If we had to choose either the Zino or the Mac Mini for the living room, we'd pick the Dell. It's more affordable, even with the graphics chip upgrade, and its HDMI port makes connecting it to a TV simple. On the other hand, if you want a small, low-cost desktop to both serve up media and handle basic productivity tasks, the Mac Mini is the winner hands down because of its faster performance.
As usual with the Mac Mini, upgrade options are limited because of the inaccessibility of its interior. This is not to say it can't be done, but Apple hasn't made it easy. It also sticks to the BYO mouse and keyboard philosophy Apple has held for the Mac Mini. At least if you spring for Apple's new Magic Mouse or its new wireless keyboard, the Mac Mini's built-in Bluetooth receiver will work seamlessly with those devices.
|Apple Mac Mini (2.26GHz, 160GB, Fall 2009)||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||50.95254|
|Energy Star compliant||Yes|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$5.78|
Regardless of our thoughts on the Mac Mini's value or feature set, its energy efficiency remains unparalleled. We've only seen one system, an eMachines Nettop, with better power efficiency than the Mac Mini, and that system averaged $5.71 in annual power bills, and it's between three and four times slower. In terms of performance-per-watt, the Mac Mini is by far the most power efficient desktop we've seen.
Apple's service and support picture, as usual, is less rosy. Yes, you get a yearlong warranty out of the box. And yes, we like the free shipping and the fact that Apple's Genius Bars and certified service providers around the country offer an in-person service alternative that you can't find from many other vendors. Yet, the 90-day limit on phone support will remain a laughable nickel-and-dime cost-cutting measure, as long as Apple retains that policy, and as long as the rest of the industry offers phone support for a year or longer. A $149 fee for AppleCare will extend both your warranty and your eligibility for phone support to three years, but that's no bargain.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple Mac Mini (2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 160GB, Fall 2009)
Mac OS X 10.6.2; 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7550; 2GB 1,067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M; 160GB, 7,200rpm Fujitsu hard drive
Apple Mac Mini (2.53GHz, 320GB, Fall 2009)
Mac OS X 10.6.2; 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700; 4GB 1,067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M; 320GB, 7,200rpm Fujitsu hard drive
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline s5220y
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.6 GHz Pentium Dual-Core E5300; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive