Apple added the Mac mini to its Mac product catalogue back in 2005. In 2010 they revamped its looks unifying all Mac products to the aluminum uni-body finish. In the latest annual upgrade, Apple hasn’t changed the looks of the Mac mini but has brought the hardware under the hood up to speed. Is it enough to be an elite Apple product or will you do better to look elsewhere?
One look at the device and you will agree that it is one of the tiniest CPUs you have ever seen. It is merely 1.4-inches tall and is really light weighing about 1.22kgs. Out of the box, all you get is the Mac mini, a power cable, HDMI to DVI converter and the manuals. It is probably the most portable CPU out there.
The body of the device has an aluminum encasing with the Apple Logo on the top. All the ports including the power supply and the power button neatly rest at the rear of the device.
On the down side you have to buy the monitor/display, keyboard and mouse separately.
In terms of the power under the hood, the 2011 Mac mini has been brought up to speed with the second-generation Intel iCore processors. The basic model comes with a 2.3GHz core i5 processor, 2GB RAM, 500GB HDD and Intel integrated graphics for Rs. 44,900.
A higher model has a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics processor with 256MB and a 500GB HDD for Rs. 54,900.
In terms of connectivity options, the Mac mini has all the ports neatly laid out at the rear. It has four USB 2.0 ports, one Thunderbolt I/O port, HDMI out, FireWire 800, Ethernet port, power supply, SDXC card slot, mic and headphones port and the power button. You do feel the lack of an optical drive and USB 3.0 is.
The performance of the Mac mini as a stand-alone desktop was a bit of a let down. For starters, you need to purchase the display, keyboard and mouse separately. It makes sense if you have an HD TV and you would like to use the device as an HTPC (Home theater PC) as the device supports HDMI out straight out of the box. The maximum resolution that you can get from the HDMI out is 1920×1200. If you truly want to take advantage of the display resolution, Apple has added its Thunderbolt I/O to the device. Thunderbolt displays support a resolution of 2560×1600.
Apart from the fact that the device packs in a punch under the hood and can support the highest display resolution, the fact remains that you can take advantage of the device only if you have all the accessories. We connected the Mac mini to a Samsung 21-inch HD monitor, a Sony 2.1 audio system, Dell Keyboard and a Microsoft Arc mouse. Setting up the device was as easy as plug and play and we were ready to use the device in under 5 minutes.
For daily computing needs the device performed extremely well. Lion as an OS is brilliant and works very smoothly. Running multiple apps on the device work like a charm. The problem – we didn’t have the Apple magic mouse to take advantage of Apple’s multi-touch functionality (you need to purchase it separately). If we wanted to use apps such as Photo Booth or FaceTime, we needed a web cam – another add on to the hardware. Also, there’s no optical drive. On the bright side, setting up any keyboard/mouse with the Mac mini was as easy as biting an Apple!
This is where we believe the device has some serious potential. A lot of consumers who are tech savvy like to build their own HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer). For those that aren’t tech savvy, this device can act as a HTPC straight out of the box. With the HDMI out, you can connect it to your amplifier/HDTV and enjoy all your audio/video content. We ran a couple of 1080p videos on the device encoded in .MKV, .MOV, .MP4 and .M2TS. All of them ran very smoothly and without any hiccups.
The size of the device also adds to the HTPC value as you can carry it with you wherever you go.
With the horsepower under the hood it is easy to get some gaming out of the device. Although the Mac games library is small, it should appeal to the casual audience. If you are hardcore, we suggest you dual boot to Windows or look at a dedicated windows machine.
All-in-all the device is a bit pricey for what it offers, especially since you need to consider the cost of a display, mouse and keyboard which you will buy separately. If you are looking for a small, portable CPU that can also double up as your simple out of the box HTPC with great power under the hood, then the Mac mini could definitely be on your list.
Small, compact and portable
Good power under the hood
Good option for an out of the box HTPC
No USB 3.0
No Optical Drive
Keyboard, mouse and display need to be purchased separately
Price: Rs. 44,900
2.5 GHz dual core i-5 processor
3MB L3 Cache
4GB DDR 3 RAM
500GB 5400 RPM HDD
AMD Radeon 6630M graphics card with 256 MB DDR5 memory
Ease of setup: 5
Wow Factor: 4
OpenGL: 24.85 fps
CPU: 2.59 pts