2007 Mac mini Review


Persistent rumors of the Mac mini's imminent demise were proved to be exaggerated on August 7, 2007, when Apple quietly released an updated Core 2 Duo Mac mini without even a press release heralding the refresh. The speed bump was welcome news to Mac mini fans and will keep the diminutive Mac on life support for a while yet at least.

The $799 Mac mini includes a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and the $599 model comes with 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, both with 1 GB of RAM standard. Both models support up to 2GB of RAM, have four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400 port, Gigabit Ethernet, and digital optical plus analog audio in/out. The Mac mini's petite 2-inch-tall, 6.5-inch-square anodized aluminum form factor remains essentially unchanged from when it was first introduced as a PPC G4 machine..

Mac mini Model Chart:

2.0GHz

2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
4MB L2 Cache
667MHz Frontside Bus
1GB RAM (667MHz DDR2 SDRAM)
120GB Serial ATA hard drive
Double-layer SuperDrive
Built-in AirPort Extreme & Bluetooth 2.0
Apple Remote

sku MB139LL/A

$799



1.83GHz

1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
2MB L2 Cache
667MHz Frontside Bus
1GB RAM (667MHz DDR2 SDRAM)
80GB Serial ATA hard drive
Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
Built-in AirPort Extreme & Bluetooth 2.0
Apple Remote

sku MB138LL/A

$599


2007 Mac mini Core 2 Duo

by Charles W. Moore


Rumors of the Mac mini's demise proved to be exaggerated on August 7 when Apple quietly updated the mini with Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, without even a press release heralding the refresh. The speed bump was welcome news to Mac mini fans and will keep the diminutive Mac on life support for a while yet at least.

The Mac mini's petite 2-inch-tall, 6.5-inch-square anodized aluminum form factor remains essentially unchanged from when it was first introduced as a PPC G4 machine. The main change with the new minis is Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at 1.83 or 2.0 GHz replacing the former 1.66 GHz or 1.83 GHz Core Duo units. Level 2 on-chip cache has been bumped from 2MB or 4MB. Even though the new CPUs only have a 8%-10% faster nominal clock speed, Apple says the updates make the Mac mini up to 39% faster on its benchmark scale compared with the preceding models. The Core 2 Duo chip is more efficient than the Core Duo and with the doubled Level 2 cache, a real-world performance boost of 25% - 30 % should be achievable, so it's a substantial improvement over the previous models.

The latest Mac mini still has a 667 MHz memory bus and the unloved Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics support that annexes up to 80 MB of the computer's system RAM for video support. This cost-reducing scheme, disparagingly referred to by some as "vampire video," results in comparatively pedestrian video performance.

Mac minis don't ship with a keyboard or mouse, so that cost will have to be factored in to a prospective purchase price along with a monitor if you don't have these items on hand. The thematic concept behind the Mac mini is that it facilitates an economical way to switch to the Mac platform from a Windows PC or upgrading an older Mac desktop setup, while retaining the investment you have in a monitor, keyboard, pointing devices, and other peripherals, which can just be plugged into the mini CPU module and you're good to go. If you don't already have a desktop computer setup, the economics are more dubious, especially given the mini's still relatively anaemic specification.

The Mac mini actually has a lot more in common with the MacBook than its desktop Mac stablemates. For instance, Mac minis come with 2.5" 5400 RPM laptop type hard drives rather than the higher-performance 3.5" 7200 RPM desktop drives that are pretty much standard in desktop computers these days. The mini also has a typical laptop array of I/O ports, a laptop-style optical drive, and the mini CPU weighs a pound and a half less than the lightest laptop Apple ever made.

Mac mini Build To Order options include 120 or 160 GB hard drives, Apple's Mighty Mouse, and new super-thin aluminum keyboard (in either case wired or wireless). A freestanding modem will siphon another $49 from your wallet and eat up one of the USB ports. A $19 DVI to Video Adapter facilitates connecting the Mac mini to most TVs.

The base version 1.83 GHz mini comes standard with 1 GB of RAM (twice as much as previously), an 80 GB hard drive, and a Combo drive at $599. The upscale mini comes with a 2.0 GHz CPU, also 1 GB of RAM, a 120 GB hard drive, and a dual-layer 8x SuperDrive, and is priced at $799.

It's still hard to make an economic case for buying a mini compared with a low-end iMac or even a MacBook unless you already have a good monitor and input devices and just want it for a CPU module upgrade. While I really like the Mac mini concept in theory, it really doesn't compete with its iMac sibling on a value per dollar basis if you have to buy a monitor and input devices.

A better value is the $1,199 2.0 GHz 20" iMac, which comes with a real ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory plus a DVD-burning 8X SuperDrive.

If you're a laptop aficionado, the Mac mini does offer as close to the laptop virtues as we've seen yet in a desktop computer. The latest category trend in automobiles is the crossover - a sort of melding of the SUV concept with conventional sedans and stationwagons. Arguably, the Mac mini represents a computer crossover category - the transportable computer.

Whether a Mac mini is for you will depend on your individual needs and tastes, but my advice would be to take a good hard look at the iMacs and MacBook before taking out the plastic.

Mac mini At a Glance:

1.83GHz or 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Apple Remote with Front Row, Up to 2GB memory, Intel GMA 950 graphics processor, DVI connector, VGA adapter, Slot-loading optical drive, Up to 160GB hard drive, Built-in Gigabit Ethernet, Analog and digital audio, Expansion via USB and FireWire, iLife '08, Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger

For more information, visit: http://www.apple.com/macmini/

Mac mini photos: http://www.apple.com/macmini/gallery/