Apple Mac Mini (2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo review: Apple Mac Mini (2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

You'll see Gateway edge out the Mac Mini on Photoshop and our multithreaded Cinebench test. Our hunch is that the Gateway would fall behind the Mac Mini on iTunes and our multitasking test. The reason is the Mac's faster core CPU clock speed and the general memory efficiency of OS X versus that of Windows 7, which typically helps Macs achieve excellent multitasking performance. The Asus desktop also has a faster Core 2 Quad chip than the Gateway, and it falls behind the Mac Mini on both of those tests.

Even if we don't speculate about the Gateway's performance, we would expect an $800 computer to distance itself from a $500 competitor across the board. That the Mac Mini falters on any of our tests next to the Gateway suggests a weak price-performance ratio. Yes, the Mac Mini is fast enough so that performing common tasks won't seem like a chore, but relative to its price, and with few other features to recommend it, this $799 Mac is a poor deal.

For the fun of it, we also went to configure a Dell Inspiron Zino HD to try to match the Mac Mini. The Dell's CPU selection skews lower than the Mac Mini, which suggests that Dell has only the living room in-mind for its new small form factor PC. But after choosing the best AMD CPU available for the Zino, we bumped the RAM up to 4GB, the hard drive up to 320GB, added 802.11n wireless networking, and the price came out to $518. With the Blu-ray drive and graphics card options, the price is $693. Granted, this Dell would likely fall behind the Mac Mini on our benchmarks, but with Blu-ray and the included HDMI video output, the $693 Inspiron Zino HD seems to be a far more versatile living room system.

Juice box
Apple Mac Mini (2.53GHz, Winter 2009) Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.72
Sleep (watts) 1.32
Idle (watts) 17.84
Load (watts) 43.98
Raw (annual kWh) 78.0078
Energy Star compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $8.85

Annual power consumption cost
Apple Mac Mini
$8.85 

Perhaps it's small consolation since we don't really recommend buying this desktop, but like Apple's other systems, the Mac Mini's power efficiency it nothing short of amazing given its specs. We've seen full-fledged Nettops that consume more power. Whatever Apple's secret, it works consistently.

Finally, Apple's service and support policies remain out of step with the rest of the industry because of its all-or-considerably-less approach. The default plan covers parts and labor for a year, but you only get phone support for 90 days post-purchase. To extend the service you have only the $149 AppleCare option, which nets you three years of warranty and phone coverage. With only 90 days of phone protection otherwise, Apple falls about 270 days short of every other major desktop vendor.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Apple Mac Mini
Mac OS X 10.6.2; 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700; 4GB 1,067MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M; 320GB, 7,200rpm Fujitsu hard drive

Acer Aspire Z5610
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5300; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570; 320GB 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive

Asus Essentio CG5280-BP004
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive

Gateway SX2800-01
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive

HP TouchSmart 300-1020
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.7GHz AMD Athlon II X2 235e; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) AMD Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Apple Mac Mini (2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 320GB, Fall 2009)

Part Number: MC239LL/A Released: Oct. 20, 2009

MSRP: $799.00

Available direct from Apple. Starting price $799.00

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 20, 2009
  • Environmental standards EPEAT Gold
    EPA Energy Star
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 9400M shared video memory (UMA)
  • OS Provided Apple MacOS X 10.6
  • Monitor Type None.