Review: Apple Mac mini 1.42GHz

by on April 14, 2005

I ordered a Mac mini in mid-February to serve as a replacement and companion for my iBook G3 and work-issued iBook G4. I opted to get the 1.42 GHz model with some upgrades (512 MB RAM, SuperDrive, AirPort, Bluetooth). With a display, keyboard, and mouse already available, I fit Apple’s target mini demographic perfectly.

Mac mini
Mac mini

Mac mini
Mac mini Ports

Mac mini
Mac mini Bottom

After weeks of waiting, the mini shipped via FedEx direct from China and arrived last Friday. I was astonished at not only how well-packaged it was (after opening the boxes for various Macs from the aforementioned iBook to eMacs, I’ve always been impressed with Apple’s attention to details), but also how much smaller it was than I had imagined. Some included extras familiar to previous Mac owners are missing: there’s no phone cord for the modem, and no blank media for the optical drive. A mini (ha ha) DVI to VGA adapter was included, along with two Apple stickers and the usual paperwork. There’s also a Mac mini User’s Guide with basic setup and troubleshooting information.

The front of the mini is minimalist, and evokes the Mac LC with its small size and plain face. Instead of a floppy drive, the face of “Jonathan Ive’s LC” features the slot of an optical drive and a recessed white sleep/power LED. The back of the mini sports a row of vents, the power button, and an array of standard Mac ports. From right to left, the user is provided with a lock slot, audio out, FireWire 400, two USB 2.0, DVI, modem, Ethernet, and power.

After hooking the mini up to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, it was ready to go. The mini comes with an impressive bundle of software, headlined by iLife ’05, AppleWorks, and Quicken. Nanosaur 2 and Marble Blast Gold will help you waste time, and the various demos give you a chance to check out some of the major Mac OS X applications.

The mini is more than acceptable for day-to-day tasks. I’ve done plenty of updates to my Web site, some Photoshop work, and a bit of Final Cut Express. As expected, performance is just slightly better than that of the 1.3 GHz iBook G4.

Apple would have done well to include a USB-PS/2 adapter and a “Switcher’s Guide” to ease the cross-platform transition, as many recent PCs have shipped with PS/2 keyboards, and most Switchers won’t know that Alt maps to Option or that the Windows key maps to the Apple key.

Finally, the mini will be even better once Tiger ships. Although the mini’s graphics card doesn’t specifically support CoreImage, the mini will still shine, especially since CoreImage takes advantage of the G4 processor.

Overall, the Mac mini is a great choice for anyone who is on a tight budget, doesn’t need lots of power, or wants a small, space-saving computer. Despite the lower-end specs (2.5″ hard drive, 32MB video “card”), the mini still holds its own for most tasks.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Mac mini is about as close to perfection as a budget/home PC gets.

Pros: Nice collection of included software, much better in appearance and included hardware than budget Windows boxes, decent performance for most tasks

Cons: Needs more RAM, graphics card on the weak side, relies on relatively expensive and slower 2.5″ hard disk

The Facts

4/5Product: Mac mini 1.42GHz
Company: Apple
Price: $599 ($873 as tested)

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