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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  • fitten - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Actually... the Mac mini is hardly *the* home media machine except for playback tasks. It doesn't have the horsepower to do realtime encoding and no way to expand it to have such functionality.

    As far as both sides bringing up stuff from the early 90's about hardware, I haven't had a single x86 PC have any of the problems you've mentioned here.

    As far as the software, just as with any other software package that is actually useful, somewhere out there, some OSS folks are already off and running cloning the software. It's not like Macs are magic or anything, it's just software and a matter of just writing it. The thing about OSS is that any software package that gets popular, OSS can drop the bottom out of the market for that software by offering free (as in no-cost) alternatives for it. I guess Mac folks are used to paying for everything and don't mind it, but things will change I'm sure.
  • aliasfox - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    I think I agree with ransath. Each platform has its place, market, upsides and downsides. I personally use a Mac because I find it more enjoyable and generally easier to get around in. Yes, there are aspects of Windows that may seem somewhat more intuitive, and yes, there are aspects where OSX wins hands down.

    For the stuff I do, my two year old PowerBook is usually more than enough- and if that's true for me, than it's true for Joe Normal who doesn't care if your homebuilt is 15% or 150% faster than his machine in processor or disk intensive tasks. He wants to surf the web, write memos, and bore the rest of his family with slideshows. Anybody who needs that kind of power knows enough not to buy a $600 microsystem.

    One last thing: Mac is a product. Apple is the company. Saying that you're throwing money away at Mac (or worse, MAC) is just as bad as saying you're throwing money away at Windows (or Athlon or Pentium).
  • ransath - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link


    Sorry, not a fanboy. I make my living on a PC. I just built a new PC (ASUS P4R800E, P4 2.8, gig of ram). I LOVE PC's! I think Win XP Pro is one of the best operating systems I have ever used. I won't bash PC's in any way, shape, or form. (I'll bash Microsoft, but I am sure you would too ;)

    However, I also use Mac's for audio recording. I use Mac's for video editing.

    Both platforms are excellent for their purposes. What I take exception to is people like Concord and a few others on this board that belittle a perfectly good OS and company and dismiss it as an afterthought - as if it doesn't belong in a computer discussion.

    This has nothing to do with being a "religious" zealot - it has to do with giving respect where it has been earned and is due. And it pisses me off when people take an elitist attitude (and that goes for Mac snobs too).

    Yes, I agree that I am a smart ass (but not a tool). And I will refrain in the future from making sarcastic comments.

    One last thing - please explain "there are SO many problems littered in all of your posts" (only 3 posts). I would like to know what they are.
  • Deucer - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    I love Mountain Dew.
  • Concord - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    I clearly expressed my point of view on miniMac You expressed your point of view on ME in pejorative tone. We have no common points to discuss, sorry. By the way, it is the same 'narrow minded'
    engineers as you call them who make miniMac. No? Let me guess... Eh, it's a beautiful fairy who picks miniMacs from magic Apple tree in the morning twilight.
    P.S. I don't drink Mountain Dew and I am OK with shower, too
    Best regards,
  • Cygni - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Ransath, you are a tool. You are more of a fanboy than the PC fanboys you are bashing. There are SO many problems littered in all of your posts thats its gotten to the point where i just have to call you a tool and be done with it. We had a pretty good rational pro/con debate about the mini going before you came in, and now its another name fest. Thanks alot. Concord, you too are a tool.
  • ransath - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link


    Please! YOU are the one with an attitude - a PC holier than though attitude that dismisses Mac's as a peice of junk and poo poo's the very thought of owning a Mac. Why the hell do you think I wrote the response to you that I did? To tell YOU to get off your high horse.

    And, dood, try to proof read your posts. Or did you have to turn off spell check in Word cause it had a macro virus?

    BTW - don;t you and peachee have a D&D event to attend tonite? You two, I am sure, would make great friends ;) Just take it easy on the Mountain Dew.
  • Concord - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Oh, I am sorry! I did not know that it's religion.
    I am really sorry I thought that we were talking about computers. Sorry again I wasn't respectful to this box full of chips. Yes I am very narrow minded person You are right that's why I am talking about expandability, functionality, price etc. I didn't know that I should just knee and praise Mac-allmighty for letting us to be enlighted only for 499 US. There is lot job to do! You see few INTELLIGENT people left in the world and your personal attitude will not help Mac to gain popularity. Are you really think that if You can't respect other people's opinion You can be considered to be intelligent? Are You relly think that having Mac makes You intelligent?

    Best regards,
  • ransath - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    peachee..."Ipod is not an innovation, there was the Rio and many many others before. The mini Mac is not innovation, Shuttle came before ... long before and there were many others."

    The iPod is an innovation in design, styling (just like the Mini) and GUI. There is nothing on the market that even comes CLOSE to an iPod with regards to navigation. If there was, then Apple wouldn't dominate the hard disked based market - which they do IN SPADES! You think they sold so many iPods cause people are drones? PLEASE!!! They sell so many because they hands down BLOW the others out of the water. Quality and attention to detail.

    The Mini will crush the Shuttle. Why? Because just like the iPod, it is better designed, better styled, and it runs a rock solid OS that is NOT prone to viruses AND includes iLife. There is NOTHING in the Windows or Linux world that even comes close to iLfe. Hell, an app like Garageband or iMovie alone would set a typical PC user back well over a $100 - for each seperate app!!!!

    Anands comment when unpacking the Mini sums it up best..." Once again, I wasn't reminded of a computer; I was reminded of buying something from Bose or Mercedes."

    Enough said, Mr. Bargain Hunter.
  • peachee - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Coming from a one time Apple-owner, I can say that they WERE better than PCs. But that was quite some time ago in the early to mid 90s. I experienced pre-PPC Macs and it's various generations. I remember the Newton, AV DSP macs, clone Macs, the Apple ISP, and the promises of the NEXT OS for 68040 Macs--all died miserably leaving owners with outdated computers (forcing us to buy expensive new systems). I did my part to keep up with Apple's complete and ruthless abandoning of Macs and OS compatibility and product support, but in the end, I realized I was being stupid SUPPORTING A JUST ANOTHER CORPORATION!

    I started over with PCs and never looked back. I don't care how shiny OS X+ is, it's just BSD. If you hate Bill G and Steve B, go Linux or BSD. If you don't like Intel, get AMD. With Shuttle and everyone else going small but keeping with 3.5" HDs, and 5.25" DVDRWs and AGP/PCI slots, why suddenly switch to unupgradeable mini Mac at a premium price? Did we all win the lottery and have the time to and money to switch our softwares and all our waking ours to devote to mini Mac?

    I believe and many industry analysts concur that Apple has not innovated for years. Ipod is not an innovation, there was the Rio and many many others before. The mini Mac is not innovation, Shuttle came before ... long before and there were many others. What Apple has become is a hype machine. It makes average products and hypes the hell out of it, throws ads in your face, puts it in celebrities hands, and some of the richer MTV crowd will lap it up until they lose interest.

    Apple is all marketing hype ... an informercial. You jonny come lately Apple supporters need to realize that you are disposable tools (free marketing for the just another corporation of Apple) and Apple will abadon you high and dry (I know--been there done that). Why should we as thinking, hardworking, bargain hunting beings ... why should we lobotomize our brains and dump our money into Apple's laps for their average and expensive products when there are far better and cheaper choices out there?

    The "oh, I'm too dumb to use computers and therefore I must use Mac" excuse never made sense. Most people can learn fairly quickly to use any computer (we aren't using punch cards and I/O switches are we?). XP and even many versions of Linux are quite user friendly.

    Think, learn, grow and don't fall for corporate tricks.

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