The Good Compact size and great looks mean the Mac Mini can be put practically anywhere in your home; built-in wireless card; ships with same software bundle as pricier Macs; vocal Mac community means you can find help online for almost any problem.
The Bad Meager standard memory allotment must share resources with integrated graphics; no media card reader; small, slow hard drive; free phone support runs out after only 90 days.
The Bottom Line The Apple Mac Mini is an unquestioned winner among budget desktops, but HP has a small-form-factor PC whose feature set will woo many would-be Mac Mini buyers.
Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz)
Lost among the news of the emergence of the Intel-based Mac waters. It's also become a popular choice for home theater owners looking to add a little computer muscle to their living room, and rightfully so: as configured, it has more than enough oomph to carry out home-theater tasks, provided your gaming comes courtesy of an Xbox 360 or the soon-to-be-released PS3. We'd say it's the best general-purpose small-form-factor desktop, too, if not for the .and the getting a boost with new Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs was the Mac Mini receiving a CPU jolt of its own. The low-end tossed aside its Core Solo processor for a Core Duo, and the $799 Mac Mini now ships with a faster 1.83GHz Core Duo processor. While the slight tick up in clock speed is appreciated, we wish the baseline configuration included 1GB of memory. The other two weak spots for the $799 Mac Mini are its relatively small hard drive and the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics that borrows resources from the already limited main memory. The Mini's charms, however, are abundant. It remains a marvel of PC design, wireless networking and Bluetooth come standard, and its software bundle is unmatched by any desktop in its class. These features make the Mac Mini a great choice if you are looking for an affordable way to dip your toes in the
Priced at $975, our HP Pavilion Slimline s7600e review system is $175 more expensive than the baseline $799 Mac Mini. We think that the added features--more memory; bigger, faster hard drive; media card reader; PCI slot; TV tuner; LightScribe DVD burner; keyboard and mouse; and better warranty terms--add up to more than the difference in price. In the Mac Mini's favor is its superior design and software bundle, which includes the unparalleledsuite and the simple yet effective Front Row app for easy navigation from the sofa. Both computers ship with comparable dual-core hard drives and a remote control.
The Mac Mini's design remains unchanged from past models'. The 6.5-inch square sits just over 2 inches tall and is a bit more compact than HP's Slimline. And with its glossy, white Lucite top and brushed-aluminum sides, it's certainly better looking than the Slimline, which looks like a shrunken yet still boring midtower PC.
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