By Jim Tanous on December 1, 2014 at 9:20 AM • @mggjim
Mac mini fans waited a heck of a long time for an update and, upon witnessing Apple’s unveiling of the 2014 Mac mini during October’s iPad event, issued a collective sigh of relief. Finally . Sure, the new model sported the same form factor as its predecessor, and there was seemingly nothing radical to justify Apple’s delay in updating the product, but at least the Mac mini could finally get the “new” features that have been available on other Macs for over a year, such as PCIe-based flash storage, Haswell processors, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Apple also cut the entry level price by $100 to boot, bringing the system back to its original. psychologically significant $499 price point.
But it didn’t take long for even this arguably consolation prize-style update to begin to unravel. It was soon revealed that Apple was using soldered RAM in the new Mac minis, an unfortunate development that meant that customers would no longer be able to upgrade their memory after purchase. Want the maximum 16GB of RAM for your new Mac? That’ll be $300 extra at checkout, with no option to find a cheaper third party alternative, or upgrade down the road if memory prices decrease.
Compounding the memory upgrade situation is the company’s choice of CPUs. Yes, they’re Haswell, but they’re not as fast as their 2-plus-year-old Ivy Bridge predecessors. The old 2012 Mac mini lineup included
options for both dual- and quad-core CPUs, but the new 2014 models are dual-core only, and the efficiency improvements in Haswell can’t compensate for the loss of those two cores.
Moving in Reverse
So, what does this mean? At best, it means only very modest improvements for some models, certainly less than most would expect from a system as old as the 2012 Mac mini. At worst, it means a dramatic decrease in performance, with some 2012 configurations absolutely destroying their 2014 counterparts in multi-core workflows.
Apple elected to use an underpowered class of Haswell chips in the new 2014 models, and there seems to be absolutely no reason for it
According to Primate Labs. makers of the popular cross-platform Geekbench tool, single-core performance for the 2014 Mac mini is up to about 11 percent better than the 2012 model in some configurations, but a staggering 40 percent worse in comparisons of the top-end models for each year. No wonder Apple hides the Mac mini on the second page of its online store listing.
Here’s a quick overview of the performance difference between the 2012 and 2014 models, based upon the best verifiable 64-bit Geekbench score. We’ll start with single-core improvements using the following specifications:
- Entry Level: 2.5GHz i5-3210M (2012) vs. 1.4GHz i5-4260U (2014)
- Mid Range: 2.3GHz i7-3615QM (2012) vs. 2.6GHz i5-4278U (2014)
- High End: 2.6GHz i7-3720QM (2012) vs. 3.0GHz i7-4578U (2014)