Three Guys and a Podcast

Three Guys and a Podcast: Apple News & Analysis

June 11, 2011 at 4:59pm Pacific Time
by: Karl Johnson
Categories: Predictions
tagged: Thunderbolt, Mac Mini, Sandy Bridge

 Apple introduced a new connection port called Thunderbolt with their Macbook Pros Last Month. Thunderbolt has replaced the Mini Display Port and will replace USB and Firewire over time. Apple will need to refresh their Macintosh product line-up to add this new port to keep the sales figures up.

The Mac Mini went through a major redesign this last summer. The new version uses Apple's unibody manufacturing process that was first used on the Macbook Air in 2008. Since the mini's redesign is less than a year old, Apple is unlikely to do another overhaul this year. When is the next Mac Mini refresh likely to happen? The table below shows previous release dates, introduction date, and length of time between between updates.

As the table shows, the Mac Mini gets updated every 8 months on average. The last update was in June of 2010, which would put the next update around February 2011. Since it is March already, the Mac Mini has passed the average update cycle due date. This refresh delay is probably due to the introduction of the Thunderbolt high-speed connection port for peripherals. Now that the new Macbook Pros and Thunderbolt have been released, the Mac Minis will be coming out sometime this month.

With this new update, Apple will bring the Mac Mini product up-to-date with the standards of the new Macbook Pro 13-inch. The new Thunderbolt port will replace the Mini Display Port that is currently on the device. Apple will also add the new Sandy Bridge processor and graphics chips, which are also in the new MacBook Pros. The 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor is currently the base chip for the Macbook Pro 13" and will also be the base model for the Mac Mini at $699. The 2.7 Ghz Intel Core i7 processor will be used on the Mac Mini Server. The Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU will replace the Nvidia Graphics Processor Unti (GPU) as Apple moves to the Intel's new Sandy Bridge chipset. The rest of the specs will remain the same.  This will bring the Mac Mini up-to-date with the new MacBooks that were released last month.

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25 Comments

  1. Aaron ~ March 01, 2011 18:06

    From your lips to gods ears!! I have held off for the last 6 months waiting for this upgrade. I hope your right. I really want to create a home entertainment center with the Mac Mini. #
  2. bap ~ March 01, 2011 20:39

    I do not see a low TDP chip that would be good for the mini. The heat would be a problem as would power consumption - look at the drop in battery life on the new laptops because of the increase in the TDP. 6 Months would be way too short for a mini update. Unless it was for a new larger server version with a fan! The only known low TDP chips have slow base speeds and abysmal graphics speeds, but acceptable turbo speeds - at least for short periods of time. I sometimes run my computers for over a day coding video. My old C2D mac mini did it well despite its poor graphics but my i7 imac does it nicely. The more likely update would be to Ivy bridge, which will be 22 nm, run less hot for speed and also includes native USB 3 support. Thunderwhatever is a fancy dongle that will eventually allow blazing transfer speed, but the best it could be used for right now would be as a bridge to USB3 or FW 800. A dongle for ESATA would be very beneficial as it would allow the use of current speedy drives. The initial thunderbolt is only a bit faster than USB3 because it uses copperwire rather than the optical that was originally used. I feel that they must have either had a problem with signal degradation, possibly due to cable fibre distortion in the real world. or Intel is taking Apple's usual tactic of releasing minimal updates to try to get people to buy more generations of products. Sandy bridge's other interesting feature is the return of Altivec like capabilities, which could vastly increase video and graphics functions. I bought a prev gen i7 imac a few months ago because Apple and Intel were too slow on bringing this stuff out. #
  3. arn ~ March 02, 2011 05:09

    Thunderbolt doesn't replace MiniDisplay port, it is part of it. More unfounded speculation from T-gaap. You guys used to be so good. What happened? #
  4. Eliott Rodgers ~ March 02, 2011 11:38

    With the original 15 inch duo laptop, and last year's iPad, I am waiting for the Mac Mini to be updated to the specs on the 13" i7 Duo Sandy Bridge chip in order to buy the server config, and make this my base unit at home. I am waiting, but the rumors are not out there yet, although I agree with your upgrade model and hope it is correct. #
  5. Svein ~ March 03, 2011 13:48

