Pros All the pros the editors list. Plus the bunch of software that makes it less money than PCs that cost $100 less. Making the Mini at least $200 better deal. And it's OS X.
Cons Not terribly, or easily, expandable. Not as powerful as more expensive computers.
Summary This is a killer little computer, with a very large following. People love it, and it's because it's an inexpensive way to get into Macs. That fact trumps any weaknesses. As far as value goes, a computer that is worth its salt is hardware and software. For whatever it might lack in horsepower it more than makes up for it with software and overall value.
Pros Fast graphics card (finally), Firewire 800, dual monitor support.
Cons Apple cheaped-out on the remote control. (additional purchase, $20)
Summary I own three Mac minis. The mini is a practical machine that can sit at a desk, under a TV, or in a bedroom without making noise or drawing attention to itself.
Think of the Mac mini as a multimedia appliance, not a hobbyist's upgradable computer.
Put the Mini under your HDTV, add a wireless keyboard, sit back and enjoy web surfing, iTunes, iPhoto, YouTube, DVD playing, EyeTV, and boxee. Forget the technical, hairsplitting, benchmarks. Day-to-day you can't tell 5400 RPM from 7200 RPM when surfing the web or updating Twitter.
It's perfect for a dorm room, small apartment, or the energy-conscious consumer, and if you want to run Windows, it will do that too.
[This review was written on a mini from the family room couch with a garage-sale wireless keyboard ($15).]
Pros 1. Simplicity / size / small form-factor
3. Everything you need, nothing you don't
4. Great looks & design
Cons 1. External power supply can add to cable management issues.
Summary Comparing the Mac mini against any-old PC box with comparable or better spec sheets does not always work.
1. COMPARING APPLES TO OTHER FRUIT, NOT BRICKS.
CNET compared the mini to 3 PCs. These machines don?t stack up to the mini in regards to design & quality. They specifically highlighted the Asus slimline desktop. But that's like showing you a dozen fresh brown eggs in a brown basket, & 4 3-egg omelets cooked-to-order on fine china, & saying, "Both of these have 12 eggs, they come from chickens, & you are going eat them ".
The reality is the small form-factor of the Mac mini does add a premium to the price. A better comparison would put it up against at a comparable form factor or style, like the Dell Studio Hybrid.
Today a Dell Studio Hybrid is $520 with a 2.0GHz(Core2 Duo)2GB/160GB. The mini is $650, with a 2.0GHz(Core2 Duo) 2GB/120 GB. Neither comes with a monitor, & I would upgrade to a wireless keyboard & mouse which is an additional cost for both.
But there are key differences in the two machines. Both sport 5 USB ports, but on the Studio Hybrid you can also find a multi-card reader (multi-card readers are one I/O device I admit I would like on Macs). The Dell also sports a standard 1394 link, while the Mac sports faster FW800. The Dell bests the Apple with both HDMI & DVI, while the mini keeps its DVI port, & adds Apple?s new darling - Mini Display Port. But while the Dell has a front headphone jack, rear analog audio in/out, & digital optical out, the Mac simplifies audio connections with 2 rear minijacks combining headphone/digital optical line out, & mic/digital optical line in. On the circuitry front, the Dell has an 800MHzFSB & DDR2, vs. a 1GHzFSB & DDR3 in the mini. The mini also has newer NVIDIA graphics, while Dell sticks w/ integrated Intel.
2. THE VALUE OF THE MACOS OPERATING SYSTEM & APPLE SOFTWARE IS SOMETHING THAT CANNOT BE OVERLOOKED.
The advantages of seamless software integration with the work environment are not to be disregarded as easily as the CNET editors seem to do. I personally use both Windows XP Pro & MacOS 10.5, & 9 times out of 10, life is just plain easier in the MacOS.
3. MAC PRODUCTS ARE NOT JUST GOOD-LOOKING, BUT THEY ARE QUALITY PRODUCTS THAT LAST.
The non-generic construction & design of Macs means higher prices. But the ROI is important for large purchases used everyday. Also, because Apple designs both hardware & software together, it usually makes optimized, top-quality products with life-spans far longer than traditional PCs.
4. THE MAC MINI IS A MACHINE DESIGNED FOR GENERAL USE, BUT IS COMPLETELY CAPABLE OF DOING WHAT THE MAJORITY OF AVERAGE USERS NEED, & IS PRICED ACCORDINGLY.
But interestingly enough, it has proven itself in two important areas ? servers & home theater PCs. They make good servers because they?re small and sip power. They?re great HTPCs because:
a. They?re attractive enough, and small enough to put out in the living room.
b. Why buy a monitor? Just hook it up to your TV.
c. Wireless access to your complete iTunes & media library on your TV via Front Row (another wonderful piece of software in MacOS X)
d. It replaces my DVR.
e. The added capabilities of a full computer (vs. the Roku, or AppleTV).
So, to me it's not so clear that Apple fails the value argument quite so miserably as CNET might have us believe. Instead, I find the Mac mini is a unique, attractive solution, with more than enough power and expansion ability.
Now I agree that Apple may charge a bit much on its custom configuration options, but that?s still no excuse. If you are dead-set on topping out a mini, there are already 3rd party vendors lined up to sell you the upgrades you need & tell you how to open up the latest Lilliputian Mac to get them inside.
So while Apple?s iMac lets you buy a computer, plug it in & go, the Mac mini gives you the opportunity to add a Mac, & make it your own along the way.
Pros If you're like me and leave your computer on 24x7, then the energy savings alone will payback the difference in 16 months (11.4 cents/kWh) and after that the resale value will be much higher. Wifi and dual display further open the cost gap.
Cons Most folks will need a display adapter, fortunately Apple selected a standard connector and low-cost online vendors like monoprice sells them for much lower prices. The HD could be larger.
Summary The Mac Mini is a wonderful computer that packs a ton of functionality into a very compact space; my desk is once again a place to work instead of a parking garage for a huge metal box. Mac OS X is a joy to come home to after being shoehorned into Microsoft's products at work.
Pros An excellent conservation of space while providing all the ports one needs for expansion. Quiet, unobtrusive fully capable desktop computer.
Cons Its compactness is its worst feature, for it forces the use of a laptop hard drive (hence the smaller storage capacity and rpm). Rarely do I need 100 Gb of storage (let alone the much larger drive in the desktop world), to be fair.
Summary An excellent replacement for a Windows desktop gone bad. The mini can do double duty by running Parallels or VMWare, and providing a platform for Windows Vista Premium, XP Pro, ME, 98 and Ubuntu, if one desires... all on one hard drive and computer. It runs Microsoft Office 2008 without issue, as well as the free OpenOffice. A fine business machine as well. The only gripe is something that isn't the fault of the Mini, -- for business accounting needs, Quickbooks (and Quicken) for payroll is still vastly superior on Windows... so running Windows in Parallels is the best solution there. Seeing these comparisons with Windows computers, one has to keep in mind that the OS X system is a full-fledge OS. No part of it is watered down as are the versions of Windows Vista below Premium. No compromises on file sharing, VPN, VNC or any other features. Price comparisons need to reflect that. Getting a PC with Vista Home-anything is a suckers bet. To use the machine anywhere outside of the very narrow confines of the 'Home' functions requires that the Windows user buy the upgrade. The Mac doesn't suffer that silliness, or hidden cost.