Apple Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air: Which Should You Buy?

The two cheapest and lowest end Mac Computers in Apple’s lineup are their Mac Mini and MacBook Air. In today’s article, let’s pit the two machines head-to-head to find out, which one is the best value for your money.

Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air, Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air

The Mac Mini might start at $499 or €519, but it’s now devoid of expansion capability of any kind, you can’t replace the RAM or hard drive and the processors are dual-core only. It also doesn’t come with a mouse, keyboard or display. Although this helps to drive the price down, it does make it a little tricky to directly compare these two machines because the MacBook Air comes with its own screen, keyboard and trackpad. Obviously the Air is a portable machine, while the Mini is a desktop computer. So you need to determine if you’d prefer a machine for on-the-go usage, or if being tied to a desk is more suitable to your needs.

For those current Mac Mini users who wish to simply replace their existing computer with a brand Mac Mini, then this situation is fairly straight forward. They already have the necessary accessories and the initial outlay of €519 isn’t much to ask. Except that the entry level Mac Mini is seriously underpowered. It starts with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. So I’ll operate on the basis that you either already have a keyboard, mouse and display or you’re going to factor purchasing those into the price.

The MacBook Air comes in two screen sizes, 11 and 13-inches. The 11-inch model offers the same specs but with just 128GB of flash storage. I don’t really believe the 11-inch Macbook Air stacks up well against the 13-inch edition or indeed the MacBook Pro notebooks. Particularly when for just a few hundred euros or dollars more, you could get a notebook with a Retina display and more power. That’s really a limitation of the Air.

The 13-inch Air offers more configuration options and of course, you’re getting a larger screen.  It’s probably the best all round option of the Air lineup. However, €1,029 provides you with just a measly 128GB of storage, whearas the Mac Mini offers a 500GB hard drive to begin with. Like the Mini, the Air cannot be upgraded after you purchase it, so you’ve got to make sure you select the exact right amount of RAM for your needs in the future.

To be honest, although this is an article about the Mac Mini Vs the MacBook Air neither of these machines are particularly attractive to me, and in terms of value for money, they don’t exactly compare favourably to other Mac computers in Apple’s product family, let alone more affordable Windows PCs. And when you up the specs to double the RAM, add more hard drive storage and increase the CPU horsepower, their overpriced nature becomes more apparent.

Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air, Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air, Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air

However, in an outcome that may surprise you, I’m going to grant victory to the Mac Mini. Despite the fact that these two machines are chalk and cheese, one’s a desktop machine, the other is an ultraportable, to me, choosing between the two is a no brainer. The Mac Mini wins it because if you choose the €1,019 or $999 model, you get a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB fusion drive. The Air doesn’t offer specs even close to that at any price point right now.

But for some people, the convenience of a svelte and lightweight Mac laptop will beat a mid-level desktop machine any day. I personally wouldn’t choose either machine, MacBook Pros and iMacs offer much greater value for money overall. So that was my take on the Mac Mini Vs MacBook Air, check out my video comparison of the iMac and MacBook Pro in the link below:


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