Which of the two devices you would own and use depends upon your personal circumstances and requirements. The Mac mini hasn’t been updated in four generations of Intel Inside while the new entry-level iPad is a bargain.
Rip Van mini
It would be nice to know what Apple has planned for the Mac mini but if sales have slumbered in recent years it might be thanks to Apple literally ignoring the diminutive device for a few generations. The mini starts at $499 and for that you don’t get much, but the value depends upon your requirements.
A Mac mini has 4GB of RAM, 500GB of antique spinning disk storage, anemic graphics, and a graphics processor that probably gets clobbered by the new iPad. But, the Mac comes with macOS High Sierra inside so it isn’t exactly a slouch. It’s just overpriced for what you get and if you want to make more of the Mac mini than it is, that’ll cost you even more since it does not come with a mouse, keyboard, or a display.
The iPad comes with all three. Your finger acts as the mouse. And the display has an onscreen keyboard. For $329. Compare that to a fully loaded Mac mini– 3GHz Dual Core Intel Core i7 Inside, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage– for $1,999.
For that amount you can buy six $329 iPads.
So, let’s max out a new iPad. Up storage to $128GB and, well, you’re done. Now you can buy only four of the new iPads for the price of one fully loaded Mac mini. Since we’re not really comparing Apples to apples, but have decided that apples to potatoes is OK, let’s compare that $1,999 Mac mini to a beefed up iPad Pro. By comparison, it’s a mere $1,149 and comes with a display. Apple’s own Smart Keyboard adds another $169 to the total– still far less than a tricked out Mac mini, sans display, keyboard, and mouse.
True story. iPads have more apps to choose from than a Mac mini or any Mac. They’re just not the same quality applications. There are no equivalents to Photoshop or Final Cut Pro on iOS, and that Mac mini, albeit not the most powerful Mac you can buy (it is the least expensive) can run Windows and Linux and macOS. All at the same time if you prefer.
All that said, Apples to apples and oranges and potatoes, I see a paradoxical contradiction to Apple’s focus on value customers. And, by value customer I mean those Apple customers who do not have a lot of money but want a measure of quality computing in their lives.
The new $329 iPad is Apple’s nod to the value end of the spectrum. It’s a true blue iPad and runs most of the exact same applications as the aforementioned 12.9-inch iPad Pro for about $1,300. The $499 Mac mini nods in the same direction but Apple has yet to show the same love and favor to the mini as it has to iPad.
I have an idea. Apple should turn the Mac mini into a macOS mini. Put macOS High Sierra on a USB stick so it can be plugged into a television. Then all you need is a Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse. That would be the Mac mini with a truly miniaturized personality.