Is The Mac Mini (2018) A Good Buy?

Mac Mini – Question MarkAvid readers of this website know, I like the Mac Mini. Naturally, I was happy when Apple finally updated there iconic computer. It was a long wait. It was over 2000 days since the launch of the 2012 Mac Mini. (The 2014 Mac Mini was a step backwards and my 2009 Mac Mini was still good.) That’s a really long time, especially for technology. Was it worth the wait? Now that I actually have my own 2018 Mac Mini, I can answer that question.

Firstly, the most noticeable problem with the Mac Mini is the price. The 2014 base Mac Mini was $499. Now, it’s $799. That’s a dramatic increase. It had me wondering if this was the moment I should finally switch to Linux. But as mentioned in the lead paragraph, the 2014 model was a step backwards. For a true comparison, the 2012 model is the one to look at.

The base 2012 model was $599. Even with an inflation adjusted price of $660, that’s still cheaper than today’s base Mac Mini. There’s another major problem with the 2018 base model. It only has 128 GB of storage space. That’s very tiny by today’s standards. To make the matter worse, the solid-state drive (SSD) is permanently attached to the motherboard. The Apple website states, “Mac mini storage is not user accessible. If you think you may need more storage capacity in the future, consider upgrading at the time of purchase.”

That’s why I didn’t go with the base model.

Since it was $200 to upgrade to the next level of storage on the i3 model of the Mac Mini, I went with the six-core i5 processor and 256 GB of storage. That Mac Mini model is $1099. This puts the better 2018 Mac Mini model in a similar price range as the 2012 “OS X Server” version, which was $999 back then. Inflation adjusted, that’s about $1092. Here’s how Apple described it.

Ready to run right out of the box, Mac mini with OS X Server features a quad-core processor, ultrafast Thunderbolt technology, and now twice the storage capacity. And it’s still just $999.

It’s not a total Apples-to-Apples comparison, as the specs are somewhat different between the two models, but I think this is what a lot of Mac Mini reviewers miss. While the i3 model is way more expensive than the previous base model, the i5 model is inline with the previous “OS X Server” models.

Both 2018 models are expensive. But are they really?! I looked at alternatives. For comparison, a similarly specced HP EliteDesk 800 G4 Desktop Mini PC (without Windows) is $1276.00.

  • FreeDOS
  • HP EliteDesk 800 G4 35 W Desktop Mini PC (2YH16AV)
  • Intel® Core™ i5-8500T Processor (3.5 GHz, 9 MB Cache, 2400 MHz, 6 core, 35W) + Intel® UHD Graphics 630
  • 8 GB (1 x 8 GB) DDR4-2666 SODIMM Memory
  • 256 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe OPAL 2 Self-Encrypted (SED) TLC SSD
  • HP HDMI Port
  • No Keyboard Included
  • No Mouse Included
  • HP 65W DM External Power Adapter
  • No Sata Drive Bracket
  • HP Sure Recover Permanently Disabled
  • Three-year (3/3/3) limited warranty
  • Single unit (DM) Packaging
  • HP EliteDesk 800 G4 Mini Country Kit
  • 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 Label

So, the Mac Mini wins, right?! Well, not exactly. The HP is on sale today for $803.88. That is a much bigger percentage savings than I saw for the Mac Mini.

HP EliteDesk Mini PC Sale – $1276 to $803.88

That sale puts the HP at several hundred dollars cheaper than the Mac Mini. There were some Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales for the Mac Mini, but the best I saw was $50-$100 off. That’s 5-10%, while the HP is 37% off. That means, with both computers on sale, the HP is about $200 / 20% cheaper. At the time this article was written, Best Buy put the i5 Mac Mini on sale for $999.

If you want to try to get by with a free operating system, the HP is way cheaper. But if you add Windows, the Mac Mini becomes more competitive. Windows 10 Home 64 would bring the price to $1417.00 $892.71 and Windows 10 Pro 64 (which HP recommends) brings the price to $1505.00 $948.15. That’s about $50-$100 cheaper.

In Mac circles, the higher price is known as the “Apple Tax”. This is nothing new. Macs are not known as cheap computers. They’re premium computers. That is why I consider the i5 Mac Mini to be reasonably priced. That’s especially true considering that the new Mac Mini is “Space Gray”. That’s an expensive color for a Mac. One only needs to wander over to the Apple “Accessories” shop to validate that fact. The Magic Trackpad 2 – in “Silver” – is $129.00. In “Space Gray” it’s $149.

The “Space Gray” color on Mac typically means pro. The 2018 Mac Mini is fast, with a decent array of ports, so it feels pro – even if it doesn’t have the “Pro” name. I’m not thrilled about the price of the new Mac Mini. It is expensive! (Hopefully it lasts at least as long as my previous Mac Mini.) But looking at the alternatives, they just wouldn’t work for me. I prefer macOS. I also prefer a desktop, with a mouse and full-sized keyboard. I also don’t like all-in-one computers, which means no iMac – but perhaps that’s story for another day.

Today, I’m happy with the new Mac Mini.