Monday, March 06, 2006

Mac Mini 2 - 1st update

After only a few days of light use on the new Core Solo Mini, the biggest difference from my old Mini my old G4 Mini is the remote control. If you use the Mini as a desktop then this may be nothing more than just a novelty, but since I use my Mini as a secondary computer hooked up to my bedroom TV, it's wonderful and leaves my bluetooth mouse in the dust. Even though the bluetooth mouse offered cordless freedom, trying to operate a mouse on the bed wasn't the easiest and even simple interfaces like DVD Player required considerable concentration and dexterity.
Of course the remote and Front Row isn't perfect. Some of the time it's not very responsive, pressing a button could mean several seconds of waiting before anything happens (with no indication the command was received). Sometimes this can be explained the first time you select a function and the Mini has to load up the program, but other times it's not clear why there's this delay. However overall it's still very usable and beats a mouse anyday for the functions that it can handle. Of course there are only certain applications and limited functions accessible using the remote and you still need a mouse to do other things.

Apple's iTune's store now offer TV shows for purchasing and downloading. Although you can't do any purchases (yet) via the FrontRow interface, you can access them once they've been downloaded. For those of you who are Sci-Fi fans, you may be familar with the new Battlestar Galactica series that Universal in their marketing wisdom, released a season 2.0 DVD set which only includes shows for half the season. This means those of us living outside the US are left hanging (and BSG actually has a storyline that is strung out across many episodes). Well iTunes wonderfully offers a solution, although at $1.99 an episode, and not exactly what you'd call DVD quality.
First step is to purchase it from Apple's iTunes music store.

And then easily accessible in FrontRow. The quality is certainly watchable on a TV set, but there's room for improvement without worrying they'd be competing with their DVD sales.

This is much easier than using a PVR and all the shows are nicely categorized and sorted by iTunes. This is great if you missed an episode on TV, however at a $1.99 a show it doesn't make for a very economical TV replacement. Maybe if Apple had a monthly flat rate with unlimited downloads (like Napster's plan)...
Well if you're not quite up to paying for your TV shows, you can always check out the free Movie Trailers that'll give you a taste of what FrontRow video watching is like... of course when the server is up.

(For those astute enough to notice, actually most of the screenshots were taken on a Dell widescreen LCD, however the Movie Trailers screen was off my old Sony TV set)

I never really noticed the big difference between the perceived level of noise in my bedroom compared to in my study. The same PC sounds significantly louder in my study than it does in my bedroom. I guess my bedroom has a larger window, slightly higher ambient noise level, is a much larger room, and has more sound absorbing material like a large bed with a soft comforter, curtains, clothes, etc. compared with my small study which has a large hard flat surface of my desk, the wall cabinets just above, etc.
I must correct what I previously said about the noise level of the ASUS ASUS Pundit barebone. Actually it is quieter than the Mac Mini, and by quite a bit in a very quiet room. I would rank the Pundit the quietest, followed by the new Core Solo Mini, and then the G4 Mini.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention that my G4 Mini has OS X Panther installed, while the Core Mini has OS X Tiger. I also found out that Xbench actually has a newer version 1.2 which is updated to run on x86 Macs (ie Intel chip). I reran the new version and came up with the following:

TEST - G4 1.25 - Core Solo 1.5
CPU....... - 48 -55
Thread... - 56 - 86
Memory - 28 - 95
Quartz... - 57 - 61
OpenGL - 62 - 166
UI........... - 24 - 44/79 **
Disk....... - 20 - 41

** One peculiarity was on the User Interface test. On the Core Solo, the scores kept increasing as I reran the test, going from 44 to 53 then 79 and dropping back to 62. No other tests showed so much variance, maybe something particular to OS X Tiger?

Next Booting WinXP on the Intel Mac Mini

Back to Mac Mini Core Solo has arrived

Back to impressions of the G4 Mac Mini


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