I was very interested to see the details of the new Intel Mac mini yesterday. I’m a real fan of Mac OS X, and I’ve been using a 20 inch G5 iMac as my main desktop for some time now. Below are some of my thoughts on the new system:
- Choice of Solo or Core Duo processors – fantastic. It does mean that as long as you’re not doing disk intensive work, a budget Mac with decent performance is now available
- Use of a laptop sized hard disk. I originally thought that Apple should move to a desktop sized drive, but it looks easy enough to expand via USB or Firewire, so I think they’ve made the right decision to preserve the small form factor
- No iPod dock. I appreciate that some people really want this, but I just think it will look very odd
- Digital audio support – this is essential for using it as a media centre
- Fully loaded with Airport Extreme, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, 4 USB ports, and a remote control
- Although the amount of memory it ships with isn’t too bad (512Mb), expanding it to 1Gb or more is expensive. £70.01 for an extra 512Mb from Apple. And as they ship it with both of the two available slots occupied (256Mb in each), buying a 3rd party upgrade isn’t going to be much cheaper
- Front Row still hasn’t been upgraded into a full media centre system. It still appears to be just a nice, but overly simple frontend for other programs. It looks slick, but I suspect I’d run into its limitations too quickly for my liking
- The Mac mini is crying out to be used as a high definition media player, but there is little content available. Once Apple start providing HD content on their store, or ship it with either Blu-ray or HD DVD support, the Mac mini will make even more sense
- No PVR functionality. I appreciate that this is very complicated, but if Apple could build in support for this (preferably via Freeview in the UK), it would really interest me
So am I going to buy one? If I was going to buy my first Mac, I’d be very tempted by the Core Duo version, upgraded to 2Gb of RAM, with whatever large LCD monitor Dell have on offer at the time. And the Core Solo version with 1Gb is nice as a beginner’s desktop, although it does look rather expensive compared to some of the deals available from Dell.
Given that I already own an iMac G5, I would be buying one as a Media Centre, to replace a Squeezebox. I was ready with my credit card, but in the end, I’m going to sit on my hands for a while. Once the RAM is upgraded, and you add a wireless keyboard and mouse (necessary as Front Row is too basic), it begins to look too expensive for something that isn’t a PVR, or even a proper Media Centre. Still, I may yet be tempted if the reviews from owners turn out to be very positive.