Apple computers are not historically known for their low price. They are, however, pretty universally lauded for their overall performance and reliability. That’s why the Apple Mac Mini is a TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winning economy computer. Taken in a head-to-head, specification-to specification review, some of our top rated Windows based machines will come out on top, especially when price is considered. Still, this mighty mini offers impressive performance for the money and will be especially appealing to those who prefer Apple platforms but need to stick to a budget.
If ever a computer has lived up to its name, it’s the Mac Mini. At a mere 6.5-inches square, 2-inches thick and weighing less than three pounds it hardly seems like a real computer at all. But a real computer it is, indeed, with capabilities that, just a very short time ago would have seemed astoundingly futuristic. Today, it’s not futuristic but is still a very competent device that will meet many users’ needs well.
The feature list for the Mini is pretty short compared to pricier computers but that’s to be expected in an economy category. Even at its modest price, the device features an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2.26GHz. It’s not at all long ago that that would be a cutting edge chip. The other primary performance specification is the 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM. Though pretty modest by today’s standards, it’s still plenty of power for most applications that aren’t too graphics intensive and it even leaves room for a respectable amount of multitasking.
We must admit to being disappointed at the rather stingy 160GB hard drive. Even at the rather low price of this Apple device, considerably more storage should be expected. Optional hard drives are available but at a price. To replace the standard HDD with a 320GB drive costs an additional $100 and the next step up to 500GB is $200 more than the basic component. Options like that very quickly move the machine out of the economy computer category.
And while we’re on the subject of options pricing, we’ll also point out that a faster CPU is available in the form of the Intel Core 2 Duo running at 2.53GHz. It costs $150 more than the base unit. RAM can also be doubled to 4GB and that’s a $100 option. In case you haven’t been keeping score, adding those four upgrades takes the price of the Mac Mini to $1,049, well outside the range that we can consider economical.
Back on positive notes, the Mini features a slot loading SuperDrive CD/DVD player and burner. It also has a generous five USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire 800 interface so connecting to peripherals should be easy. Rather strangely, it lacks an HDMI interface which seems so very logical, especially given the units extreme portability. It’s just a natural for plugging into HDTV equipment and the absence of the HDMI port makes that less handy. True, there’s a DVI connection so HDMI devices can be connected with an adapter but the inconvenience seems unwarranted. The connections panel also has an Ethernet port for internet or networking connections but the unit also comes with high speed Wi-Fi 801.11n built in for integration with a wireless network. Bluetooth connectivity is also included which can be critical, especially if choosing to use Apple’s wireless mouse and keyboard.
Like other Macs, the Mini comes with a one-year limited warranty but free telephone support is only covered for the first 90 days. Admittedly, three years of AppleCare is available for $149 but, as we’ve said in other reviews, that’s a lot to pay especially if phone support is the main reason for the option.
The Apple Mac Mini is actually a superb, tiny computer that we’ve been able to convince ourselves deserves a spot in the economy computer category. It’s only with its base configuration that the price allows inclusion here. Choosing just about any of the desired options adds quickly to the price. Still, the computer’s overall performance is excellent and its multitasking capabilities are admirable. It’s a sure winner for those on a budget who prefer Apple functionality. For objective reviews and side-by-side comparisons of other highly rated computers in this category, please check out our Economy Computer Review site.