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Mac mini or MacBook Air: the best low-cost Mac for your money

Karen Haslam | July 15, 2015
If you are looking for a low cost Mac the £399 Mac mini and the £749 MacBook Air are likely to be your top choices, but which one offers the best deal?

If you are looking for a low cost Mac the £399 Mac mini and the £749 MacBook Air are likely to be your top choices, but which one offers the best deal?

There's £350 difference between the entry-level MacBook Air and the £399 Mac mini, but there is a lot missing from the Mac mini - not least a mouse, keyboard and display. Alternatively you may decide that there is a better deal to be had if you purchase a more expensive version of the Mac mini, benefiting from the faster processor and larger storage options.

The new entry-level Mac mini and the MacBook Air used to have a lot in common, until the MacBook Air was updated earlier in 2014. The cheapest Mac mini previously had the same 1.4GHz dual-core processor as the MacBook Air range, but when the MacBook Air was updated in spring 2015, it gained a slightly faster Broadwell processor. The two Macs also previously shared the same integrated graphics card - the Intel HD Graphics 5000, but now the MacBook offers the Intel HD Graphics 6000.

We do think that Apple will soon update the Mac mini, however. 

In this article we will look at the pros and cons of each of the cheapest Macs and will offer buying advice to suit your needs.

MacBook Air verses Mac mini: specs compared

There are three standard Mac mini models and four MacBook Airs to choose from, plus number of build to order options available. Below we will weigh up the differences between each of the different models.

MacBook Air spec

The MacBook Air comes in two different sizes. There's an 11-inch model and a 13-inch model. The main and most noticeable difference is the screen size - 11.6in diagonal on the 11-inch MacBook compared to 13.3in diagonal on the 13-inch model. You'll notice that the aspect ratio is different too: the 11-inch MacBook Air is 16:9, like a widescreen TV, while the 13-inch is 16:10. This means that there is a little more height in the 13-inch version, which might be beneficial.

Beyond that there is little difference between models other than the capacity of the storage and the price.

Each MacBook Air now offers a 1.6GHz Intel dual-core i5 processor as standard, along with the Intel HD Graphics 6000 integrated graphics and 4GB RAM. The only choice is between the 128GB or 256GB of flash storage.

There are also a number of build to order options. You can choose to configure your MacBook Air with 8GB RAM at point of sale for an additional £80 - and we recommend that you do so. You can also swap out the standard 1.6GHz chip for a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 chip for an extra £130. If you think you might need 512GB of flash storage then that will cost you £240 extra on the price of the 256GB model.


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