(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
While we might have some doubts about the Mac Mini's performance, its power efficiency is highly encouraging. We hooked both the Acer and the Mac Mini to a Watts Up power meter and tested both systems' consumption at idle with a few basic apps open, and under load while playing Quake 4. Happily, our results fell in line with Apple's claims: when the system is powered on but idle, the Mac Mini only used only 15.4 watts compared with Acer's demanding 70.9. The Mac Mini also saved a relative amount of energy under load, consuming only 28.3 watts during our Quake 4 session, as opposed to the Acer's 95.6. Needless to say, the savings are notable. We're still refining our power-consumption testing, and we have some concerns about accuracy at low wattages. But with such a large gap, we feel comfortable saying that compared with other low-cost systems, we expect you will save a few bucks on your yearly electric bill.
Even though we have questions about the Mac Mini's hardware value, Apple helps close the gap by including its iLife '09 application suite with every new Mac Mini. We're also glad to see the mini DVI-to-single-DVI dongle mentioned above, but as usual with the Mac Mini, there's no mouse or keyboard. We're also disappointed that Apple left off the tiny Apple Remote this time around. You can add an Apple keyboard and mouse set for $98, and the Remote for an extra $20. Other options from Apple for the Mac Mini include a faster 2.26GHz CPU for an extra $150, and more RAM and larger hard drives, both for reasonable prices.
Per usual, Apple supports the new Mac Mini with its standard coverage, including one year of parts-and-labor coverage and access to all of the extra goodies that come along with Apple Store Genius support. The Apple Web site also provides a portal for extra support, including rebate information and online-service assistance, but e-mail support is only available for iTunes store and Apple photo services only. We're also still disappointed by the diminutive 90-day technical support over the phone--most PCs allow for a year of free phone calls under the one-year umbrella, some even offering 24-7 service.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple Mac Mini
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 1GB 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chip; 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive.
Acer Aspire X1700-U3700A
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Pentium Dual CPU E2220; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce G100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Apple Mac Mini
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive.
Dell Inspiron I530-120B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.8GHz AMD Phenom 9100e Quad-Core; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.