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Review: Apple's aluminum Mac mini and Mac mini Server (2010)

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
Apple's newest entry-level Mac recently received a full hardware makeover, with a wider but flatter aluminum unibody shell, integrated power supply, built in HDMI for home theater applications, and a greener more efficient design.

Position in the Mac family

The redesigned Mac mini continues to hold down the low end of both Apple's desktop offerings and server products, shipping in both a standard version equipped with an optical drive and one 320GB hard disk, or alternatively a server model that drops the optical drive and its slot to make way for two 500GB hard disks.

Apple markets the Mac mini as being a convenient, compact replacement for an existing PC. It sits a step or two behind the mainstream iMac all-in-one system, and is not even close to the professional market Apple targets with the Mac Pro. In its server configuration, the Mac mini is similarly a long ways from the high end Xserve product line.

In terms of performance, the standard Mac mini is built with the same general architecture as the entry level 2010 MacBooks: a 2.4 GHz "P8600" Intel Core 2 Duo processor paired with NVIDIA's GeForce 320M graphics chip. The previous Mac mini paired a Core 2 Duo CPU with NVIDIA's GeForce 9400M, just like last year's MacBooks and the current low end iMac.

The server version ships with a slightly faster 2.66 GHz "P8800" Intel Core 2 Duo and the same graphics hardware; the standard version can also be upgraded to that same CPU for $150 more.



Slightly bumped processors, no jump to Nehalem

Apple's higher end MacBook Pros and iMacs use an Arrandale (mobile) or Lynnfield (desktop) Core i5 or i7 CPU (both use the Nehalem microarchitecture rather than the earlier Core). Intel's mobile Arrandale processor packs its own Intel HD Graphics, which Apple augments with a GeForce GT 320M, which kicks in when necessary. That chip is faster than the graphics chip in the Mac mini, and also has its own dedicated 256MB of graphics memory rather than just sharing system RAM as the Mac mini's graphic chip does.

Lynnfield iMacs using a Core i5 or i7 include a dedicated ATI Radeon HD GPU, which similarly has its own own dedicated 256MB or 512MB of graphics memory. On the higher end, Apple's Mac Pro uses a Quad-core Xeon, and either an NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 or ATI Radeon HD GPU, each of which has its own dedicated 512MB of graphics memory

Like the MacBook and the low end of both Apple's MacBook Pro and iMac line, the Mac mini continues to use Intel's Core 2 Duo paired with NVIDIA's "graphics chip plus chipset." This architecture supports a lower overall cost while still providing decent performance very competitive to the entry level Nehalem Core i3, and much faster than alternative, low end Windows PC CPU designs including Intel's very low end Atom or AMD's low price Athlon X2 options (see next page comparisons).

Still, the Mac mini is now priced higher, with the standard model with 2GB of RAM starting at $699 and the server version with 4GB of RAM beginning at $999. Both can be expanded to 8GB, although Apple's own maximum memory upgrade costs a whopping $500 extra.

On page 2 of 4: All new body, New HDMI audio/video output for home theater

All new body

The new aluminum construction of the Mac mini makes the tiny computer appear targeted more toward the living room as a computing appliance; it shares the same 7.7" square footprint of Apple TV and the company's Time Capsule wireless base station. It also includes the same internal power supply, which packs the system's AC transformer within the device rather than using an external power brick.

The new unibody construction provides an elegant outline with minimalist, precision details. Its wrap-around rear panel presents a series of ports and a single outlet slot for the fan's air exhaust. In contrast, the previous 6.5" square Mac mini looked more like a tiny PC than a home theater appliance, with a bit more ill-fitting back panel and a light, cheaper look overall.

The new redesign also now supplies an easy-access, twist-off bottom for exposing the RAM; the old version required using a putty knife to open up the case, a task Apple reserved for authorized technicians. It's still a big job to replace the new unit's hard drive; users are probably about as likely to need to do that at some point over the next three years as they are to need to access the RAM once they've upgraded it.

The plastic bottom lid doubles as a radio window into the metal case for WiFi and Bluetooth signals. The antennas sit just below the metal lip, poking down into the lid that also serves as the Mac mini's foot. That gives the antennas a 360 degree exposure. The lid itself locks into place leaving a slight (and invisible) gap all the way around that serves as a cool air inlet for the fan.

The new metal shell serves double duty as both a rugged shell and a heat sink for the electronics. Even so, the new design is only slightly heavier (3 lbs compared to its former 2.9 lbs; the new server model weighs in a just 2.8 lbs). It feels a lot more dense and solid. It's also now just 1.4" tall, compared to the previous 2" mini cube design.



New HDMI audio/video output for home theater

The new Mac mini replaces Apple's unique, mini-DVI port with a standard HDMI connector. The HDMI 1.3 compliant port supplies up to 1080p video with 8 channel, 24-bit audio that supports both stereo and Dolby Surround 5.1. Using an HDMI to DVI connector, the port can also be used to drive a DVI monitor up to 1920x1200 resolution.

