Apple Mac Mini 2011
Style over substance?
Review Last year’s Mac Mini was a bit of a let-down. Sure, it got a nice redesign, with a gleaming metallic, low-profile chassis and a new HDMI port that seemed like a belated attempt to try and repurpose the Mini as a media centre system. However, the hardware inside it was actually downgraded, which meant that you were paying almost £650 for a low-spec desktop Mac that didn’t even include a mouse and keyboard, let alone a monitor.
Apple's Mac Mini: the Core i5 upgrade was a long time coming
This year brings slightly better news, as the £529 base model has been reinstated and the adoption of the i5 processor brings a welcome performance boost. The basic model has a 2.3GHz Core i5 processor, 2GB RAM, 500GB hard disk and an integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics processor that shares 288MB of system memory. That doesn’t leave a lot of memory for the graphically heavyweight Lion operating system, so 4GB really ought to be standard.
On test is the next model up, which does double the RAM to 4GB, as well as marginally increasing the speed to a 2.5GHz Core i5 processor. This model also gets a more powerful AMD Radeon HD6630M graphics processor that has 256MB of its own video memory. The bad news is that the price on this model has started to creep up again – £699 this time, which still seems steep given the lack of accessories – one accessory in particular, which I’ll come to in a moment.
An HDMI to DVI adapter is included in the box and the DisplayPort option also works as a Thunderbolt interface
The graphics and processor performance of the £699 model do seem to justify Apple’s claim that this model is twice as fast as its predecessor, although Apple’s margin-padding use of a 5400RPM hard disk drags down the overall score a bit with PC Mark Vantage, as this machine was also set up with Boot Camp to run Windows 7 for the benchmarking tests.
Next page: Benchmark results
No longer a media server
Apple's removal of Front Row from Lion and failure to replace it with anything means that the Mini is much less use as a media server than its predecessor.
Given that everyone I know who has a Mini uses it as a combination AppleTV/PVR/Music Server, I can't see who Apple think will buy this now.
It sounds weird to say this, but Apple appear to have completely lost the plot when it comes to media playback. The AppleTV is rubbish without storage if you don't have a rock-solid fast network connection, the alternative of using a Mac Mini instead is now blocked off because they've dumped both the optical drive and crucial piece of software.
I don't know where they're headed, but it looks like a complete dead end.
The Mini's always been a great idea let down by a price tag that's just too fucking silly for the hardware you get. Removing the optical drive from a home box like this and then offering you a Superdrive (the most over-priced USB optical drive I've ever seen) is just par for the course, sadly.
"I've not used my DVD drive in my desktop PC in probably 3 or 4 years."
Good for you.
However, basic level home users that are likely to be buyers of such a device may well want/need one.
Why would I need to pay £66 for an external Superdrive when I can pick up a standard external DVD for about 15 quid? Any external USB DVD drive will play nicely with a Mac.
In fact I can even burn Blu-Rays on my Mac even though as far as Apple is concerned Blu-Ray does not exist and anyone who says otherwise smells of wee.
The Mini was released a MONTH ago. It took you that long to say the exact same things everyone else said on release day?