As for its benchmark scores, our expectations for the Mac Mini weren't sky-high given its budget price, and it performed about as well as we expected.
Our Adobe Photoshop and Sorenson Squeeze tests are more demanding of the new Intel-based Mac; because the programs run in emulation, they're not yet available in Intel-native versions. The Mac Mini Core Duo performed poorly on both of these tests; on Sorenson, even the PowerPC-based Mac Mini SuperDrive beat it. We expect (or at least hope) that when the new, Intel-friendly versions of these apps come out performance for the new Macs will improve. But Adobe has said that it might be more than a year before it releases an updated version of Photoshop. If you depend on Photoshop or another nonnative app, we suggest putting off an Intel-based Mac purchase for as long as you can. Apple has a history of updating its systems' specs with little to no price increase, so you might be able to get more computer for your money by the time all of the software has caught up. In the meantime, you can always install Windows XP with Apple's Boot Camp utility and buy the Windows version of Photoshop. We ran our same Photoshop benchmark on the Mac Mini when running Windows XP Pro and saw a dramatic improvement; the Mac Mini running Windows finished the test in less than half the time as when running Mac OS X and using Rosetta. On our video-encoding benchmark, the Windows-based Mac Mini put up a time that was more than five times faster. We expect this performance delta to shrink or disappear all together, however, when universal binary apps--non-native Mac software built for the Intel platform--are released.
In our iTunes-encoding benchmark test, the Mini showed serious improvement over the previous high-end Mac Mini, a 1.42GHz PowerPC G4 model, demonstrating the kinds of processing improvements Mac Mini owners can expect from the Intel Core Duo chip. The previous Mac Mini took 203 seconds to encode a CD into MP3 files, while the current model took only 122 seconds. Given that iTunes doesn't require Rosetta, we weren't surprised to see the Mac Mini take 11 seconds longer to complete the test when running Windows.
On our Doom 3 graphics test, the Mac Mini could muster only 7 frames per second on our Doom 3 benchmark at a moderate 1,024x768 resolution.
Finally, we ran our Windows application benchmark, SysMark 2004, on the XP-powered Mac Mini to see how it stacked up to the PC competition. Though it features an Intel Core Duo processor, the Mac Mini was unable to put any distance between itself and two small-form-factor PCs that use single-core Pentium M chips. Also, its score of 178 trailed the iMac Core Duo's score of 214 by a healthy 17 percent.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
Apple's support resources remain merely mediocre. Buy a Mac Mini Core Duo, and you'll get only 90 days of toll-free phone support (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, seven days a week) and a one-year warranty on parts. Apple's phone support has historically been good, although we're distressed to learn that Apple is opening a call center in India, introducing the potential for the well-documented type of language and overall customer satisfaction issues that Dell experienced with its own outsourced support operations.
For an additional $149, you can purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends both the phone support and the warranty to three years. Apple also offers terrific online support resources, including articles, FAQs, and forums.
Apple iMac Core Duo
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X1600 PCIe; 250GB Maxtor 7,200 RPM Serial ATA hard drive
Apple Mac Mini Core Duo
Mac OS 10.4.5; 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 64MB shared memory; Seagate ST98823AS 80GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm
Apple Mac Mini Core Duo
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 64MB shared memory; Seagate ST98823AS 80GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm
Blueado m5e Media Center
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; 200GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm
HP Pavilion s7320n Slimline PC
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 1.6GHz Intel Celeron M 380; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; integrated Intel 915G graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Seagate ST3200826AS 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Shuttle XPC G5 1100h
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium M 760; Intel 915G chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 (PCIe); WDC WD200JS-22MHB0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA