"Neat machine for low profile machine"3.5 starson by BigGuns149
Pros: Incredibly small profile, decent performance
Cons: limited upgrade options, so-so graphics, small hard drive, no FW800
Summary: I start by saying that CNET's review wasn't very good. Their screed about 90 days phone support for example is deceptive in that most manufactors HP included include only 90 days of software support on the vast majority of their machines! Apple's support historically has been far better than most of their competitors, which is hardly suprising since most of the software is made by Apple. Except for a trial of MS Office almost everything is made by Apple. Most Windows machines are a mish mash of software manufactors and the manufactor of the computer made next to none of it! Apple is also one of the only companies that has largely retained their tech support within the US. Therefore, you don't talk to some foreigner with a strange accent that you don't understand. CNET even ran a story about Apple closing their experimental center in India, but apparently the writer of the review doesn't bother reading CNET. Sad...
The biggest criticisms that I have is that graphics card is pretty weak. While I can get smooth 1080p playback of movie trailers the Intel integrated graphics is not suitable for a lot of high end gaming or high end video/photo editing. With a 500GB external drive this is a good basic machine for playing back video on your TV. I only find it unfortunate that the machine doesn't offer a Blu-ray option yet. If they had a Blu-ray option and they could keep the price below a $1000 I think this would be real good HTPC, but alas it would plays standard DVDs.
It is unfortunate that there isn't a means of upgrading the graphics either through a low profile PCIe card or a MXM card either, so you are pretty much stuck with the graphics. The HP slimlines offer a PCIe low profile slot, but unless you are going to throw down at least $200 you couldn't get much better graphics on the HP either. If the most demanding use of 3d graphics is going to be some 1080p video playback the graphics card will cut it, but if you are editing video or playing any hard core games I would go for another machine preferably a larger form factor with a dedicated graphics card (Geforce 7900 or better)and either a higher end Core 2 or maybe even a Quad.
The Hard Drive is a bit small albeit for the vast majority of users the size isn't a big deal as much as the speed of the HDD. A lot of people would fill a 160GB HDD. They really should put 7200rpm drives in the mini to improve the performance. This isn't a laptop so battery life isn't a big deal. Even beefing it up to a 7200rpm wouldn't increase the wattage so much as to require a noisier fan. If you are really into large amounts of storage for video you should just buy an external Hard Drive. It is unfortunate that the mini has neither FW800 or eSATA because both are much faster. Since the Mac Pro and the iMacs all have FW800 I would have figured Apple would have added it by now. eSATA may have been asking much because eSATA drives haven't been on the market as long, but not getting FW800 is a real bummer. The HP they compared it to has neither as well so I don't really find the HP larger price tag that appealing.
Upgrading the memory is more difficult than it ought to be(get a putty knife and google Mac Mini memory upgrade), but you can get 2GB of DDR2-667 for about $100 at any decent local computer store. If you do that than you can sell the 2 512mb modules, whereas buying 2GB through Apple you let Apple keep the memory. I rather think that they ought to include the extra gig of RAM on this model since it would only add about $40-$50 to the cost(average joes can buy it for that price so Apple shouldn't have any problem buying it for that price). It would also make the performance running Vista on theis machine better as well. A lot of people buy a Mini as a way to get their feet wet in the Mac world without spending fortune.
The lack of a card reader is much ado about nothing. Internal card readers add clutter to the case and wouldn't support any new future card formats. Won't it look stupid to have a card reader 2 years from now for cards that nobody uses anymore meanwhile having no slot for new proposed standards? How much longer will you need a slot for XD or MS? Heck who needs Smart Media anymore? Furthermore, replacing an external card reader is far easier if a pin gets bent on the CF slot or somthing.
All said I think that the Mac Mini 1.83Ghz model is a nice machine albeit I think that it definately isn't for everyone. It makes a fine basic home theather PC or basic home user. Anyone looking for a high end HTPC should just build it themselves. Anyone who edits video or does hard core gaming should be looking at a standard tower instead of low profile machines. Despite some flaws(no FW800, no eSATA, no Blu-ray, no dedicated graphics) I can see quite a few people who be bothered by my criticisms and will find this unit appealing.