The unit also includes a Mini DisplayPort for a second display; that port can drive a monitor up to 2560x1600 resolution (it also supports HDMi/DVI or VGA signaling in addition to DisplayPort, with the appropriate dongle), and like recent MacBooks, also supports audio output. That means, with the proper connector cable, you can drive two HDMI displays, providing audio to both. Beware that early Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI dongles do not support audio, because the original Mini DisplayPort Macs didn't support audio over Mini DisplayPort.

Note that when you plug in an HDMI display, you may still need to manually select HDMI as the audio output source from System Preferences. In testing with a Samsung HDTV, plugging in HDMI began delivering a 1080p video signal that cropped off the Mac menu bar, something that's easy to fix from the Displays panel, using the Overscan slider. We also had to activate "Samsung HDMI" as the audio output before the internal speaker delegated audio to the display's speakers.

The Mac mini continues to provide Apple's normal audio input and output jacks, each of which handle both analog and optical-digital signaling. The audio output port also handles iPhone-style headphones with an integrated mic for chat applications and voice recording.

Video performance on both ports is plenty capable of HD video from iTunes, Hulu and YouTube. As with its other products, Apple steadfastly refuses to support Blu-Ray on the Mac mini, which will limit its appeal to users who want a one-box unit to handle all sorts of modern video playback for their HDTV home theater.

The new $699 price of the Mac mini is likely on the high end of what most users might want to pay for a dedicated set top box. The more limited Apple TV is priced at just $229, while a variety of mini Windows PCs aimed at the home theater market are in the range of $250 to $550, even if they skimp on certain features to hit those price points.

While the Mac mini is fully capable of performing as an HD video appliance, it's not powerful enough to run the latest first person shooter games at its full resolution. Valve Software's new Team Fortress 2 begs to be run below 1080p for example, although less demanding titles are more responsive. Apple's not quite in the game console business just yet, but if you've splurged on the Mac mini as a dedicated home theater appliance, you do have the ability to play a variety of modern games with it if you adjust your resolution and other game settings to fit its entry level performance.

On page 3 of 4: Performance as a general purpose PC, server

Performance as a general purpose PC

Testing the Mac mini against an Asus Eee Box EB1501 (using a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N330), Dell Inspiron Zino HD (with a 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e), and Gateway SX2840 (packing a 2.93GHz Intel Core i3-530), CNET determined that the latest Mac mini tied or bested the slightly faster CPU in the Gateway, while far outpacing the other mini PC designs in a variety of tests. Only in a multithreading benchmark test did the Gateway and its multithreading-optimized i3 CPU substantially outperform the Mac mini.

The new Mac mini design also includes an SD card slot supporting high capacity SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity)memory cards 32 GB and larger (the first Mac to do so), in addition to the Standard SD format of 4 MB to 4 GB and SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards from 4GB to 32 GB. SDXC theoretically supports cards up to 2TB, but Apple does not specify a supported ceiling for the new slot.



The SD slot is a handy feature for photographers loading up their photos into iPhoto, Lightroom or Aperture, but comes at the expense of one of the 5 USB ports on the former model.

The new design also lacks a Kensington security slot, which is intended to both lock the device to a cable, and prevent it from being opened up; note that the new twist off bottom means the Mac mini's RAM is easy to steal. That easy access is probably going to be perceived as a feature rather than a vulnerability by most Mac mini owners, however.

The Mac mini retains its existing Firewire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking and standard Bluetooth 2.1+EDR for peripherals. The device also supports IR for use with the Apple Remote, which is sold separately for $20.



Cheaper mini-PCs often supply more RAM, but skimp on features such CPU and video performance, WiFi (dropping support for faster 802.11n, or sometimes lacking any WiFi support at all), Firewire, or Gigabit Ethernet. All the same, at its higher new $699 price, the Mac mini is less likely to win over lots of price conscious Windows switchers.

However, it's more likely to satisfy new users to upgrade to a Mac and find themselves with a well rounded machine. The skimpy hard drive capacity is an issue, and the design of the Mac mini makes it tricky to replace the drive. However, USB and Firewire offer external hard drive options that will likely be enough to cover the needs of most users who want additional storage space.

Overall performance in Geekbench scores (below) indicates a significant bump over last year's Mac mini and overall scores slightly better than the higher-end, faster-clocked iMac from two years ago.


Performance as a server

Apple introduced a server version of the Mac mini last fall, and maintains the configuration in this new form factor. For an additional $300, server buyers get a faster processor upgrade (sold separately for $150), 4GB of RAM rather than 2 (which Apple sells for $100) a hard drive upgrade from a 5400rpm, 320GB disk to a 7200rpm, 500GB disk (sold for $100 by itself).

