Apple Mac Mini review

5 Mar 2012

A beautiful, fast and future-proof system, but one that comes with a hefty price tag

Apple Mac Mini
Price when reviewed: 
658(£657 inc VAT)
5

As you’d expect from Apple, the Mac mini is a sleek, stylish product, with a brushed aluminium case, which looks more like a designer object than a computer. It’s compact enough to pack in away in a small bag, so we suspect that many schools would want to ensure that this highly desirable piece of kit was securely tied down in the classroom.

The Mac mini’s front panel is very minimal – just a long, thin slit for the optical drive slot and a tiny power light. All the ports are around the back, including Ethernet and Firewire 800 ports, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, four USB 2.0 ports and an SD card reader plus a headphone jack and audio-in jack. It also has 802.11n WiFi built-in, meaning it’s equipped out of the box for a WiFi network.

Apple describes the Mac mini as the world’s most energy efficient desktop computer, with an idle mode power rating of less than 10 watts. It’s also one of the quietest computers we tested. A neat touch is the provision of an internal power supply unit, so there’s no bulky power cable to contend with.

Apple Mac Mini

There’s also a good selection of education-friendly software, including iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand. If your school has been using PC equipment until now, you’ll be pleased to note that you can use a standard USB keyboard and mouse with the Mac mini, which is just as well, as it comes without any peripherals. The cheapest Apple mouse and keyboard will cost you £40 each.

In terms of performance, there’s a lot to like about the Mac Mini, thanks to its 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor - which scored 0.72 in the PC Pro benchmarks - Nvidia Geforce 320M graphics processor and Intel high definition audio chipset. It has the power to run even the most demanding creative applications, HD video isn’t a challenge, and sound quality is crisp and clear through headphones, though unsurprisingly tinny through the unit‘s built-in speaker.

All in all then, the Mac Mini is excellent piece of kit, but there are a couple of issues. The first is to do with ergonomics. Putting all the connecting ports at the back certainly makes for a clean and uncluttered front panel, but it does mean turning around the Mac mini every time you want to connect a device, insert an SD card or use headphones. What’s more, if you use the USB port nearest to the SD card slot, it’s even more awkward to insert a card, and the headphone socket is tucked away in a bottom corner.

Its £479 (educational) price tag and a disappointing one-year, return-to-base warranty, also makes you aware that you’re paying a premium. The Mac Mini looks great and offers very good performance, but, in these challenging times, other mini desktop computers may seem more attractive.

Details

Price ex VAT £548
Price inc VAT £658
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 320GB
RAM capacity 4.00GB

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i5
CPU nominal frequency 2.50GHz

Motherboard

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Graphics card

Graphics card AMD Radeon HD 4250
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 4250
HDMI outputs 1

Hard disk

Capacity 320GB

Drives

Optical disc technology DVD writer

Case

Dimensions 197 x 197 x 36mm (WDH)

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1

Operating system and software

OS family Mac OS X

Performance tests

Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.72