Final Words

Three points for mini purchasers:

As I've sternly recommended before, do not purchase the Mac mini with 256MB of memory - 512MB is not only the sweet spot, but it's absolutely necessary. 

Second, save yourself the headache and either purchase Apple's keyboard or a keyboard with Mac OS specific key labels on it. If you're a keyboard junky, you will appreciate it.  Apple's keyboard has two low-powered USB ports on the keyboard, which do come in handy, and it's actually pretty decent to type on. It does get dirty quickly, so if you eat around your computer, you may want to be a bit more careful.  You also get the benefit of the Eject button on Apple's keyboard.

Third and final, don't purchase Apple's mouse. Bluetooth or not, just don't do it. Get a good two-button mouse and be done with it.  My personal preference is the Logitech MX1000 not only because it tracks extremely well on high resolution displays, but the additional buttons on the mouse work under OS X.

The three points above are obviously assuming that you're looking to buy the mini, which brings us to the next point - what is a PC user to think of the mini?

As a means to play around with Mac OS X, you can't beat the Mac mini in terms of affordability.  Armed with 512MB of memory, the mini is an excellent platform to gain experience with and get exposed to Mac OS X.  With OS X Tiger due out by the middle of this year, the platform will become even more attractive, introducing features like a fully GPU rendered GUI as well as fully indexed system-wide search.  My recommendation still stands that if you are a notebook user, you are better suited to get your exposure to Mac OS X through a PowerBook; but if you aren't in the market for a notebook, then the Mac mini is the next best thing. 

The performance of the Mac mini with 512MB of memory (or more) is more than enough for OS X and the majority of tasks involving the iLife suite. Once you get into more serious video editing, however, you'll quickly outgrow the power of the G4. 

As a machine to recommend to the computer illiterate, you'll find that many will appreciate the styling of the mini and thus, will be more willing to give it a try.  The OS itself can be just as intimidating as Windows (while looking prettier), but it is less prone to the issues that often corrupt beginner systems - mainly becoming infected with spyware, malware, etc., which in turn reduces the burden on you to provide tech support. 

Apple did a very good job with the mini. They effectively completed the transition of the entry-level computer into a commodity.  To the average joe, the Mac mini isn't a computer - it's another iPod or DVD player, just a lot better and a lot more feature-filled.  It's a DVD player that can edit and create DVDs, and it's an iPod that can make and play music, and it's a box that you can retrieve your email. 

To the rest of us, it's a small, quiet, stylish looking box that finally breaks down the price barrier to Mac OS X.  As a second system for any PC user, the Mac mini can't be beat.

And to any PC users who happen to give the Mac mini a try, have a look at our first two Mac articles for some pointers on things to do and try when using OS X for the first time. 

A First Look at Pages (continued)


View All Comments

  • wildgift - Monday, September 19, 2005 - link

    I bought one, and it's nice. It's very quiet (meaning it doesn't add to the noise in the office), reasonably quick, and very easy on the eyes. It is a decent development machine, at least for smaller database driven websites, and is portable enough to tote to the office. There's definitely something to be said for carrying your entire development environment around, but without spending all the $$ for a laptop. The price/performance ratios suck, but the overall fit and finish, and very nice software, more than compensate for the approximaely $150 premium you pay for going with a Mac. A SFF PC / OS combo to match the Mini simply cannot be purchased. A fairly comparable SFF PC (like the AOpen that's quiet) with the same RAM and larger hard drive, and slightly faster CPU, costs almost the same, and lacks the software. (Yes, I'm getting one of those too.)

    Also, going with any Mac at all gets you the better aesthetics that Windows lacks, and Linux totally lacks. You get better typefaces. You get better color calibration. Printing is smoother (and the addition of gimp-print is a big plus). You can type in any language you know. Even the screensaver photos are nicer. With iWork, you get nicer templates. Even the old AppleWorks clip art is pretty good (not really good, but, ok for "free" clipart). These things matter a lot if you work with documents.

    If you're in the Unix niche, a Mac is nice because it has Unix under the hood. It's not quite the standard Solaris, BSD, or Linux environment, but it's close enough for most things.

