It’s been a long time coming. Hands down, Apple’s Mac mini with Mac OS X Tiger owns the low end. No, Apple won’t sell more Mac mini’s than eMachine or Dell will sell low end boxes.
What you get with the Mac mini vs. what you get with even low end home-built PC systems is remarkably different.
Low end (meaning, low cost and powerful) and ultra cool are combined in one very powerful and appealing package. Here’s why.
First, the Mac mini is simplicity personified. It’s small, lightweight, powerful, and just like Mac OS X, it gets out of your way and lets you work.
Second, Mac OS X Tiger. Arguably, there’s no better home or business desktop operating system in the world. Ever. Ease of use. Security. Power. Dependability. Attractive. Feature laden yet simple to install and operate.
See? Not too many arguments so far.
The Mac mini starts are $499 and, for this review, I’ll leave it at $499. You could add Bluetooth, wireless, a larger hard drive, more RAM.
The stock Mac mini is an absolute bargain. Why?
It works out of the box (with a few add-ons) with Mac OS X Tiger and the iLife suite of applications.
Sorry, Windows users. You don’t have anything like this. Windows XP Home Edition (or Pro) is NOT Mac OS X Tiger. Not as cool, not as useful, not as secure, not as dependable.
iLife ‘05 comes with iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD (with the right Mac) and GarageBand. Again, out of the box, Windows users don’t have anything to compare.
Mac OS X Tiger? What’s to say that hasn’t been said? I used OS X Panther for about 18 months and it was easily the most secure, most dependable, easiest to use yet very powerful OS I’ve ever had on my desktop.
Tiger is even better and sets the stage for improvements over the next few years that will embarrass Microsoft (if that hasn’t happened already). Dashboard. Expose’. No viruses. No spyware. No malware. No pop up ads.
OS X Tiger has everything most users need. Simple to setup for newbies, lots of under-the-hood geekiness for geeks. Plenty of powerful and integrated desktop applications for the rest of us.
The Mac mini, though, needs a few things that expand the $499 price tag. BYOKDM. Bring your own keyboard, display, mouse.
To keep it pretty and inexpensive I chose the Apple keyboard ($29 )and Kensington Pocketmouse ($15.00). For the display, I chose the KDS (Korea Data Systems) K515s 15-inch LCD for $200 at CompUSA.
Yes, there are cheaper CRT displays. There’s more expensive 17-inch LCD displays. The KDS K515s looks like it was made for the Mac mini. It’s the “cool factor.”
Total cost so far? $743. That’s $499 for Mac mini, $44 for keyboard and mouse, and $200 for LCD display. All total, dollar-for-dollar, hardware feature-for-feature, that’s about what you’d pay for a cheapo Dell or even more cheapo eMachines.
How about software? After all, that’s why we buy a computer in the first place, right?
Comparing Windows XP to Mac OS X Tiger just isn’t fair. To Microsoft. If you loved Panther, you’ll adore, idolize, and salivate over Tiger.
Now, what about OTHER software? You know, the kind that helps compatibility with the rest of Microsoft’s world (MS Office), the Internet, et al.
Page 2 has my list of great, low-end, high-power, ultra-cool “I can’t believe this stuff is free” software.
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Here’s my list of great low-end, high-power, ultra-cool “I can’t believe this stuff is free” software. Head over to MacUpdate.com and do the search for each. Feel free to add a few suggestions of your own.
First, NeoOffice J. Think of it as a Mac OS X version of the open source and free Open Office. Did I mention that it’s free? So is AppleWorks on the Mac mini.
While AppleWorks is a great application, it’s not fully compatible with Microsoft Office. NeoOffice J comes closer and doesn’t look like an X-11 application (if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry—you wouldn’t like it).
For creating slick and sassy iPhoto albums, I recommend two free applications. Galerie 5.0.1 and JAlbum 5.2. Many albums, many templates, no price tag.
Need to upload your files to another server? That requires an FTP/SFTP application. The best on Mac OS X is Panic’s Transmit, which I use religiously. For low end, go with the free CyberDuck 2.4.3.
Need text editing beyond TextEdit but don’t want to cough up nearly $200 for the famed BBEdit 8.x? Try BareBones’ TextWrangler 2.0. It’s good, it’s free.
While Mac OS X’s Dock is a decent place to launch applications, you’ll have problems on a 15-inch LCD display. Not enough screen real estate. Drag Thing to the rescue? It’s the best, but it costs money so try Quicksilver instead. It’s a classy file launcher with a loyal (though misguided) following.
Too many web pages to check each day? Try an RSS reader. Yes, Mac OS X Tiger’s Safari 2.0 comes with a built-in RSS reader. Ranchero Software’s NetNewsWire Lite is cooler and free.
Free graphics applications on the Mac? You won’t find an open source Photoshop (maybe one of the best applications ever on a desktop computer), but the GPL open source crowd like GIMP. There’s two good versions for Mac OS X; GIMPshop and GIMP.app. Your mileage may vary.
Web page designs? Try Nvu or Mozilla or TacoHTML. Free, free, and free again.
All these great applications add up to increased productivity and higher quality at very low cost. As in, “no cost.”
Put them on the Mac mini running Mac OS X Tiger and you’ve built the ultimate low end machine with a high cool factor (even if you find a cheaper cheapo PC, it just doesn’t have that “cool” factor no matter how much you add to it).
How about you? Got a favorite “free” application that works great on Mac OS X? Share your thought, experience with other readers and click the Comments link below.