Mac mini review (Late 2009)

Back in March we reviewed the previous Mac mini models. Apple’s smallest desktop computer had just received a long-overdue refresh: it had been 19 months since the company had touched the Mac mini line. But that update was the most significant in the history of the line; while the two models retained the same £499 and £649 price tags as their 2007 predecessors, nearly every aspect of each was upgraded.

The latest Mac mini revisions offer comparatively minor improvements at the same price points. Both models remain 16.51cm square and 5.98cm thick, weighing just under 1.31kg each. Each continues to offer a gigabit ethernet port, FireWire 800, five USB 2.0 ports, digital/analog (auto-sensing) audio input and output minijacks, a security lock slot, and an infrared receiver for the optional Apple Remote (£15). You also still get 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and an 8X dual-layer SuperDrive.

Like the early-2009 models, the latest minis include an Nvidia GeForce 9400M video processor; however, this time around the 9400M takes advantage of up to 256MB of main memory on both models. (The £499 early-2009 mini shipped with only 1GB of RAM, which limited the 9400M to only 128MB of video memory.) The 9400M again drives two video ports: a mini-DVI port that uses an included adapter to connect to standard DVI displays, and a Mini DisplayPort connector identical to those found on the current iMacs and MacBooks. The Mini DiplayPort jack works directly with Mini DisplayPort-equipped displays (such as Apple’s 24in LED Cinema Display), or even the latest iMac models, which can be used as a display); you can also connect a standard DVI display using Apple’s £29 Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter.

As with the early-2009 minis, you can connect two displays simultaneously and use either extended- or mirrored-desktop mode. Alternately, you can use Apple’s £68 Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter to connect a 30in Cinema HD Display. Both video outputs include High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

Apple continues to boast of the mini’s green credentials, this time going so far as to publish an environmental report (PDF link) that covers everything from the mini’s energy and material efficiency to its packaging to its recycling-friendly construction. However, the current minis use “less than 14 Watts of power when idle”, up slightly from “less than 13 Watts” for the previous models.
Note that along with the new Mac mini models, Apple released a Mac mini server. We’ll be reviewing that model separately.

NEXT: Modest improvements


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