Apple Mac Mini review: An updated box of tricks that is faster, cheaper and more tempting than before

Apple Mac Mini review: An updated box of tricks that is faster, cheaper and more tempting than before
Rating
Overall:

Apple's updated box of tricks is faster, cheaper and more tempting than before.

Features:
4
Value:
4
Performance:
4
Price
Price: $699
> Pricing info
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Apple's new Mac Mini gets a Sandy Bridge upgrade, turning it into a very able little computer

The Mac Mini may lack the glamour of the iMac or the stunning new MacBook Air models, but it’s maturing into a very capable little machine.

Like last year’s models, the 2011 Minis come in base (RRP: $699) and premium (RRP: $899) consumer models, plus a beefed-up server model (RRP: $1099). The stylish unibody aluminium design remains, but the optical drive slots have gone: Apple argues an optical drive is no longer essential for everyday computing, and it has a point.

You can, of course, attach an external drive, or share an optical drive from another Mac or PC over the network. If you want to install Windows, the Boot Camp Assistant can create a bootable USB drive from an ISO image of the Windows DVD.

Apple has retained the same  aluminium 'unibody' design.

Round the back, the mini-DisplayPort socket has become a Thunderbolt port, but otherwise external connections are unchanged. You still get HDMI, four USB 2 ports (there’s no USB 3 in Apple-land, alas) plus FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and an SDXC slot.

There’s dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4 wireless connectivity too. As usual, what you don’t get is a keyboard and mouse, but you can use existing PC peripherals so long as you don’t mind a few keys being in the wrong places.

Internally, the big news is a switch from ancient Core 2 Duo CPUs to powerful Sandy Bridge processors. The basic Mini now uses a 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M, while the premium one comes with the choice of a 2.5GHz i5-2520M or a 2.7GHz i5-2620M and the server uses a quad-core 2GHz Core i7-2635QM.

These are mobile parts, so power consumption remains low – our review unit idled at around 30W, rising only to 65W under heavy load – but desktop performance is boosted by around 50% over last year’s models. In our benchmarks the 2.5GHz model achieved an overall score of 0.72, pointing to a score of around 0.66 for the base model. That’s enough power to keep everyday computing tasks snappy and responsive.

Connectivity now includes a Thunderbolt port. Other options include HDMI, USB 2 (x4), FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and an SDXC memory card slot.

Storage has been increased too. The consumer models now come with a 500GB 5,400RPM drive as standard, up from 320GB. You can trade up to a 750GB, 7,200RPM drive or, for the premium and server models, a 256GB SSD – but prices are through the roof, raising the cost by $200 and an eye-watering $400 respectively.

Note that internal drives can only be fitted at the factory: if you need more space down the line you’ll have to make do with external storage, or use the SDXC slot at the back of the Mini.

You can at least upgrade the RAM yourself. That’s just as well, as the base configuration still comes populated with a rather mean 2GB, and Apple will charge you $120 for an upgrade to 4GB. Unscrew the base to access the two SO-DIMM DDR3 slots, however, and you can install third-party modules costing less than half that.

Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing

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See more about:  apple  |  mac  |  mini  |  mobilecomputing
 
 

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Comments: 13
DJ...
19 August 2011
A somewhat mixed report. Why can't the journalist match the correct images with the words? The images are of an older model with the DVD slot but the words explain that Apple has removed the DVD player. What happened to journalistic standards?

And why even bother to compare the MacMini to a big-box PC? It's like comparing a Mini Minor to a Mac Truck. They serve different purposes. How about comparing the Mac Mini to something else in the same space - or doesn't anyone make a small PC that can be used as a low power consuming, easy to configure, server or desktop machine? How about comparing the licensing costs of MacOSX server and Windows Server and what they offer for the money?


Comment made about the PC & Tech Authority article:
Apple Mac Mini review: An updated box of tricks that is faster, cheaper and more tempting than before?
Apple's new Mac Mini gets a Sandy Bridge upgrade, turning it into a very able little computer

What do you think? Join the discussion.
amcmo
19 August 2011
DJ, unfortunately some of us have come to expect this level of poor journalism from this mag.

Tell a good story, however too often short on fact or full of wishful thinking on the part of some of their editorial staff.
rubaiyat
19 August 2011
Shallow review aside, the Mac mini has always been a puzzle to me. Apple seems to take every opportunity to make it difficult to use as the mini-media server it most obviously could be, by removing key features or pricing it out of usefulness.

I have however used it driving a large Apple Display and can say that it is now very brisk indeed, so if you want an almost invisible PC that could be personally configured into a media server whilst still being a full blown computer, paired up with a large display or flatscreen TV, this is for you.

