Mon, 23 Mar 2009 Mac mini 2.0GHz: 120GB 2009 edition review
Apple's affordable desktop Mac gets graphics boost
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Tiny size; performance comparable to that of the £649 model; significantly improved graphics performance compared to older models; dual video outputs with support for extended Desktop mode and 30-inch displays; five USB ports; FireWire 800.
- Cons: Even slower hard drive than £649 model; too little RAM; difficult to upgrade.
- Min specs: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB memory, 120GB hard drive, 8x double-layer SuperDrive, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics.
- Price: £499.00
- Star rating:
Mac mini outputs
Why two video outputs? Given that the Mac mini is designed to be used with whatever display the owner has, Apple told Macworld that the company wanted to be as flexible as possible with display-connection options. But the added bonus here is that both connections can be used simultaneously thanks to the new mini’s improved graphics capabilities (more on that below).
You can attach two displays to the mini and use them in either mirrored or extended-desktop mode. Alternatively, with the help of the £68 Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter, you can now use the Mac mini with Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display, making the mini the first desktop consumer Mac with such capability.
Remaining the same are the mini’s gigabit Ethernet port, the digital/analog audio input and output jacks, and the security lock slot.
The new Mac mini has received under-the-hood improvements, as well, starting with the graphics processor. Although the mini’s graphics card is still integrated, it’s now the same much-improved Nvidia GeForce 9400M found in the current MacBook line.
In addition to more-powerful processing capabilities, the 9400M takes advantage of up to 128MB of the mini’s main memory when 1GB is installed, or up to 256MB if 2GB is installed. The older mini’s Intel GMA 950 maxed out at just 64MB.
The mini’s Intel Core 2 Duo processor is now a 2.0GHz Penryn chip with a faster system bus (1,066MHz versus 667MHz) on both models, with a 2.26GHz version available as a build-to-order option. The processor’s level-2 cache is 3MB, up from 2MB for the previous entry-level model but down from 4MB on the higher-end model. Memory is now 1,066MHz DDR SDRAM (also known as PC8500), with the £499 model getting 1GB and the £649 equipped with 2GB.
But perhaps the biggest improvement here is that both models can handle up to 4GB of RAM, with the 1GB model shipping with a single 1GB DIMM, leaving the other free for expansion. (On the previous minis, each slot was populated with a 512MB chip, forcing you to replace the stock RAM when upgrading.)
The Mac mini now has five USB 2.0 ports (lower right). To the left of the USB ports is the new Mini DisplayPort. Next to that is the mini-DVI port.
The £499 and £649 models sport 120GB and 320GB hard drives, respectively, both SATA. On the other hand, the drives are still 2.5-inch, 5,400 rpm laptop models; these drives help keep the mini’s energy use low, but their performance is poor relative to most desktop drives.
Both new minis also include a faster 8x dual-layer SuperDrive, and similar “bump” improvements are found in wireless capability: 802.11g has finally been replaced by 802.11n, and Bluetooth is now 2.1+EDR. (Interesting side note: A number of “takeaparts” around the Web have noted what appears to be unused eSATA circuitry inside the new Mac mini. Though not used in the current minis, this provides more support for the theory that Apple will eventually be adding eSATA ports to its computers.)
Finally, Apple is quick to tout the new Mac mini’s green credentials: The company claims the mini is the world’s most energy-efficient desktop computer, using less than 13 Watts of power at idle, 45 per cent less than the previous Mac mini.
In addition, the packaging, which is now based entirely on recycled paper, is 31 percent smaller than before, allowing the company to reduce its environmental impact by fitting twice as many boxes in shipping containers. If you’re into green computing, the mini’s got a lot going for it.