The Mac Mini was arguably the world’s first mass popular small form factor computer.  It came out in 2005 and quickly captured a following among Apple fanboys (and girls).  It was an elegant desktop that reached its zenith in the 2012 model.  It was easily repairable and spawned a subculture of geeks upgrading RAM and storage themselves.  It was rather unusual for an Apple product.  And it weighed under three pounds.

Apple downgraded the 2014 Mac Mini model and let it lie dormant for the last three years.  It is not easily repairable.  The RAM was soldered in.  And the top-end processor (CPU) was downgraded to a dual-core i7-4578U, not a quad-core.  It is still being sold at this time with Haswell Processors.

Mac Mini aficionados have been howling for the return of a new Mac Mini, with excellent specifications, once again.  Up to now, they have been disappointed.

In the intervening years, computers have undergone a minor revolution.  Most notably, this year opened up with Ryzen processors from AMD.  Suddenly, reasonably priced multi-core processors became available to the consumer.  AMD was even offering six-core and eight-core CPUs at prices well under Intel’s.

However, Intel has just countered with eighth-generation Coffee Lake CPUs.  The first release was actually an upgrade of seventh-generation Kaby Lake chips, but it is here that the enfilade will start.  What it means for the Mac Mini – as well as for every other small computer – will prove not exceptional, but typical.

Intel has already released a quad-core i7-8650U which goes from 1.9 GHz, boosting to 4.2 GHz.  Technically, though labeled eighth-generation, it is more of an upgrade to the seventh-generation Kaby Lake.  Given Apple’s tendency to release tried and true technology, Apple may choose to go with this quasi-upgrade if it releases a new Mac Mini at all in late 2017 or 2018.

However, what is going on here is that, in response to AMD’s competition, Intel is raising the number of cores on its i-core line of CPUs.  It seems that no longer will dual-core CPUs be the entry.  Now, even with the lowly i3-core family, quad-core will be standard, albeit without turbo-boosting or hyper-threading.  As one goes to i5 and i7, hyperthreading, turbo boost, and more cores will be introduced.

The result will be that the newer-core i3 CPUs will now approximate the former i5 CPUs in performance.  The newer i5 CPUs will approximate the former i7 CPUs.  And the newer i7 CPUs will approximate the former i9 processors.  The core wars have started.

The bottom standard has been substantially raised, for all but the lesser CPUs.

Apple cannot help but release a new Mac Mini with the quad-core CPU that aficionados have wanted for years.  Only now, the quad-core, even if it has hyper-threading, will not be exceptional.

[T]hese new [eighth generation] chips double that to four cores and eight threads. They also bump up the maximum clock speed to as much as 4.2GHz, though the base clock speed is sharply down at 1.9GHz for the top end part (compared to the 7th generation’s 2.8GHz). But beyond those changes, there’s little to say about the new chips, because in a lot of ways, the new chips aren’t really new.

The base clock has been set lower, which is good for typical usage, though the high-end speeds have been upgraded.  But as noted in the chart – at the Ars Technica link above – even mid-level i5-core CPUs will have four cores and eight threads – a property formerly reserved for higher-end i7-core CPUs.

In the past year, between AMD and Intel, the power of standard CPUs has skyrocketed.  Low-end computers and laptops will now pack power that can compete with the higher-end machines of recent vintage.  HP has already released a laptop packing one of these i7-8550u quad-core options, as opposed to last years option with a dual core i7-7500u, for the roughly same price.

The increase in performance will be phenomenal.  What we are seeing now is the fruits of cutthroat competition.

[I]f you have your eye on a new consumer laptop with a Core i5 or Core i7 U-series CPU, you may want to delay your purchase for a few more weeks.

To the average consumer, this may not mean much.  But to gamers, it will mean a lot.  Video and photography content producers – all of which requires power – will have to take notice.

