Mac Mini’s are for Windows fans who secretly lust for Macs.
The Mini is great for people who have more than a burgeoning interest for Macs.
I’m an avid PC enthusiast who has been using the Mini for over two years now and can attest to the convenience of having this little guy on my desk.
I mainly use the Mini to test applications or troubleshoot Apple specific errors but so far it’s been a fairly reliable machine.
My Mac may have a miniature form factor but the guts are glorious.
Inside the estimable unibody aluminium shell which weighs about 3lbs, you’ll find my 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB of DDR3 memory.
DDR3 memory has been offering double data rate memory performance since 2007.
The main benefit of DDR3 memory is that it lets you transfer input and output data at 8 times the speed of the memory cells. This means you get zippier bus speeds which offers a palpable improvement over it’s predecessor, DDR2 memory.
By the way, when I say “bus speed” I’m referring to the electrical path that connects the central processing unit to the memory controller. It’s technically called a Front Side Bus (FSB) and is what lets you send and receive data from the memory modules to the CPU.
Speaking of CPU… the 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 (2620M) is pretty nice.
It has two distinct cores on a single die which means Mavericks can easily handle tasks concurrently. Dual cores gives you better multitasking. Moreover, with Intel’s integrated Hyper-Threading technology, you get an additional two logical cores. In other words, Hyper Threading gives you a virtual processor. And although a logical processor isn’t as good as the real deal it definitely helps with system performance (and keeps costs down).
On the flip side, compared to its single core brother, the dual core chips are harder to manage thermally and they require software explicitly designed to exploit all the multitasking potential in the chip. In reality, you’ll only benefit from Hyper-Threading if you’re using industrial grade 3D rendering programs; however, even if you never plan to use such software, it’s nice to know the Mini has your back.
The video card is a AMD Radeon HD 6630M 256 MB card. Which, admittedly, is a paltry card and certainly not conducive to gaming, but for my purposes it’s sufficient and hasn’t given me any issues.
At a cool $600 you can buy a new Mac Mini replete with 4GB of RAM, 500 gigs of storage and Mac OS X Mavericks.
Easy to upgrade?
If you’re like me, you’re worried about upgrades. With such a tiny form factor is it possible to get inside this thing and upgrade the hard drive and RAM?
Yes it is.
Just flip over the Mini and twist the circular cover counter-clockwise to expose the insides. You’ll need precision tools such as a Spudger, TR6 and TR8 Torx screwdriver and abundant patience but it’s certainly something you can do.
You can follow the full-color guides on iFixit to upgrade the RAM or replace the hard drive; just make sure you realize this will probably void your warranty. Also make sure your Mac Mini supports the new RAM and Hard Drive you plan to add.
My mid-2011 Mini requires PC3-10600 RAM modules. For the hard drive, I recommend going with a top quality Solid State Drive (SSD) such as the Samsung 840 Pro series; I think you can grab a 256GB SSD for $300 dollars off Amazon right now.
Ports for peripherals
If you flip the Mini around you’ll see a plethora of ports for your peripherals.
In order from left to right we have:
- Power Button
- Power Plug
- Gigabit Ethernet Port (has integrated dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi)
- FireWire 800
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 SD card slot
- Audio In
- Headphone jack (Audio out)
The Mid-2012 model (which is currently the latest as of October 23rd 2012) is identical except the USB ports are USB 3.0.
There are rumors that a new Mac Mini may hit the stores in Belgium by the end of this month. It will purportedly have an 802.11ac WiFi card and might even flaunt Intel’s reputable line of Haswell chips but we’ll have to wait and see.
The Bottom Line
If you want a Mac on a budget then it’s really hard to beat the Mac Mini. It’s an easy win for Windows customers, especially because you canplug in most of your existing PC peripherals and be done with it.
In addition, the small form factor means it doesn’t consume an inordinate amount of desk space. And when you factor in the low price point, the whisper quiet, virtually noiseless aluminum case design and the upgradeable interior I think you’ll see the Mac mini is a mighty option to reckon with.
What do you think of the Mac Mini? Is there anything about it that bothers you? Sound off in the comments below.