    The Mini is a pretty good computer, and a very good *product*. It's not the monster of spec benchmarks, but, most people, including technical people who you might think would care, simply don't care about those numbers.
  • steveo561 - Friday, April 1, 2005 - link

    Interested in a FREE MAC MINI???

    I just got mine FOR FREE...EVEN SHIPPING...NO JOKE

    Just copy and paste the link EXACTLY as you see it below:

    All you have to do is go to the link, sign up for one FREE offer, and have some of your friends do the same and it's all yours for FREE.
  • steveo561 - Monday, March 28, 2005 - link

    Interested in a FREE MAC MINI???

    I just got mine FOR FREE...EVEN SHIPPING...NO JOKE

    Just copy and paste the link EXACTLY as you see it below:

    All you have to do is go to the link, sign up for one FREE offer, and have some of your friends do the same and it's all yours for FREE.
  • MarshallG - Monday, February 28, 2005 - link

    I love Anand's Mac articles. It's great to see an obviously pro-Windows guy like Anand look at the platform with such an open mind.

    Our home PC just died and this looks like a great replacement. I like the fact that I won't worry about viruses or spyware. I might get my 70 year-old mother one for the same reason.

    But I'm surprised that Anand makes little if any mention of the Unix core of these machines. This is Linux for people who don't want to deal with driver problems. You can open a shell window, and run Perl or a zilllion other UNIX languages and apps. I'm really impressed by that! Now I can *really* teach my children how to use computers.
  • WorkingHardMan - Friday, February 11, 2005 - link

    The way Tiger has been described by Apple is that Tiger will still handle the pixles if the GPU can not. Having said all that, the mini isn't really being marketed to the kind of people who want or need high quality 20" and 23" displays. One of the Apple desktop computers would make more sense for that crowd. Reply
  • Xmate - Thursday, February 10, 2005 - link

    I'm sorry if this issue has already been addressed, I'd apreciate if you could restate the solution if it has been:

    OS X Tiger is supposed to use to GPU instead of the CPU to render all the pixels on the display correct? Well, while the Mac mini seems to be a very good solution for a PC user wanting to try out OS X, but from what I can see, the mini simply doesn't have nearly enough power in the GPU to power any of Apple's Cinema Displays. I have currently heard that most people are happy with the mini 20" CD combination, and I might (not certain) have heard people being happy with it even with the 23". With Tiger this is almost definetly not going to be the case.

    I was wondering if anyone has any input on that, and if they know of some possible solution that could be implemented to solve the problem.

    Thank you for your help,

  • Wightout - Tuesday, February 8, 2005 - link Reply
  • PhoenixPyre - Sunday, February 6, 2005 - link

    Yeah, that Dell configuration isn't normal. To get those specs normally, you would have to pay well over $499. Not to mention it would be under the Small Business section of and you would probably have to pay a good amount for shipping (as noted in #189). Reply
  • jaxcs2002 - Thursday, February 3, 2005 - link

    Hey good aricle but you tried to discuss too many things with this article. Two notes:

    1)The comparison Dell and the mini is fair but Dell doesn't sell any standard configuration computers. Every week (really, not kidding here), they run some kind of a promotion. You were able to snag a free LCD when you browsed the Dell page that day, but did you get free shipping? I guarantee the next week, you won't be able to get an LCD but maybe extra memory and a larger hard disk. They do this obviously to make each week a sale and to induce you to buy immediately.

    2) You make note that the comp is not for Apple power users and then promptly seem to forget that fact. What user would buy a mini mac and hook it to a 23" Cinema Display? It is interesting to note that it would not do well, but the Dell standard vidcard (integrated probably) wouldn't either. Judgeing from your article, it would probably be fine on a 15 or 17 inch screen.

    I think it would have been helpful, especially since you hint at it anyway to talk about its utility in performing more "average joe" type taks such as usng it in conjunction with the apple air port as a music file server or as video server. You know, those tasks that a buyer of an ipod might do with a mac mini. In every way, you seem to perfer its bigger cousins but this a mini, what tasks does the mini do well?
  • pitdog - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    sorry for the double to the forums Reply

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