When Apple introduced the Mac mini at Macworld San Francisco in 2005, it was intended to be a true starter Mac. Half the price of an iBook and $200 less than an eMac, the Mac mini wasn’t a speed demon, but it was powerful enough to handle mid-level tasks. And if you had a keyboard, monitor, and mouse, it was a great price at $499.
However, the value did not last. When the Intel model arrived in 2006, Apple raised the price to $599, then to $699 in 2010, and again to $799 in 2018. The 2020 M1 update brought a $100 price reduction to bring it back. bringing it to $699, and now the M2 refresh pushes it even lower to $599, a price we haven’t seen in over a decade.
A hundred dollars may not seem like much, but it’s a significant 15 percent price cut and a sign that Apple may be going back to its Mac mini roots. (Of course, Apple being Apple, it comes alongside a $1,299 model with an M2 Pro processor that’s probably $200 too high, but I’ll leave that alone.) That means the usual retail discounts will probably bring it down to about $499 in a few months.
That makes the Mac mini a real budget Mac again, not just a discounted older model. The Mac mini is another switcher machine and a fantastic addition to Apple’s desktop lineup.
Over its 17-year lifespan, the Mac mini has seen surprisingly few major changes. It started out as a 6.5 inch by 2 inch square and is now a 7.75 inch by 1.41 inch square. It was Apple’s first “stripped-down Mac” where, to quote Steve Jobs, “We provide the computer, you provide the rest.” It still comes with little more than a power supply in the box.
The original presentation was surprisingly candid. Jobs called it BYODKM, meaning bring your own screen, keyboard, and mouse, but it wasn’t meant to grace a $999 Cinema Display or a $69 wireless keyboard. Rather, Apple wanted you to use the same cheap monitor, keyboard, and mouse you bought for your PC. Steve even showed the mini next to a crude drawing of a clunky CRT that got the audience laughing.
Named after the iPod mini, the Mac mini is designed to be “silent,” “small,” and “rugged,” and priced so that “people thinking about making the switch run out of excuses.” Steve called it “the cheapest computer Apple has ever offered,” and even the box received cheers from the crowd. It was the first low-cost Mac and seemed poised to break through the dominant PC wall.
It didn’t, largely because Apple quickly abandoned its strategy. The Mac mini received sporadic updates and unnecessary price increases and never really had an identity. Yes, it’s always been Apple’s cheapest Mac, but it hasn’t always been the best value. The M1 brought back some of that, but the M2 model really brings it home.
And nothing has been sacrificed to its M1 predecessor. The M2 Mac mini has the same ports and design as the M1 model, with a faster processor, more memory options, better display support, and Wi-Fi 6E. That’s an excellent upgrade from a 2018 Intel Core i5 model for about half the price, and all you’re giving up is a pair of USB-C ports and the Space Gray finish.
And for the first time in many years, you won’t feel like you paid too much for the Mac mini. Whether you’re upgrading or switching, the $599 M2 Mac mini is one of the best Mac bargains in years and a throwback to what it should be: Apple’s smallest, cheapest, and most feature-rich Mac.