Never before had Apple sold a $500 Macintosh. Never before had Apple been poised to grow its market share like it hoped to with the Mac mini. The tiny Mac mini (6.5″ square, 2″ high, 2.9 lb.) has incredibly minimalist design. On the front, there’s just a slot-loading optical drive and a power light. On the rear, almost enough ports to do everything important (two USB ports is kind of skimpy).
The Mac mini shipped in a smaller box than the regular iPod, which was possible because Apple didn’t include a keyboard or mouse. Instead, Apple says you can plug in your favorite USB keyboard and mouse – or buy Apple’s offerings. Mac OS X 10.4 and later include support for remapping the Windows Alt and Option keys to Option and Cmd.
The Mac mini is expandable. Memory can be expanded from 256 MB to 1 GB (but there’s only one memory slot, so if you upgrade, you have to remove what’s installed), and Apple doesn’t recommend that users upgrade RAM (although this will not void your warranty). There’s room inside for Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme (to be installed by Apple or an authorized dealer, not by the user).
With USB 2.0 and FireWire, it’s easy to add all sorts of peripherals.
Apple cut costs with a single memory slot and by leaving out the keyboard and mouse, but they also made some choices that raise the cost of the Mac mini, particularly the slot-loading optical drive and the use of 2.5″ laptop hard drives that are smaller, more energy efficient, and more expensive per gigabyte than the 3.5″ drives found in most desktop computers.
Due to poor cooling, the ATI Radeon 9200 graphics processor can overheat during intensive gaming, producing what one reader calls “swirling flying triangles”. Letting the mini cool solves the problem. To minimize overheating, be sure to allow plenty of air flow around the Mac mini, don’t stack it with a hot hard drive, and consider running it vertically or with a set of feet to raise it above your work surface, which allows air to reach the bottom, the mini’s primary heat radiating surface.
Apple offered several Build to Order options, such as a 4x SuperDrive for $100 extra, Bluetooth for $50, AirPort Extreme for $79 (or both Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme for $99), a USB mouse and keyboard for $58, or a wireless mouse and keyboard for $99 (these requires Bluetooth). And with a $19 DVI to Video Adapter, you can connect the Mac mini to most modern TVs using S-video or composite video.
If you have a lot of peripherals, you might want to look into a FireWire/USB 2.0 hub. Prices range from $29-49.
At the time, Apple’s least costly display was the 20″ Cinema Display ($999 when the mini was introduced, and down to $799 in late 2005), although the Apple Store also offers flat screen CRT monitor for a lot less. The big question for the rest of the year will probably be which 17″ flat-panel monitor looks best with the Mac mini. We recommend you pick a display with digital DVI input instead of or in addition to analog VGA.
- introduced 2005.01.11 and available 2005.01.22 at US$499 (1.25 GHz Combo) and US$599 (1.42 GHz Combo). 1.42 GHz SuperDrive model introduced 2005.07.26 at US$699. As of 2005.07.26, all 1.42 GHz models include AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0. Replace 2005.09.28 with 1.33 GHz and 1.5 GHz Late 2005 model.
- Part no.: M9686 (1.25 GHz Combo), M9687 (1.42 GHz), M9971 (1.42 GHz SuperDrive)
- Model Identifier: PowerMac10,1
- CPU: 1.25/1.42 GHz G4 (7457B)
- L2 cache: 512 KB on CPU
- Bus: 167 MHz
- RAM: 256 MB, expandable to 1 GB using PC2700 (333 MHz) DDR SDRAM. 512 MB standard as of 2005.07.26.
- performance, Geekbench 2 (Leopard): 701 (1.25 GHz), 777 (1.42 GHz)
- performance, Geekbench 2 (Tiger): 727 (1.25 GHz), 802 (1.42 GHz)
- performance, Xbench 1.2 (1.24/1/42 GHz, 512 MB RAM)
- overall: 116.01/144.60
- CPU: 1351.97/172.25
- memory: 131.46/130.01
- Quartz graphics: 160.83/179.39
- OpenGL graphics: 111.26/123.11
- Hard drive: 57.38/60.89
- GPU: ATI Radeon 9200 with AGP 4x support
- VRAM: 32 MB DDR SDRAM
- Video out: DVI, VGA with included adapter, S-video with optional adapter
- drive bus: ATA/100
- Hard drive: 2.5″ 40/80 GB ATA/100
- Combo Drive: reads DVDs at up to 8x speed, writes CD-R discs at up to 24x, writes CD-RW discs at up to 16x, reads CDs at up to 24x
- SuperDrive (BTO option): writes DVD±R discs at up to 4x speed; DVD-RW at 2x; DVD+RW at 2.4x; reads DVDs at up to 8x; writes CD-R discs at up to 16x, writes CD-RW discs at up to 8x, reads CDs at up to 24x
- USB: 2 USB 2.0 ports
- FireWire 400: 1 port
- FireWire 800: none
- Ethernet: 10/100Base-T
- WiFi: 802.11g AirPort Extreme optional prior to 2005.07.26; standard on 1.42 GHz model after 2005.07.26
- Bluetooth: optional prior to 2005.07.26; standard on 1.42 GHz model after 2005.07.26
- integrated 56 kbps modem supports v.92 standard (optional on 1.42 GHz models after 2005.07.26)
- Microphone: none
- size: 2.0 x 6.5 x 6.5 in/5.1 x 16.5 x 16.5 cm
- Weight: 2.9 lb./1.3 kg
- Power supply: 85W external power supply
- PRAM battery: 3V CR2032 lithium
- Best online Mac mini deals, updated regularly.
