Small But Capable
The Mac mini is Apple's entry level desktop Macintosh.  The Mac mini provides an economical solution for today's buyer and was first introduced by Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2005 with the "BYODKM" catch phrase - "Bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse".  The Mac mini is the smallest Mac desktop that Apple sells.
0903macmini_front.pngApple acknowledged that most computer users already had these items laying around from their existing PC's so if one was interested in switching to a Mac, they could save money by just simply plugging them into the Mac mini and off they go.  The Mac mini also makes it easy to use it side-by-side with another computer via a KVM switch.  Since it's release, people have found interesting ways to use the Mac mini beyond it's desktop intention.
 
The Mac mini is now on it's fifth product cycle, or in other words, it's fourth revision.   The first two iterations were based on the PowerPC processor, since the Early 2006 release, the Mac mini has been powered by Intel processors.  The following is a list of the Mac mini models and release dates:Here's a history of the all-in-one iMac models since August 2004.

Intel
  • Early 2009 - March 3, 2009
  • Mid 2007 - August 7, 2007
  • Late 2006 - September 6, 2006
  • Early 2006 - Febuary 28, 2006
PowerPC
  • Update - July 26, 2005 (PowerPC)
  • Original - January 11, 2005 (PowerPC)

In the Box
When you purchase a Mac mini you get the following hardware:
  • Mac mini
  • Mini-DVI to DVI adapter
  • Power adapter
  • Power cord
  • Install/restore DVDs
  • Printed and electronic documentation
Noteworthy features and changes in the Eary 2009 Mac mini models
The key improvements in the latest Mac mini is the transition to a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor.  This allows the Mac mini to delivering up to five times better graphics performance than the prior generation models and it is the same integrated graphics found in the unibody MacBook family.  Apple has also improved the processor and RAM specifications.  Processor speeds have improved in conjunction with Apple implementing DDR3 RAM (memory) in the Early 2009 models versus the DDR2 installed in the Mid 2007 models.  The Early 2009 models usher in dual displays support, an offering that has never existed on the Mac mini lineup.  The following comparison highlights key features and changes when compared to the Late 2007 models:

macmini_mar09_vs_aug07.pngStandard features:
  • Slot-loading 8x dual-layer SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • One FireWire 800
  • Five USB 2.0 ports
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • mini-DVI output, VGA output (adapter required)
  • Built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking
  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
  • Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet
  • Built-in speaker
  • Combined optical digital audio input/audio line in
  • Combined optical digital audio output/headphone out
  • Support for an dual displays

Installed software
All new Mac mini models ship pre-installed with:
  • Mac OS X version 10.5 Leopard operating system which includes key features and applications such as Time Machine, Quick Look, Spaces, Spotlight, Dashboard, Mail, iChat, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, DVD Player, Photo Booth, Xcode Developer Tools)
  • iLife '09 which includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, and GarageBand

0903macmini_display.pngDesign - It's so Small
The Mac mini although only 6.5 inches square and 2 inches tall, is by no means an underperforming machine.  The current models ship with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor capable of delivering top notch performance for today's computing needs.  You can upgrade the mini to suit your needs by adding more memory, hard drive space, software, and other goodies.  You can even purchase accessories from third party vendors to add more ports and disk space.  The mini is a truly versatile system that can be extended to suit your growing computing requirements and activities.

Apple LED Cinema Display, Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse look great
Just like the Mac Pro, the Mac mini doesn't come with a display.  That's solved by connecting a third party display but the Mac mini looks even better when connected to the Apple LED Cinema Display.  This display features an aluminum enclosure that matches up nicely with the mini, the two look great side-by-side.  The aluminum Apple keyboards are also a perfect match.  The Apple Mighty Mouse although white, works great with the Mac mini.

What can you do with a Mac mini?
The better question may be, what can't you do with a Mac mini?  The ultra slick aluminum enclosure houses a system that is capable of providing it's owner a truly enjoyable Mac experience.  It efficiently runs the Mac OS X operating system and the iLife suite of applications.  For most users, the Mini is a sufficient machine that can be used to:
  • Accomplish most daily tasks such as email, web browsing, managing photos, making home movies, designing DVDs, designing websites, and listening to and composing music
  • Use Front Row with the optional Apple Remote.  Front Row makes it easy to browse and enjoy your photos, music, and videos.  Front Row is interoperable with iLife so you can sit across your room and enjoy the show.
  • Burn CDs and DVDs.  The standard Mac mini ships with a built-in optical drive, what Apple calls a SuperDrive that can burn CDs and DVDs.
  • Use it in other places such as a living room or even a car!
Conclusion & Buying Advice
The Mac mini is the most economical choice as the benefit of leveraging your existing PC display, keyboard, and mouse speaks for itself.  It's the ideal system for those on a budget.  Although compact, the Mac mini is a versatile cost effective system ideal for the casual user and/or beginner.  It's a great choice for those who are considering a Mac or are interested in switching but would like to test drive a Mac.  Not limited to those uses, the Mac mini can serve as a first Mac, supplement as another system, and more.

Updates

  • April 9, 2009 - Updated content for new models released in March 2009, updated images
Images used in this guide are Courtesy of Apple
Created: 11:35 AM on Nov 13, 2006
By: switchtoamac