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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  • ehanneken - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I got my Mac Mini yesterday. It came with iLife on a DVD *and* preinstalled.

    gibhunter, the upgrade to 512 MB is a $75 option when ordering the Mini; the owner is not required to do it himself. The only other expenses I had were taxes and a $13 USB adapter for my old PS/2 keyboard and mouse. I already had a spare 17" monitor. Altogether, I spent about $630.

    I may buy a cheap new keyboard, though. My old keyboard doesn't have a Windows key, and I think OS X maps the Apple key to it.
  • deathwalker - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #12..I'm in your corner. If you can see through the fog of the $499 price tag then you are really looking at a $900-$1000 "Pig" thanks!~!
  • ianwhthse - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #4, downtowncb

    They might not know the speed of the hard drive, true, but they're definitely going to notice it's slow.

    I think you underestimate the average user's ability to notice that their computer is running like a pig. Why deal with a spyware infested Windows machine when you can switch to a Mac and get a system that's barely faster than said infested machine because Apple decided you needed a slow HDD, and pathetic amounts of ram?

    Anand commented about how the 256 MB of ram was insufficient, but do you think most people are going to magically know that they need to double the ram to get a good experience? (Assuming "most people" aren't Anandtech readers).

    Anyway, I'm done with that rant.

    Anand, are you going to look more closely at the iMovie, Garageband, iDVD trifecta? I currently use the Adobe Video Collection Professional (Premier, After Effects, Encore DVD, Audition, and Photoshop). I’m just looking for something that can make something nice for the smaller projects I end up working on. So those applications are interesting (plus the fact that you can buy the Adobe collection on Mac would allow me to make a complete move off the PC). Well except for gaming. But all I play on my PC now is KOTOR, so I won’t cry too hard.

    (I can also get a Mac version of Seti@home, how ‘bout that?)
  • Avalon - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #13, most people do NOT have $300 flat screens and USB keyboards/mice just simply laying around. Take this for what it is: the cheapest way to use OS X.
  • hopejr - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    #11, I have a 1GHz iBook G4 and it's good for audio editing with Garageband. I'm sure the Mac Mini will be better

    #12, many ppl already have those things laying around (apart from the RAM).

    Good article!!
  • gibhunter - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    You're all forgetting the fine print.
    First, a Mac mini is crap with 256MB of RAM. Gotta buy the more powerful Mac. Do they offer them with 512? If not, suddenly the average Joe needs to learn how to upgrade. Suddenly it's $600.
    Gotta get a keyboard and a mouse. Only USB ports are available though so they will be pricey. $700.
    Gotta get a monitor. A stylish PC absolutely requires a stylish flat panel. $300.

    Suddenly you have a very weak personal computer for a thousand bucks. What a bargain! (sarcasm)
  • ksherman - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    hey Anand, do you think this little box would be any good at Audio Editing? My lil bro is starting to get pretty heavy into it and REALLY wants a Mac, and this mini seems like it may be in his price range.
  • downtowncb - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I know a few techie friends who have always been PC users that are purchasing Mac minis because they are a cheap way to get familiar with OSX while getting to work with BSD. Also the built-in Apache server is good for them (and can be activated by a single click). I'd say there are at least 2 crowds buying minis, the techie "I just want to try it out and it's 25% the cost of my last system" crowd and the $499 "I always buy the cheapest thing" crowd. You're right, the normal arguments don't apply because in the first case the arguments are overlooked in favor of software and OS and in the second they've never even heard our arguments (to them RPM is how fast your engine is going).
  • bob661 - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Itunes isn't preinstalled. It's part of the iLife package.
  • jfpilon - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    About the office compability: why not just use

    check it out:

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