"Purchased for living room web browser, may get another."4.5 starson by waduncan
Pros: Quiet...almost too quiet, its eerie. Fast. Comes with quite a few full version software (not 15-30 day free trials or limited feature versions). Small.
Cons: Safari browser does not always render websites correctly (that is a gripe about Safari not the Mini). A tad expensive once you add the 1gig of ram. No DVI cable knowledge by Apple folks/me.
Summary: Purchased this computer for my brother after his laptop finally bit the dust. He really only uses his computer to yahoo chat, limewire music, youtubes, eBay, and myspace. He was going to get another laptop from Dell due to their very attractive priced $549 Inspiron 1501. The only reason he wanted a laptop was due to him not having room to place a desktop PC in his living space.
So he called me and asked me to look into it for him. I reviewed the Dell but was a little disappointed with the power for the price (mind you for what he uses his PC for it would actually have worked for him). I finally stumbled across this Mac Mini by accident. I am a diehard IBM-clone, Intel, Windows-based, whatever you want to call them user/supporter. For myself I would never had considered a Mac, however considering my brothers lite usage of the PC I figured a Mac would do him right. Also he has a gift for finding and downloading EVERY virus on the planet. So once again I figured that Mac would be better due to their lack of viruses.
Ok so we go purchase this machine. He has an LCD TV (non-HD...this becomes important later) and has enough room on his entertainment center to place the Mac Mini. While at the Apple Store it becomes apparent to me that he will have to run the USB keyboard / mouse cable (that I was going to provide him) from his entertainment center to his chair....yeah that is not going to work. Ok so I purchase the wireless keyboard and mouse for him as a early Christmas gift. Being a power junkie myself, I force him into the 1.83 (from the 1.66) and I force him to get the 1 gig of ram, as opposed to the 512 meg. I realize that this is going to put him way over the $549 he wanted to pay for the Dell so when we go to ring the whole thing up I pay the difference (which comes out to $400 including the mouse and keyboard). I do this for two reasons, 1) I have always been interested in the "dark side" (mac) of the computer world, and 2) I want his net money spent to be the same so that he does not regret the purchase. In addition I paid the extra amount because I have been looking for a living room PC for myself and if this pans out for him I would purchase one for myself (was worth the $400 to me...if you can believe that).
Ok we get the Mac Mini home and quickly realize that it does not have a connector to the TV/Monitor. So I tell my brother to finish hooking it up and I head back to the Apple Store (30 minutes away). I get there and they don’t have the cable. The Mac Mini has a DVI output and my brothers non-HD LCD TV has a DVI input, however the Apple Store did not carry a DVI to DVI cable. They had EVERYTHING else, DVI to HDMI, DVI to S-Video, DVI to VGA, DVI to RCA, DVI to AGP (or whatever the old apple display was), but no DVI to DVI. The Apple guy tells me to go to Radio Shack to pick one up. The Radio Shack is in the Mall a couple of stores down so I don’t mind the advise, though I am a little put off by it. I get the Radio Shack and lord they don’t have it either, they can order me one but they need to know which type, DVI-A, DVI-I, or DVI-D. Beats me? So I head back to the Apple Store and ask which kind of output this is...the guys answer "DVI". Yeah I get that part, its the -A -D -I piece I need. He had no clue, but to his credit he spent 30 minutes with me trying to figure it out. Finally, after a wikipedia search, he determines that I need a DVI-D. He then looks online and finds that Best Buy has them in store (as opposed to Radio Shack having to order one). So I get to Best Buy roughly 20 minutes later and they toss me a new curve ball. Do I need Single Link or Dual Link? Once again I don’t know. If I would have had the Mac Mini in my possession at that time I would have taken it back to the Apple Store right then, gotten a refund and went to the Dell display in the Mall. However I remained cool and purchased the Single Link cable hoping this is what we needed. Finally 2+ hours after I left my brothers house I return with the “magic cable”, or so I hoped. We plug it in and ….. no video. My brother is all upset by this and even starts to mumble something about the Dell laptop. I am trying at this point to remain hopeful but am getting upset myself (actually already was but am trying to hide it). So I remembered that the Apple Store had a DVI to S-Video adapter. I check his non-HD LCD TV to ensure it has a S-Video connector and I rush off again to get the adapter. Roughly 75 minutes later I return with the adaptor and an s-video cable. Bingo the Mac has video. This totally changes the mood in the room and we both are like “we need a beer”.
