The Good Competitive Nvidia G9400M graphic chip; includes iLife '09 digital media software; energy-efficient; space-saving chassis retains distinct design.
The Bad Similarly priced PCs offer increased functionality; phone support only lasts 90 days from purchase.
The Bottom Line Apple's newest high-end Mac Mini maintains its small, stylish footprint, and as with the cheaper version, this $799 model has impressive multitasking capabilities. You'll like this desktop if juggling apps with attractive hardware is important to you, but you get much better all-around value in a Windows PC for the same price.
Apple Mac Mini (Winter 2009)
Editor's note: While we evaluated each new Mac Mini separately, the chassis and many of the core features of each model are the same, so many of the descriptions are copied over from the entry-level Mac Mini.
Apple breathed fresh air into its line of Mac Minis, whose specs haven't changed since an update in August 2007. With this $799 model, Apple adds significantly improved Nvidia graphics, a new 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and a larger hard drive. While those changes are a step forward for the Mac Mini line, we still question its value. We're impressed by the space-saving chassis and multitasking benchmarks, and we can see the appeal of using one in the office or as a digital media hub. But even more so than the lower-end model, you can get significantly more features from a standard Windows PC at or around the same price as this Mac Mini. We'd only recommend this system if you're particularly enamored with the idea of a small, attractive desktop.
In terms of design, there's not much here for fans of the previous Mac Mini to get excited about. The case is made of the same aluminum housing and white plastic top, and the only minor differences in the rear panel are an additional USB port (bumping the total up to five), a single FireWire 800 port, a Mini DVI input, and Mini DisplayPort input. That display-standard change is actually significant because it lets the Mac Mini support two displays for the first time, and the internal hardware is also powerful enough to drive a 30-inch, 2,560x1,600 LCD.