The Mac mini is Apple's smallest desktop computer. It measures a scant 7.7 inches square and about 1.4 inches high, weighing less than three pounds. It runs OS X Yosemite and comes with the latest suite of Apple's standard software for all new Macs, including iLife and iWork.

The Mac mini is also Apple's least expensive Macintosh computer. At $499, it's hundreds less than the cheapest MacBook Air. One of the reasons for that is it's a BYODKM system - you need to Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard and Mouse. That makes the Mac mini a popular option for Mac users who are new to the fold and want to reuse the peripherals they've already bought for their Windows PC.

After a two-year wait, Mac mini fans' patience was reward in 2014 with a new system that brings it up to date with other newer Mac models.

Mac mini: Under the hood

Apple's newest Mac mini model is a scant $499, $100 cheaper than before. That unit has a 1.4 GHz dual-core i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and 500 GB hard disk drive, equipped with Intel HD Graphics 5000. Its $699 big brother steps up to 2.6 GHz, equipped with 8 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive and Intel Iris integrated graphics. At the high end is a $999 system that comes equipped with a 2.8 GHz processor, 8 GB RAM and 1 TB Fusion Drive.

2014 brings Mac mini into the Haswell era, finally, and it also gains other benefits in its 2014 refresh, including 802.11ac Wi-Fi and two Thunderbolt 2 ports for high speed peripheral connectivity and external display support. You can attach two displays to the Mac mini with 2560 x 1600 resolution.