Mac Mini 2018: 5 things business pros need

Apple's most affordable and portable desktop computer hasn't been updated in four years. If it were, here are five features that could make it more appealing to professionals.

What business pros want from Apple's new MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac Pros

When it was last updated in 2014, Apple's Mac Mini was known as the most affordable Mac on the market. With a form factor similar to that of an Apple TV, the Mac Mini is a computer that could fit in a purse. And since the device hasn't been updated for four years, users are suspecting a new Mac Mini to be on the lineup at an Apple event in October, especially since a new lineup of iPhone models was recently unveiled.

"The Mac Mini has always been a great product to offer to businesses beginning to explore the switch from PC to Mac because of the attractive price point, a concise form factor that was easy to upgrade, and compatibility with existing accessories like racks, displays, printers, keyboards and mice," said Raiye Rosado, Apple business development manager for PCM. "As the Mac Mini developed over time to include increased processing, storage, video and server capabilities, it became a real workhorse in the business world, bringing enterprise class features like OSX Server to small business."

SEE: macOS Mojave: A guide for IT leaders (Tech Pro Research)

However, all of the beloved features the Mac Mini offered are no longer relevant compared to many new or updated Apple devices. Because of the unusual gap in Mac Mini evolution, many people have abandoned the idea of a new version coming out at all, according to Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research. Despite this, Mac Mini rumors have been swirling as Apple fans seek out the latest information on a new machine.

Here are five features business pros would need in a new Mac Mini.

1. More storage

With the capabilities current computers offer, users definitely want and need more storage. The 2014 Mac Mini held 500GB-1TB standard, but Wang suggested that the updated version should start with at least 1TB of storage. That bump in space would be great for business pros who are massive video content creators, as they would be able to store and transport massive files on such a small device, Wang said.

There's also the question of what kind of storage it should come with. The current Mac Mini is configurable with a standard HDD, Fusion Drive, or solid-state drive. However, some have argued that the new Mac Mini should come standard with PCIe-based flash storage. Pro users would benefit from the faster speeds of an all-flash hard drive, and it would be in line with what Apple has done with the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac lines.

SEE: Mac Mini 2018: Cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

2. Updated processing power

Better processing power and graphics, specifically 4K, is a must, according to David McQueen, research director of handsets and devices at ABI Research. Since it's been so long since the Mac Mini has been updated, the device will be extremely difficult--if even possible--to upgrade, said McQueen. A new device with increased computing power and integrated graphics is necessary. And if 4K is supported, the Mac Mini might even be able to act as an alternative to the Apple TV.

The current Mac Mini is available with a 1.4GHz, 2.6GHz, or 2.8GHz Intel core i5 processor (configurable up to a Core i7 in some instances). The latest Mac Mini release could get a power boost from a host of new processor options, such as Intel's Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake chips, a decided upgrade from some of the older models running Haswell processors. There's also the possibility that Apple could change how many GB of RAM are available with the Mac Mini.

3. Ports

While the 2014 Mac Mini was praised for its wide array of ports--USB, HDMI, SDXC Card slot, ethernet, audio, headphone jack--even more would be expected out of a new model. Specifically, the addition of lightning connectors and more USB ports would be beneficial, according to Wang. Lightning ports weren't as relevant in 2014, and headphone jacks apparently aren't now, so an update to ports is much needed.

The current Mac Mini features two Thunderbolt 2 ports and four USB 3 ports. However, the new model may have updated Thunderbolt ports and USB-C ports, but will likely drop the 3.5 mm headphone jack. The current model also lacks a CD-ROM drive, which Apple will likely never bring back to any of the Macs in its lineup. It does have a built-in speaker, but might feature an audio out port to connect higher quality audio gear. The HDMI port might stick around too, but Apple probably won't add in a Mini DisplayPort connection.

4. Connectivity

Not only do consumers want more connectivity with ports, but also with wireless networking. "I hope they have better connectivity" in a new Mac Mini, said Wang. "People are looking for fast speed connectivities, especially for all the different hubs, ports, connecting devices that they have. But I don't know if they thought through that."

To better serve professionals, the new Mac Mini will need to support a host of wireless standards including ac Wi-Fi, ax Wi-Fi, and more.

5. Mouse and keyboard

While people love the portability and flexibility of the Mac Mini's size, they are on their own when it comes to obtaining a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Consumers would likely love if Apple featured an accessory bundle with a new Mac Mini, said McQueen. A bundle would still have a lower price tag than a MacBook, and would give Mac Mini fans all the components they need to successfully use the device.

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET