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Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition review

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Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition
  • Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition
  • Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition
  • Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition
  • Apple Mac mini - nVidia 9400M Edition

Summary

Our Score:

9

An update to Apple's Mac mini has been long-rumoured and much-awaited. While the previous generation system didn't, and I would argue still doesn't, have a rival in design stakes, the technology within its ever-so-stylish chassis was getting just a bit long in the tooth.

The latest raft of Mac mini's bring the system back in line with the rest of Apple's machines upping the base-line system configuration and adding some new top-end options. Not that those changes are particularly evident on the outside; this generation of Mac mini still uses the same basic chassis design as the first systems did back in 2005.

Apple is calling this generation of Mac mini the greenest ever and that philosophy isn't just extended to the choice of components and manufacturing materials - more on which later.

Macs have always been packaged in a minimalist fashion, but the mini takes that to the absolute limit. Sliding off the piece of cardboard that contains the bundle reveals a single, small, cardboard insert holding a manual and the software discs and covering the bundled mini-DVI to single-link DVI converter and the Mini's power adapter. Removing these exposes the Mac mini itself, nestled neatly at the bottom of its box.

As standard Apple includes nothing else with the Mac mini, with such accessories as a keyboard, mouse or remote control all optional (paid for) extras. Though in Apple's defence, most Mac mini buyers are expected to have all these already and would probably resent being charged for kit that isn't needed.

Despite being the same size as its predecessor, I still can't get over how small the Mac mini is. The system measures 165 x 165 x 51mm and weighs in at 1.31kg but the numbers don't do justice to just how tiny the mini seems compared to equivalents, such as the Dell Studio Hybrid and, let's face it, the mini also looks lovely.

mjaffk

March 23, 2009, 3:20 pm

and remember--you still can get fit-PC2 by compulab which is 2x smaller, runs atom / 1gb / 160 gb / b / IR / up to 1920x1080. Of course it doesn't sport nv 9400M, but it'll cost you (drums) $245. And it's still 2x smaller.

timple

March 23, 2009, 3:33 pm

If I was running Apple I'd include freeview+ PVR functionality in this box, put in a decent remote control and as mentioned add a HDMI plug. Maintain the price and find yourself with another iPOD on your hands. As it is they have slightly crippled it a la sony in the 90's trying to produce an ipod killer (apple tv canabalisation? wanting to sell the tv programs via itunes?). Perhaps the latest eeeBox from Asus will finally hit the nail on the head.

LinguisticPedant

March 23, 2009, 4:23 pm

Will this generation output to 1920x1080p? I have the previous generation hooked up to a Full HD LCD at the office but the Mac mini will only output to 1920x1080i which looks horrendous, especially when displaying still images (powerpoint, jpgs, etc...)

Ironduke

March 23, 2009, 4:44 pm

Looks like the dell hybrid just got a pimp slap.





my oldmini did 1080p 50/60hz

Petrov

March 23, 2009, 5:03 pm

Hugo - how do you think this Mac Mini will compare to the new batch of EEE Box's (B204, B206, B208) due to hit UK shores momentarily - all apparently ro be priced in the low 𧷤s range?

Stelph

March 23, 2009, 5:12 pm

@mjaffk - Thats $245 for one without a Hard disk tho, or CD/DVD drive which will add to the price. Also the Atom processor means it probably wont play Blu-Ray/HD-DVD and it doesnt seem to mention Vista on the site so how well would that play on it?





@timple - I agree with your PVR comments, if you have an iPhone/ipod touch then theres a lot of apps that you can download to make the ipod/iphone work as a very good remote (wireless as well!). Also the eyeTV software and DVB-t USB stick can be bought for 㿀-㿅 online, and you can even get a plugin to add eyeTV to frontrow so it really would work as a PVR

TheVoice

March 23, 2009, 5:32 pm

Very poor spec for the money. I appreciate it's a small (tiny even) form factor, but in terms of Apple's line-up alone, it really is the simple or starter Mac in their range. The problem being that the price doesn't reflect that position; 𧻓 (because let's face it, 1GB of RAM is unacceptable) for a base system that doesn't even come with a keyboard and mouse (a +㿪 option) is ridiculous.





The Dell Studio Hybrid can be had for 𧺫 with a comparable CPU (2.16GHz Pentium Dual Core), 2GB of RAM, comes with a keyboard and mouse AND an 18.5" LCD display.





I appreciate that in a sense, they can't be directly compared because someone interested in switching to Mac and considering the Mac Mini probably isn't going to be interested by the Dell, but it just doesn't appear to offer good value for money even for someone only considering Macs.





Maybe I'm wrong, maybe people will happily spend lots of money on not-a-lot of computer. But I hope that's not the case.

ABG

March 23, 2009, 5:39 pm

I generally point people to this site if they want balanced recommendations on tech products, so I have to say I’m stunned by the unquestioning and (IMO) unwarranted praise of the new Mac Mini.





