Mini with a 2TB Airport Time Capsule, and an external 3TB Thunderbolt array. Pretty snazzy. Despite the expense, I was starting to get excited.

Then I realized that my 30-inch Apple Cinema HD display isn’t compatible with the Mac Mini (or any Mac made since 2009). I would need to add an adapter. A $100 adapter, which might or might not work once linked into a Thunderbolt device chain.

At some point in my diagramming, I remembered that I would need to buy new cables. Lots of cables. Ethernet cables, USB cables, HDMI cables, Thunderbolt cables.

When the dust settled, I crunched the numbers.

By “cutting the cord” on my overpriced cable subscription, and making some much-needed changes to my and my wife’s iPhone plans, we could realize one-year savings of more than $2,500.

Unfortunately, the initial cost outlay in hardware and software (with tax and shipping) for my new data network and computer was just over $3,600. It would take nearly 18 months to amortize the new capital expenses and begin “sticking it to the man.”

So the next time you wonder why more people don’t just “cut the cord” on cable, it might be related to the sticker shock that comes with making the cut.