Apple Mac mini - Mac mini

By Benny Har-Even



  • Recommended by TR
Apple Mac mini


Our Score:


Unboxing the mini is as pleasurable as with any Mac product, with its neat and tidy packaging that amusingly has the words ‘actual size’ next to the product photo. It’s fairly inevitable that the power supply is external, with the block being about one third the size of the mini itself. Even the cabling boasts typically classy Apple build quality with the connectors at each end slotting snugly into their slots, like expensive designer Lego for adults.

The white finish of the mini is iPod-like and while it looks great it keeps the scratchabilty factor dangerously high. However, as ever with Apple products, there are already a wave of accessories available for it, such as this protective case, enabling you to mount it sideways and protect it from damage at the same time.

Spec wise, the Mini contains most of the tech found in Apple’s current iBook line. It’s powered by a G4 processor running at either 1.25 or 1.4GHz. A G5 would have been nice but it’s still too hot to run in such a small system. Unfortunately to reach the tempting price point, Apple has made some harsh compromises – the base spec of 256MB of RAM is not enough to really enjoy Mac OS X, especially once users start to delve into what the bundled iLife05 suite of applications can offer. There’s only one internal slot, so any later upgrade would involve throwing away the supplied DIMM and as the mini is not designed to be opened by the user, it’s best to do it straight away.

That said the base spec mini still outperformed my own 800Mhz iBook G4 equipped with 640MB of RAM. The mini opened Photoshop in seven seconds, compared to 12 on my iBook. Comparison to a PC's performance is difficult due to the lack of meaningful cross platform benchmarks. But talking about raw performance is missing the issue. While it’s likely a PC of around the same price might be slightly quicker, it won’t look anywhere near as cool as the Mac mini.

The standard hard disk is also under-specced with only 40GB capacity, which could mean you’ve got the bizarre situation of your iPod photo being fed content by a computer with a smaller hard disk. Graphically things are sped along by an AGP 4X ATI Radeon 9200 with 32MB of DDR SDRAM. It's fine for everything except the latest games but again that's not what the mini is about.

Round the back you’ll find a FireWire 400 socket, two USB 2.0 connectors, and a DVI connection that can feed a digital panel up of to 1,920 x 1,200 resolution or an analogue monitor via the included adaptor. There’s also a modem port an Ethernet connection and a headphone socket. The power switch is at the rear and when it turns on the only indication is a tiny LED on the front. The CD combo drive is naturally, slot loading, and the noisiest the machine ever gets is when it’s accessing a disc.

What’s missing is a PS/2 port so while you may want to reuse an old keyboard you won’t be able to unless it’s USB or you get hold of a PS/2 to USB adaptor.

While this review is focused on the hardware, it’s worth mentioning the software as with a Mac they are uniquely tied together. In fact the biggest issue for a potential newcomer from the Windows world will be the move to Mac OS X. While there’s a lot of talk of its ease of use, it will involve a learning curve for many. And after a year or so of using both Windows XP and Mac OS there are features in the former than are missing from the latter and it’s not crash proof, whatever you may have heard.


June 24, 2010, 3:08 pm

10 for design - have you seen any mini PC this nice!

7 for features - no Blu Ray and 2GB RAM with no core i processor at this price for something designed as an under the TV PC (HTPC) IMO.

Tim Sutton

June 24, 2010, 3:36 pm


Design isn't just the external looks :-)

Which are just beautiful, apart from the Apple logo. If it wasn't made by Apple, had a Blu-ray drive, a modern HDD and Windows 7 I'd buy one of these for each TV in my house. As a computer though, no thanks.


June 24, 2010, 3:45 pm

Where's the dual freeview HD receiver/recorder? Pretty huge omission for an under the TV PC.


June 24, 2010, 4:14 pm

If Apple delay Blu-Ray any longer, they'll pass it by once and for all, not because it was a failed format like they imply today, but just because the standard 10-15 year clock on takeover technologies will have expired. There are no pro-consumer excuses to continue with this omission. It's all about trapping people in the extortionate inflexible iTunes Store model, and I would submit you can still find better deals in HMV and Play. In fact - I'm not even sure I've came across an HD movie in the UK store yet. There's some TV episodes but that's it.


June 24, 2010, 4:42 pm

@Andy - Since you're done with the mini, can I have it?

I really like this refresh of the mini, however the increase in price and the frustrating Apple Tax between the USA and UK ($699 vs £649) prices me out of the market unfortunatly. Hopefully ill be able to find a previous generation 2nd hand for a reasonable price!


June 24, 2010, 5:21 pm

I quite like it. I've got the old 9400M mini under my TV, running EyeTV and a Miglia TVduo and have been really happy with it. XBMC is fantastic for everything else too. Mac OS actually makes a great HTPC base. The new mini looks better, but £650 is pushing it a bit, even though there's no real alternatives for a silent, compact, relatively powerful under TV PC. It should cost £500, and have 4GB as standard. Not sure why Apple are so anti-BluRay - a reader should definitely be available as an upgrade option.


