We love laptops as much as anybody, but few deny that desktop computers are still the way to go when you’re sitting at your desk for hours every day. Traditional desktop setups are pretty obtrusive, though (that’s much of the reason laptops have slowly taken over the PC market), although advances in hardware have given you some alternatives to the bulky computer towers of yesteryear. MacOS users aren’t out of luck, either, with the Mac Mini not only punching well above its weight performance-wise, but also offering shoppers the cheapest way to jump into the Mac ecosystem. Our roundup of the best cheap Mac Mini deals available right now makes that jump even cheaper.
- Mac Mini 2014 (Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Amazon Renewed) — $168
- Mac Mini 2014 (Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, Amazon Renewed) — $280
- Mac Mini 2018 (Core i3 CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Amazon Renewed) — $449
- Mac Mini 2020 (M1 Chip, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Latest Model) — $600, was $699
- Mac Mini 2020 (M1 Chip, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Latest Model) — $799, was $899
- Mac Mini 2020 (M1 Chip, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Latest Model) — $885, was $899
- Mac Mini 2020 (M1 Chip, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Latest Model) — $1,099
- Mac Mini 2020 (M1 CPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD) — $1,289, was $1,299
The aptly named Mac Mini is Apple’s pint-sized desktop computer. Small PCs such as this have been around for a while, but as an Apple device, the Mac Mini runs on MacOS rather than Windows — if you like the idea of a desktop computer but you want something with a small footprint, the Mac Mini is your best option if you favor Apple software.
Unlike the MacBook or the iMac, there is essentially only one model of the Mac Mini, although it is available in several different hardware configurations. Apple has kept this small desktop computer updated nicely over the years as well, so you also have some different model years to choose from (meaning that opting for a last-generation unit is often an easy way to save some cash if you aren’t picky about having the latest hardware).
The Mac Mini saw its most recent refresh last year; before that, it was updated in 2018, so these two model years are the ones you’ll see the most and the ones we recommend you spring for — any older than that and the hardware might feel a bit long in the tooth in 2020 for anything other than basic computing needs.
Despite its pared-down case, the Mac Mini boasts the same modern computer hardware as full-sized desktop towers as well as the same MacOS software that you get with iMacs and MacBooks. It also features very good thermal performance that keeps it running surprisingly cool under load (something that can be a problem with smaller computers). Note that Apple has added its awesome new M1 CPU to the 2020 Mac Mini lineup, which is well worth the upgrade in our opinion unless you’re on the tightest of budgets.
The most appealing feature of the Mac Mini for many buyers is its price. This tiny computer is far and away the cheapest entry point into the world of MacOS computing, with the latest entry-level 2020 models starting at a retail price of around $800 — Mac Mini deals like the ones above often let you score one for even less, and if you’re willing to opt for slightly older hardware, then the 2019 Mac Mini can be had for cheaper still.
The catch here is that the Mac Mini obviously doesn’t include a display or peripherals (namely a keyboard, a mouse, and speakers), unlike the iMac and MacBook. These add-ons will cost extra, but if you already have peripherals you can use — perhaps you’re just upgrading an old desktop tower — then the Mac Mini offers a lot of value and power in a small footprint. If not, however, then you might want to consider an iMac instead, as it could be a better bargain depending on your needs.
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