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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  • synaesthetic - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    Why all the Apple hate?

    Price-performance.

    Apple doesn't have it.

    Smugness.

    Apple has too much of it.
    Reply
  • kpxgq - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    i think its amazing that this thing uses about the same power (wattage) as my acer revo htpc (single core atom 1.6ghz and ion chipset)... if these thing drop in price, i might pick one up as my main htpc and relegate the revo to the bedroom tv Reply
  • TinksMeOff - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    Needs to start a $599 like before with 2gb of basic ram and offer $799 for the upgraded RAM/CPU/HD Model. The article suggested you can upgrade the RAM yourself and save money. Problem is probably voiding the one year warranty and if you upgrade to the $150 three year protection plan, even more years of voided warranty all to save $30 bucks?

    You can also upgrade the HD from 320gb to 500gb for $100 more (no option for SSD or 7200rpm HD). The Intel Core 2 Duo CPU can be upgraded from 2.4GHz to 2.66GHz for $150 more.

    My existing MAC Mini is the Intel Core Solo 1.5GHz which came with 512MHz DDR2 memory which worked great originally. I upgraded to 1GB (upgradeable to 2GB). I've kept and used it through the years to just look at what Apple is up to and so far I'm able to run the lastest 10.6.4 software with a little lag loading some heavily laden web pages and video. Upgrading to 2gb would probably fix the issue and a Core 2 Dual wouldn't hurt either. I don't play games on the MAC by choice (along time ago) and would never recommend a MAC for PC Gaming over a W7 gaming system.

    This latest MAC Mini just gives me no incentive to upgrade my existing one at the price point, but my purpose in using it is strictly internet and MAC experimentation. I would assume many internet and general usage only people will be thinking just like me regarding this new version of the MAC Mini.

    Thanks for the thorough article and possible advantages of this MAC Mini model.
    Reply
  • thunng8 - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Upgrading RAM does not void the warranty. Reply
  • TinksMeOff - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the update, the one I bought would have voided the warranty but you need a putty knife to get the cover off mine and then some work disconnecting some wires 'just so' to reach the ram modules. This model does have all the upgrade ease of a laptop ram upgrade and I was wondering about the warranty is done by the owner. Reply
  • matt b - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    You said that most OS X programs would be perform more like the Cinebench and Quicktime tests . . . I'd like to see more tests. I have a feeling that Cinebench is highly optimized for Intel processors and that Intel has optimized its drivers for the cinebench test. Intel does a lot of work on trying to win benchmarks that are used in tests . . . see the Federal Trade case against Intel. I'd love to see if that was true . . . test some more software that is less rarely used in benchmarks and see if the POWER chip prevails in those as well. Reply
  • derektrotter - Thursday, August 12, 2010 - link

    Not sure why people care more about streaming DTS-HD or Dolby Digital out the HDMI than discrete audio. Discrete uncompressed audio is also lossless and more versatile than compressed schemes which are tougher to clip mix and such.

    But the new Mac Mini also does 7.1 channels of 96KHz/24-bit streaming audio out. VLC doesn't support it correctly (you have to stream instead, with the checkbox that streams out the S/PDIF normally), but someday VLC surely will.

    Additionally, PLEX/XBMC do not impress me with their hardware video decoding support. People say they can play about every other frame of a Blu-ray rip? On this Mac Mini VLC can play every frame of a Blu-ray rip. It only bogs down at all on the toughest sections in Avatar (the hardest challenge, as it is full-frame 1.78:1, 44GB file). Video playback acceleration still needs some work on the Mac clearly.
    Reply
  • RagingDragon - Sunday, August 22, 2010 - link

    If Apple are determined to put OpenCL in all Mac's, then I guess we'll see either: Open CL drivers for Intel i3/i5, or the small form factors Mac's moving to AMD CPU's and and integrated graphics. Reply
  • mbtgood - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    like mbt a lot
    http://www.mbt-usa.com
    Reply
  • mutarasector - Sunday, November 28, 2010 - link

    This system offers more bang for the buc than a Mac mini:

    http://www.asrock.com/nettop/overview.asp?Model=Vi...
    Reply

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