The first issue is ignoring the huge price rise for the system. Before the update the base system was 𧹇, with the “high spec” 2.0 Ghz system was priced at 𧺫. After the update, the base system is now 𧺫. And for that you get a more up-to-date 2Ghz processor. When Apple came up with the “time machine” concept I didn’t think it meant offering new computers with specifications from a bygone age! 120Gb HDD and 1Mb RAM?!





I use a 24” 3.06Ghz iMac daily as the main family computer and I also don’t get the “OS X” trump card comment. But I can see that an OS is down to personal preference. Hardware specs. however are less subjective.





Last issue - no competitors? Well, I’ve been waiting eagerly for an updated Mac Mini to sit under my TV as a media server for over a year, so I had 𧺬 of my own cash ready to go.


The “update” was so laughable I found an alternative within 24 hours. 𧺫 for a slimline HP S3652 system. 4Gb Ram, Quad core, 640Gb HDD, HDMI, 512Mb 9500GS Card, and Blu-ray player, running on Vista 64Bit. (From John Lewis BTW, not some obscure website!)





If the base Mac Mini with its 120Gb HDD gets 8/10 for performance and 9/10 for features – I’m guessing the HP would be around 12/10 and 13/10?





Clearly I’m just not dazzled enough by the fact its all in a wee tiny silver box!



Steve

March 23, 2009, 6:31 pm

Oh dear TR! Comedy scoring for such a basic overpriced system. Value 8/10?? Have a day off!

ffrankmccaffery

March 23, 2009, 6:51 pm

It just seems a pretty pointless device. It not only lacks the necessary conections for it to be used alongside a home entertaintment system but is also over-priced for anyone considering switching over from a pc.


Also the neo-art deco styles becoming a bit tired now. It looks like something youd put in your childs room in the safe knowledge that there are no hard edges and buttons to worry about.

xenos

March 23, 2009, 6:57 pm

Well, this is the only Mac i'd buy apart from the Macbook, however it is TOO expensive for what it is. But thats apple for you, they have been expensive for the last 20 years...





In terms of features I'd like to see a mini with a 9600M or some dedicated graphics memory so it can run final cut pro properly. Plus the soldered CPU is just stupid. At least let us rip it open and have some fun for all our moneys.





PS. Value of 8/10, more like 5/10 i honestly think. Plus 8/10 for performance is too high, it's a 2Ghz CPU...

Hamish Campbell

March 23, 2009, 7:00 pm

@ABG Although I don't wanna get too embroiled in this, I think I'd take issue with the form factor here, I know which I would rather have under my tv, you pay for design, you pay for small (just look at laptops vs desktops). I would have thought it would struggle with noise and power usage compared to the mini too.

ABG

March 23, 2009, 7:41 pm

@haim


I happy I am able to provide the perspective of someone who was waiting for the new mac mini and found a better alternative.


The HP isn't as small but its not huge (in fact I was surprised how compact it is) and the noise isn't noticeable. It is black and silver & looks pretty good under the plasma screen. Besides - after paying a (huge) premium for the form factor of the Mini you then need to buy an external HDD to give it extra capacity, which would undermine the point of it in the first place!


As for power consumption its not something I consider in a desktop specification, but I would expect a much more powerful system to use more power.





I don't see the point of buying something small and sleek and them adding on HDDs and Blu-ray players around it, because of all its different limitations.

jopey

March 23, 2009, 8:26 pm

Rip off.. plan and simple. And 1GB of RAM is laughable. A year ago I brought a silent quadcore dell computer with 4GB ram, 500GB HDD and 2600xt. For 𧸾. Sure, it's a lot bigger than the mini, but it's not huge and it fits invisibly behind the TV. How exactly is this mac mini worth 8/10 in value?

chancykid

March 23, 2009, 8:36 pm

𧹇 would have been a more acceptable price. I love Apple products but they are being extremely lazy with this update. I was expecting them to at least refresh the design to complement the Aluminium iMacs or Macbooks, but they've retained the glossy white. I agree the design is still unique, but perhaps its starting to look slightly dated?

Andy Vandervell

March 23, 2009, 8:39 pm

As a discussion point, were this version of the Mac mini to cost the same but have 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB, what difference would that make to the perception of value?

Pbryanw

March 23, 2009, 8:43 pm

I'm an owner of a new mini and I have to say it was money well spent. You also have to remember that Macs tend to keep their value better then PCs. So I actually didn't spend that much to upgrade to the new mini after I sold my previous Mac (just over a hundred pounds if I recall). Also, I've found Macs to be just that little bit more reliable then PCs (although that's only in my experience). Plus I prefer OS X to Windows (although that might change when 7 is released) so the extra Mac tax, or Mac premium, was worth it to me.

ABG

March 23, 2009, 9:06 pm

@Andy


I'd also want a bigger HDD - 320Gb. But then you have the 𧽂 version.





