Introducing the Mac mini

Before we get to the mini itself, let's have a quick rundown of the specs of the Mac mini:

   Apple Mac mini 1.25GHz  Apple Mac mini 1.42GHz
CPU: PowerPC G4 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 1.42GHz
Memory: 256MB DDR333
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9200
Hard Drive: 40GB 2.5" HDD 80GB 2.5" HDD
Optical Drive: Slot-loading Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
Ports: One FireWire 400; two USB 2.0; DVI (VGA adapter included); 1/8" headphones/line-out; 10/100 Ethernet; 56K modem
Monitor: None
Keyboard/Mouse: None
Software: Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther), iLife '05
Price: $499 $599

First Encounter with the Mac mini

The box is small:

If you need a carrying case for your Mac mini, just save the box and it will serve perfectly.  Remember that the mini measures 6.5" on each side and is only 2" high, so the box is pretty small. The box is slighty longer and wider than the mini itself, but about twice as deep. 

A Mac mini box compared to a regular sized ATI Radeon 9800 Mac Edition video card. 

What's interesting about the box is that on the back face of it, you have instructions on how to set up the computer.  As you can expect, it's not too difficult, but helpful for the first-time computer user.

The Mac mini box itself is representative of Apple's simple design philosophy, but what truly sums up Apple's intentions with the Mac mini is the side of the box:

The side of the box simply states that iLife is included, and below that, it says that you can organize photos, compose music, create playlists, make movies and watch DVDs.  This isn't the side of a computer box. This is the side of a consumer electronics device box; it's the side of a multifunction iPod's box.  And this is where it hit me - what I was holding in the mini's box didn't feel like a computer. In fact, it didn't feel like I was unpacking a computer either.  Apple has effectively made their computer into something that doesn't seem like one at all, perfect for those who are intimidated by computers, but definitely leaves those of us who aren't feeling somewhat strange - not in a bad way, and not in a good way, but just in a different way.  If every other computer manufacturer in the world made their computers and boxes look like the mini's, then I'm sure that the feeling wouldn't be so strange; but the fact of the matter is, they don't, and the Mac mini is different - and you know that before you even hit the power button.

Inside the Mac mini box, there are already indications that Apple was working as quickly as possible to get these things out and shipped.  The best example of this is that the Mac mini comes with iLife '04 installed (meaning that the master image for the mini's hard drive was made before iLife '05 was ready to be put on it), and stuck to the top of the inside of the box is an iLife '05 DVD.

You have your handful of users guides, warranty information and the usual paperwork that comes with any computer, but with the mini, it all seems a lot "cooler" for some reason.  Everything is well made, well put together, and well, mini.  Once again, I wasn't reminded of a computer; I was reminded of buying something from Bose or Mercedes.

Index First Encounter with the mini
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  • KirinRiotCrash - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #25, you can check Crucial's website for memory that will be compatible for the Mac mini:
  • Burbot - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I am interested in a machine for Java programming and some amateur photochopping and recording. This sounds like traditional Mac domain, but lack of connectivity and expansion of Mini makes it a lot less fitting. First of all, it takes one memory stick, and 1GB SODIMM prices are fairly costly. Then I would like to get an external hard drive (sounds pretty reasonable for my needs), external sound card, mouse, keyboard, printer, scanner, hub to connect all USB stuff to one port, patience to deal with USB problems after those hordes of devices begin talking on the same port... see where it is going? Mini might be a neat thing by itself, but as soon as you try to do something serious with it, you get a rat's nest of external boxes and wires.
    A regular PeeCee SFF box might not be that nice looking, but it will take a couple of disks, a sound card, two memory modules, and will have a quite sufficient number of USB ports (4 rear/2 front is a common combination). So guess which one I will be getting, after all.
  • Stylex - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I want to buy one of these, but I don't want to pay apple's ourrageous prices for RAM, what kind of memory should I buy besides apple's? I was unaware that the SPD of the modules would be an issue. Is there any 'safe' non-apple ram for this?
  • lookmark - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Nice article, very balanced.

    re hopejr. (#13) -- I imagine the mac mini would be pretty decent for intermediate audio editing, but you'd have to purchase a USB audio adapter like Griffin's iMic (around $40), as the mini has audio line-out only.
  • Questar - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link


    The reason why people rudely rant and rave against Macs, or Intel, MS, Etc. is due to their need for validation.

    Most people here are AMD PC users. There is a herd mentality, kind of "you're ok, I'm ok". People are looking for the assurances from others that their decisions/prejudices are the "right" ones.

    Just look at way people here gang up in Intel. I can just see it now, people will respond to this saying Intel makes crap..etc. But Intel makes fine products, just like Apple. Most people here feel elevated by tearing down someone/something that is not their personal preference, and feel pumped up that others support them.
  • rivieracadman - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #12 It would be important to remember that the Dell (or any other cheap PC for that matter) only come with a 30 Day warrenty. Don't get me wrong, I'm a PC guy through and through, but I have had to repair more of those pieces of junk then I can count. Not to mention that the mini is quieter, nicer to look at, and much smaller. I have even considered buying one. It would be great for a support unit. A RAM upgrade is only $70 more, and most people already have a keyboard, mouse monitor, and speakers. If I couldn't build my own systems I would perfer to select what I wanted as well. I hate LCD monitors BTW...

    On a side note, you have to consider the market as well. My mother in law is very happy with her 400mhz K62, and my mother is very happy with her 1Ghz Athlon. Both running Mandrake Linux. They play games, edit photos from their digital cameras, surf the web, and who knows. Both machines only have 256MB of RAM and 32MB/64MB MX Nvidia Cards. If they ever allow me to upgrade their machines I think I may go with the minis.
  • ehanneken - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Hm, make that a, b, c, and d (not a, b, b, and c).
  • ehanneken - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I bought a Mac Mini for two reasons. First, I was curious about OS X. Second, I was looking for a Unix file server that

    a) was small
    b) was inexpensive
    b) consumed little power
    c) looked reasonably attractive

    The Mac Mini fit those criteria reasonably well. My next best option was a mini-ITX PC, but I gathered from my research that they tend to be noisier and less powerful than the Mac Mini.
  • brichpmr - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Excellent article, Anand. My own 1.33 ghz G4 is quite snappy with sufficient ram, so the 512 mb suggestion is right on the money.
  • tinydancer - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Nice review Anand! Thanks for the objectivity, which is more than I can say for some of your readers. I usually don't respond in these posts, but this I can't avoid. Why people hate on Macs is beyond me. Mac haters were weened to early and have an inferiority complex, which translates into an inability to LET IT GO!. The fact is that Macs are about style and creativity seperate from function. Macs do what they do very well and with reliability. No...Macs are not the fastest, baddest computers on the planet, and who cares--only PC users that have no life except to worry about wether their GPU will handle Doom III. Hardware is hardware, where apple makes up the difference is in the OS and apps. The Mini will fill a void in the market for some wether they have a mouse, monitor or not. But you know what....keep hating. I like being part of the 2% market share, because I don't have to deal with the other 98% of you @$$#0!&$. It really doesn't matter to me if you ever get the point. Enjoy your grey box and your blue screen after it crashes!

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