The Mac mini appears to be just as solid as Apple's other desktops, running non-stop without any performance or stability degradation, thanks to careful selection of hardware, extremely controlled driver updates, and the very robust Mac OS X.  Right now, one of the most attractive elements that the mini can offer to beginning computer users is safety and protection from viruses, spyware and pretty much all other forms of malware.  Obviously, that can't continue to be true forever, but for the foreseeable future, it's definitely an advantage of owning a platform that makes up around 2% of the market.  The beauty of it is that the mini belongs to a family of 2% of the market, yet retains (for the most part) file, networking and printer compatibility with the majority of the Windows market, without the malware.

Out-of-Box Software Completeness

The big question is: do you need any more software other than what comes with the mini?  iLife '05 offers the best in photo organization as well as easy-to-use, non-linear video editing software, but what the mini lacks is out-of-box compatibility with the Microsoft Office documents. 

There are two solutions to the Office problem, either purchase Microsoft Office 2004 (or an earlier version) for Mac OS X, or purchase iWork '05, which is significantly cheaper at $79.  I will discuss iWork in greater detail later on, but offering the ability to import Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint files will solve most of the problems that would result by not having Office installed (granted, most competitive machines at this price point don't have Office installed either).  Update: As many have correctly pointed out, the mini does ship with AppleWorks 6, which will let you open Office 2002 files, and TextEdit will open Word document files that are text-only. AppleWorks 6 is a bit of a dated application, however, and it does ruin a fair bit of the OS X experience because of it.

Other than that, Mac OS X comes with a very full-functioned text editor called TextEdit.  Although it can't open Microsoft Word documents, thanks to Mac OS X's system-wide spellcheck, TextEdit works extremely well as an entry-level word processor for the mini.  Email is covered with Apple's Mail, which can be best summed up as a faster, easier-to-use competitor to Microsoft Outlook.  Of course, things like IM clients and web browsers are already taken care of; Apple's iChat and Safari come pre-installed and there are a number of free alternatives available for download across the web.  Of course, the mini works fine sharing files and printers with PCs, and has one-click web and ftp servers ready to go out of the box. 

Performance Impressions Taking it Apart
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  • bob661 - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    The Mac mini isn't just targeted at Mac users that's why there is a comparison with Dell. There WILL be PC users that buy this thing and at $499 people primarily at price. The $499 crowd IS NOT the techie, computer-savvy group. Most of our arguments for buying computers don't apply.
  • mickyb - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I would wait for the turbo mini. It sounds like it needs a faster drive and better video.
  • Aileur - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    A thought comes to mind.
    Could apple get sued by other online music stores because osx comes with itunes preinstalled? Isnt that kind of like microsoft ie/windows?

    Oh and, i want a mac mini. I bought an ibook g3 800 a couple of months ago, on an impulse to actually try out osx. Sold my toshiba 2410 1.8GHZ (p4 not pm) and let me tell you, ive been advocating macs ever since. I believe if you're everything but a gamer, a mac is a great buy.

    On this note, let the whining begin.
  • downtowncb - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I'll never understand why people insist on comparing the Mac mini to Windows based systems from a hardware standpoint. Getting a "more powerful" CPU from a similarly priced Dell doesn't matter to the target demographic of the Mac mini. I can tell you that neither Grandma Claire nor Joe iPod-owning-college-student can tell you the speed of their hard drive and probably couldn't tell you three things about their graphics processor either. They both want a computer that works and won't break. The hardware is actually quite trivial to most of the users of this machine. Enthusiasts know they aren't buying a high-end machine, and the others don't know and/or don't care.
  • bob661 - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    Good article. Why?
    3) To the user that this type of computer is targeted at, do either numbers 1 or 2 matter? The answer is no, all that matters is price and whether or not the thing works. If that statement weren't true then you would never hear the phrase "I've had my computer for 5 years, I need a new one", instead everyone would be a performance fanatic like the rest of us and upgrade every year at worst.
  • jtntwozz - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    no.1 what are u talking about?!?!?

    nice article.. i love all 3 of ur mac articles..
  • Dranzerk - Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - link

    I'll wait till you can find half a million on Ebay for $200 fully upgraded in a few months..thats the sweet spot when people say "Why did I buy this!".
  • JacobAppler - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    You can also save some real money on the Mac Minis by shopping safely. Go to a comparison site like Apple and you won't need to worry about your Mac Mini costing too much.

    The Mac Mini can be the redheaded stepchild of Macintosh land, but it's worth looking at.

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