We also credit Apple for boosting the Mac Mini's gaming performance with the new Nvidia chip. We were able to run Quake 4 at 1,600x900 at decent image quality with minimal lag. Our gameplay experience wasn't entirely seamless, and more recent games will surely provide a larger challenge. But as a budget gaming system, the Mac Mini is at least respectable.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
While we might have some doubts about the Mac Mini's performance, its power efficiency is highly encouraging. We hooked up both the Mac Mini and a $480 Acer slimline PC and to a Watts Up power meter and tested both systems' consumption at idle with a few basic apps open, and under load while playing Quake 4. Happily, our results fell in line with Apple's claims: when the system is powered on but idle, the Mac Mini only used 13.2 watts compared with Acer's demanding 70.9. The Mac Mini also saved a relative amount of energy under load, consuming only 29.7 watts during our Quake 4 session, as opposed to the Acer's 95.6. Needless to say, the savings are notable. We're still refining our power-consumption testing, and we have some concerns about accuracy at low wattages, but the large gap makes us feel comfortable saying the Mac Mini will save you a few bucks on your yearly electrical bill.
Even though we have questions about the Mac Mini's hardware value, Apple helps close the gap by including its iLife '09 application suite with every new Mac Mini. We're also glad to see the mini DVI-to-single-DVI dongle mentioned above, but as usual with the Mac Mini, there's no mouse or keyboard. We're also disappointed that Apple left off the tiny Apple Remote this time around. You can add an Apple keyboard and mouse set for $98, and the Remote for an extra $20.
Per usual, Apple supports the new Mac Mini with its standard coverage, including one year of parts-and-labor coverage and access to all of the extra goodies that come along with Apple Store Genius support. The Apple Web site also provides a portal for extra support, including rebate information and online-service assistance, but e-mail support is only available for iTunes store and Apple photo services. We're also still disappointed by the diminutive 90-day technical support over the phone--most PCs allow for a year of free phone calls under the one-year umbrella, some even offering 24-7 service.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive.
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics chip; 250GB 5,400rpm Samsung hard drive.
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8200; 8GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz AMD Phenim 9750 X4 Quad Core; 8GB DDR2 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9500 GS; 750GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive.