Apple Mac Mini (2010)

The latest Mac Mini offers an HDMI connection, an aluminium, unibody enclosure and a removable panel to upgrade memory

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Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Apple Mac Mini

Pros

  • Unibody, aluminium design; HDMI port; SD card slot; whisper-quiet operation; reasonable performance; removable panel to upgrade RAM

Cons

  • Power button and SD card slot on the rear; no Blu-ray drive; reasonably expensive

Bottom Line

Apple's Mac Mini is the cheapest Mac available, and the addition of an HDMI port and an SD card slot makes it an great choice for a living room computer -- provided you're willing to pay the asking price.

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The latest version of Apple's tiny PC — the aptly named Mac Mini — adds a much-requested HDMI connection, an aluminium, unibody enclosure and a removable panel that lets you upgrade its memory. The Mac Mini is a great option for a living room computer, but its steep price tag may turn many potential buyers away.

Like most Apple products, the new Mac Mini is sleek, good looking and superbly constructed. Corners are smooth and refined, and the front of the unit is as minimalist as possible, with just a single disk drive slot and a tiny power light. On top, an embossed, black Apple logo is a nice design touch, while on the bottom, a removable plastic panel allows you to upgrade the Mac Mini's memory — a feat not possible on previous models. The panel is easily removed by twisting it to the left.

The Apple Mac Mini has added two features that were desperately missing from previous models — an SD card slot and a HDMI-out port. Both are located on the rear of the device, along with an Ethernet port, a mini DisplayPort, four USB ports, a headphone jack, a FireWire port and the power button. Having the power button and the SD card slot on the rear of the device isn't completely practical, especially if you plan to add the Mac Mini to your living room entertainment hub. On a positive note, Apple has placed the Mac Mini's power supply inside the unit itself, so there's no longer a bulky power supply brick attached to the cable.

Though some of the biggest changes have been to the Mac Mini's design, the internals have also been upgraded. The Mac Mini comes with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor a 320GB hard drive and 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n as well as integrated Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR.

It doesn't ship with a keyboard and mouse, but the cost of ordering a more powerful version of Mini is reasonable for a Mac. It will set you back $210 for a slightly faster 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, $140 for an extra 2GB of DDR3 RAM (for a total of 4GB of memory) and $140 for a 500GB hard drive. This is on top of an already costly asking price, however, so the Mac Mini doesn't represent great value.

The Apple Mac Mini delivered noteworthy performance in our tests. It took just 46sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. We also benchmarked the Mac Mini using Geekbench; it scored 3377. Apple's 15in, Core i7 MacBook Pro scored 4295. The Mac Mini handles basic multitasking, including Web browsing, music and video streaming, without any issues, but it does feel a tad slower than most of Apple's notebook and desktop range. A huge positive is that the Mac Mini is almost inaudible, even during taxing tasks, and doesn't get overly hot during use.

The addition of a HDMI port now makes the Mac Mini a powerful alternative to AppleTV. If you're the type of person who stores a lot of music, videos and photos on your PC and regularly show them off to guests, then you'll be able to do it on a high-definition TV in the comfort of your lounge room. The only real downside is Apple's lack of support for Blu-ray media — the Mac Mini only comes with a slot-loading DVD drive.

According to Apple, the Mac Mini is the world's most energy-efficient desktop computer. The power supply has been reduced from 110 Watts in the previous model to 85W. During our tests it consumed between 7.6 and 9.1W of power in standby mode and reached a maximum of 22.1W during more taxing tasks, like streaming video from the Web.

The Mac Mini comes with MacOS X 10.5.6 preinstalled, along with Apple’s creative suite, iLife 09. iWork 09, however, isn’t included, leaving the Mac Mini devoid of any competent productivity applications.

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