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Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz) review: Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz)

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.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
6 min read

Lost among the news of the emergence of the Intel-based Mac Pro and the iMac getting a boost with new Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs was the Mac Mini receiving a CPU jolt of its own. The low-end $599 model 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 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 HP Pavilion Slimline S7600e.

7.7

Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz)

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.

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 unparalleled iLife '06 suite 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.

The Mac Mini loses out on features and, to a lesser extent, upgradability. The Mac Mini uses smaller and slower notebook drives. The standard drive is an 80GB, and you can upgrade to a 120GB or 160GB drive; all three drives are 5,400rpm, 2.5-inch notebook drives. The HP Slimline features a 7,200rpm, 3.5-inch desktop drive in sizes up to 250GB. Both the Mac Mini and the HP Slimline start you off with 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM, though the Mac Mini uses faster 667MHz memory. Our Slimline review system included an upgrade to 1GB of memory, which is a slightly cheaper upgrade than what Apple charges for the same amount of memory. Still, we recommend at least 1GB in either system since both use integrated graphics, which borrow from the main system memory.

Continuing through the feature sets, the HP Slimline also boasts a handy multiformat media card reader and the option to add in a TV tuner. While you can add both features to the Mac Mini via external USB peripherals, it's nice to have them integrated on the case, particularly if you plan to hide the system among the home-theater components in your living room. Both systems feature a DVD burner, but HP's is a LightScribe drive that lets you create laser-etched labels on CDs and DVDs. We admit that's a small victory for HP, given the time it takes to create just a somewhat blurry, grayscale label.

Neither SFF system offers much in the way of expandability, which isn't a surprise given their dimensions. It's easier to get inside the HP Slimline, however, and it offers a PCI slot.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test
Note: Tunes for Windows version 6.0.4.2; iTunes for Mac version 7.0.1
Cinebench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs
Rendering single CPU

Both the 1.83GHz Apple Mac Mini and the HP Pavilion Slimline Ss7600e reside at the upper end of the budget desktop category, and both serve up performance that will meet the needs of mainstream users. The Mac Mini put up an uninspiring Photoshop score, but that's because it must run the app through the Rosetta translation software. Until Adobe releases a universal binary version of Photoshop for Intel-based Macs, you'll have to slog through Photoshop on any Mac. Conversely, Macs enjoy an edge on iTunes because it's built for the Mac OS. The higher-end Mac Mini enjoys a 9 percent advantage over the lower-end $599 model, thanks to its increased clock speed. It's 24 percent slower than the $999 17-inch iMac, which shows you what the Core 2 Duo processor can do for performance. CineBench 9.5 puts Macs and PCs on equal ground, and the 1.83GHz Mac Mini trailed the HP Slimline by the slightest of margins, an impressive showing considering it has half the memory and a dual-core processor that clocked slightly slower.

Apple's warranty is average at best. You get the industry-average one year of parts-and-labor coverage and an annoyingly short 90 days of free phone support. Online help is abundant: Apple's support pages, particularly the user forums, are helpful, and you can google practically any Mac-related problem and find hundreds of other Mac fans discussing and solving it.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations
Apple iMac Core 2 Duo 17-inch
OS X 10.4.7; 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5600; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated 64MB Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 160GB Western Digital 7,200rpm serial ATA hard drive

Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.66GHz)
OS X 10.4.7; 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated 64MB Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 60GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm serial ATA hard drive

Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz)
OS X 10.4.7; 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; integrated 64MB Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 80GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm serial ATA hard drive

Cyberpower Back to School 2006
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia 7300GS graphics card; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm serial ATA hard drive

eMachines T5212
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Pentium D 805; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; integrated 128MB (shared) ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip; 200GB Seagate 7,200rpm EIDE

HP Pavilion Slimline s7600e
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 3800+; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 500MHz; integrated 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150 LE graphics chip; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm serial ATA hard drive

7.7

Apple Mac Mini Core Duo (1.83GHz)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 6Support 5