Last week I purchased a Mac Mini from the Apple online store.
The Mini comes with a minimum of 2GB RAM, but you can upgrade at purchase. 8GB of RAM adds £240 to the price, 20% VAT included.
That struck me as expensive, so I purchased an 8GB Kit from Crucial, 2 x 4GB SODIMMs, DDR3-1333 PC3-10600, from Crucial. It cost me £55.19 including VAT though I should have waited: the price today is £49.19.
If you purchase the upgrade from Apple, you just get 8GB. If you purchase the upgrade elsewhere, you end up with two spare 1GB sticks that you might be able to use or sell for a few pennies.
Upgrading the RAM on a Mac Mini used to be somewhat challenging, involving a putty knife, a certain amount of stress, and likely a few marks on your case. Now it is just a matter of twisting a cover on the underside and takes a couple of minutes.
The ex-VAT price is £200 from Apple versus £40.99 from a third-party. That can be expressed as a 487% mark-up. Of course we need to allow for the skilled engineering work in twisting off the cover and testing the RAM; or maybe Apple does this at the factory and has a pile of pre-configured machines; but then again I am sure Apple gets a better price on its volume RAM purchases than the rest of us can manage.
I would not blame anyone for going the safe route and ordering their upgrade from Apple, so as to be sure it is the correct part, correctly fitted. But Apple is taxing these customers heavily. The Mini is no longer good value with the official upgrade.
One thing in Apple’s favour though. I imagine it could have put some little chip into its official RAM that prevented standard parts from working. At least it has not done that.
Apple is now selling a new range of Mac Mini computers with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and a Thunderbolt port.
There is also an HDMI port for connection to an entertainment system, FireWire 800, 4 old-style USB 2.0 ports – not USB 3.0, presumably to focus on Thunderbolt – and an SDXC card slot.
There is one thing missing, though, which is the DVD drive. Want to rip CDs, play a DVD, or install an application from optical media? Here’s what Apple says:
With the Mac App Store, getting the apps you want on your Mac has never been easier. No more boxes, no more discs, no more time-consuming installation. Click once to download and install any app on your Mac. But if an app you need isn’t available from the Mac App Store, you can use DVD or CD Sharing. This convenient feature of OS X lets you wirelessly “borrow” the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC. So you can install applications from a DVD or CD and have full access to an optical drive without having to carry one around.
Of course you can also purchase an external optical drive, though hanging a device like that off the Mini so spoils the attraction of its small size.
By omitting the optical drive, Apple is also promoting its App Store over shrinkwrap software. This is good for usability, and means the user will get the latest version of the application rather than having to update immediately, as is often the case with shrinkwrap installs.
A side-effect though is that more transactions are subject to Apple’s cut of the sale price. Third-party resellers are hammered. Further, Apple gets to approve what software appears in the store.
The desktop Mac is unlikely ever to be locked down like the iOS devices; though it would not surprise me if some future Mac Mini actually does run iOS rather than OS X. Nevertheless, you can see how well this plays into the overall strategy.