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Apple Mac Mini

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  • $499.00
Apple Mac Mini
As an introduction to the Mac world -- or as a second Mac -- it's hard to fault the Mac Mini, as long as you plump for a few optional extras that really shouldn't be optional at all.

To get it out of the way, we'll say it quickly -- the Mac Mini is very, very small. There are comparable small form factor PCs out there, but none with the essential style of the Mac Mini's design, which, predictably is in white with a liberal smattering of fruit-shaped logos adorning the top and bottom of the system case. From the front you're greeted with a single slot loading drive -- either the baseline CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive or optional DVD burning SuperDrive (AU$155). The rear of the casing is where things get a little uglier, purely for the reason of needing to fit the various connector slots somewhere. The power switch is also located on the rear of the Mac Mini.

There is a price to pay for all this miniaturisation (besides the asking price) and that's in the power brick, which is external to the Mac Mini itself. It's really no larger than a comparative notebook power supply, but compared to the Mini itself, it seems huge. Naturally, it's all white.

By default, the Mac Mini comes sans everything but power and system, so you'll either have to plump for a big bunch of Apple accessories, or, as we did, plug it into an existing monitor (via DVI or CRT with the supplied DVI-to-VGA dongle) along with keyboard and mouse. It has to be said that the first time you see a monitor normally associated with PC usage boot up to a Mac OS X screen is a distinctly odd experience. In our testing, we were impressed with the fact that the Mac Mini picked up and identified every display, keyboard and mouse we threw at it.

Apple first announced the Mac mini with two base configurations at the Macworld event held in January this year: one with a 1.25GHz processor and 40GB hard drive and a 1.42GHz model with an 80GB hard drive. We tested the former, which sells for AU$799 and comes with 256MB of memory. Put simply, 256MB will run OS X but it won't run it terribly well, especially when you start messing around with multiple applications and memory intensive stuff like iDVD. However, memory can be expanded to 512MB or 1GB, a move that will add an extra AU$120 or AU$520 to the price tag, respectively.

The other feature hook with the Mac Mini is in the application suite that forms part of OS X itself. The Mac Mini supplied to us was rather oversupplied, with additional software packages such as Microsoft Excel and Apple's own new word processing package, Pages. Those you won't find in a vanilla Mac Mini, but what you will find bundled is Apple's iLife 05 suite. The iLife package includes iPhoto 5, iMovie HD, iDVD 5, GarageBand 2 and iTunes 4.7. While iTunes is a free download regardless (even in the PC world), the rest of the suite covers a fair swathe of consumer needs, encompassing picture and video editing, along with musical creation at a fairly advanced level. What does this mean for practical use? Well, while it's pretty easy to take potshots at the Mac world on relative software availability grounds, it's got to be admitted in the same breath that the majority of applications that most users run -- especially those of home users -- come in the same box that the Mac itself does.

With only 256MB of SDRAM, the Mac Mini predictably struggled when multi-tasking or doing largely intensive processing tasks. For a machine that's meant to appeal to the crowd whose line of thinking has always been pro-Mac but anti-price, it's a curious omission.

It's not normally something we'd comment on under the performance heading, but the Mac Mini is also extremely quiet, something it shares with a lot of Apple hardware. Putting it against a series of notebooks we could always pick the notebook fans spinning, but unless you use the Mac Mini as an impromptu sharp pillow, and thus rest your ear against it, you won't really hear a thing from it in normal operation.

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Those using a non-Apple monitor may have to tweak a few settings here or there, as we found out. By default, the Mac Mini we were using would declare a new monitor to be running at 800 x 600 resolution, a touch lower than many OS X apps (including iMovie) will run at. It's trivial enough to change it, but those who struggle may find the screen a little crowded until they do.