    New iMac around the corner too? #
  6. coco ~ March 03, 2011 17:55

    [q]I do not see a low TDP chip that would be good for the mini[/q] AMD Fusion Llano which also includes OpenGL 4.1 / OpenCL 1.1 [q]I really want to create a home entertainment center with the Mac Mini. [/q] I also need a Bluray internal drive option for the Mini. I want Thunderbolt in the Mini as well as an SSD option too. And, please, Apple, keep or reduce its price. #
  7. sean ~ March 13, 2011 10:36

    My prediction: no update for mac mini until 10.7 comes out. Since 10.7 appears to have server functionality in it, it makes no sense to have a dedicated server version of the mac mini. That means to release a new mac mini now Apple would either discontinue the mac mini server platform in March and leave a hole in the product line, or discontinue the server platform in the summer which is too soon after a product refresh. #
  8. Tom ~ March 30, 2011 14:24

    arn, you say that Thunderbolt doesn't replace MiniDisplay port, it is part of it. Does that mean the DVI to Minidisplay Port adapter I have will still work? #
  9. Kjetil ~ April 01, 2011 07:23

    Today is April 1st. I'm with sean on this one - relying on the average length of time between updates seems irrelevant when the minimum is 2 months and the maximum 19 months. #
  10. Jon ~ April 12, 2011 04:57

    @sean - not really sure where your logic comes from "it makes no sense to have a dedicated server version of Mac mini" just because 10.7 software will have server OSX on the same disk? This has no logic behind it. The mac mini server is running different/tweaked hardware to the standard Mac mini with the optical drive removed an extra HD in and a slight bump in CPU speed - this is completely unrelated to the software. All having the server version of OSX built into Lion means is that theres no reason to have two OSX install discs/separate products - nothing to do with the hardware. You'll still buy server hardware if you want the features. Saying that theres nothing stopping you running a Macbook or an iMac as a server a computer is a computer, but certainly the Mac mini and Mac Pro servers will not be discontinued infact I see the Mac mini become a staple in homes over the next 10 years...why? We're all getting more and more devices - an iPhone each, a couple of iPads per household, a laptop each a few desktop computers, media center boxes under the tv. All wanting to access the same files/media etc. Im surprised more people don't want it now but for me every home should come with ethernet cables in the walls as standard - they should be as standard as the power cables and light switches. It makes perfect sense for all these devices to be connected (where possible) with ethernet throughout the house to a central, small, low power server. Connected directly to the internet it would be the one device in the house you'd leave on 24/7. It could run mail and calendar services for the house holds and more advanced users would host websites and wikis but for standard home users it would be a media hub and document centre. All your documents will be in one place ready to access from any device instantly, all your music, movies, tv shows in one place. A device that is always on the internet downloading, updating, streaming data from the internet so you dont need to leave computers on overnight/throughout the day. For power users it acts as a VPN which can run software connected to the internet running automated tasks all day. Thats going off on a huge tangent but needless to say the server options for Mac mini and Mac Pro will not be going anywhere on the next refreshes... #
  11. sean ~ April 16, 2011 20:22

    @Jon - Fair reply, my prediction is gut feel only however I will try and do a better job of presenting my logic. My perspective, regardless of the hardware, the appeal of the mac mini server is the server OS. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, though I have not conducted a poll. The change in hardware does little to make it a better server, 98% of the benefit is really the OS. (please take 98% with a grain of salt, I say that only to make my point) The variance of the hardware "coupled" with the change of the software is what gives the mac mini server its marketable identity as a "server" though I still maintain that the hardware variation is largely irrelevant. Take away the distinction in the OS, there is not enough to differentiate the two product versions. Having one common base configuration in it's next revision that can be adjusted a little would be a simpler device to maintain, less variance to a platform is less costly to support. I don't know what that next platform would look like, I don't really care if it has an optical drive (a la the current mac mini server) as like most optical drives get far less use from me know than they used to, and for that reason it wouldn't surprise me if the next mac mini didn't offer one (external usb superdrive would be available of course). The optical drive argument is not a prediction, just wouldn't surprise me if Apple went that way as they are very savvy with regard to that kind of trend. I certainly agree with your assessment with respect to the proliferation of devices in the household, but to a consumer, in a household, "server hardware" is really a misnomer. Consumers don't buy "server" grade hardware; the concept of server in a consumer domain is really no more than the service (or collection of services) provided by whatever hardware that service (those services) is (are) hosted on, and really only requires that the hardware have sufficient resources to provide a good and reliable service delivery. For example, high availability (at least from a consumer standpoint) NAS boxes are media servers, file servers (samba, nfs, afp, ftp, foo, etc...), web servers, db servers, and more all on the cheap. These home NAS boxes are certainly not "server grade" but good enough to create a real market. I have a "server" in my basement running my website, my mail server, my vpn server, my whatever I need server, its has run reliably for about 2 1/2 years with an ubuntu server OS. The hardware is laughable, it's merely an atom 330 motherboard with 2GB of RAM, and with the case and a hard drive cost me about $250 to set up. Any mac mini in my home, with a server OS on it would cause me to retire my old ubutu box (which would make it for sale if your interested). My counter point: I would not be surprised in the least if both the mac mini and the mac pro server variants of hardware disappear, without the distinct server OS version, there is just not enough to create a distinct product. #
  12. fsdjkl ~ April 18, 2011 15:09