The very first thing we saw when we finally go the Mac running was a grey screen telling us to either plug in a mouse or turn on our wireless one. We turned on the Mighty Mouse (I expected this mouse to come with a cape, but sadly it did not) and turned on the keyboard. After spending a few minutes typing in information (like address, name, user id, etc…) we were up and running. What amazed me was that it did not need to know anything about the internet. We just plugged the ethernet cable in and it configured it automatically for us. It proceeded to check if it had patches and then proceeded to download and install them for us. After everything was finished (not including the cable problem) we had only spent maybe 30 minutes tops.
There was no annoying pop up (purchase me) software installed. There were no annoying limited function or limited use software installed (that we have found yet). Everything on the Mac was fully functional and worked great. The system is very easy to navigate, even for a old Dos/Windows person like myself. We installed Yahoo Chat and it worked like a champ for the Mac. The only problem we ran into while using it is that Safari does not render ebaums world correctly. When you use the search feature it will chop off about ½ of the results and place them into the bottom bar on the website, which makes that ½ useless…which also limits the use on the website as the Next/Previous links are in that mess somewhere. I do not know if Opera or FireFox would work with Mac, I have no looked into it yet.
As for other things related to the actual Mac Mini itself (hardware). The machine is eerily quite. I had to keep looking over to see if the blue light was on to know that was running. You can not hear this Mac from more than two feet away. The machine itself does get a little warm but nothing that I would worry about (from a “can I sit it on my nice finished wood surface” perspective). It boots up VERY fast and shuts down even faster. If you leave the Mac in sleep mode (which by the way Apple recommends unless you are going to be away from it for 3+ days) you can awaken it with either a click of the mouse, touch of a key on the keyboard, or from the little remote control they give you. In S-Video mode the picture looks alright, but it is a little fuzzy. I suspect that with the correct DVI cable (or running it in VGA mode) you would get a crystal clear picture.
***WARNING*** - The DVI dilemma. Ok if you are not a DVI guru (like I was not) you may not know the difference between Single Link, Dual Link, DVI-A, DVI-D, DVI-I, and all of the other mess DVI gives us (no wonder HDMI is the new standard). You do not need a Dual Link cable for the Mac unless you want to run two monitors. So you can save yourself some $$ and purchase a Single Link cable. If your LCD TV is HD, then you will want the DVI-D. If your LCD TV is non-HD, then you will want the DVI-I. You do not want the DVI-A.
Ok to sum up:
HD LCD TV – Single Link DVI-D
Non-HD LCD TV – Single Link DVI-I
That little jewel of information there can save you hours and tons of money on gasUpdated
We got the DVI-I cable from Radio Shack yesterday (after I had them order me one). It installed with no problems and after a quick reboot we were back in business. The display is about 2x as crisp and clear compared to the S-Video option. Also the DVI-I cable allowed us to go up to a 1280x1024 resolution, instead of the 1024x768 that the S-Video capped us at. I would imagine with a better LCD TV you could get alot higher.
My brother is much happier with the Mac Mini now that the DVI cable is installed. For one he can hit the "PC" button on his remote and it changes over to his PC (instead of AUX1 for S-Video). He also likes the much more clear and crisp picture quality, which allows him to sit back further and still be able to read the screen.
Tonight I am going to hook up his Mac Mini to his surround sound system instead of using the internal speaker. I will update this review once we have played with that for a day or two.Updated
We hooked up the audio to his sound system this weekend. The sound quality is about what you would expect from a computer with integrated sound...meaning it is good enough for youtubes and things like that. We did not try a DVD movie, but I would suspect that we would not get surround sound out of the Mac as delivered. We did have a pretty good amount of noise when we first hooked it up. If we moved the volume level of the Mac too high we got noise and if we moved the volume of the sound system too high we got noise. It took us a while to find a volume area on both systems to avoid this. I had attempted the 25% volume level for the Mac that others have reported, however for us that left the sound system way too high and we got noise as a result. We eneded up right at 50% on the Mac and it was good enough.
Unless we do something major with the Mac during the next couple of months I will probably not update this again for a while. I will come back for sure around the 2-3 month mark to let you know how he likes it at that point (and to let you know if he managed to get a virus on it yet).