If you were planning an upgrade all around, you're already ahead on the server model, but wait there's more: you also get a second 7200rpm, 500GB disk that replaces the optical drive (the option to buy an external optical superdrive for $100 more). Relative to the base model, the server hardware bundle is already a pretty good deal. But the real kicker is that Apple throws in an unlimited user version of its Mac OS X Server operating system, something it sells separately for $500 (and used to offer for $1,000).

The redesigned Mac mini server is also a slightly better deal than the previous model because it provides faster 7,200rpm drives; before, the server option only delivered larger but not faster disks. Apple also offers an external RAID option: the Promise SmartStor DS4600, a Firewire 800 device with 4x1TB SATA disks for $800, or a 4x2TB model for $1300.

Note that the internal hard drives in the Mac mini are notebook style 2.5" disks, which are designed to be thin and draw less power; they are not well suited to regular server use. If you are doing heavy file serving or other tasks that constantly work the disks, that data should be put on an external drive or RAID unit. And of course, any valuable data you have on the unit should be regularly backed up.

The Mac mini server supplies an entry level option for workgroups to set up easy to use and maintain file sharing; email, calendar and contact services; web-based collaboration tools (blogs, wikis and web calendars), and VPN services for secure remote access. As a fully fledged Mac, the server configuration is far faster for network Time Machine backups when compared to Apple's anemic server embedded within the Time Machine appliance.

With a Gigabit Ethernet switch, users will be able to copy files to the server nearly as fast as they can locally. Even with 802.11n wireless networking, the Mac mini Server should perform well enough in light duty to cover its cost of entry. A Mac mini server certainly isn't going to take over server functions for offices larger than a couple dozen people, but it's a great deal for small offices that don't want to deal with complex hassles or invest a lot of money in server gear (and very expensive server software) to handle basic needs.

Learning how to setup and use Mac OS X Server is a significant project, and involves more work and expertise that most other Apple products, simply because of the complexity of managing network services. If anything, Apple's highly simplified "Server Preferences" setup might be easy enough to give users the impression that everything will "just work," which is not actually something that happens for very long when dealing with network and server issues. Running a server requires planning and experience, not just a nice interface.

That said, the new Mac mini Server model provides a slightly improved version of Apple's new entry level server at a price point that should be attractive to small businesses or even professionals who work from home and want to set up essential services that run independently of any desktop computer.

On page 4 of 4: The New Mac mini in Review.

The New Mac mini in Review

The Mac mini Server configuration appears to be better value than buying a Mac mini as a desktop PC or a home theater appliance, where there are much cheaper alternatives and slightly more expensive options that deliver a lot more.

For example, as a general purpose computer, Apple's comparably fast MacBook is just $300 more and includes a display, keyboard and mouse (a $100 option on the Mac mini), portability and a battery backup. For just $500 more, you can get a 21.5" iMac that is significantly faster, has more RAM and hard drive capacity, a big display and $100 worth of Apple's keyboard and mouse. Both examples make the Mac mini look overpriced for only being a core computer, unless you plan to use it to swap out an existing PC and can reuse an existing display, keyboard and mouse; that's also the target audience of the Mac mini, so it makes sense that's the case.

It's still the cheapest new Mac you can buy, it just isn't super cheap, and certainly not as good of a deal nor as attractive to new users as the original $500 Mac mini was, or even last year's $600 model. This appears to shift the Mac mini from its debut as a practical, entry level Mac -- essentially a conservative resurrection of the Power Mac G4 Cube -- and back toward a higher-end and premium priced, nice looking appliance, which is what the Cube originally delivered, albeit without much commercial success.



As a home theater appliance, the Mac mini looks even more expensive, particularly when compared to Apple's limited-duty, $229 Apple TV. The new Mac mini might make sense if you want a device to drive your living room HDTV that can also play games, DVDs, work as a DVR and run other third party applications. However, you'd probably also want to check out the availability of a used, late-modeled Mac mini for such a job, too, unless you're sold on the sharp new appearance of the unibody case.

Apple's newest redesign definitely makes the latest Mac mini more esthetically attractive, and also makes it slightly better suited to a variety of tasks from running the HDTV to replacing a PC to driving server applications for a small office. If cost isn't your primary concern, the model is a solid, well designed device. It's also tiny, making it a viable option for embedded installation in applications such as in-car integration. It's just got a price tag that isn't likely to impress bargain hunters.

There is one last factor that might attract buyers to Apple's premium Mac mini product: its efficiency and responsibly sustainable design. Apple notes that the Mac mini "achieved a Gold rating from EPEAT in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and the UK," and that it's BFR-free, Lead-free, PVC-free internally, built with a "highly recyclable aluminum enclosure," meets Energy Star 5.0 requirements and "uses 68 percent less plastic than the previous generation."