The Mac Mini isn't a machine built for expansion, especially when you consider it comes with only two USB ports -- and a need for USB keyboards and mice, although it worked perfectly well with an unpowered USB 1.1 hub for our testing purposes. If your budget stretches further, there are certainly Macs with more oomph, but it's hard to deny the visual and budgetary appeal of the Mac Mini itself. We'd suggest that at a minimum you upgrade the memory to 512MB, and add wireless and DVD burning if you ever think you're going to need them. It's a lot easier to add them as ticked options on an order form than it is to crack open a Mac mini, and a lot more warranty-friendly, too.

Apple Mac Mini
Company: Apple Australia
Price: AU$799
Phone: 133 622

Specifications

General
Desktop type Small-form-factor PC
Product Form Factor Desktop slimline
Packaged Quantity 1
Built-in Devices speaker
Processor / Chipset
CPU PowerPC G4 1.25 GHz
Data Bus Speed 167 MHz
Cache Memory
Installed Size L2 cache - 512 KB
Cache Per Processor 512 KB
Type L2 cache
Per Processor Size 512 KB
Installed Size 512 KB
RAM
Memory Speed 333 MHz
Memory Specification Compliance PC2700
Upgrade Rule Max 1 GB module
Technology DDR SDRAM
Installed Size 256 MB
Rated Memory Speed 333 MHz
Storage
Interface Type IDE
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Write Speed 24x
Rewrite Speed 16x
Memory
Max Supported Size 1 GB
Display
Type none.
Environmental Parameters
Environmental standards EPA Energy Star
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Humidity Range Operating 5 - 95%
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Capacity 1 x 40 GB
Interface Type IDE
Type HDD
Interface Class Parallel ATA
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 40 GB
Hard Drive (2nd)
Installed Qty None
Storage Controller
Interface Type IDE
Type IDE
Installed Qty 1
Processor
Installed Qty 1
Max Supported Qty 1
Type PowerPC G4
Manufacturer Motorola
Clock Speed 1.25 GHz
Optical Storage
Drive Type CD-RW / DVD
Type CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Interface Type IDE
Floppy Drive
Type none
Storage Removable
Type none
Native Capacity None
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Apple Mac mini
Model Mac Mini
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Mac
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet
Form Factor integrated
Features AirPort Extreme ready
Monitor
Monitor Type None.
Miscellaneous
Color anodized aluminum
Features Internal Bluetooth module
Security Slot Type Kensington security slot
System
Type personal computer
Hard Drive Capacity 40 GB
Introduced Early 2005
Graphics Controller
Form Factor integrated
Interface Type AGP 4x
Graphics Processor ATI Radeon 9200
Video Memory 32 MB DDR SDRAM
Video Interfaces DVI, VGA
Chassis
Form Factor desktop slimline
Manufacturer Form Factor desktop slimline
Built-in Devices speaker
Dimensions & Weight
Width 6.5 in
Depth 6.5 in
Height 2 in
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Mainboard
Data Bus Speed 167 MHz
Audio Output
Form Factor integrated
Sound Output Mode stereo
Printer
Type none
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Telecom
Modem Fax / modem - integrated
Protocols & Specifications ITU V.92
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor desktop slimline
Weight 2.87 lbs
Power
Type power adapter
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Apple MacOS X 10.4
OS Provided Apple MacOS X 10.4
Type Apple Address Book, Apple Hardware Test, AppleWorks, Drivers & Utilities, Marble Blast Gold, Nanosaur 2, Quicken 2005 for Mac, Apple Mac OS X Mail, Apple QuickTime, Apple Safari, Apple Sherlock, Apple iCal, Apple iChat AV, Apple iLife '05, Apple iSync
Video Output
Interface Type AGP 4x
Graphics Processor ATI Radeon 9200
Graphics Processor Series ATI Radeon
Video Interfaces DVI, VGA
Video Memory
Technology DDR SDRAM
Installed Size 32 MB
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty, technical support
Service Included phone consulting
Full Contract Period 1 year, 90 days
Sustainability
Greenpeace policy rating (Nov 2011) 4.6

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