Apple Mac mini 2.4GHz (Mid 2010) full review - Page 3

In real-world use, the new mini handled everyday tasks – web browsing, email, word processing, and Apple’s iLife suite – without problem. Only when we had many of these programs open simultaneously did the stock 2GB of RAM become a limitation. If you tend to keep many applications running simultaneously, we recommend upping the mini’s RAM to 4GB.

We also used the new Mac mini to play several games. The performance of Call of Duty 4 with recommended graphics settings was noticeably better on the new mini than on the 2009 models. In a somewhat challenging test, we also played Half-Life 2 via the newly-Mac-compatible Steam service while the Mac mini was connected to a 1,920 by 1,080-pixel (1,080p) Dell display via HDMI. At the display’s native 1,080p resolution, video and audio were both choppy, but reducing the game’s resolution to 1,280-by-720 (720p) alleviated this stuttering dramatically.

However, according to Valve, the developer of Steam, there’s a known issue with nVidia graphics chips under Mac OS X 10.6.4 that adversely affects performance in some games, so take the results of this particular test with a grain of salt – it’s possible that the new mini will perform better at this test once the bug has been fixed.

Apple Mac mini

A better mini, but a better value?
As we’ve noted in previous Mac mini reviews, the mini line has always been about size and value rather than performance – last year’s models were actually the first that were powerful enough to fully take advantage of Apple’s iLife suite and provide respectable gaming performance. But while most Mac models – and, indeed, most computers in general – have got cheaper over the past five years, the price you pay for a basic Mac mini has crept up since the first model debuted in 2005. As recently as early 2006, you could get a mini for £359, with a higher-end model available for £499. Those numbers jumped to £398 and £529, respectively, in February 2006 and held steady for the next four and a half years. Now your only option is a single £649 model (almost twice what it would have cost five years ago).

Granted, today’s Mac mini blows the doors off any Mac mini you could have purchased for £359. But where the original Mac mini was a statement product – ”a real Mac for under £400” – and legitimate switcher bait, the higher price of entry for today’s Mac mini throws up a considerable mental hurdle, and, for some people, even a budgetary one. £649 is only £200 less than a MacBook and £329 away from a more powerful, and far better-equipped, iMac.

For someone looking for an inexpensive Mac who doesn’t care as much about the mini’s miniature profile, the higher introductory price is a more difficult case to make than before, even if it does give you a better computer. We’d like to see Apple bring back a £400 entry point Mac mini.

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