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 - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    Graphics card swap hardly agonizing but Joe $499 User won't know how or care to do that, I agree. I am still wondering how a PDA can be useful for me but since I can't think of a reason to get one I am obviously not the market for those.
  • Chuckles - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link


    1: Given that a 3.5" is about a third the size of the computer, what do you think?

    2: Do you think Joe Luser is willing to spend the time and agony upgrading his graphics card?

    3: If the past is any indication, no, its got about 4, maybe 5 years of "official" OS support.

    4: Does your PDA have the ability to serve as your HD backup, play music for 8 hours, and still fit in your pocket? Capability is a matter of perspective. The PDA I have does exactly what I need it to, my iPod does different things.

  • Concord - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    Oh, yes! Dying - strong word but its true and best
    describes situation. Macs represent now less than 1 percent of the market. Of course we do our best to keep them alive. We vote for personal computer's diversity :)). But frankly speaking this miniMac is so badly constructed (I have at least 10 reasons for this claim) so I see at this moment only one reason to buy. Your girlfrend would say - Oh, its so cute! Maybe this reason is strong enough to buy it. But I will give you strong consumer advice (it was in 1st post) - wait for a couple of month and you will buy it on eBay for 200 US, of course if you will not change your mind.
  • bob661 - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    People will still jump on these because the $499 buyer doesn't know about how much system or video memory they'll need. Like someone else said, the $499 market only cares about price and name.
  • Dualboy24 - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    #121 "A pitiful attempt of the dying platform."
    - People have been saying its a dying platform since the early to mid 90s. Perhaps even earlier. But that hasnt stopped tens of millions of people worldwide from buying their products.

    I am sure that everyone would agree that they would love standard 512MB RAM and 64MB or 128MB video memory. If apple were to offer this a large amount more people would jump on these Mac minis. Perhaps a good rule is to hold off a few months. Until the buying rush is done with and apple tries to start a new rush by offering more advanced features. I dont know if they could get in a 9600 or higher video card with heat reequirements though. But the 9200 should do fine for the OS and the higher res work with more video memory.
  • bob661 - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    Shuttle is making gaming machines. They need to be able to fit a 6800 or X800 in them. Also, they use full size hard drives and DVD/CD drives.
  • Concord - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    A pitiful attempt of the dying platform.
    There are no reasons to buy it. Stylish? This soap box? I am dying laughing! Try to have your own look on things. Apple is trying to make an impression that it does so much good for us poor users and for only 499 US we are among choosen.
    Ha-ha buy and enjoy - You are different! That's all you can get.
  • peachee - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    It uses 2.5" HD. Does that mean 3.5" HD upgrades won't fit?

    Is the graphics card upgradeable?

    Will it take 1 - 2 years before Apple completely abondons this computer when a new OS update comes out?

    When people realize that a PDA is cheaper and more capable than an IPOD, will MS have to bail out Apple again?
  • Cygni - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    "figure out the case and internal hardware components to use such as those you suggest be used for an alternate base Wintel"

    Thats true, the shuttle will take considerably more setup time and prior knowledge. That does not lessen the bang/buck of the hardware, in my eyes, and i think thats what Anand is speaking of.

    "when it comes to downtime, system maintenance,"

    I am typing this on my G4 Powerbook, and i think this is an unfair comment. I have K6-2 machines running WXP that havent rebooted in months. I also have friends and coworkers with Macs that consistantly freeze (especially when opening a 3rd party program). In all honesty, if you have any type of downtime problems with ANY modern system, something is wrong. There doesnt seem to be any measurable difference to me... they are both quite solid.

    "I'd bet my daily income, that if you would install a good AV SW, many ,even tens of, viruses would be found."

    I havent installed an AV program since Windows 3.1, and i have never had any problems with viruses. I run HouseCall every couple of months, and its never found anything. Honestly, how do people get these viruses? I use P2P programs all the time, i open and install community made programs all the time... never gotten a thing. And i have yet to recieve any type of virus from all these amazing holes in XP where viruses just fly through the internet at your computer. If you DONT click anything on the screen on a shady site, you will never have any problems... doesnt matter what browser you use. If you drop all the security levels and click yes to everything, whose fault is that?
  • msva124 - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    I don't care what the PC costs, I already have plenty of PCs. I want to buy a Mac. First of all, I will need 512MB RAM ($75 extra). Second, I want to get a keyboard with apple keys so that I can get used to the new shortcuts ($30). It should also have a USB hub, or I will need to get one seperate ($15). Third, I need wireless, unless I never want to use the internet($79). Fourth, I need a two button usb mouse with scroll wheel ($20). Finally, the cheapest 15" LCD with good reviews on Amazon is the AG Neovo F-415 ($215 with shipping). That comes to $933. A similarly configured Emac is $953. And the lowest cost Ibook upgraded to 512MB is $1074.

    Why would I not want to upgrade to the Ibook and get full portability?


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