Styling and Use

The mini’s design is cohesive with the rest of Apple’s lineup. The unibody aluminum construction is less functional in a stationary desktop compared to a notebook that has to be rugged, but it’s nice to look at nonetheless.

At the front of the Mac mini is the opening for the internal slot loading 8x SuperDrive. The drive can write to DVD±R discs as well as dual layer variants. DVD±RWs and CD-R/RWs are also supported. There's no option for a Blu-ray drive.

Like all Macs, there’s no eject button - for that you’ll need an Apple keyboard (not included). There are actually no input devices included in the purchase price, so expect to add another $120 if you want an Apple keyboard and Magic Mouse ($140 if you want them to both be wireless). There’s no remote included either, although Apple’s IR remotes do work with the mini.

The power button is around back, as well as the power connector. The power supply is internal so all you have on the outside is a single white cable with no power brick.

Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800 and four USB 2.0 ports line the rear along with the miniDP and HDMI outputs I mentioned earlier. A new addition is the SDXC slot on the back.

The mini has a single internal speaker but you also get digital/analog 1/8” line in and line out jacks. If you’ve got an iPhone headset, just plug it into the headphone minijack and you’ll get both headphone and mic functionality.

The Mac mini ships with 802.11a/b/g/n support but has no external WiFi antenna. The antenna is located in the base of the unit, directly underneath the removable access cover.

The internal antenna behaves virtually identically to a notebook’s WiFi. In fact, I got very similar WiFi performance out of the Mac mini as I did with this year’s MacBook Pro. With a good access point, getting reception at around 60 feet away through walls in a house wasn’t a problem.

The only issue I had with the Mac mini’s WiFi was when I placed the unit in my theater room. The theater is enclosed in two layers of drywall and has a small closet with a metal equipment rack in it. With the mini in the middle of the equipment rack, surrounded by amps and a pre-processor, I couldn’t get more than 1.2MB/s to the nearest access point which was less than 30 feet away but outside of the room. While that’s still enough bandwidth for surfing the web, it’s not enough to stream HD video from a networked file server.

I wouldn’t fault the Mac mini’s WiFi however. I was simply asking too much of it. But keep this in mind if you don’t have ethernet running to a similar setup. Thankfully, I do have ethernet going to the rack and thus it wasn’t an issue.

The mini’s design looks great until you start hooking a bunch of cables up to it. Despite the four USB ports, you’ll want to use Bluetooth peripherals where possible. In an HTPC setting where all you need is a HDMI cable and Bluetooth input devices the setup is very clean.

The New Mac mini Spin the mini
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  • DaveGirard - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    seriously - I use a Mac Pro Nehalem for Maya and if I had to build a network of headless slaves, this would be an expensive and underperforming option. You could make a vanilla i7 for less and it would destroy this machine for rendering. Nice to see this is a great mini server/HTPC but it's not for performance. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    Why would you engage in such a stupid enterprise?

    Apple is NOT selling you a bunch of MIPs here at the lowest possible cost. They are selling you a device that runs MacOSX, with IO options adequate for most users, that is low power and small.
    If you do not need any of these capabilities, then buying such a computer is stupid.

    Or, to put it another, don't buy a package of, what, 10GFlops AND a reasonable quality GPU AND two video ports AND FW8000 AND OSX AND a small form factor, and then complain that the package costs more than this other package consisting of 10GFlops and nothing else.

    But if this device meets your needs, it's great --- I got a previous gen mini for HTPC, and it does what it is meant to do, at a price I found acceptable.
    Reply
  • JAS - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    I bought one of these to run a public kiosk display (Apple Keynote program on a loop). Beyond its good looks, the new Mac Mini provides more than enough horsepower for what most "normal" people use computers for -- web browsers, media playback, e-mail, word processing and so forth. I like how access to the RAM has been made easy and the addition of the HDMI and SD connectors.

    My only significant criticism of the new Mac Mini is its retail price. It ought to be $50 to $100 less to be considered an "entry level" Macintosh.
    Reply
  • nafhan - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    I agree from a computing aspect, but it really ought to be about $200 - $300 less to be considered a good computer for the average home user. Especially since they will have to spring another $100+ for a monitor/mouse/keyboard right off the bat. Reply
  • Steve W - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    The idea behind the Mac Mini is that you DON'T have to spring for a "monitor/mouse/keyboard" if you are the average switcher. If you need a monitor, then the iMac is a better buy. Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    Given that it does not come with those items? The only way you would not need them is if you just happened to already have them. But if you were buying this as a second computer etc that might not be the case. Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Exactly. Once you add a monitor, keyboard and mouse into the price, you are into iMac price territory, and the iMac is still alot faster. Reply
  • LtGoonRush - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    I don't understand why 7200rpm 2.5" HDDs aren't more popular. The cost difference isn't very large, on a 320GB drive it only amounts to $5. The performance difference isn't Earth-shattering, but given the price of the system it seems hard to justify cutting this corner, along with shaving off 2GB of RAM as called out in the review. Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    I've heard both power and noise concerns given as reasons (besides cost as you mentioned) why 7200s aren't as popular. Both are pretty minor, but those are valid reasons. Reply
  • Shark Tek - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    The main reason of why they aren't popular is a very valid one.

    HEAT...

    A good example is one about the PS3 HD upgrade. They recommend 5400rpm disks due to problems of overheating using a faster one.
    Reply

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