Apple also notes that the new Mac mini incorporates a 90% efficient 85 watt power supply rather than the 110 watt power brick the previous model used, and "uses less than 10 watts of power when idle." According to PC comparison tests performed by CNET, the new Mac mini now slurps just 33 watts under load, 7 watts when idle, and just 1.2 when sleeping. That's half the overall power consumption of last year's model, and much less (a quarter to a sixth) the power consumed by competing mini-PCs, even those powered by an anemic Atom processor.

Apple's efforts to target efficiency and sustainability are likely to help woo exactly the type of consumers the company is attracting to boutique retail stores, who care more about environmentally friendly design and efficiency than their neighbors who shop for deals in a big-box retail store.

Rating

Mac mini



Pros
Attractive, compact and solid
Good overall performance
Easy to setup and use
HDMI for home theater applications
Environmentally friendly design

Cons
Premium priced, limited specs
No Blu-Ray
Hard to upgrade beyond RAM

Mac mini Server



Pros
Compact appliance server
Includes faster hard drives
Bundles $500 copy of Mac OS X Server
Reasonably priced server package

Cons
Harder to upgrade beyond RAM
Limited-duty design

Where to Buy

Below is a table of Mac mini prices from leading Apple Resellers that was extracted from AppleInsider's MacPriceGuide.



More on the 2010 Mac mini

First look: Apple's new unibody Mac mini

New Mac mini folds in Apple TV features (photos)
post #2 of 88
While noting the useful SD slot, you failed to mention its stinky location.
post #3 of 88
"Intel's mobile Arrandale processor packs its own Intel HD Graphics, which Apple augments with a GeForce GT 320M, which kicks in when necessary. That chip is faster than the graphics chip in the Mac mini, and also has its own dedicated 256MB of graphics memory rather than just sharing system RAM as the Mac mini's graphic chip does."

Surely you mean 330M? The Mac models that have 320M (13" notebooks and the MacMini) don't have an intel graphics chip inside.
post #4 of 88
This is a lovely machine, as a server you can't really get much better value than this which is why I have decided to buy one, but as a home pc option it's an absolute rip off, especially outside of the US wich is such a shame as these machines deserve to sell like hot cakes and I am sure the price will put off many!

Before anyone decides to point out that the UK has Vat included in the price etc I account for that, on current exchange rates inclusive of UK Vat we spend an additional £153.50 ($232.15) on the server version and £106.15 ($160.53) on the standard version and I don't care where you are from that is a blatant over price on an arguably already over priced machine.
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post #5 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post

Before anyone decides to point out that the UK has Vat included in the price etc I account for that, on current exchange rates inclusive of UK Vat we spend an additional £153.50 ($232.15) on the server version and £106.15 ($160.53) on the standard version and I don't care where you are from that is a blatant over price on an arguably already over priced machine.

Then don't buy one. It's that simple.

Obviously, there are enough people who think it's an OK deal for Apple to keep making them. The fact that you think it's too expensive just doesn't matter.

You see, here's the way it works: Apple sets a price. If enough people buy it, Apple is happy. If not enough people buy it, Apple has to lower the price, change the configuration, or drop the product. "It's too expensive" whining has no place in that process.
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post #6 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Then don't buy one. It's that simple.

Obviously, there are enough people who think it's an OK deal for Apple to keep making them. The fact that you think it's too expensive just doesn't matter.

You see, here's the way it works: Apple sets a price. If enough people buy it, Apple is happy. If not enough people buy it, Apple has to lower the price, change the configuration, or drop the product. "It's too expensive" whining has no place in that process.

Perhaps not, although most people who make the "don't whine" comment tend to be Americans and thus don't have to pay the additional price for the same product.

I'm afraid that I do find the price that we have to pay in the UK compared to what the average American pays galling, it won't stop me buying the product because only Apple makes the Mac Mini and it offers the best solution, just don't expect me to not point out how big the gulf in pricing is.
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post #7 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post

Perhaps not, although most people who make the "don't whine" comment tend to be Americans and thus don't have to pay the additional price for the same product.

I'm afraid that I do find the price that we have to pay in the UK compared to what the average American pays galling, it won't stop me buying the product because only Apple makes the Mac Mini and it offers the best solution, just don't expect me to not point out how big the gulf in pricing is.

Like he said...don't buy it.
post #8 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post

Perhaps not, although most people who make the "don't whine" comment tend to be Americans and thus don't have to pay the additional price for the same product.

I'm afraid that I do find the price that we have to pay in the UK compared to what the average American pays galling, it won't stop me buying the product because only Apple makes the Mac Mini and it offers the best solution, just don't expect me to not point out how big the gulf in pricing is.