As long as money is no object.
DJ...
20 August 2011
Rubalyat,
Sounds like you have a MacMini a lot more than the journalism. I'm thinking of getting one with Lion Server but as you say at the price, it is a bit had to justify an Apple monitor. Any ideas about a substitute monitor, one with a camera too?
pvisser
10 October 2011
a 'mini-media center' without the means to stick a dvd in....you'll miss out on a lot of media... average review at best. Cool little machine but without a dvd slot it won't appear on my desk.
petergaskin
11 October 2011
Would think that the apple mac mini actually goes with the view that the optical disk is nearly finished - all media to be streamed from the cloud in the fuutre or supplied on a usb stick. get used to the new world IT companies are pushing us towards.
pvisser
13 October 2011
My comment was partly a criticism on the website that calls something a media center while it does not cater for a still abundant and in many places prevalent media type. I won't buy it as I live in a country with slow internet and not a single movie or software sold on USB - clearly not the main market for large companies. Luckily there are plenty alternatives.
amcmo
13 October 2011
A lot of wailing about nothing.

My MacBook Air has no CD. Solution, we have a USB DVD drive in the company that gets plugged into any kit that doesn't have one installed. No problem and we now don't install them as standard in a lot of white box kit if not required day to day.
rubaiyat
14 October 2011
DJ... wrote:
Rubalyat,
Sounds like you have a MacMini a lot more than the journalism. I'm thinking of getting one with Lion Server but as you say at the price, it is a bit had to justify an Apple monitor. Any ideas about a substitute monitor, one with a camera too?


Have a look at the Asus 24" LED monitors, they come as close to an Apple monitor as you can get without paying out huge bucks. I love the extended Apple keyboard and almost any mouse would do, just get a cheap but solid PC mouse with a heavy scroll wheel like the basic HP mice. If you want to stick with Apple products, the magic mouse is very nice. I love the touch gestures but it chews batteries, so get rechargeables and always keep a 2nd charged set handy.

To be frank if you don't already have the monitor, keyboard and mouse to run the Mac mini I'd simply buy a 21" iMac, you'd easily spend more on the Mac mini to get it to the same set. The iMac comes with superb screen, keyboard, mouse, camera, and Double layer DVDR/RW built in. Wait for one of the regular 10% discounts and see if you can get interest free terms which will make it an effective $1050 or thereabouts price.

The Mac mini is for people who want something practically out of sight and quiet. It is not a cheapie.
rubaiyat
14 October 2011
pvisser wrote:
a 'mini-media center' without the means to stick a dvd in....you'll miss out on a lot of media... average review at best. Cool little machine but without a dvd slot it won't appear on my desk.


I have an $89 2tb hard drive loaded with movies, TV shows and music.

You don't have to use Apple's Front Row which works in conjunction with iTunes which is the real restriction. There are several other options such as Swinsian, Boxee, Plex, XBMC, VLC, My Row, CenterStage etc, most of which are free.

There is no restriction on media formats on the Mac, just some with iTunes. In practice iTunes covers most of the good quality standard codecs and the rest can be converted using QuickTime.

Install Perian, which supplies a broad array of codecs for QuickTime, and you can play and convert just about anything. I use mainly h264 video and AppleLossless audio, but also have lots of material in divx, xvid, mkv, APE, FLAC, MP3 etc. The wmv material I generally avoid because it does not work as well as the others and is substantially inferior in quality, which is why you don't see much of it around.
rubaiyat
14 October 2011
May I suggest that media servers are passe unless they serve up to the entire house.

I set up my elderly father with a 42" Teac TV which has everything built in so he can watch his DVDs or a large library of TV shows, movies, and music on a 500 Gb WD passport HD that I bought for $49.

He's not very technical and normally struggles with gadgets but this reduced it down to one remote and fairly straght forward choices which he manages. The only downside is the previewing and navigation is not as well thought out as Apple's Front Row. But FR would have meant 2 remotes, an element of confusion for him.
jasmortonn
24 January 2012
Shallow analysis aside, the Mac mini has consistently been a addle to me. Apple seems to yield every befalling to accomplish it difficult to use as the mini-media server it a lot of acutely could be, by removing key appearance or appraisement it out of usefulness.
ianmarcuss
28 January 2012
Appears to be like you have a MacMini a lot more than the literature. I'm looking at getting one with Lion Hosting server but as you say at the cost, it is a bit had to rationalize an The apple company observe. Any thoughts about a alternative observe, one with a digicam too? digicam..
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