The Good Best design among budget desktops; decent performance for its price; best performance-per-watt on the market.
The Bad 160GB hard drive too small at this price; no HDMI port.
The Bottom Line The lower-cost Mac Mini offers respectable budget performance and Apple's usual compelling design, but a puny hard drive and a lack of HDMI hurt this system's value and overall potential. It's actually more versatile next to its budget-priced Windows competition than the higher-end Mac Mini, but this entry-level Mac is still best left to Apple loyalists.
Apple Mac Mini (2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
We didn't love the higher-end model from Apple's most recent round of Mac Mini updates, but we're a bit more positive about this $599 version. A reasonably capable desktop, the entry-level Mac Mini will provide suitable day-to-day performance, wrapped in a familiar, still-attractive plastic and aluminum case. That combination makes this Mac Mini a sound jack-of-all trades computer, which we can recommend to anyone in need of such a system who's not dependent on Windows. Comparatively weak features for its price and a lack of HDMI hold the Mac Mini back from a higher rating.
Apple has stuck with the same exterior design for the Mac Mini since the system first debuted in 2005. We have no qualms with Apple retaining a design that works, but we continue to find it surprising that in the ensuing five years, no Windows PC vendor has come close to matching the Mac Mini's compact industrial class. The only thing that has changed on the Mac Mini's exterior between iterations is the array of ports on the back. As with the $799 baseline model, the $599 Mac Mini gets you five USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 jack, mini-DVI and mini-DisplayPort outputs, an Ethernet port, and headphone and audio jacks.
You may find the absence of a media card reader on the Mac Mini annoying, but we find Apple's reliance on adapters to interface with the two miniaturized video outputs more problematic. Unlike recent small, low-cost offerings from Dell and Gateway, the Mac Mini has no traditional HDMI port. Worse, the only adapter included in the box is a mini-DVI-to-full-DVI port, to accommodate standard desktop monitors. Still worse, even if you buy one of the third-party adapters to jury rig an HDMI output, you'll need to pay $50 or more for an HDMI adapter that supports audio output over the HDMI signal, and only then by way of a second cable that eats up one of the Mac Mini's USB or audio ports.
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