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Mac mini Review At Macworld 221

Posted by timothy
from the mikey-likes-it dept.
lemonylimey writes "Macworld has the first hands-on review of the new Mac mini along with nicely illustrated step-by-step dissection. It looks like the mini comes apart easily and (unsuprisingly) uses standard notebook components: a Panasonic DVD-R drive on 'SuperDrive' equipped models, Seagate Momentus 2.5" notebook ATA-100 hard drive and a single, nicely accessible 184 pin DDR DIMM socket. Upgrade options aside, it might not have the clock-for-clock power of the equivalent $499 PC, but you have to ask yourself - If you put them both on a shelf and ask your Mom* to pick one, which one is it going to be? (Yes, I'm sure your Mom is a Doctor of Mathematics and wouldn't buy anything she couldn't run Debian on. You know what I meant.)"
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Mac mini Review At Macworld

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  • Any (quality) DDR ram work? I heard earlier Macs needed some goofy timing, so you had to be careful about what you bought. This still true, or did they use off the shelf stuff this time?
    • You've always been able to use off-the-shelf RAM, but it's true that recent versions of Mac OS X (apparently not the hardware?) are more sensitive to timing issues. So be careful not to buy the rebranded DIMMs they'll sell you at a 50% discount because they failed all the QA tests. Stick to name-brand RAM, or at least buy from somewhere with a decent return policy, and you'll be fine.
      • Fortunately even really high quality RAM (like Corsair) in the PC3200 (faster than the Mac mini uses) 1Gig DIMM variety with 2.5-3-3 timings, still cost far less than what Apple charges. Even if you pay Apple $50 to install it for you, you're going to save some real money there.

        The thing I'm concerned with upgrading is the HD - I really want a 7200rpm drive in mine (Hitachi makes a nice 60GB model).

        • Even if you pay Apple $50 to install it for you,

          I would be very surprised if you can pay Apple to install third-party product; I wouldn't when I was at an Apple store. Reasoning is simple: if it doesn't work/fails early, do you blame Apple? Apple has no control over where you purchased your third party product, or how you've treated it since, so they don't want to be culpable if it fails sooner than you think it should through no fault of their own.

          If you want to do upgrades to this box, you're very
        • by parvenu74 (310712) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @10:03PM (#11445126)

          I bought my Mac mini this morning (waited in line in the 18 degree temps outside the Apple store in Kansas City so I could be fifth in line!) and have been working with it all day. Of the more interesting things I've noticed: System Profiler indicates that I have 256MB of PC3200 RAM installed... and I thought these things came with PC2700! I am going to buy myself a putty knife [macworld.com] and will get back later with info and a picture or two of what I find inside...

          For you PC (ab)users (I'm now in recovery on this point!) who are sitting on the fence wanting to get one of these but don't want to loose the functionality of all your Windows software, have no fear. Just go download the Windows Remote Desktop Connector [microsoft.com] and get cooking. Among the neat features, you can map the drives on your Mac to the remote PC allowing you to move files back and forth between the PC and the Mac with the utmost of ease! :-)

          • waited in line in the 18 degree temps outside the Apple store in Kansas City so I could be fifth in line!

            Geez, if you're going to wait in line in that sort of temperature, you could at least aim higher than fifth. Why not first?

            Kids these days have no amibition.
          • by parvenu74 (310712) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @06:39PM (#11450463)
            For what it's worth, I managed to easily and quickly open up my Mini with a simple putty knife (and no scratches to the plastic or aluminum!) and sure enough, there was a 256MB stick of Samsung PC3200 RAM (Apple advertises these as coming with PC2700). I removed that stick and replaced it with a 512MB PC3200 (CL 2.5) Mushkin stick (my WinXP Pro box will have to do with only one of two of these sticks for now), replaced the cover and booted up. The performance increase was noticeable and immediate; the NewEgg.com order for a 1024MB stick of PC3200 goes out tomorrow! (Supposedly the Mini will only use PC3200 at PC2700 speed, but when the PC3200 is only $4.50 more at NewEgg, why not get the faster chip?)

            I did snap a couple pictures with my Nikon D70 but I decided against posting them since there are already several links to pictures of deconstructed minis in various places on /. and I presume nobody reading this is all too interested in either the RAM stick that was in my Mini or the putty knife used to open up the box...
          • Of the more interesting things I've noticed: System Profiler indicates that I have 256MB of PC3200 RAM installed... and I thought these things came with PC2700!

            Not that it really matters a whit, with the G4's dismal 166Mhz bus...