The price I have to pay for good British beer is higher than you pay, too. The difference is that I'm not running around whining about it.
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post #9 of 88
Entry level performance? $700+? I'll take 5...
post #10 of 88
Right now I would not trust my info on a sd card. And the capacity limit is unknown for that slot. But it is very likely that a 1TB card will be available in the next 12 to 18 months, and a 2TB cards a bit after that. If it is more stable than they are now and I hear that they are, they should be a good option for more storage space and for media files. You can probably even boot off of it. You might end up running your OS on the hard drive and all of your files off the SD card. It's not very likely but it is a possibility. If anything like this happens then It's good to have that slot in the back.
post #11 of 88
What's HDMI 3.1? Don't you mean HDMI 1.3? (the latest HDMI standard supported by most 2010 TVs, receivers and some Blu-ray players being 1.4).

And I agree that the memory card is in the wrong place, unless people are going to mount this thing cable side out. I would expect such a design flaw from anyone but Apple.

And it's "The Evolution of Steve Jobs' Computer Box", not "...Steve Jobs Computer Box".

(How about some simple copy editing?)

On a slightly off-topic note, there are two new standards in the works and we haven't heard a peep from Apple on either of them: HDBaseT is a standard for sending HDMI over Ethernet, so you have networking, digital video and audio and control over one cable. The other is a new standard for Wireless HDMI, WHDMI v2.0. We should start seeing products with these technologies in late 2011. These are the types of advanced technologies that Apple used to take the lead on, like USB, Firewire and Gigabit Ethernet.

HDMI 1.4 also supports networking over HDMI, but not a single manufacturer has implemented it as yet. It also supports an audio return channel (from TV to A/V receiver), so you don't have to run an extra cable, and 3D.
post #12 of 88
Since it's being discussed, just what ARE the factors that determine a higher pricing for the Mini in the UK? Is it purely a matter of currency exchange rates, or does Apple just decide to charge more? It can't be shipping--China is about equidistant from the UK and the US. Inquiring minds want to know.
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post #13 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Since it's being discussed, just what ARE the factors that determine a higher pricing for the Mini in the UK? Is it purely a matter of currency exchange rates, or does Apple just decide to charge more? It can't be shipping--China is about equidistant from the UK and the US. Inquiring minds want to know.

It could be any number of things:

Shipping (distance is not the sole determinant of shipping costs)
Costs of doing business (UK is a very expensive place to do business)
Costs of complying with local regulations (UK and Europe have some very strict regulations that must be complied with)
Volume
Or simply market pricing - the correct price is that which maximizes profits

Bottom line is that you don't have any idea what it costs to do business in the UK (I have done so - and it's far more than doing business in the U.S.), but it's really irrelevant. The price is what it is - you either buy or don't buy based on whether it's worth it to you. It's not your role to determine what price Apple should put on their products - unless you become CEO of Apple.
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post #14 of 88
This is actually a really nice machine...for $349.

At seven hundred bucks, it's a terrible value for the money. When is apple going to figure out that the number of people who consider the size of a desktop machine a higher priority than price and performance is vanishingly small?

Or more likely, they realize that a machine that's a bit bigger and built with desktop parts (plus providing vastly better performance for the price, even with apple's usual profit margin built in) would sell like hotcakes...but they don't want to because they're scared of cannibalizing the precious iMac.

Apple has a huge opportunity to offer a decent machine at a decent price (again, even at their usual profit margin), but they let their size fetish get in the way - or maybe they just are afraid to sell a machine that doesn't have a gimmick that gives them an excuse for jacking up the price.

If they did sell a regular desktop machine, people would be able to make direct price comparisons to PCs without the excuse of "but the PC isn't tiny!" Way more people want price/performance, not "tiny".
post #15 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Bottom line is that you don't have any idea what it costs to do business in the UK (I have done so - and it's far more than doing business in the U.S.), but it's really irrelevant. The price is what it is - you either buy or don't buy based on whether it's worth it to you. It's not your role to determine what price Apple should put on their products - unless you become CEO of Apple.

Did my question sound like a challenge? Didn't intend it to be. Just was curious if others had specific inside info on Apple pricing policies.
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post #16 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by minderbinder View Post

This is actually a really nice machine...for $349.

At seven hundred bucks, it's a terrible value for the money. When is apple going to figure out that the number of people who consider the size of a desktop machine a higher priority than price and performance is vanishingly small?

Or more likely, they realize that a machine that's a bit bigger and built with desktop parts (plus providing vastly better performance for the price, even with apple's usual profit margin built in) would sell like hotcakes...but they don't want to because they're scared of cannibalizing the precious iMac.

Apple has a huge opportunity to offer a decent machine at a decent price (again, even at their usual profit margin), but they let their size fetish get in the way - or maybe they just are afraid to sell a machine that doesn't have a gimmick that gives them an excuse for jacking up the price.