It’s not just for mobile CPUs, either.  The desktop CPUs promise to have enormous power increases.  Intel’s Flagship i7-x700 CPUs will go from a base 3.6 Ghz/4.2 GHz with 4 cores/8 threads to an i7-8700 at 3.2 Ghz/4.6 GHz with 6 core/12 threads, and only for a minimal increase above the present model.

Meanwhile, AMD is counter-punching with its Threadripper CPUs (16 cores/32 threads) at $999, which is almost half the price on Intel’s present comparable i9-7960X, at $1,690.

Compare AMD’s generous approach to Intel’s careful rationing: The $1,000 10-core Core i9-7900X, for example, has a decent 44 lanes of PCIe, but the $599 8-core Core i7-7820X has only 28. Even AMD’s cheapest Threadripper so far, the 8-core Threadripper 1900X, features a full 64 lanes of PCIe support.

This is what competition is supposed to look like.

What it will mean is that even recent computers will soon be made obsolete, even sooner than usual.  The recent core wars have ramped up the technology.  Programs that once confined themselves to one core will now be upgraded to use the available multiple cores.

This may not be too noticeable to the average consumer who merely surfs the web, but it will be noticeable to gamers, photographers, and video editors almost immediately.  YouTube may start to see more 4K videos uploaded.

As for the Mac Mini, if Apple ever decides to upgrade it, Apple have to will release a quad-core option.  Many fanboys will applaud the improvement, but how many will realize that the improvement will be minimal?  A quad-core Mac Mini in 2012 was far more powerful than the average desktop.  A quad-core Mac Mini in 2018, if they release it, will be just average.

What this may portend is a coming end to the bulky desktop computer.  Small computers may be the rule for all but true power users, and that power cut-off seems to be getting higher.  At four cores/eight threads, more of these new CPUs can handle the video editing once reserved to the professionals.  The monster builds may be dying out.

The Mac Mini will probably end up being rather typical.  It may be the standard of the future – not as  trendsetter, but as average.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com.  He also just started a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.

The Mac Mini was arguably the world’s first mass popular small form factor computer.  It came out in 2005 and quickly captured a following among Apple fanboys (and girls).  It was an elegant desktop that reached its zenith in the 2012 model.  It was easily repairable and spawned a subculture of geeks upgrading RAM and storage themselves.  It was rather unusual for an Apple product.  And it weighed under three pounds.

Apple downgraded the 2014 Mac Mini model and let it lie dormant for the last three years.  It is not easily repairable.  The RAM was soldered in.  And the top-end processor (CPU) was downgraded to a dual-core i7-4578U, not a quad-core.  It is still being sold at this time with Haswell Processors.

Mac Mini aficionados have been howling for the return of a new Mac Mini, with excellent specifications, once again.  Up to now, they have been disappointed.

In the intervening years, computers have undergone a minor revolution.  Most notably, this year opened up with Ryzen processors from AMD.  Suddenly, reasonably priced multi-core processors became available to the consumer.  AMD was even offering six-core and eight-core CPUs at prices well under Intel’s.

However, Intel has just countered with eighth-generation Coffee Lake CPUs.  The first release was actually an upgrade of seventh-generation Kaby Lake chips, but it is here that the enfilade will start.  What it means for the Mac Mini – as well as for every other small computer – will prove not exceptional, but typical.

Intel has already released a quad-core i7-8650U which goes from 1.9 GHz, boosting to 4.2 GHz.  Technically, though labeled eighth-generation, it is more of an upgrade to the seventh-generation Kaby Lake.  Given Apple’s tendency to release tried and true technology, Apple may choose to go with this quasi-upgrade if it releases a new Mac Mini at all in late 2017 or 2018.

However, what is going on here is that, in response to AMD’s competition, Intel is raising the number of cores on its i-core line of CPUs.  It seems that no longer will dual-core CPUs be the entry.  Now, even with the lowly i3-core family, quad-core will be standard, albeit without turbo-boosting or hyper-threading.  As one goes to i5 and i7, hyperthreading, turbo boost, and more cores will be introduced.

