The Good No other PC in its price class fits the affordable home-theater desktop bill as well; still the aesthetic leader; entry-level model now includes dual-core CPU.
The Bad Even more than with most Apple PCs, upgrades are limited and costly due to the small case; lack of DVD burner feels stingy.
The Bottom Line If you're looking for a pure budget desktop and aren't too worried about looks, even this new updated Mac Mini with its 1.66GHz dual-core CPU is a hard sell. But if you want a small, innocuous computer for sending or receiving media or other files between rooms, no other computer offers the deal that Apple has with this one.
Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.66GHz)
Given its price, Apple's most basic Mac Mini config (recently updated to a dual-core 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo CPU) belongs squarely in the budget category, but Apple's entry-level desktop is far from your typical budget PC. For comparison, we've included the Cyberpower Back to School 2006, and the eMachines T5212 on our performance charts since both PCs are in the same price ballpark. The problem is that those are midtower desktops, and the Mac Mini is, well, the Mac Mini; it's the only PC in its price class that's small and attractive enough to fit anywhere in your home. It's also the only budget PC that can send or receive data wirelessly right out of the box. These advantages, combined with iLife, Front Row, and the Apple remote, make the Mac Mini an outstanding desktop for sending media files to your living room. Other PCs have better specs and more room to grow, so the 1.66GHz Mac Mini is not the best traditional desktop around, but for what it does, its value and utility can't be beat.
Apple didn't make a big deal about adding the 1.66GHz Core Duo chip to the lower-end Mac Mini when it made the change last month. The $599 Intel-based model debuted with the single-core Core Solo chip back in February 2006, and the update to the new dual-core CPU gives us a chance to reexamine how the Mac Mini stacks up. HP's Pavilion Slimline S7600e has emerged as the smallest Windows-based PC from a major PC vendor, and other small systems, such as WinBook's Jiv Mini, exceed the Mac Mini's price range. The $799 1.83GHz Mac Mini makes for a better comparison against those two machines. For the 1.66GHz Mac Mini, we'll focus on its $600 competition.
Simply put, no other $600 desktop that we know of comes with wireless networking included like the Mac Mini does. You can add it to the Cyberpower Back to School 2006, but neither Dell, eMachines, nor Gateway offers a Wi-Fi option in their lower-end PCs. So that's one for the Mac Mini. Against it is the fact that those systems all offer a DVD burner or the option to add one. You can get the 1.66GHz Mac Mini only with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. Apple offers its SuperDrive DVD burner in the 1.83GHz Mac Mini, but not here.
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