The 2012 Minis just showed up in the Apple online refurb store last week, with the entry level model going for $509. The 2011 2.5GHz Core i5 with the discrete HD 6630M has occasionally been available there for $549, selling out within a few minutes. I already had a 2011 with the HD3000 and was waiting to pick up another Mini when Apple finally released the 2012s. I was hoping that the new 2012s would include a second Thunderbolt port. Since they didn't, and since the addition of USB3 wasn't enough of an upgrade for me since I am already pretty heavily invested in FW800 and TB, I went with that 2011 w/ the 6630M. To date I have nothing but good things to say about it and at $549 it really seemed the best bang for the buck of all the 2011 and 2012 machines. The reality is, though, if you don't try to game with it, any Mini since 2010 can handle the home theater thing just fine. Now that the 2012s have started to show up as refurbs that changes the equation a bit, the price to value ratio of a 2012 for $509 is pretty tough to beat. That's probably the one you should get. But...
Peeps are saying that there are issues with cables.
There have been some issues with the 2012s, a pretty interesting one related to HDMI and another related to USB 3 external drives, cables and shielding. From reading the forums it seems a good number of folks who bought 2012s in the past couple of months returned or sold them and picked up refurb 2011s instead. Apple released an EFI update which resolved some
of the HDMI related issues for some
of the users; of course, there are plenty of happy 2012 owners who have not had a single HDMI related problem, and I'm also not sure what the current state of USB 3 is. It was being discussed over at OWC (Other World Computing) which was selling an external USB 3 enclosure called the miniStack that users with 2012 Minis started noticing all sorts of strange behavior with, even when not connected over USB 3 at all (i.e. powered up, connected over firewire, still caused the interference.) Seemed to me OWC was trying to paint this as an Apple-caused quality control problem, i.e. 2012 Minis were not shielded properly, whereas lots of users in the field were reporting back that only certain enclosures caused issues, and hence the manufacturer/seller of said enclosures (OWC) should be held accountable. More here:
I wouldn't be surprised if that entire thread disappears at some point, so read over it quickly.
Seems pretty clear to me that there are some external USB 3 enclosures made with quality components that work just fine with the 2012 Minis, and some slapped together pretty cheaply that will cause interference. If you don't plan to use any bluetooth devices to control your Mini or boot from an SSD over USB 3...you will probably be fine. But it would suck if mounted USB 3 storage volumes would just suddenly disappear and some users over at Macrumors who have experimented with USB 3 on the 2012s report decidedly mixed results with it. Many initially thought hey, USB 3 enclosures are dirt cheap, now I can boot my Mini off of an external SSD much cheaper than it would cost to boot an SSD over Thunderbolt. In theory that's correct, in practice, well, let's just say it's evolving, whereas booting an SSD over Thunderbolt has essentially been rock solid.