Apple has taken its Mac mini back to the drawing board, and produced an updated model for 2010. This edition is even more attractive than its predecessor and features a range of updated components designed to boost performance and improve efficiency. It comes at a price, though. The entry-level consumer model, reviewed here, will set you back £650. The mini with Snow Leopard Server is available for a starting price of £930, and trades its optical drive for twin hard disks.
Flat like a pancake
The mini has always been a looker, but the latest version is a supermodel. It's the first mini to use Apple's much-vaunted unibody construction method, whereby the entire chassis is hewn from a solid chunk of aluminium. The technique, first used on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, gives the mini a classy, contemporary aesthetic that few small-form-factor PCs can match.
The mini also has a new shape. It's wider and longer than its predecessor (197 by 197mm, as opposed to 165 by 165mm), but it's significantly flatter -- just 36mm tall, compared to 51mm previously. As a result, it's closer in design to thethan previous minis. The extra width and depth has given Apple room to mount the power supply inside the chassis, which adds considerably to the sleekness of the overall package.
The mini's internal components have been spruced up, too. Sadly, Apple hasn't bothered supplying any Core i-series CPUs (we'll probably have to wait until the next refresh for that), but it does provide a choice of 2.4GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, both of which offer performance on a par with mid- to high-end laptops.
The mini has 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 memory as standard, spread across two 1GB modules, and it's upgradeable to a maximum of 8GB for a whopping £400. You can choose between a 320GB SATA hard drive or a 500GB unit. The mini also has Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support.
Let me upgrade you
All the faces of the mini are made of solid aluminium except one. The underside has a plastic, disc-shaped central panel, which resembles the rotating platter from a record deck. Place your thumbs in its handy thumb-shaped grooves, twist the disc in an anti-clockwise direction, and it'll pop open, exposing the machine's inner components.
This means you'll enjoy ludicrously quick access to the mini's memory, which you can swap out in a matter of seconds. Sadly, other components, such as the hard drive and CPU, are more cunningly hidden away in the heart of the machine. Getting access to the hard drive, for example, requires the removal of several screws. If you want storage beyond the 500GB maximum provided by Apple, your best bet may be to purchase an external USB or FireWire 800 hard drive.