The Mac mini’s aesthetics do detract from its usability ever so slightly. Leaving the front of the mini uncluttered by naught but the so-called SuperDrive and a power-status indicating white LED does sacrifice some practicality; would a couple of front-mounted USB ports really detract from the looks that much?
At least I can’t criticise Apple on the breadth of connectivity options boasted by the Mac mini – at the rear, out of sight of course. From left to right, as looked at head-on, the rear panel sports – deep breath – a power button, power connector, gigabit Ethernet port, FireWire 800 input, a mini-DVI port, a mini DisplayPort output and five USB 2.0 ports above which sit a Kensington lock slot and audio in and out, both optical and 3.5mm.
Of those only two give cause for complaint – mini DVI and mini DisplayPort. Okay, having two video outputs is great and, yes, a mini-to-single link DVI adaptor is included with the Mac mini but why, oh why Apple must you insist on using proprietary display outputs? I suppose, erring towards the generous, I would rather see two mini connectors, enabling the Mac mini to output to two displays, than a single output.
That doesn’t mean, however, I wouldn’t like to see an HDMI port making it possible to connect the mini to a TV without needing an adaptor. Especially as its form factor and design lend themselves to using the mini as an under-TV computer. Perhaps Apple is worried the mini might steal some Apple TV sales were it more geared for use with a television.
Internally Bluetooth – 2.1 + EDR – and Draft-N wireless expand the connectivity options and both work flawlessly, as expected. There’s also a speaker built into the Mac mini which is surprisingly good. I’m not suggesting that it’s good enough for listening to music or watching films, but for the occasional YouTube video or Flash game it’s absolutely fine.