A lot has changed at Apple under the leadership of Tim Cook, but one policy from the Jobs era that continues on is the habit of sealing off products and making them non-upgradable. The iPhone, iPad and fast-fading iPod are all like that, and so apparently is the Mac Mini.
Apple introduced some new products last week, led by new iPads that were met with an overwhelming "meh." As part of that announcement, the company also announced an iMac with Retina 5K Display, Mac OS X 10.10, a.k.a. "Yosemite," and a bit of a surprise, a new Mac Mini.
The Mac Mini is a nice entry level Mac, starting at just $499. Apple packs a decent amount of performance in that little box, but it's not meant for heavy duty work. Still, there's no excuse for Apple to make it impossible to change or install more memory.
Brian Stucki on the macminicolo blog took a close look at the new Mini and found Apple had soldered the RAM modules in place. If you want more RAM, you better select it at the time of purchase and hope it doesn't go bad.
Apple seems to view the memory as a profit driver. The $499 device, which is pretty underpowered running at 1.4GHz, comes with 4GB of RAM. An 8GB version is $100 more and a 16GB machine is $300. The faster and more expensive Minis have the same price differential for memory.
Now compare that to a single 4GB DDR3 DRAM stick, which is about $35 on NewEgg, or $70 for a full 8GB, and an average price of about $150 for 16GB of memory. So once again, you are paying two to three times more for the Apple product than if you bought the memory yourself.
I've taken Apple to task over the excessive price it charges for memory, as have other ITworld writers. And you know what? They will just keep getting away with this because I doubt anyone of prominence in the tech press will call them out.
This isn't just an upgrade issue, it's a replacement issue. DRAM does go bad. Disturbingly often. And hard drives can go bad as well. Now Apple has made it impossible to replace two of the more likely components to fail. I don't know where this mentality of shutting people out comes from, but Apple needs to start treating its users like they have the brains to pop a DIMM stick in a socket.
Stucki also pointed out that the Mac Mini comes with tamper-proof screws, so doing your own hard drive replacement won't be easy. Most likely because of heat, Apple is only using 5,400 RPM drives rather than 7,200 RPM drives. If you want an SSD, you better order it when you buy the Mini because self-service upgrades are just not in the cards with this device.
Stucki gives the new device an overall thumbs up, citing the new CPU and graphics. But looking at the price of a properly spec'ed out Mini, you might as well just get an iMac because once you add in the price of a monitor, there's not much difference but at least you get a device that's a little more upgradeable.