At the start of March, I posted my thoughts on the new Intel Mac Minis. I finally gave into temptation, and purchased the Core Solo model with 1Gb of RAM a couple of weeks later.
Having used it for almost a month, I’m ready to give my considered opinion. Please bear in mind that it’s being used in my living room for media playback, rather than as a desktop system:
- Price – it’s just a little bit too expensive, especially when you add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and more RAM. Either drop the base price, or the price of the upgrades
- The WiFi isn’t brilliant. I’m getting better results using a Belkin bridge connected to the Ethernet Port on the Mac mini
- The Front Row remote is a little bit too simple, and I’m not convinced that it’s particularly well made
- For compressing video content, the Core Solo processor is a little on the slow side
- The 40Gb disk is very easy to fill up. Unfortunately my wifi network doesn’t quite seem to cope with playing remote DivX files via VLC
- Front Row seems like a bit of a hack at times. No way to randomly shuffle a specific music playlist is a grave ommission, and I’ve also managed to crash Front Row a couple of times by turning on Visualisation through Salling Clicker while Front Row is running
- The DVD Player doesn’t have full aspect ratio control, and VLC (where you can control aspect ratios) currently has less than perfect DVD playback
- The Apple Bluetooth Mouse that I bought doesn’t seem to track very well. Might have to find a replacement
- It’s incredibly silent and the form factor is amazing
- The DVI output into my Pioneer plasma TV looks fantastic
- FrontRow is a joy to use, despite its occasional bugs
- Much as I like my Squeezebox, having full iTunes on a plasma TV is great
- iPhoto Slideshows on a plasma TV with the Ken Burns Effect are gorgeous
- iTunes visualisations look great on a large screen
- Salling Clicker turns my Dell X50v into a killer bluetooth remote. A total bargain for $23.95 (assuming you own a compatible PDA or phone)
- 1Gb seems to be enough RAM for use as a media centre
In summary, although it has a few issues, and is far from cheap, I’m pretty happy with my Intel Mac mini. 1Gb of RAM and the Core Solo were the right choice to make, although I wish I’d bought a slightly larger hard disk. My Squeezebox will soon be on its way to a new home (to be fair to Slim Devices, I wasn’t really using all the advanced features that the Squeezebox offers).
Once Apple sort out PVR functionality and HD content via the iTunes store, they’ll have a great media product in the Mac mini. The current Core Duo system also makes a lot of sense as a premium desktop, assuming that you already own a monitor.