Launched in 2005 as the first sub-$500 Mac — a key in attracting “switchers” from Windows PCs — the Mac mini ($499 and up from the Apple Store) was most recently redesigned in 2011. Made from aluminum with a black plastic bottom and back, the mini is internally akin to a MacBook Air or low-end MacBook Pro without a screen. The base $499 model has an Air-like 1.4GHz Core i5 processor with a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, while the $699 step up roughly doubles the CPU speed, hard drive space, and RAM. Measuring 7.7″ by 7.7″ by 1.4″ tall, it has four USB 3 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI port, and twin Thunderbolt 2 ports, plus a SDXC card reader.
You supply the monitor, keyboard, and mouse/trackpad yourself, but it’s built to work with any of your existing peripherals. Many people use Mac minis in their home entertainment centers, which is possible thanks to the HDMI port for HDTV connectivty. The Mac mini was last updated in October 2014 with faster processors and new storage options. Around the Christmas holiday, Apple restored a 2TB storage option found on the previous generation of the computer. A completely new look could debut in the next couple of years, though Apple historically has left the Mac mini to age a bit, as it doesn’t want to distract attention from its higher-end computers.