Apple's Mac mini - Tempting PC Users Everywhereby Anand Lal Shimpi on January 25, 2005 7:39 AM EST
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Weeks before MacWorld San Francisco, there were rumors appearing about a "headless Mac", an ultra cheap Mac offered without a monitor. The first thing that came to mind was an Apple version of an eMachines system. Interestingly enough, however, the rumors also stated that it was an attempt from Apple to get iPod users to give Mac OS X a try. It sounded odd at the time...
The actual unveiling of the machine, however, put everything into perspective. In the PC world, ultra cheap computers usually offer nothing to make them stand out other than their price tag. For the first time, Apple's low end offering, dubbed the Mac mini, brought something unique and interesting to the entry level marketplace - style.
Look at any of the successful PC manufacturers - Dell, HP, Gateway - and none of them have attempted to make the entry-level PC an enticing item for the intended market. What draws users to these ultra cheap PCs is their price point and the idea that they need a computer. With the Mac mini, Apple took a much different approach - attract users because of style (and size) and the idea that they need a computer, and remain competitive with price.
Priced at $499, there's no question that the Mac mini is price competitive with entry-level PCs. Barely larger than a DVD drive, the Mac mini is basically a repackaged Apple notebook - minus the display and input devices. Let's have a look at the specs as well as the specs of a comparatively priced Dell system:
|Apple Mac mini||Dell|
|CPU:||PowerPC G4 1.25GHz||Intel Pentium 4 2.80GHz|
|Memory:||256MB DDR333||512MB DDR400|
|Graphics:||ATI Radeon 9200||Intel Integrated Graphics|
|Hard Drive:||40GB 2.5" HDD||40GB 3.5" HDD|
|Optical Drive:||DVD-ROM/CD-RW||48X CD-ROM|
|Price:||$499||$499 (after $50 rebate)|
The comparison above was set up very deliberately to focus on hardware alone, ignoring things like software differences and form factor differences. Before you get up in arms about the comparison, let's consider three very important points:
1) At the same price point, you can get a much more powerful CPU from Dell.
2) Sure, you get better graphics with the mini and a better optical drive, but you get more memory and a faster hard drive with the Dell.
3) To the user, to which this type of computer is targeted, 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.
The PC continues to be a better value from a hardware standpoint, there's no doubt about that - the above comparison alone proves that. At the same price, you get a similarly configured Dell (from a hardware standpoint) and a free 15" LCD monitor. What the Mac mini does provide, however, is an Apple desktop that is finally comparable in price to a PC desktop. Remember the $3000 G5 from our first Mac article? The Mac mini removes the biggest barrier to Mac OS X adoption - price. It's not the cheapest computer that you can buy, it's not the best performance that you can get for the money, but it is the cheapest ticket to OS X out there, and we're here to see if it's worth it