Apple Mac mini
- Stylish design, small footprint
- Hard to upgrade
If you're after a simple, flexible machine for productivity or browsing the Internet, Apple's budget PC-killer is a great choice.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
It's no secret that Windows is a high-maintenance OS. New threats hit the Internet daily, and connected Windows PCs need constant patching to protect against viruses, worms and Trojans. While addressing these security issues is no problem for a tech-savvy user, the average consumer just wants a computer that works.
Apple understands that most users don't want to worry about patching, viruses, malware, and the other issues currently plaguing the Windows platform. Instead, the Californian company has designed the Mini as a flexible computer for surfing the net and handling basic tasks, and MacOS suffers far fewer security issues than its Microsoft counterpart.
The Mini is available in three build configurations, starting at $799 for the base system with 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 40GB hard disk and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, and ranging up to $1099 for a bells-and-whistles model with a 1.42GHz processor, 80GB hard disk and a SuperDrive capable of burning DVD+/-RW discs. A middle system ($949) includes both the faster processor of the $1099 model but eschews the DVD burner in favour of a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive. All three share the same 512MB of DDR memory and an ATI Radeon 9200 video processor, and the top two models also feature Bluetooth and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.
The Mini runs Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger and ships with an adequate bundle of utilitarian and leisure software, including iLife '05, AppleWorks, Apple Hardware Test, and a 30-day trial of iWork '05.
Though the brushed aluminium and white plastic machine measures 17 x 17 x 5cm and weighs a mere 1.3KG, the small rear panel offers a reasonable selection of ports, including two USB sockets, Ethernet, modem, DVI, a single Firewire connector, and a Walkman-style audio jack. These should be ample for most users, but you may want to factor in the cost of a USB hub if you want to connect additional peripherals like a printer or USB webcam. The $799 asking price is also a little misleading. The mini doesn't ship with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, so you'll have to budget for accessories when speccing up a system. Apple has targeted the Mini at existing PC owners, though, so there's a good chance buyers will have a spare keyboard and mouse lying around.
In operation, the system works flawlessly, and even the 1.25GHz model feels responsive when running a number of applications and browsing websites via Safari. Better yet, it's quiet, so you could comfortably tuck a mini away in a corner of a family space like a lounge room or kitchen.
The only real problem is that the small dimensions make it hard to upgrade. It's possible to add more RAM, but your options are otherwise limited. The mini isn't a powerhouse, but it's great for surfing the net and performing basic tasks. It runs quietly, features an attractive, lounge room-friendly design, and is rounded out by a one-year warranty.
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