  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Temporal (96070) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:29PM (#11442819) Journal
    A beowulf cluster of these.

    No no, seriously! You could have a little stack of them. You could even built a little pyramid of them, right on your desk! Am I the only one obsessed with this idea!?

    Must... purchase... stack of Mac minis... ::zombie::
    • Re:Imagine... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by the pickle (261584) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:49PM (#11442980) Homepage
      Actually, Apple says not to do that [macintouch.com].

      I suspect it's mostly a wireless issue, and if you're building a mini-cluster, you'd probably rather use Ethernet to connect them anyway, and you probably won't be using Bluetooth. Either way, at least the top machine would have antenna access, so if you absolutely needed BT/802.11 you could have one of them do wireless and relay to the rest over Ethernet.

      p
    • Re:Imagine... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tfiedler (732589)
      In eight rack units I could fit what, 16 of these critters. So I get 16 1.4GHz G4 processors for about US$9,600 My cluster of eight xserve g5s (16 cpu) cost me about $35,000 and takes up 8 rack units. Now my question is this... what is the real world performance difference between 16 1.4 GHz G4 processors versus 16 2GHz G5 processors and does the $25,000 difference make up that gap? Then, if you figure the cost of double the power cords, ethernet cabling and administration does it still?

      • What about hot-swap?
      • Minis are 2" high, so in 8U=14" you can stack 7.
        You can fit 2 side by side, or 3 if you get rack shelves that will accomodate 19,5" wide equipment. And you may be able to stack 'em 2 or 3 rows deep if your rack is deep enough.
        So at least 14 will fit, up to 63 if you really cram 'em together. You'd probably have to add some cooling fans, though.
        OTOH the Xserve uses faster harddisks (3-4 internal ATA and/or a Fibrechannel RAID instead of one laptop drive), and it has gigabit Ethernet instead of 10/100. These
    • when the minis first came out, apple had a picture of 5 of them stacked next to a PC to show their size. it seems they took that pic away (else I forgot where it was) but in any case, you aren't supposed to stack them (or put anything else on top) 'cause that might damage the optical drive. So, either stand them on their sides (that's OK) or buy an itty-bitty rack. :-)
    • Yeah, it would be nice if one could get them networked via firewire, too, since they don't have 1000bT. Just... don't stack them--use a simple little shelf (only 3lb ea.) to give each one airspace.
  • Benchmarks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gob Blesh It (847837) <gobblesh1t@gmail.com> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:30PM (#11442825)
    And here's a bunch of performance benchmarks pitting the Mac mini against a range of other current Macs [macintouch.com]--not just abstract numbers but real-world tasks (think "17 Meg file" [kottke.org]). I wonder how PCs stack up, particularly with Cinebench and the iTunes rip test...
  • by voisine (153062) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:46PM (#11442953)
    Had a nice conversation with the project lead for the mac mini this morning at the apple store in the Westfield mall. He said first day sales blew away any computer apple's ever made, by a sizable margin, although the shuffle blew the mini away for first day sales of any apple product ever. He said he was asked, can you make it this small? (10" square)... yes. Can you make it this small? (8" square)... yes. Can you make it this small? (7" square)... maybe. Can you make it this small? (6 1/2" square)... no. Okay, that's the size then.... oh crap! :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "...Can you make it this small? (7" square)... maybe. Can you make it this small? (6 1/2" square)... no. Okay, that's the size then.... oh crap! :)"
      If he's an experienced engineer, he said "no" knowing full well that he could probably go to 5" square.
  • um. . . (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bastian (66383) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:54PM (#11443025)
    A) I am making this post from a TiBook running Debian. Debian has one of the best PPC ports out there. I think the Mini will most likely run Debian very nicely.

    B) Everyone is sick of the stupid clock speed per dollar argument. It's lame. Quit assuming that everyone out there cares about raw CPU power first and foremost, or shut up.
  • Underpowered? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zmotula (663798) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @03:54PM (#11443027) Homepage
    From the article: "As I stated in my previous column, 'machines like the mini or the cheap Dell desktop are underpowered for advanced users, but both will suffice for their target market.'"

    Underpowered? What does an "average advanced user" do to need more than a one gigahertz processor? I'm currently running a PII/350, which is a bit slow for my needs (some movies skip a bit and the browsing is not as smooth as I wish it would be), but I'll be quite happy with, let's say, 800 MHz PIII.

    I do some programming, some typesetting, edit some sound samples, why should I need more than 1,2 GHz Mac Mini?

