I’ll always associated larger Apple products with work and smaller ones with leisure, and lately I’ve been thinking about taking this to a new level. I’m thinking about selling my MacBook Pro and switching exclusively to a Mac Mini and an external monitor.

My workstation for the past 15 months has been a Mid 2015 15” MacBook Pro, entry level. It has 256GB SSD, 16GB ram, 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7. It’s served me well, but my dev setup is really resource intensive; I could use more power. Also, my SSD is 92% full. I’m due for a new Mac, and I’m trying to decide what to get. Ever since the Late 2016 MacBook Pro was announced, my gut’s been to go with the base model of the upper-end 15”: 512GB SSD, 16GB, 2.7 Quad-Core GHz Intel Core i7.

The problem is, this machine is annoyingly consumer oriented, in my book. I want my money to go towards hardware performance, not towards niceties like the Touch Bar. That’s why I’m thinking about going with a Mac Mini. Rumor has it that an update for it will be announced in March.

A Mac Mini wouldn’t work for people who are mobile all the time, but the vast majority of the time, I’m working at my desk with my laptop connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I’m not using the laptop for its intended use. I’m paying twice as much for hardware performance as what I could be paying for a user experience that I would not find to be any inferior.

For those rare times where I am traveling or generally on the go, I could pick up an inexpensive mobile monitor and connect it to my Mac Mini. It wouldn’t be usable in my lap, but it would work great on a desk of any size, and it’d be as portable as a laptop. Also, I don’t enjoy using a laptop in the situations where a laptop is the only option; things like traveling in a car, waiting in an airport, or flying on a plane. It’s next to impossible for me to get serious work done in contexts where a desk isn’t available, so why even bother? Having only a Mac Mini would take that option off the table completely; good riddance.1 Those contexts are what iPhones and books are for.

Another option is to just buy an iMac. But aside from the fact that this wouldn’t be portable in any fashion, it also forces your screen technology to be bound to your computing technology. The beauty of a Mac Mini that it allows you to decouple your monitor upgrade cycle from your computer upgrade cycle. Right now I have a Thunderbolt monitor, but if I later want to upgrade to an LG 4K monitor, I can.

I haven’t fully made up my mind about going the Mac Mini route, and I won’t until I see what’s announced in March. But this is what I’m thinking, for now.

Update: I should have stated at the beginning that the Mac Mini isn’t going to be a serious option until it comes in quad-core. The difference between dual-cord and quad-core is too drastic. We’ll see whether this is an upgrade it gets in 2017 or not.

  1. Obviously everyone’s different, and some people really do have to get work done in situations where a desk and power source aren’t available. I’m just thinking aloud about what works for me, what I actually need and use, and I’m realizing that it’s very different from what I heretofore thought it was. ↩︎