Tim Cook Says the Mac Mini Isn’t Dead, but It Sure Leaves a Lot of Performance on the Table

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Apple tends to cycle at least some of its laptops through periodic updates, but it’s not uncommon for desktop products to go longer in between product cycles. The current Mac mini is a late-2014 model with a Haswell-based Core i5-4260U, Core i5-4278U, or a Core i5-4308U. An optional Core i7-4578U is also available, though Many Mac mini fans still lament the day Apple canned the quad-core Core i7 version (last seen in a 2012 model).

According to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, the Mac mini isn’t dead, it’s just resting an important product in Apple’s desktop lineup. In an email to a MacRumors reader, Tim Cook wrote:

I’m glad you love Mac mini. We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative and interesting uses for Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.

We’ve put together a chart comparing the CPUs available in the current Mac mini to Intel’s current offerings. The new chips we’ve included are:

Core i7-8650U: A new quad-core mobile chip with a 15W TDP.
Core i7-7660U: Intel’s fastest dual-core with a 15W TDP.

The other CPUs are the Haswell-era parts offered with the current Mac mini. Most are 28W parts.

Intel-CPU-Comp

Early benchmarks suggest the quad-core 15W CPUs are still markedly faster than their dual-core cousins with higher base clocks. While the prices are high, keep in mind these are official prices — OEMs regularly receive bulk order discounts that make these chips much less expensive. The newer cores also benefit from the modest performance improvements Skylake delivered and the higher frequencies Kaby Lake (14nm+) and 8th generation mobile cores (14nm++) deliver.

Since graphics have changed significantly since Haswell, it’s worth including those numbers, too.

Intel-Comparison-Graph2

The Intel integrated solutions on 8th-generation and 6th-generation chips are much faster than the older Haswell graphics solutions, and particularly the 7th-gen chip, which includes a 64MB EDRAM cache. DigitalTrends published a 2016 guide to Intel integrated performance, and while it doesn’t include the very latest solutions, it definitely establishes a trend. We’ve linked the full article, but this graph is representative of performance trends:

BF4-Perf

DT compared desktop cores, so the scaling won’t be identical, but Intel’s later graphics cores are clearly intrinsically faster than their Haswell counterparts. These new chips also support 4K displays, higher base clocks, and OpenGL 4.4.

In short, there’s a lot of performance being left on the table at lower TDPs, and better, modernized features. Apple may not want to divulge future product details, but when it does update the Mac mini it’s going to deliver significantly improved performance.

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