The result will be that the newer-core i3 CPUs will now approximate the former i5 CPUs in performance.  The newer i5 CPUs will approximate the former i7 CPUs.  And the newer i7 CPUs will approximate the former i9 processors.  The core wars have started.

The bottom standard has been substantially raised, for all but the lesser CPUs.

Apple cannot help but release a new Mac Mini with the quad-core CPU that aficionados have wanted for years.  Only now, the quad-core, even if it has hyper-threading, will not be exceptional.

[T]hese new [eighth generation] chips double that to four cores and eight threads. They also bump up the maximum clock speed to as much as 4.2GHz, though the base clock speed is sharply down at 1.9GHz for the top end part (compared to the 7th generation’s 2.8GHz). But beyond those changes, there’s little to say about the new chips, because in a lot of ways, the new chips aren’t really new.

The base clock has been set lower, which is good for typical usage, though the high-end speeds have been upgraded.  But as noted in the chart – at the Ars Technica link above – even mid-level i5-core CPUs will have four cores and eight threads – a property formerly reserved for higher-end i7-core CPUs.

In the past year, between AMD and Intel, the power of standard CPUs has skyrocketed.  Low-end computers and laptops will now pack power that can compete with the higher-end machines of recent vintage.  HP has already released a laptop packing one of these i7-8550u quad-core options, as opposed to last years option with a dual core i7-7500u, for the roughly same price.

The increase in performance will be phenomenal.  What we are seeing now is the fruits of cutthroat competition.

[I]f you have your eye on a new consumer laptop with a Core i5 or Core i7 U-series CPU, you may want to delay your purchase for a few more weeks.

To the average consumer, this may not mean much.  But to gamers, it will mean a lot.  Video and photography content producers – all of which requires power – will have to take notice.

It’s not just for mobile CPUs, either.  The desktop CPUs promise to have enormous power increases.  Intel’s Flagship i7-x700 CPUs will go from a base 3.6 Ghz/4.2 GHz with 4 cores/8 threads to an i7-8700 at 3.2 Ghz/4.6 GHz with 6 core/12 threads, and only for a minimal increase above the present model.

Meanwhile, AMD is counter-punching with its Threadripper CPUs (16 cores/32 threads) at $999, which is almost half the price on Intel’s present comparable i9-7960X, at $1,690.

Compare AMD’s generous approach to Intel’s careful rationing: The $1,000 10-core Core i9-7900X, for example, has a decent 44 lanes of PCIe, but the $599 8-core Core i7-7820X has only 28. Even AMD’s cheapest Threadripper so far, the 8-core Threadripper 1900X, features a full 64 lanes of PCIe support.

This is what competition is supposed to look like.

What it will mean is that even recent computers will soon be made obsolete, even sooner than usual.  The recent core wars have ramped up the technology.  Programs that once confined themselves to one core will now be upgraded to use the available multiple cores.

This may not be too noticeable to the average consumer who merely surfs the web, but it will be noticeable to gamers, photographers, and video editors almost immediately.  YouTube may start to see more 4K videos uploaded.

As for the Mac Mini, if Apple ever decides to upgrade it, Apple have to will release a quad-core option.  Many fanboys will applaud the improvement, but how many will realize that the improvement will be minimal?  A quad-core Mac Mini in 2012 was far more powerful than the average desktop.  A quad-core Mac Mini in 2018, if they release it, will be just average.

What this may portend is a coming end to the bulky desktop computer.  Small computers may be the rule for all but true power users, and that power cut-off seems to be getting higher.  At four cores/eight threads, more of these new CPUs can handle the video editing once reserved to the professionals.  The monster builds may be dying out.

The Mac Mini will probably end up being rather typical.  It may be the standard of the future – not as  trendsetter, but as average.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com.  He also just started a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.



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