Since the first Mac mini was released in 2005, all models have been compact, shipped without a display, keyboard, and mouse, and all have been relatively inexpensive.
The Mac mini (Late 2012) was described by EveryMac: “Compared to its predecessor, this model looks identical, but it has a faster internal architecture with a faster processor, faster graphics, faster RAM, and USB 3.0 ports.”
Its primarily aluminum case has a plastic bottom and measures 1.4 inches (3.6 cm) tall, 7.7 inches x 7.7 inches (19.7 cm) square, and weighs 2.7 pounds (1.22 kg).
The Mac mini (Late 2012) was offered with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor. It shipped with a 500GB or 1TB (5400-rpm) hard drive.
For a compact case, it had many physical plug options: Thunderbolt, FireWire 800 port, 4 USB 3 ports, HDMI, SDXC card slot, gigabit ethernet port, and audio in/out. Its 3 wireless interfaces included 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an IR receiver.
At the time of its release, the MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display was a solid “Pro” choice, but an iterative update from its predecessor with no new design elements, major features, or new technologies. This MacBook Pro used Intel’s Core i7 “Haswell/Crystalwell” processor with four cores. This example is the 2.0GHz model, and a 2.3GHz was also available.
The 15.4-inch Retina Display was LED-backlit display with 2880 x 1800 resolution (220ppi). The laptop measured 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) thick, and 14.13 inches (35.89 cm) wide x 9.73 inches (24.71 cm) tall. It weighed 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg).
According to Apple, the physical ports included:
MagSafe 2 power port
2 Thunderbolt 2 ports (up to 20 Gbps)
2 USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps)
SDXC card slot
Wireless technologies included 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.
The full-size keyboard was backlit and used an ambient light sensor. Apple advertised the battery life as 8 hours, and it charged using an 85W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter.
The MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid-2013) featured a “Haswell” 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor (with two processors a single chip), 4 or 8 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256 GB of flash storage. This laptop has 8 GB of RAM and a third-party upgrade to 512 GB of flash storage from OWC. Ports included analog audio out, a Thunderbolt port, two USB 3.0 ports, and one SD (SDXC) card slot. Wireless connectivity included 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The MacBook Air is known for its thin case that tapers between 0.11 to 0.68 inches. It weighs 2.96 pounds. The screen is a 13.3 widescreen TFT glossy display at 1440×900.
The Mac mini Late 2014 included a Core i5 “Haswell” 2.6 GHz Intel processor (with two independent cores on a single chip), 8 GB of SDRAM, and a 1 TB hard drive. Ports included two Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 4.0, and an SDXC card slot.
This and all Mac mini systems ship without a display, keyboard, or mouse. This model’s case is primarily aluminum with a black plastic back and base.
All Mac mini systems I have owned have served as my iTunes server allowing access to iTunes music/Apple Music, streaming video content, saved digital movies, and other media. This was the first Mac mini I owned with a direct HDMI connection to my primary home TV (others used VGA and DVI connections).