    Apple is just waiting for the AMD Fusion Llano 3Ghz. June 2011. #
  13. Rolie ~ April 20, 2011 16:21

    I'd rather predict things as they happen. I use the mac mini as a recording tool for my music and the software that's on market is waiting for Apple to get on the stick. This little box is a god send and with a new upgrade, the crappy state of world affairs will get a ,ajor tune out from this dreamer. Still waiting and waiting and..... #
  14. Luis ~ April 26, 2011 12:35

    So definite truth is... none of us have ANY clue about the future of the mac mini right? is it going to be like the iPod classic that's been pretty much the same for the last ages? Now... I have not really made the whole analysis the other people here have. But I can say that I've got the money ready to buy a Mac mini for the last 4 months (since around December). And the sooner they release their new version. The sooner my money will be theirs. #
  15. Tom ~ May 03, 2011 23:51

    Still no new Mac Mini?! #
  16. Donald ~ May 04, 2011 12:36

    So with the release of the iMac, i'm guessing the Mac Mini will be released in June? I haven't gone to the apple store to see if they still sell or not. Word has it, if they stopped selling (put on backorder), means apple will be coming out w/ a refresh in the next few months. #
  17. Rikki ~ May 06, 2011 21:42

    Best Buy has the Mac Mini on sale for $50 off. Hmmmm... might be a sign of good things to come. #
  18. haas ~ May 18, 2011 01:41

    @RIKKI and i just brought one from best buy...i did have an after thought about thunderbolt but is that really going to make a difference? I got to run the new FCX that comes out in june that supposely reduces the rendering times and video up loads any way. So i thought for around 1600 i could get a mac mini , Ipad and FCX. #
  19. Avi ~ June 02, 2011 10:58

    June 1st.....still no new mac mini. #
  20. mark ~ June 06, 2011 15:03

    06Jun2011.....still no mac mini.... #
  21. Anshu ~ June 10, 2011 18:37

    still waiting.. June 11.. and no news of mac mini :( #
  22. Gotara ~ June 14, 2011 13:08

    still waiting.... #
  23. Sam ~ June 15, 2011 07:10

    My girlfriend works at apple, and still no news has leaked out of any sort for a new mac mini. As far as someone saying that the optical drive might be removed, i believe is completely wrong. The mac mini is used more for people like me, who refuse to pay for cable, so we stream netflix, hulu etc online and use the mac mini's optical drive for redboxes and other dvds. My guess is that they would incorporate a blu-ray player, update the processor, and hard drive to atleast 500 gb for the minimum recquirement, all while keeping the same unibody. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong...I went to best buy, showed them student pricing on the apple site, and they took an additional 20 bucks off of the price...for what its worth, thats my two cents. #
  24. j ~ June 18, 2011 19:22

    ughhh, when is this coming out?!?!? I've been ready to buy one since February or so... Need to replace the one I have now (old white big one) but definitely not going to buy it until it is new on the market.... arrrg, now I have also waited until lion came out... as I wanted both... well, whenever it comes out, I will buy the new mac mini. I have a few large monitors , external hard drives etc etc... I just need what I consider the "head unit" which has been the mac mini for me... could care less about these imac/airbook/macbook updates. #
  25. sean ~ July 20, 2011 12:03

    How bout that! I have never been in the business of predicting apple refreshes but: 1. no optical disk - not really a prediction but I did kind of see that coming as I mentioned above 2. no update until Lion - I thought at the time this was a no brainer, but still managed to get disagreement 3. elimination of the server model - oops! wrong! Oh well, 2 out of 3 not too bad when you are a neophite apple rumor mongerer. #

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