I’ve been waiting on a Mac Mini to replace my sluggish and crash-prone Firefly/NSLU2 home music and file server, and Apple finally delivered the goods today, after leaving us in the lurch at Macworld 2009! I’ve placed my order for a base-model Mac Mini, and look forward to using Apple’s iPhone Remote with the Airport Express AirTunes as my primary home music playing system.
What’s new with the Mac Mini? And was it worth waiting for? I think so!
- Faster CPUs – The old 1.83 and 2.0 GHz Core 2 has been replaced by a choice of 2.0 or 2.26 GHz chips, both with a much-faster 1066 MHz front-side bus. And these are the new Penryn (probably 3M 45 nm mobile) chips, replacing the old Merom units of the previous Mini, so they run faster clock-for-clock and cooler.
- Upgraded graphics – Where the old Mini relied on Intel’s tortoise-like GMA 950 integrated graphics, the new Mini has the new NVIDIA 9400M platform, also found on the new MacBook. This means the Mini is not only a capable game machine, but can make use of Apple’s Grand Central/OpenCL technology in Snow Leopard, when it’s delivered.
- Dual-monitor support – The Mini has both a Mini DisplayPort and Micro-DVI port, so you can use two monitors at once. It comes with a DVI cable, but if you want to use VGA you have to buy an adapter (unless your monitor is Apple’s massive-dollar LED Cinema Display!)
- FireWire remains – Despite all the rumors, the Mini retains a FireWire port, and adds an extra USB port to boot! But like the display port, the FireWire is an S800 port, so you need an adapter to hook up the older, and much more common, S400 devices.
You might also be interested in my more detailed Mac Mini review, or my post on upgrading the RAM and hard disk drive in my Mac Mini!
But the best reason to use a Mac Mini as a home server is Apple’s software. OS X remains a solid platform, with excellent network file service support, and Snow Leopard should make it even better. The combination of ZFS and two hard drives in a Mac Mini will be killer! Plus, Apple’s AirTunes/iTunes/Remote ecosystem makes a very snazzy home music service. Maybe I’ll add an Apple TV, too?
All considered, this is a solid if uninspiring upgrade. It’s a MacBook in a little box with a FireWire port and half the price tag. Nothing amazing, but a solid choice for a home server, which is what I plan to use it for. As for the configurations, I wonder who Apple is kidding. The $200-extra high-end model adds an extra GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard disk over the 1 GB/120 GB base model. If you want the faster 2.26 GHz CPU, you have to build to order and shell out an extra $150. So the base model is the most compelling choice, since upgrading RAM and disk is straightforward. I’ll use the extra 1 GB module left over from my MacBook Pro upgrade.