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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?

The 2014 Mac mini, on the other hand, is a tiny 20cm square box that's less than 4cm deep. You could probably happily carry the box in your bag, but you'd also need to drag around a monitor, mice and keyboard. If you wanted a desktop Mac that took up very little space the Mac mini is perfect though.

Buying Advice

The MacBook Air is clearly the most portable when compared to the Mac mini. The Mac mini might be light but it's not really one to carry around - and it wouldn't be much use to you without a monitor.

MacBook Air verses Mac mini: Upgradability

One of the best things about the 2012 Mac mini was the fact that it was more upgradable than any other Mac. It used to be possible to upgrade both the hard drive and the RAM using parts purchased separately, rather than having to choose the upgrade options available from Apple at point of purchase.

Sadly the new 2014 Mac mini is not so upgradeable. Apple has soldered the RAM in place, as you will see if you read this article: Mac mini 2014 v 2012 model, comparison. However, there is still one factor in that Mac's favour: you can still upgrade the storage on the Mac mini. gave the old Mac mini a reparability rating of 8 out of 10 in its teardown. The new 2014 Mac mini features RAM that is soldered on, so it is impossible to update it at any time after purchase. iFixIt gave the Mac mini a 6 out of 10 this time round.

The MacBook Air ships with only 4GB RAM, you can boost this to 8GB for an extra £80 when you buy it and we recommend you do so because there will be no opportunity to upgrade the RAM at a later date because, as with the new Mac mini, the RAM is soldered on. As with the Mac mini it is possible to upgrade the storage - although doing so would void your warranty. iFixIt gave both the 2014 and 2015 MacBook Air a reparability score of 4 out of 10.

Buying Advice

The Mac mini used to be the Mac for the kind of people who liked to tinker. Now that Mac is not as easy to upgrade down the line. You won't be able to touch the RAM as it is soldered on, for example.

The MacBook Air is similarly tricky to upgrade, although if iFixIt's rating is anything to go by the Mac mini still has the edge.

MacBook Air verses Mac mini: Best value

The Mac mini is Apple's cheapest Mac at £399, but as we noted already, you will have to factor in the cost of a monitor, mouse and keyboard. Add even the cheapest monitor (around £150) and the cheapest Apple keyboard and mouse options (£40 each), and you are looking at around £629.


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