Is the Mac mini Apple’s forgotten step child? It seems that way. Apple hardly discusses the mini.
Even with a healthy speed bump, the Mac mini pales when compared to the low end iMac. But for $599 you get what you pay for.
The Mac mini is a paradox Mac. It’s the lowest priced Mac by far. You can buy two Mac mini’s for the same price as the lowest priced iMac.
On the surface, that sounds like a great value. As it is with the iMac, each Mac mini comes with OS X Leopard, iLife ‘08, and a compact yet attractive form factor.
That’s the basic comparison. Inside, each Mac mini comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo that compares favorably with the basic iMac—for about $600 less.
Macworld does a nice comparison of the new Mac mini with the new iMac. The 2 ghz models compare favorably in every way except graphics, where the iMac wins hands down in games where frame rate is important.
What’s not to like? The new Mac mini is the same price as the old version, still comes with Airport Extreme built-in, runs about as fast as an iMac, and now has a full gigabyte of RAM.
Is that a value, or what? The kicker, of course, is that the iMac comes with a mouse and a keyboard and a built-in display, not to mention quadruple the hard drive size, and SuperDrive (vs. the base Mac mini with a slower CPU and combo CD/DVD drive).
If your needs are for a basic Mac and you already have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, then the Mac mini is a worthy value—it’s a Mac in and out.
Getting the Mac mini to become a low end iMac is no mean feat, and an expensive one.
The 2 ghz SuperDrive Mac mini starts at $799. $874 with the largest hard drive option from the Apple Store. Add another $98 for Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse.
That gets the mini to $972. An Apple 20-inch display is somewhat comparable to the iMac 20-inch display, but costs a whopping $599 by itself.
That’s a grand total for a tricked out, pimped up Mac mini at $1,571 vs. the iMac at $1,199. That’s almost $400 more and there’s still slower graphics, no iSight camera, and a smaller hard drive.
So, where’s the Mac mini value now? That comparison starts to make the iMac look like Apple’s bargain of the 21st century.
But, different strokes for different folks. One man’s hamburger is another man’s steak. Or, something like that. The new Mac mini is a rugged machine that may not have all the bells and whistles of big brother iMac, but value is still there.
Back to Apple’s BYODKM policy. Bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse. IF you don’t need the high resolution of the Apple Cinema Display, and the iMac is overkill, then the Mac mini becomes the bargain of the decade for Mac users.
The Mac mini makes a great server, too. It’s cool, quiet, and faster than most of the older Mac PowerPC G5s, including the early Xserve models. Those were loud, hot, powerful beasts that cost about $3,000.
The Mac mini looks pretty good in a similar setting for a mere $599 (plus the cost of OS X Leopard Server).
For switchers from Windows, the Mac mini is an excellent way to get into the world of Macs without the expense of an iMac—assuming the soon-to-be-former Windows user has a display, keyboard, and mouse that will work on the Mac mini.
Dollar for dollar, feature for feature, the iMac is actually a better value than a Mac mini, even at twice the price. But if your need for feature parity are less, then the Mac mini saves you plenty of money.
And it’s still a Mac.
There have been rumors that “Steve Jobs hates the Mac mini.” Maybe so. There have also been rumors that Apple will drop the mini. Who knows. One thing is for sure—those of us who have added a Mac mini to our home, office, or mini-server farm, are very pleased with the value Apple provides in the mini.
Are you a mini owner? Would you buy one now that they’re about as fast as the low end iMac? Should Apple drop the Mac mini from the line of Macs? Share your concern and considerations in the Comments section below.