    Allright, editing half a GB photographs in Photoshop would probably suck on the machine, but that's not "advanced user", thats "professional" in my terms...
    • Re:Underpowered? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FLAGGR (800770) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @04:28PM (#11443300)
      I agree. Currently, my main system is a P2 / 266mhz. I spend all my time programming games and stuff, works fine for me. Sure, I could go on one of the family PCs, which are P4's, but this one is in my room and runs fast enough. (Then again, half the stuff I do I have to move to another PC to test it, because either my CPU is too slow or GPU doesnt support some feature) I ordered a mac mini, can't wait (3 weeks till it ships, so says apple) xcode will be awsome.
    • Re:Underpowered? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jo_ham (604554)
      I use Motion, possibly Apple's heaviest app in terms of system requirements, on my 15" 1.5Ghz powerbook and it runs quite nicely indeed. Just don't expect full frame, full quality playback of an unrendered multi-layer composite (but then, don't expect this of a Dual G5 either).

      As noted, the Mini has similar specs to a Powerbook, although it only has 32Mb of video ram compared to the 64 in my PB. My laptop will also take twice the amount of RAM if you can afford two 1GB SO-DIMM sticks.

      I think the Mac Mini
    • Underpowered? What does an "average advanced user" do to need more than a one gigahertz processor?

      My 1.5 GHz PowerBook gets a bit pokey in iDVD, both in laying out the DVD, and in encoding the video when burning.

    • Re:Underpowered? (Score:2, Informative)

      by dwightk (415372)
      I do some programming, some typesetting, edit some sound samples, why should I need more than 1,2 GHz Mac Mini?


      You wouldn't I do all that and more (DVD encoding works but is the only thing I do that I would like more power for) on a PB G4 867MHz
  • I know that in iLife 05, iDVD will install even if you don't have a superdrive. Does anyone know if it works with external DVD drives?

    I've got an external firewire Sony DVD+-R/RW drive. If it will work, I could just get the combo-drive model.

    I know there was a hack that would allow non superdrive systems to use iDVD, but was wondering if it was now part of the official build of iDVD.

    Failing directly buring in iDVD - i believe it now supports creation of disk images. Are these standard disk images that I
    • Re:iDVD question (Score:4, Informative)

      by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot@[ ]ngo.org ['sta' in gap]> on Saturday January 22, 2005 @04:46PM (#11443429) Homepage Journal
      According to this, [apple.com] you still have to have a Superdrive-equipped computer to burn DVDs directly from iDVD.

      According to this, [mac.com] however, the disk images feature would allow you to save your project as a DVD image and then burn the image to a disc with another app.

      ~Philly
    • Re:iDVD question (Score:4, Informative)

      by sootman (158191) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @05:49PM (#11443829) Homepage Journal
      this page [mac.com] says that there's a trick to make iDVD 5 create an image, rather than burn a disk. Also, there's a hack out there to do this in iDVD 4. I used it a year ago and it worked fine. made a plain-vanilla .iso or .dmg or .img (I forget which) so no, it shouldn't be some goofy iDVD-only format. I made images one one mac and burned them on another with Toast. I'm posting this from my combo-drive mini but I haven't installed iLife 05 yet. (Ships with '04 and comes with '05 on a DVD.)
    • You can use the free Patchburn [patchburn.de] to enable burning from Apple's iApps with nonsupprted burners.
  • by kompiluj (677438) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @04:56PM (#11443501)
    I have lately started thinking about buying MacMini, iBook or a PowerBook. Because I most often use Gentoo GNU/Linux or FreeBSD (but I also use Fedora, SuSE, M$ Windows and Solaris) therefore I have done some benchmarks to compare compile times on some different architectures. My software of choice is PostgreSQL database since it's size is just right (a few minutes of compile time anyway). Ok, here come the benchmarks (the most important is the 'user time' which is how long really the compile took, it discard other factors like filesystem, HDD and system load factors):
    # cd /usr/portage/dev-db/postgresql/
    # ebuild postgresql-7.3.6-r1.ebuild fetch unpack
    # time ebuild postgresql-7.3.6-r1.ebuild compile

    PowerPC G4 750FX 800MHz, 512kB cache
    real 5m53.398s
    user 4m26.985s
    sys 0m51.748s

    Intel Northwood ("old" pIV) 2.8:
    real 2m56.295s
    user 2m29.630s
    sys 0m26.190s

    AMD Athlon 1.5 256kB cache(Sempron 2200+):
    real 5m55.046s
    user 5m9.700s
    sys 0m34.270s

    AMD Athlon 1.8 256 kB cache (Sempron 2600+):
    real 4m14.234s
    user 3m19.729s
    sys 0m44.704s
    Well, not bad for 0.8 GHz, heh
    • > PowerPC G4 750FX

      The PowerPC 750FX is a G3, not a G4. (It's made by IBM; all G4s are made by Motorola.)

