Mac mini (Late 2009) full review - Page 5

Which to get?

In our review of the early-2009 models, we noted that when deciding between the £499 and £649 models, the choice was easy: Despite the £499 Mac mini’s paltry 1GB of RAM and small hard drive, the £150 premium you paid for the higher-end model got you only a £40 RAM upgrade and a larger – but still slow – hard drive. You could get much more value for your money by buying the lower-end model with Apple’s RAM upgrade, and using the money you had left over to get a huge, fast, FireWire 800 drive.

With the new Mac mini models, the choice is a bit more difficult. Unlike its predecessor, the new £499 model no longer requires a RAM upgrade out of the box, and it also gains a faster processor and a bit more hard-drive space. But this time around the higher-end model’s £150 premium gets you a larger hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and an even faster processor – upgrades that, if added to the £499 model when purchasing from Apple, would cost £280 in total. Buying the £649 model is also the only way to take advantage of Apple’s fastest Mac mini processor – you can’t upgrade the £499 mini to a 2.66GHz CPU.

What this means is that if you want the very best performance in a Mac mini, you’ll want to go with the £649 model with its faster processor and maxed-out RAM. Otherwise, the £499 model continues to offer a better value. In fact, based on our tests of an upgraded early-2009 mini back in March, we suspect that upgrading the hard drive on the new £499 mini – either via a 7200rpm internal drive or an external FireWire 800 drive – would again make it compete well with the £649 model, perhaps even surpassing its more-expensive sibling for drive-intensive tasks.

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