Apple is finally ready to upgrade its low-end Mac mini desktop computer, but is planning to focus on professionals rather than price-sensitive consumers. According to a Bloomberg report today, Apple’s first Mac mini update in roughly four years is expected to be more expensive than the current model, and arrive alongside a Retina version of the 13-inch MacBook Air.
Similar to the so-called Mac mini Server, which was discontinued in late 2014, the new Mac mini will apparently be marketed to companies that need low-profile storage and processing machines, as well as to app developers. To appeal to professional users, Apple is said to be including faster processors and new storage options — no huge shock given how old the current models are.
Today’s Mac minis are available with 500GB to 1TB conventional hard drives, up to 2TB Fusion drives, and up to 1TB solid state drives. For Apple, the obvious direction would be to offer larger Fusion drives and SSDs. Similarly, today’s processor speeds range from a basic consumer 1.4GHz model to a 3.0GHz Core i7 with basic Intel HD and Iris integrated graphics, capped at 16GB of RAM. Thanks to newer Intel processors, Apple could easily ramp up the upcoming Mac minis with faster speeds and up to 32GB of RAM if needed.
Unclear at this stage is whether the professional Mac mini will look substantially different from today’s model. At a minimum, the unit could swap its rear Thunderbolt 2 ports for USB-C format Thunderbolt 3 ports, and update its HDMI port with support for higher-end monitors. Apple could also thin the Mac mini’s chassis again, though its last such move proved controversial as it made servicing and upgrading the small computer incredibly difficult. Space gray, a color recently used to distinguish the higher-end iMac model called iMac Pro, could also come to the professional Mac mini.
Additionally, Bloomberg is weighing in again on this year’s still-controversial 13-inch MacBook, which rumors have variously described as “entry-level,” “inexpensive,” or “low-cost.” Today’s report uses the last descriptor, suggesting that it will be a “MacBook Air” specifically “geared toward consumers looking for a cheaper Apple computer, but also schools that often buy laptops in bulk.”
According to the report, the new design will preserve much of the current 13-inch MacBook Air’s styling, but “will include thinner bezels around the screen” while sporting a Retina-quality display. Bloomberg takes no position on the price, which has alternated in various rumors and reports between $999, $1,199, and $1,299. The current 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $999.
One last interesting wrinkle in the story is a hint that Macs could have their own event in October following the expected iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch event. This year’s iOS-focused event is widely expected to take place in mid-September, with new iPhones launching near the third week in September, leaving room for an early October Mac event to debut new laptop and desktop hardware.