      Also note that Apple doesn't ship any G3 processors anymore; the low-end in new machines is a G4.
      • Sorry, you are right, it is G3:
        $ cat /proc/cpuinfo
        processor : 0
        cpu : 750FX
        temperature : 19-21 C (uncalibrated)
        clock : 800MHz
        revision : 2.2 (pvr 7000 0202)
        bogomips : 1585.15
        machine : PowerBook4,3
        motherboard : PowerBook4,3 MacRISC2 MacRISC Power Macintosh
        detected as : 257 (iBook 2 rev. 2)
        pmac flags : 0000000b
        L2 cache : 512K unified
        memory : 384MB
        pmac-generation : NewWorld
        • Well keep in mind that the main difference between the G4 and the G3 is that the G4 has an Alti vec sub processor. If you're mostly going to be running postgre, the alti vec isn't going to buy you anything. I'm sure some of OS X's Aqua display technology leverages alti-vec, but probably not a lot.

          What I mean to say is that despite your comparison using a G3 rather than a G4, it's probably not that far off from a G4.
  • ATA/100 means 120 GB is the max, right? You need ATA/133 to go over 128 (or 137 or whatever) GB?
    • ATA/100 means that the interface has a top speed of 100MBps and it was the last official ATA standard before Serial-ATA. ATA/133 was just something Maxtor cooked up as a marketing ploy.

      Internal capacity isn't the upgrade you should be looking for on the Mac Mini. Since it uses a 2.5" Notebook HD you're pretty much limited to 100GB, which is a pretty expensive upgrade for gaining 20GB of space. My plan is to dump the 4,200rpm or 5,400rpm drive in the mini and replace it with one of the new 2.5" 7,200rpm d
  • Ram $$$ savings (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rollthelosindice (635783) on Saturday January 22, 2005 @07:41PM (#11444469) Homepage
    It is so good to see that the end-user can do their own ram installations on the Mac Mini. After all, with one of the main purposes of the machine being cost savings, it would be difficult to achieve with Apple charging $425 for what the other says can be bought for $160 (1GB ram chip).

    I have come to the conclusion that I will buying one of these and replacing my lilksys wireless router with it. It's about time I got a legitimate home network setup, and this is a great motivation.

  • memory, drive (Score:4, Informative)

    by a984 (637812) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @01:57AM (#11446223)
    - actually 1GB memory can be had for $85.
    http://www.pricewatch.com/h/prc.aspx?i=33&a=4922

    - macintouch has a decent performance review. http://www.macintouch.com/perfpack/comparison.html Overall mini is pretty good, but the disk is roughly like iBook, that is half the speed of eMac, (BTW eMac is a gem, it beats new iMAC G5 in most tests). Going FireWire or USB2 on mini is no solution, they are half as slow as internal even with fast drives (thus 4 times as slow as latest eMac). They have 60Gb/7200 internal on order so check them later to see if this solves disk problem.
    • correction (Score:2, Informative)

      by a984 (637812)
      sorry, actually FW on mini is imperceptibly faster than internal, it is USB2 that sucks
    • Re:memory, drive (Score:2, Informative)

      by Judogi (214998)
      Those $85 sticks of ram have serious compatibility and quality issues. They are the 128x4 design, usually only 4-layer pcb, and even on the PC side will only work with a very limited set of VIA chipsets.

      Macs have historically been picky with ram. I had to buy new ram for my G4 Cube after upgrading to Jaguar because the old stuff wasn't up to spec. The cheapest ram I have seen that could potentially work with the mini is about $155 on newegg.com. That ram is the good stuff - 64x32, 6-layer.

      Other than t
  • by BobWeiner (83404) on Sunday January 23, 2005 @10:07AM (#11447403) Homepage Journal
    O'Reilly has a useful article [oreillynet.com] on Mac Mini information for Linux / Windows users.
  • Noise! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zhe Mappel (607548)
    From the review:

    One thing that did surprise me about the Mac mini was the noise level, both good and bad. Most of the time the machine is very quiet, basically silent; I expected more regular fan noise given the cramped quarters inside the box. On the other hand, under the heaviest extended loads--ripping a number of CDs in a row while performing other processor-intenstive tasks, for example--the fan ramps up to a surprising volume. Nothing compared to the wind tunnel levels of a crashed Power Mac G5, to

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