Apple Mac mini (Late 2012) with Fusion Drive review

Apple Mac mini early 2013

Its now-famous square aluminium unibody sets a standard in build quality and design which is still many strides ahead of all the competition. It’s delightfully minimal, with all connecting ports tucked away around the back. Notable among these are four USB 3.0 ports – which Apple just couldn’t bring itself to colour blue – as well as HDMI and Thunderbolt connections. If you’re hooking the Mac mini up to a display without speakers, fear not, for there’s a basic mono speaker built into the PC itself. See all Mac reviews.

See Macworld UK Apple Mac mini (Late 2012) review without Fusion drive

Our review model was packed with options, including the fastest processor of the group, in the form of the quad-core Intel Core i7-3270QM. Subtract £80 and you can configure it with its standard 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7. Performance-wise, the Mac mini is pretty hard to beat. See also Group test: what's the best PC for under £1,000?

It’s PCMark 7 score of 3286 points was beaten only by Chillblast’s Fusion NUC. However it’s important to note here that the latter is using purely solid-state storage – and there's only 128GB of that included. The Mac mini’s Fusion Drive provides over 1TB of storage space, and when functioning in its native OS X operating system, is able to take advantage of a 128GB SSD to boost performances still further.

Gaming performance is also superior to the Chillblast PC – and nearly all other comers – thanks to its considerably faster integrated processor.

This Mac mini is one of the more power-hungry of the group, with a power draw of 12.5W when doing nothing at the Windows 8 desktop. This increased to 76W under load – well over double that of any other mini PC we’ve tested. This is the price you pay for stuffing such a powerful processor and two drives into a tiny case.

Although the Mac mini features a cooling fan it is, for the most part, blissfully quiet in operation. However, when we hit it with some really hard sums there was plenty of loud whooshing in evidence as the fan worked to keep the temperature down below 100 degrees celsius.

Apple Mac mini (Late 2012 with Fushion Drive): Specs

  • Processor: 2.6-3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-3270QM (4 cores / 8 threads)
  • CPU Cooler: Custom fan
  • Installed memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
  • Storage: 1TB Apple Fusion Drive (1TB 2.5in SATA HDD + 128GB SSD)
  • Power supply: Internal
  • Motherboard: Custom Intel HM77 Chipset
  • External USB ports: 4x USB 3.0
  • Graphics processor: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Sound: on-board
  • Networking: Gigabit ethernet, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Audio outputs: Headphone/line out (analogue/optical digital), HDMI audio, Thunderbolt audio
  • Audio inputs: Line in (analogue/optical digital)
  • Video outputs: 1x HDMI 1.2, Thunderbolt
  • Other ports: FireWire 800, built-in speaker, SDXC card reader, infrared remote sensor
  • Bluetooth: 4
  • Case dimensions: 197 x 197 x 26 mm
  • Total weight: 1.3kg
  • Case construction materials: Aluminium
  • Operating system: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
  • Processor: 2.6-3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-3270QM (4 cores / 8 threads)
  • CPU Cooler: Custom fan
  • Installed memory: 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
  • Storage: 1TB Apple Fusion Drive (1TB 2.5in SATA HDD + 128GB SSD)
  • Power supply: Internal
  • Motherboard: Custom Intel HM77 Chipset
  • External USB ports: 4x USB 3.0
  • Graphics processor: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Sound: on-board
  • Networking: Gigabit ethernet, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Audio outputs: Headphone/line out (analogue/optical digital), HDMI audio, Thunderbolt audio
  • Audio inputs: Line in (analogue/optical digital)
  • Video outputs: 1x HDMI 1.2, Thunderbolt
  • Other ports: FireWire 800, built-in speaker, SDXC card reader, infrared remote sensor
  • Bluetooth: 4
  • Case dimensions: 197 x 197 x 26 mm
  • Total weight: 1.3kg
  • Case construction materials: Aluminium
  • Operating system: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

OUR VERDICT

Beautiful, minimalist design combined with wonderful build quality make the slick Mac mini a highly attractive proposition. It’s also capable of class-leading performance when fitted with the quad-core here, although it will be harder to keep cool. It comes with a massive 1TB hybrid drive and an equally massive price; or you can investigate the entry Core i5 model that starts at just £499.

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