By writing about the next-generation Mac Pro, I invited the inevitable question:
But what about the Mac mini?
As bad as the Mac Pro’s lot in life has become, the Mac mini isn’t far behind it. The machine was last updated in late 2014 and is still powered by Haswell Core i5s and i7s. Those chips are one generation older than the MacBook Air. To make matter worse, that model removed the ability to upgrade the RAM in the machine.
Their common neglect aside, it is weird that the Mac mini and Mac Pro are so often linked in people’s mind. Start talking about a cheaper entry-model Mac Pro gets people excited, and the question is always at hand:
What if a cheap Mac Pro was the Mac mini?
After all, Tim Cook said it was going to be important again! Why couldn’t Apple kill two desktop birds with one flexible platform stone?
The biggest problem is flexibility. A Mac Pro chassis has to be able to tolerate a wide range of thermal and power demands. There may be a huge gap between the entry model and the highest-end custom configurations.
This means that any shared enclosure between the Mac mini and Mac Pro would need to be insanely flexible. To meet the needs of the highest-end customers, the case would be incredible overkill for the basic needs of Mac mini customers. That would inevitably increase costs on the low end of the line. I don’t know how large the new Mac Pro will be, but I promise its case will be larger and more sophisticated than that of the Mac mini.
Some people have thought that an extremely modular (or even stackable) system could overcome these issues. Users could buy exactly what they need, and add more capability when needed, the argument goes.
Some have tried this approach, and it seems inherently flawed. Even if Thunderbolt 3 was used as to interconnect the modules, a system like this adds unneeded complexity and failure points.
I truly believe the Mac mini and Mac Pro will remain separate computers in 2018 and beyond.
I think the Mac mini deserves to be overhauled. There’s clearly a market for a $499 entry-level Mac for those who are looking for a basic yet capable machine running macOS. I don’t see how getting its chocolate in the Mac Pro’s peanut butter would meet those user’s needs.