@Pbryanw


I factored in the better residual value in my decision - and my 10% HE discount, but the combo of negligible upgrades and 𧴜 price hike meant it just wasn't worth it for me. Apple always command a premium (I paid almost � for my G4 powerbook in 2003) but they have gone way off the curve on this IMO.

Tony Walker

March 23, 2009, 9:22 pm

I'm another vote for a reduction in the value score to 5.





How can a 𧴜 price increase be justified - certainly not by the exchange rate thing as large companies hedge against this (very successfully).





So come on TR, reduce the score for your readers.

HarryGlass

March 23, 2009, 9:41 pm

Never mind the price, what about the design? Now I admit I don't know much about Macs, I've never even seen one of these, but from the pictures this thing looks really 90s and out-dated. The iPod is a showcase in simplicity of design (though one thing that puts me off buying one is a lack of hardware volume control) but this is just a bland white rounded box. Sure we might not want our computers to stand out but I think this is going too far in the other direction. What are you going to do with this, hide it behind the hi-fi or at the back of your desk? Either way when you don't want to show off something - it's either invisible or going to be hidden - then I think design wise it's a failure and should be getting 0, not 10.





Personally for that money a DELL all in one with a keyboard, monitor, bigger HD, more ram, etc, etc...

Ohmz

March 23, 2009, 10:14 pm

Agree with everyone here complaining about the value score, too high in my opinion. I'd down it to 6 or 7.

Ben

March 23, 2009, 10:37 pm

The Mac mini is a fantastic small, quiet, cool computer. My Core Duo version blows me away - it's far faster than it should be for the spec (probably got OS X to thank for that) and with EyeTV it doubles up as my bedroom TV.





Mac minis have never, ever had good specs. It has never stopped them being fantastic machines. I don't think these new ones are bad value for money at all, especially as they're not using Intel integrated graphics anymore and have improved display outputs.





TR have obviously sat with one of these in front of them and based the score on what they actually experienced. If there was ever a computer that had a soul, it's the Mac mini - no spec sheet is going to help convey that in VFM terms.

Hugo

March 24, 2009, 12:50 am

I'm sorry if you don't like my scoring, but it is good value *for a Mac* and that's the only thing I can fairly compare to. Yes a PC can be built cheaper, but it's not a Mac and, whether you like it or not, Apple will make you pay for the privilege of its (arguably) superior design and - in my opinion absolutely better - OS. This generation, the premium isn't so much that I'd consider it unbearable so I consider the Mac mini good value for money.





When deciding value for money I try to think: would I willingly pay for this if I was the target audience and, having done so, would I be happy with that purchase in the long term. On both counts the new Mac mini is a yes for me - to the extent I am probably going to buy one. If you disagree, great, but I hope you can see where I'm coming from.





Again, performance, like value, is largely subjective. The Mac mini will handle just about any task it could reasonably be expected to - even a certain popular image editing application runs fine with 2GB of RAM. GPU-acceleration in CS4 is a gyp though; does nigh-on nothing. I use a 3.0GHz quad-core CPU with 4GB of DDR3 at home and still Windows feels less snappy than OS X on the Mac mini.





Petrov - I've not seen/used the new Eee Box's but I assume they'll have the same problem as ever other Atom-based system: it doesn't matter what you couple Atom with, the system will always be CPU-limited.





<Anyone complaining about hard drive capacities> - Invest in a NAS box; local storage is *so* 2007.





Tony - It's an upgrade to a more expensive platform. 9400M chipset costs money, DDR3 is expensive vs DDR2, Intel is probably charging more (or, rather, not offering insensitivised cheap prices) for its CPUs because Apple isn't using an Intel chipset, etc etc.





HK - if you "haven't even seen one" then how can you comment on the design? The mini looks ace in the metal and certainly isn't a system that wants hiding. Would you call a Porsche 911 dated? Let us not forget that being able to fit all those connectors and components into such a small chassis is also a positive aspect of design.





ABG - Not to sound rude but that HP looks crap and is 7 times bigger (by volume) than the Mac mini so it's hardly surprising they've found the space for faster components. I'd criticise the weight too, but it's a desktop so that's unfair. Admittedly using a desktop low-power CPU is arguably a more elegant solution to keeping the temps down than chucking laptop components into a (tiny) box. And, yes, you get a higher spec for your money, but Blu-ray aside is there anything that you actually do which a 9150e can do and a (higher clocked!) dual-core CPU can't? Because it's only good value for money if you need what you're buying.





----





Have I covered everything? Any more questions/issues?

ABG

March 24, 2009, 1:27 am

@Hugo


Thanks for the comment about crap. Clearly TR isn't the place for me so I'll take my crap elsewhere. Sneering at readers isn't a great business model.

Peter

March 24, 2009, 2:12 am

No ;) My personal opinion is that at 𧺫 and 𧽁 price points. They should have a 3 year hardware warranty as standard. That would clear up the value gap for me.





Anyways if the exchange rate was still 2 USD to 1 GBP. It would probably be 𧸯 and 𧺬. But it isn't.

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