Apple Mac Mini review

11 Aug 2011

Apple’s updated box of tricks is faster, cheaper and more tempting than before

Price when reviewed: 
699inc VAT
4

The Mac Mini may lack the glamour of the iMac or the stunning new MacBook Air models, but it’s maturing into a very capable little machine.

Like last year’s models, the 2011 Minis come in base and premium consumer models, plus a beefed-up server model. The stylish unibody aluminium design remains, but the optical drive slots have gone: Apple argues an optical drive is no longer essential for everyday computing, and it has a point.

You can, of course, attach an external drive, or share an optical drive from another Mac or PC over the network. If you want to install Windows, the Boot Camp Assistant can create a bootable USB drive from an ISO image of the Windows DVD.

Round the back, the mini-DisplayPort socket has become a Thunderbolt port, but otherwise external connections are unchanged. You still get HDMI, four USB 2 ports (there’s no USB 3 in Apple-land, alas) plus FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and an SDXC slot.

There’s dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 4 wireless connectivity too. As usual, what you don’t get is a keyboard and mouse, but you can use existing PC peripherals so long as you don’t mind a few keys being in the wrong places.

Internally, the big news is a switch from ancient Core 2 Duo CPUs to powerful Sandy Bridge processors. The basic Mini now uses a 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M, while the premium one comes with the choice of a 2.5GHz i5-2520M or a 2.7GHz i5-2620M and the server uses a quad-core 2GHz Core i7-2635QM.

These are mobile parts, so power consumption remains low – our review unit idled at around 30W, rising only to 65W under heavy load – but desktop performance is boosted by around 50% over last year’s models. In our benchmarks the 2.5GHz model achieved an overall score of 0.72, pointing to a score of around 0.66 for the base model. That’s enough power to keep everyday computing tasks snappy and responsive.

Details

Price ex VAT £583
Price inc VAT £699
Overall rating 4
Performance 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 500GB
RAM capacity 16.00GB

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency 2.50GHz
CPU overclocked frequency 3.20GHz
Processor socket N/A

Motherboard

Motherboard Apple proprietary
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0
Internal SATA connectors 0
Internal SAS connectors 0
Internal PATA connectors 0
Internal floppy connectors 0
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 0
Memory sockets total 2

Graphics card

Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting Low
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAM 256MB
DVI-I outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Hard disk

Hard disk Toshiba 5065GSXF
Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Internal disk interface SATA 3Gb/s
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Cache size 8MB

Drives

Optical drive none

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers Internal

Case

Case format Small form factor
Dimensions 197 x 197 x 36mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply rating 85W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 2

Front ports

Front panel memory card reader no

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard none

Operating system and software

OS family Mac OS X
Recovery method Recovery partiion

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 29W
Peak power consumption 63W

Performance tests

3D performance (crysis) low settings 69fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.72
Responsiveness score 0.86
Media score 0.71
Multitasking score 0.58