June 24, 2010, 5:29 pm

"Not sure why Apple are so anti-BluRay..."

@ Matt, ever hear of iTunes? :)

Brian ONeill

June 24, 2010, 5:29 pm

I just discovered that you can get blue ray players that link to the internet and play content from iplayer, lovefilm etc, best of all they start from only £120:

TR can you do an article on these players? Why bother spending £600 quid on a HTPC if they players give you most of the features you want at a fraction of the price.


June 24, 2010, 5:31 pm


It's always possible that if you're willing to hang around a bit longer you'll see the current Mini pop up in the discounted refurb store. I remember when I picked up a baseline 13" Pro for the folks. It was going for £150 less, was good as new, and was the same spec as the full priced model.

Geoff Richards

June 24, 2010, 5:41 pm

@Brian ONeill: I can certainly suggest them to our Home Cinema guru, Danny Philips, but from reading the recent "User Reviews" on that Amazon link, the BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm features don't work and are awaiting some sort of software update.


June 24, 2010, 6:13 pm

Great design indeed if you don't mind risking unloosening your cables every times you need to plug in a flash drive or a memory card.

With Project Canvas and the next generation of TV tuners including those from 3View this and a lot of other home theater PC's are becoming more and more redundant.


June 24, 2010, 6:47 pm

In a nutshell, it's a stunning product with a horrible price tag.


June 24, 2010, 7:11 pm


Thanks, im keeping an eye on the apple website to see if one pops up (or even the lat gen with 9400 graphics for even less), but after looking into what I want from a HTPC (and deciding id like a mac mini with eyetv due to the ease of use and the ipod touch interaction) I cant.....hold on......much longer...... :-)


June 24, 2010, 8:15 pm

..."Moreover, should your hard drive one day fail, getting it replaced will require a trip to Apple or a warranty voiding DIY job."

From what I've read, Apple said opening the case to replace components on the old Mac mini didn't void the warranty as long as nothing else was broken doing it, so I would think the same applies to this new one.

I know the article reviewed the base config mini, but there is a 2.66GHz option as well.

Also, the reason the mini, MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro still have Core 2 Duo processors is because of the lawsuit between Nvidia and Intel. The Nvidia 320M graphics' performance exceeds Intel's integrated graphics, which is why Apple didn't go with the Core i3 in this mini and its other integrated graphics models.

Brian ONeill

June 24, 2010, 9:03 pm

@Geoff Richards

All the more reason why TR should cover it. I read the reviews too but TR has the clout to ring up sumsung and ask them what the story it. You got the power to get answers :-)

To me it looks like they plan on releasing iplayer support via a firmwire update soon.


June 24, 2010, 11:38 pm

Yes, the design is stunning.

After admiring it for a few seconds, the lack of features will last several years.

I know there are better alternatives out there.


June 25, 2010, 1:07 am


That's clearly Apple's intention, I just think it's a bit pointless. At this stage all they're really doing is inconveniencing their customers. If you want a Blu-Ray player, you can get a good, networked one for less than £150, so if you would rather buy physical media you will anyway. I wouldn't pay extra for the BR drive option (I have a PS3), but I think a premium, cutting edge piece of kit should have the best media options for those that want them.

Still, it's Apple all over really. Their quest for simplicity is what gives their products such a design clarity, but like their 1 button mice or (until recently) refusal to add SD card readers, it can be bloody minded and impractical.


June 25, 2010, 2:23 am

Design stunning? It's a box.


June 25, 2010, 12:29 pm

Why does Apple baseline the Mac mini spec to the 13" MacBook and not the 15"? I could understand that they decided to continue with the Core 2 Duo in the 13" because the motherboard simply doesn't have space for 3 chips. The Mac mini on the other hand has absolutely no excuse not to have a Core i5 (especially in the server edition) as it plenty of space for a third chip on it's board according to iFixit's teardown.

Most of all though, while the 'normal' Mac mini with a DVD drive is probably fine, the server version I think is now clearly lacking without a Quad core chip and only 8GB of RAM available to it. Sort it out Apple!


June 25, 2010, 3:46 pm

Not sure about anyone else but i keep my HTPC hidden away so i am not that bothered about how good it looks. If it was priced at around £500 then maybe worth a purchase but way too expensive at the moment.


June 29, 2010, 8:13 pm

I don,t usually like MAC designs but this is very nice indeed. It's quite possibly the nicest PC I've ever seen!!! But get real with the price...a fool and his money....!!!!


November 18, 2010, 11:50 pm

It has now dropped to £600

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