Tue, 29 Jun 2010 Apple Mac mini 2.4GHz (Mid 2010)
New Apple Mac mini model slims down, widens out and gets a makeover
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Attractive, tiny, and rock-solid aluminium; Unibody enclosure; Easy RAM upgrades; Improved graphics performance; HDMI output; Built-in SD-card reader.
- Cons: SD-card slot inconveniently located; Higher price than previous entry-level model; Slow stock hard drive .
- Min specs: 2.4GHz : 320GB 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB memory 320GB hard drive1 8x double-layer SuperDrive NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics Mac OS X Snow Leopard
- Price: £649 including VAT, Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server costs £929.
- Star rating:
Easiest. RAM. Upgrade. Ever.
The new design of the Mac mini has one other benefit, and it’s a huge one: easy RAM upgrades. The RAM-upgrade procedure for previous Mac mini models was such an undertaking – requiring putty knives and producing nerve-racking cracking sounds – that we’ve written at least half a dozen articles on the topic over the years. With the new mini, not only do you not need putty knives, you don’t need any tools at all.
The mini’s round, black-plastic base sports two small indentations. If you place a thumb in each one and rotate the base a few degrees counterclockwise, the base lifts off to reveal the computer’s SDRAM slots. Pop out the two stock chips, snap in the new chips, and replace the base – you’re done.
That said, the mini’s stock 2GB of RAM will be sufficient for many Mac mini owners, and Apple charges only £80 at the time of purchase to bump up to 4GB – a very reasonable price – so you may never need to open up the mini. But it’s nice to know that if you want or need to jump up to 4GB – or even 8GB, which is now an officially supported configuration – it’s easy to do so.
On the other hand, the procedure for replacing the Mac mini’s hard drive doesn’t get the same twist-and-pop treatment. It requires just as much disassembly this time around. (As with previous Mac mini models, Apple has confirmed to Macworld that you’re free to upgrade internal components [including the hard drive] yourself, provided you don’t damage the computer in the process. Such damage would not be covered by the Mac mini’s warranty.)
Of course, as we noted with the 2009 models, it’s debatable whether or not you’d even want to upgrade the hard drive: The mini ships with a 320GB drive, which will be large enough for many people, and those who need more storage will likely be better served by purchasing an external drive: Thanks to the Mac mini’s use of 2.5in, 5,400-rpm laptop drives, last year’s models performed better when booted from an external FireWire 800 drive than when booted from the internal hard drive, and there’s nothing that would make us think this has changed with the latest model. (The server version of the Mac mini now ships with dual 7,200-rpm drives.)
For similar reasons, we recommend against paying Apple £80 to swap the stock 320GB drive for a 500GB model. With 1TB FireWire 800 drives available online for roughly the same price, unless you’re using the mini in special circumstances that prevent the use of an external drive, there’s little reason to pay a premium for – or take the risk installing – a larger internal drive.
Despite using a much better graphics chip than its predecessors, the new Mac mini falls squarely between the two Late-2009 Mac mini models when it comes to processor speed: 2.4GHz compared to 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz. As such, we didn’t expect to see huge performance gains in most programs and, in fact, suspected the latest mini might not be able to match the 2.53GHz Late 2009 model at some tasks.
And that turned out to be the case. The new mini bested both Late 2009 models in our Aperture import, iMovie import, iMovie export, Finder duplicate-a-folder, and Call of Duty tests. But it came in between the two Late 2009 models in our Cinebench render, Mathematica 7, Compressor encode, iTunes encode, Finder zip-archive, Finder unzip-archive, Parallels multi-task, iPhoto 9 import, and Pages open-Word-document tests. In only one test, our HandBrake DVD-rip test, was the new mini bested by both Late 2009 models, and that result was so dramatically different than the other numbers that we’re doing further testing.
It’s worth noting that, despite these results, the new model’s graphics performance was improved enough that it brought the 2010 Mac mini’s overall Speedmark score, shown above, within a single point of the 2009 higher-end model, 117 versus 118, respectively.