If they did sell a regular desktop machine, people would be able to make direct price comparisons to PCs without the excuse of "but the PC isn't tiny!" Way more people want price/performance, not "tiny".

As soon as you can provide evidence that your marketing and management abilities are better than Apple's, then I'll listen. As it is, you're making the same silly comments that whiners have made for years - almost always without the least understanding of Apple's business model.
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post #17 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Since it's being discussed, just what ARE the factors that determine a higher cost for the Mini in the UK? Is it purely a matter of currency exchange rates, or does Apple just decide to charge more? It can't be shipping--China is about equidistant from the UK and the US. Inquiring minds want to know.

A couple things in addition to exchange rates.
1) Taxation is much much higher in the UK.
2) Taxation is included in UK pricing, U.S. tax prices are pre-tax and tax is added at the register.
3) symmetry in pricing.
4) Europe is willing to pay sky high prices, anyway so companies generally use slightly higher margins to increase profits a bit or at least off set the enormous cost of doing business in europe.
post #18 of 88
About a year ago I cancelled satellite service for an Apple TV. Though I liked the interface and its ease of use, I found certain limitations frustrating (syncing with computer to manage storage). I then switched to a 2009 Mac Mini which gave me Hulu, streaming Netflix, and various other video streaming websites. What I couldn't find through legitimate free sources I purchased from iTunes.

I recently upgraded my Mini to the 2010 model for one reason only: the introduction of an overscan slider. Previously I had to live with the preset resolutions offered by Apple which left 1.5" black bars around the picture on my 720p 36" Panasonic TV. When I clicked overscan on, the picture ballooned beyond the TV screen effectively cutting off a portion of the picture. I purchased a program that could install custom screen sizes and resolutions but I found it far too technical for me to use -- or at least for me to get the settings right.

So I upgraded to the 2010 Mini after I read Apple implemented HDMI and the overscan slider they had only recently added to the Macbook Pro. This single feature eliminated the black bars and now I get a full size picture. As a home theater PC, it runs great. The computer cost me $720 with tax and another $80 for mouse and keyboard off eBay. I also purchased a Logitech Harmony One remote which was another $150 or so. With cables and all peripherals I've probably spent close to $1000. That represents a one-time purchase however. With satellite, I was spending $100 a month for access to the channels and shows my family likes. That's $1200 per year, every year. Plus I was spending $25 a month for DSL or $300 a year. Now I spend $50 a month for 18Mbps internet access and that's it in terms of signal connection -- that's $75 less per month.

I'll probably break even this year in terms of my up front costs in upgrading compared to what I would have spent with satellite service but next year I expect a savings upward of $800.
post #19 of 88
Great little machine, but I'm very disappointed that there's virtually no option in Apple's desktop line for a monitor-free computer between $799 or $2,499. No, I'm not asking for a $1,199 Mac Pro; I just want the option to buy a Mac Mini with a 3.06Ghz Core 2 Duo, or a Core i5 and 330M graphics. Is that so unreasonable?
post #20 of 88
I have a OS X Server in my home that I only spent about 3-4 hours setting up and I have Web, Mail, Web-Mail, DNS, DHCP, Shared drives, I even use the server as a iTunes backup and server via Home Sharing for all five members of my family and this is all shared to my ATV. The kids can buy movies, TV shows, music... and watch/listen on our HDTV. The only complaint is that they cannot "share" rented movies from their accounts to the ATV. For rentals we need to be in my account because that is the one that is sync'd to the ATV.

And all this using 10.4 (Tiger) server. I would expect (but do not know) that SL Server would be easier to setup and maintain.

My DSL router takes more maintenance they my OSX server and it's setup in bridge mode!. (The damn thing resets every once in a while and it thinks it needs to get a DHCP IP from my ISP but I have a static IP for my family domain so I have to go in and reconfigure it! POS!).

What I would like to see is a low end server for the home, similar to the current server but only 5 user licenses (Family Pack), 360GB of internal drive is fine. Any need for more disk space can be had by adding an external USB drive. Low end graphics, 2GB memory, no optical drive and sell it for $499. If you keep the graphics low enough, you would not risk cannibalizing the desktop version.

KRR
post #21 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post

I just want the option to buy a Mac Mini with a 3.06Ghz Core 2 Duo, or a Core i5 and 330M graphics. Is that so unreasonable?

Yes. It would be impossible to put any of those chips into a Mac Mini because of heat and energy issues.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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post #22 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Yes. It would be impossible to put any of those chips into a Mac Mini because of heat and energy issues.

I find that highly unlikely, knowing that 1.) the MacBook Pro's contain these things without issue, and 2.) if what you say is true, then Apple would have created a design that can never see a product refresh.
post #23 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post

I find that highly unlikely, knowing that 1.) the MacBook Pro's contain these things without issue, and 2.) if what you say is true, then Apple would have created a design that can never see a product refresh.

