So many ways to use a Mac Mini like PC, TV Box and NAS

Mac MiniWhen we talk about fixed desktop PCs, we immediately think of the huge case positioned under the desk, with so many wires insight that it makes the work or study station really sad and depressing. Fortunately, in recent years they have made their appearance much smaller and more compact computers, to the point of being able to place them directly under the monitor with very few wires insight (in fact only the power cable and the cable to send the video signal to the monitor).

If we too are fans of order on the desk and are looking for a powerful and beautiful mini laptop PC, in this guide we will show you tall the advantages of the Mac Mini, the mini-computer designed by Apple and capable of effectively replacing all desktop PCs used so far, without sacrificing a good dose of performance. In addition to being a mini desktop PC, we can also use it as a powerful TV Box or as a NAS.

READ ALSO: Is it worth buying a latest-generation MacBook?

How to use Mac Mini

In the following chapters, we will show you the main technical characteristics of the Mac Mini and, once convinced of the goodness of the product, we will also see how to use it in some common scenarios, so as to be able to replace different types of devices.

Technical features

The Mac Mini comes with a top-notch spec sheet, which can compete with most mid-range PCs it aims to replace:

  • Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 quad-core or Hexa-core processor (up to 4.6GHz)
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM at a frequency of 2666MHz (configurable upon purchase with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB RAM)
  • 256GB SSD (configurable on purchase with a 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSD).
  • Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics card
  • Native support for up to three monitors
  • Digital video output via Thunderbolt 3
  • HDMI video output
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB 3.1 Gen.2 Type-C)
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Integrated audio speaker

All this enclosed in an aluminum case weighing 1.3 kg, with an attractive design and maximum consumption of 150W. The price is obviously high also given the quality of the product but once you try it you will hardly try other PCs or other mini computers. Currently, the Mac Mini is available on Amazon for less than € 950, but if we want to manually configure it from the Apple website, the price goes up quickly.

Use the Mac Mini as a PC

The Mac Mini was created to effectively replace any type of desktop computer, without taking up too much space on the desk; in this scenario, we will benefit from macOS, the Apple operating system optimized to always run at full speed with an open program.

MacOS

macOS is compatible with all the programs we are used to using on Windows (Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Photoshop, etc.), we can use it with the most popular videoconferencing services (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) plus a series of programs developed specifically for Apple: we will never miss Windows 10 and, if we really want to use the Microsoft system, we can configure it thanks to Boot Camp, as seen in the guide How to install Windows on Mac with Boot Camp.

To complete the “computer” equipment of the Mac Mini, we advise you to combine it with the following accessories:

  • Apple Magic Keyboard (84 €)
  • Apple Magic Mouse 2 (70 €)
  • AUKEY 1080p Full HD Webcam (50 €)
  • 24 Inch Full HD Monitor (120 €)
  • Anker Hub USB 3.0 4 Ports (15 €)
  • Logitech Z313 2.1 Speaker System (36 €)

Use the Mac Mini as a TV Box

By connecting the Mac Mini to any TV (via high-quality HDMI cable) we can turn it into the most powerful TV Box ever!

Mac TV

To take advantage of it in this scenario we will first of all have to enable it to control via smartphone and put a Bluetooth keyboard (ready to use) next to it, then we will have to configure the AirPlay and Google Cast receiver and a free media center.

  • To control the Mac Mini from a smartphone or tablet we use the Unified Remote server app for Mac and the Unified Remote client apps for Android and for iPhone / iPad, as also seen in our guide Best PC remote control app for Android and iPhone.
  • Let’s also add a wireless folding keyboard with Touchpad, available on Amazon for less than 30 €.
  • We install the AirServer app on the Mac Mini so that we can receive videos and music from smartphones or tablets using the protocols AirPlay and Google Cast; in fact, we will turn the Mac Mini into a TV Box and Chromecast together! The app is free for 31 days, then you need to get a license to continue using it.
  • Finally, we install a complete media center such as Kodi, so that we can add all the multimedia contents, play the IPTV lists, and start playing audio and video files shared on the LAN. We talked about Kodi in our guide With Kodi every PC becomes a multimedia player for the TV too.

In this way, we will have a powerful TV Box compatible with all audio and video protocols available on the market, able to receive streaming streams from your smartphone or tablet and start playing Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other similar sites directly from the browser.

Use the Mac Mini as a NAS

The Mac Mini can also perform the functions of a NAS since it consumes very little and we can leave it on even 24 hours a day without problems. To enable it for use as a NAS we will have to connect an external USB drive sufficiently large as the WD Elements 4TB External Hard Drive, available on Amazon for less than € 100.

External disk

After the purchase we connect the disk to one of the USB 3.0 ports on the back of the Mac Mini, we open Disk Utility from Launchpad, select the newly connected disk and make sure to initialize it in ExFAT (compatible with all modern operating systems). Once the disk has been prepared, press the symbol of the bitten apple at the top left and open System Preferences, then press on Sharing and finally select File sharing.

File sharing

On the new screen we click on Options, we put the checkmark on Share files and folders using SMB and select which account to use for access from those visible below. Once confirmed, we return to the previous screen, press the + symbol under the section Shared folders then we select the entire external drive. To complete the activation we put the checkmark next to the item File sharing (left side), go back to the Mac desktop, press top-up View -> Network, select the active connection, click on Advanced and, in the field WINS, we enter the workgroup used by Windows (usually it is WORKGROUP).

All Windows users (and other SMB-compatible devices) will be able to access shared resources using their Mac username and password; to obtain more privacy we can avoid having to provide personal login credentials creating a new Mac user for shares only, using it on the previously viewed screen; in this regard, we invite you to read the guide How to create new users on Mac.

Conclusions

The potential of the Mac Mini is truly remarkable and, despite the high price compared to a standard desktop PC, it can be seriously considered to replace the old bulky computers, thus obtaining a new PC that is convenient to place, fast in executing all programs. and usable in many different scenarios.

If we are new to the Mac world we can immediately become great experts by reading our guides Basic guide to using the Mac with the main functions is the MAC keyboard guide and key combinations.

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