Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mac Mini

Mac Mini
With the popularity of the Mac Mini, the abundance of reviews, and chances that most of you have at least seen one, I'll try not to bore. However with it's super small size and quiet operation, it makes for a perfect Small and Quiet PC!
Granted it doesn't run the more common Windows, but OS X is actually a very friendly operating system and has quite a few neat features not found in Windows. We won't get into any Windows vs OS X discussion here, but each has it's advantages and for general computer use both are equally acceptable.
Although the old G4 processor is somewhat dated and underpowered, it's perfectly fine for day to day tasks of email, surfing, chat, skype, light photo editing, playing back MP3s, DVDs, etc. The base model starts at $500, but the $600 model is probably the better choice with built-in bluetooth, wifi, and a larger 80GB notebook sized HDD. Also included is a slim DVD/CDRW drive, DVI and VGA out (same port with an adaptor), 512MB RAM, OS X Tiger, and iLife06 media suite. It's not as cheap as Apple would like you to think, but considering it's the smallest widely available PC out there (minaturization comes at a cost) and it comes with Apple styling/branding, it's actually not too bad.

The Mini (seen here with the Nano and a 2nd Gen iPod) makes a wonderful addition as a second computer, and comes pre-installed with all the software to play DVDs, stream internet radio, play MP3s, dock with your iPod, download/edit/view photos, connect your bluetooth accessories, email, .. And it really is plug, and play.

With it's tiny size and low noise, it fits unobtrusively in the bedroom. An optional $20 DVI to S-video adaptor allows it to be connected directly to a TV with very decent image quality at 1024x768 resolution.

The Mini only has two USB ports (plus a firewire) and all located in the back, so adding a USB hub is probably a good idea. This $5 matching white unpowered hub works just fine.
Also a bluetooth mouse and headset (handsfree skyping and occassional late night DVD viewing) are easily paired. Apple's sleek looking bluetooth keyboard however was a little pricey and a little large, so a matching small sized silver USB keyboard was selected instead. It even has a backlight for glowing at night...

So how quiet is it? Well the Mini also uses an external brick PSU which helps keep out a good part of the heat and noise. It does have one fan that can get loud when the CPU is loaded, but I've had my Mini for a year now, and it's only a rare handful of times where I heard this (during some installations/updates and when compiling an iPhoto album). The only other source of noise is the notebook hard disk spinning inside. Depending on the HDD that comes inside your Mini (as Apple uses several brands/models) the noise level may vary. My Mini originally came with a Seagate Momentus that was certainly not quiet and had an annoying clicking noise every time it tried to park it's head. However replacing this with a Samsung notebook HDD made it very quiet. It's still audible late at night in a quiet bedroom, but the soft whir easily fades into the background.

How about further silencing to obtain the inaudible PC? Unfortunately with it's very small case and custom cooling solution, this makes any modding very difficult unless you happen to have good metalwork machining skills...

Mac Mini 2 - Intel Core Solo


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