1. Think what you want. Now, educate yourself. The Mini has completely different design constraints.

2. That's nonsense - unless you think Intel is done reducing the power consumption in its chips.
"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
Gatorguy 5/31/13
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"I'm way over my head when it comes to technical issues like this"
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post #24 of 88
I found the HDMI connector works very well. I didn't get the initial overscan problem mentioned by the reviewer - it somehow automatically negotiated a size that fit. I did have a similar audio experience though - I tried playing some audio and it came out the Mini's speaker, but going to System Preferences there was a new audio out option called "TOSHIBA-TV." Selected this and it worked great. HDMI cables sure are expensive though (the ones with both audio and video).

Also one thing that was not mentioned is that the new Mini (unlike the previous) can run K64 which is important to some people.

Another point (since the article mentioned eventual hard drive replacement) is that I found it is very easy to damage the motherboard relative to the previous gen white Mini.

With my white Mini I opened it up 3 or 4 times and was like a ham-fisted elephant in there, and nothing ever broke, but with this new one the thermal sensors, power and SATA motherboard connectors are all extremely delicate. I think they are the same model connector, just not as firmly attached to the motherboard as before. So when pulling cables out, be as delicate as you can!
post #25 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

The price I have to pay for good British beer is higher than you pay, too. The difference is that I'm not running around whining about it.

There's good British beer!?

(OK, OK, I'll duck....)
post #26 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Yes. It would be impossible to put any of those chips into a Mac Mini because of heat and energy issues.

Fine. Cube, then. Something headless and reasonably priced (hah!) between Mini and Pro would make my day.
post #27 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by djsherly View Post

While noting the useful SD slot, you failed to mention its stinky location.

Yes, not really sure how the slot in the back of the box can be described in any way as "handy." If I bought one of these it would be stuck in a cabinet, making the slot inaccessible.
post #28 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

There's good British beer!?

(OK, OK, I'll duck....)

They have real beer? I thought they only had that watery, lukewarm "ale" stuff. But they have beer? I thought most of the beer in the UK was Australian...
post #29 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

It could be any number of things:

Shipping (distance is not the sole determinant of shipping costs)
Costs of doing business (UK is a very expensive place to do business)
Costs of complying with local regulations (UK and Europe have some very strict regulations that must be complied with)
Volume
Or simply market pricing - the correct price is that which maximizes profits

You can add to it: (i) Hedging against exchange rate volatility (the UK£ has depreciated against the US$ by about 20% during the past year); (ii) Higher retailing (distribution + storage) costs; (iii) Covering end-of-life disposal costs (although that is implicit in your 'cost of complying with regulation', I wanted to highlight it).
post #30 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

1. Think what you want. Now, educate yourself. The Mini has completely different design constraints.

2. That's nonsense - unless you think Intel is done reducing the power consumption in its chips.

The i5 and i7 consume less power than the Core 2 Duo, no?
post #31 of 88
Nice write-up. I've been considering a Mini server for a while while going back and forth between it and an iMac. We need a new computer in the house and it seems like this is the best option at the moment. I think it offers the best $/performance at the moment* without getting in to the iMac territory. While I have zero information to back this up I think we a re due for a major change in OS/iMac design. Given what Apple has learned over the last 4 years working on the touch interface I don't think investing the money in an iMac is a smart move right now.

*This is not meant to troll or start an argument. This is just a gut feel I have.
Just say no to MacMall.  They don't honor their promotions and won't respond to customer inquiries.  There are better retailers out there.
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Just say no to MacMall.  They don't honor their promotions and won't respond to customer inquiries.  There are better retailers out there.
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post #32 of 88
Once more on pricing:

To avoid any US / Europe differences accounting for different prices in the first place, I'd just point out that the price increase over the previous Mac mini (which wasn't cheap to begin with, but was ok) is EUR 250 or USD 315 or 45 %!

This is totally crazy, and my only explanation is the USD - EUR exchange rate, ie even the price of the old Mac mini would have been increased by some USD 200 by now just to account for the weak EUR. On the other hand, what I do not understand, is, why all other computers from other companies remain the same, price-wise, more or less at least.

EDIT:
Right now, the mini just doesn't make any sense here in Germany because for just EUR 300 = USD 380 you get an additional:
- 2 GB RAM
- much faster CPU
- 180 GB of Harddisk space
- wireless keyboard
- wireless magic mouse
- AND a full great 21.5" screen!

What I'm missing though would be the faster graphics (nVidea 320 on the mini vs. 9400M on the iMac). To get most of the above would cost me EUR 410 = USD 510, and I still wouldn't have the screen!

So if I were shopping for the iMac I would get it NOW because obviously there will be a huge price increase coming along with the next revision, just to restore the pricing order again!
post #33 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Since it's being discussed, just what ARE the factors that determine a higher pricing for the Mini in the UK? Is it purely a matter of currency exchange rates, or does Apple just decide to charge more? It can't be shipping--China is about equidistant from the UK and the US. Inquiring minds want to know.

