The 2012 Mac mini continues the course charted by the 2011 Mac minis, which provided good performance, reasonable expandability, and a nice value for those looking for an inexpensive Mac, a physically small Mac, or a Mac that could be dedicated to specific functions.
Overall, I really like the Mac mini. It's a good choice if you're looking for a small, inexpensive Mac. Apple did have to make some compromises to squeeze all of the Mac features into a small package, though.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the advantages and drawbacks of the 2012 Mac mini.
Earlier versions of the Mac mini made RAM upgrades a difficult process for the DIYer. Apple frowned on cracking open the early Mac minis, and I do mean cracking open. Special tools were required to pry the two halves of the mini apart to gain access to its innards.
Luckily, that whole sealed system has been replaced. The 2012 version of the Mac mini provides the easy access to the RAM modules that was introduced with the 2010 version.
The Mac mini has two RAM modules that are user replaceable. You can configure the Mac mini from 4 GB (the stock configuration) to 16 GB maximum. Because there are only two memory slots, and Apple uses two 2 GB RAM modules in the basic configuration, you will have to remove those RAM modules in order to upgrade.
You can order your Mac mini from Apple with 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB of RAM. But because Apple's price for RAM upgrades is somewhat steep, I highly recommend the DIY approach. Order your Mac mini with the minimum RAM configuration (4 GB), and perform your own upgrade. The process is simple; Apple includes instructions for performing the upgrade in the Mac mini user guide.
Mac Minis use mobile processors: a Core i7 upgrade will get you more processor cache, more clock speed, and Hyper-threading. There is no Core i5 mobile processor with Hyper-threading, which draws a mostly clear line between the Core i5 and Core i7 product lines.
The 2012 Mac mini uses 1600 MHz DDR3 memory in a 204-pin SO-DIMM module. This is sometimes referred to as either DDR3 1600 or PC3 12800.