Battle of the cheap PCs: Mac Mini vs. Windows competitors
Creative pros, keep shopping. Apple's latest desktop release directly targets budget buyers. Mac fans on a tight budget or those searching for a cheap way to add another Mac at home will undoubtedly be drawn in by the Mac Mini's sleek design and low price. But what about the rest of us looking for an affordable computer? Should we buy a Mini or a Windows-based budget PC?
What the Mac Mini has going for it is an incredibly cool design and excellent software. With its glossy, white-plastic top and anodized-aluminum sides, the Mini looks great atop any desk. And the system is so tiny that you can tuck it away in other spots in your home, too. Plus, it's nearly silent when running. The bundled iLife '05 suite adds to the Mini's appeal; it includes all of Apple's most recent multimedia apps, including iMovie HD, iTunes 4.7, iDVD 5.0, iPhoto 5.0, and GarageBand 2.0. And the Mac OS is less susceptible to viruses than big, bad Windows.
The downside? The Mini's small size means it has little in the way of expansion room. And Apple uses a slow-spinning notebook drive to keep the compact Mini from overheating. Even if you heed our advice and upgrade the memory to 512MB, you may find yourself outgrowing the Mini more quickly than you would a Windows PC that is more easily upgraded. So, before you decide where your budget dollars are best spent, read our full review of Apple's Mac Mini and see how it stacks up against Windows competitors from Dell, eMachines, Gateway, and WinBook.