Like everything else, price is 100% determined by what people will pay. If Brits won't pay what Apple is asking, then Apple will either lower the price or discontinue selling. Simple market economics.
post #34 of 88
Yes, the i3, i5 etc have lower power envelopes.

British beer is awesome. I'm a micro-brew kinda guy; I love ales. Hint: 'good' beer doesn't come in a can.

The Mac mini does not have different design constraints from a MacBook... it IS a MB, minus display, trackpad, keyboard. The similarities are obvious in terms of SODIMMs, CPU, Logic board etc. The fact that the specs are the same is another clue. The 'difference' is the Mini has HDMI, something Apple has been removing/excluding from GPUs, not something they added. All ATI and NVidia cards have supported/included HDMI for ages.
post #35 of 88
the new Mini has several welcome improvements, like the easy access to its RAM for cheap upgrading. but HDMI is a mixed blessing, since it brings with it HDCP DRM limits on what you can display via it (which alternatively a simple DVI to HDMI output cable avoids). most frustrating is it still is stuck with a low performance 5400 rpm hard drive with no upgrade option to a 7200 rpm drive, even though the server version has one. (this may be why its gaming performance is still limited?). so ... if you need an HTPC for video editing, processing, etc. wait for next year's model.

but by then an overhauled AppleTV may make this unnecessary for many. if ATV 3 or whatever they call it includes or allows attaching a hard drive to become a central iTunes media server, many won't need a desktop mac/pc anymore at all. especially if you could activate/sync/backup your iPhone/iPad via the ATV too.
post #36 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

HDBaseT is a standard for sending HDMI over Ethernet, so you have networking, digital video and audio and control over one cable.

Actually, you don't send HDMI anywhere. It is an interface. You send the signals used in HDMI (audio/video) over ethernet.
post #37 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1337_5L4Xx0R View Post

Yes, the i3, i5 etc have lower power envelopes.

British beer is awesome. I'm a micro-brew kinda guy; I love ales. Hint: 'good' beer doesn't come in a can.

The Mac mini does not have different design constraints from a MacBook... it IS a MB, minus display, trackpad, keyboard. The similarities are obvious in terms of SODIMMs, CPU, Logic board etc. The fact that the specs are the same is another clue. The 'difference' is the Mini has HDMI, something Apple has been removing/excluding from GPUs, not something they added. All ATI and NVidia cards have supported/included HDMI for ages.

Good beer DOES SO come in a can!

http://www.surlybrewing.com/

Everyone here is ALWAYS such an expert....

You know the MacBook doesn't have a transformer built in to the case. You ever touch one of those things while the MB is charging? Yeah, they get pretty hot.

nothing to see here

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nothing to see here

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post #38 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

HDMI cables sure are expensive though (the ones with both audio and video).

All HDMI cables support audio and video. I've never paid more than $10 for an HDMI cable.
post #39 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post

Great little machine, but I'm very disappointed that there's virtually no option in Apple's desktop line for a monitor-free computer between $799 or $2,499. No, I'm not asking for a $1,199 Mac Pro; I just want the option to buy a Mac Mini with a 3.06Ghz Core 2 Duo, or a Core i5 and 330M graphics. Is that so unreasonable?

It does seem as though there's a gap between the mini and the Mac Pro tower but each new version of the Mini is more powerful which means it moves closer to being powerful enough for most uses.

I know that doesn't help right now but two, three, four years from now the Mini will have stepped up in performance significantly. That will render the mid-range tower meaningless and so there's no point introducing such a machine at this time.
post #40 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1337_5L4Xx0R View Post

Yes, the i3, i5 etc have lower power envelopes.

British beer is awesome. I'm a micro-brew kinda guy; I love ales. Hint: 'good' beer doesn't come in a can.

The Mac mini does not have different design constraints from a MacBook... it IS a MB, minus display, trackpad, keyboard. The similarities are obvious in terms of SODIMMs, CPU, Logic board etc. The fact that the specs are the same is another clue. The 'difference' is the Mini has HDMI, something Apple has been removing/excluding from GPUs, not something they added. All ATI and NVidia cards have supported/included HDMI for ages.

Makes sense to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post

It does seem as though there's a gap between the mini and the Mac Pro tower but each new version of the Mini is more powerful which means it moves closer to being powerful enough for most uses.

I know that doesn't help right now but two, three, four years from now the Mini will have stepped up in performance significantly. That will render the mid-range tower meaningless and so there's no point introducing such a machine at this time.

There's definitely a gap. The Mac Mini is the perfect form factor for me now, but the current specs are identical to my 20 month old MacBook Pro; if I could get one with an i5 and 330M, it'd actually be an upgrade.
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