- Best Classic Mac OS Deals. Best online prices for System 6, 7.1, 7.5.x, Mac OS 7.6, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 9.0, 9.2.2, and other versions.
- Best Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Deals. Best online prices for Mac OS X 10.4.
- Best Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Mac OS X 10.5.
- What’s the Best Version of OS X for My Mac?, Ian R Campbell, The Sensible Mac, 2008.02.28. Which version of Mac OS X is best for your hardware depends on several factors.
- Know Your Mac’s Upgrade Options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- Golden Apples: The 25 best Macs to date, Michelle Klein-Häss, Geek Speak, 2009.01.27. The best Macs from 1984 through 2009, including a couple that aren’t technically Macs.
- Do G4 Macs Have What It Takes to Remain Useful in a Multicore World?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2009.01.15. With dual-core Intel CPUs running beyond 2 GHz, is any G4 Mac a practical choice?
- The ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ Guide to Installing Mac OS X Updates, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.12.16. Most users encounter no problems using Software Update, but some preflight work and using the Combo updater means far less chance of trouble.
- Why You Should Partition Your Mac’s Hard Drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ’emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- The Future of Up-to-Date Browsers for PowerPC Macs, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2009.08.31. With Intel-only “Snow Leopard” shipping, software support for PPC Macs will continue its decline. Also, a look at SeaMonkey 2 and Camino 1.6.9.
- Optimized Software Builds Bring Out the Best in Your Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac’s Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.30. Applications compiled for your Mac’s CPU can load more quickly and run faster than ones compiled for universal use.
- Tips for Installing or Reinstalling Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2009.06.10. Mac OS X 10.4 uses less memory than Leopard, supports Classic Mode on PowerPC Macs, and, unlike Leopard, is supported on G3 Macs.
- Is Leopard Slower than Tiger on G4 Macs?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2009.04.17. Truth be told, when you have 1 GB of RAM, Leopard benchmarks an insigificant 4% slower than Tiger.
- Is It Worth Maxing the RAM in Old G3 and G4 Macs?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2009.04.15. Increasing memory can make your old Mac faster and make you more productive, but it probably won’t improve resale value by the amount you spend.
- The 25 most important Macs, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.17. The 25 most significant Macs in the first 25 years of the platform, continued.
- PowerPC Architecture Was Not a Failure, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.16. CNET’s Brooke Crothers calls PowerPC a failed architecture, but 12 years of PowerPC Macs, IBM’s blade servers, and three game consoles tell a different story.
- Will Snow Leopard Support Some PowerPC Macs?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.11.26. It just doesn’t make sense that Apple would ship a new OS that won’t support Macs sold less than three years ago.
- Virtualization shootout: VMWare Fusion 2 vs. Parallels Desktop 4, Kev Kitchens, Kitchens Sync, 2008.11.20. Both programs do the same thing, but one runs Windows XP smoothly alongside Mac apps, while the other bogs down everything but Windows.
- The future of PowerPC Macs and software as ‘Snow Leopard’ approaches, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.11.13. Apple phased out Classic Mode and G3 support with ‘Leopard’ last year, and next year’s OS X 10.6 won’t support any PowerPC Macs. Will other developers abandon PowerPC as well?
- How to clone Mac OS X to a new hard drive, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.10.07. Whether you want to put a bigger, faster drive in your Mac or clone OS X for use in another Mac, here’s the simple process.
- 9 browsers for G3 and older G4 Macs compared, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.09.26. The latest versions of Opera, Safari, Shiira, iCab, Radon, Firefox, Demeter, Sunrise, and Camino that run on Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”.
- Tiger vs. Leopard: Which is best for you?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.09.22. Two great versions of Mac OS X, but unless your Mac is well above the minimum spec for Leopard and has lots of RAM, stick with Tiger.
- Overclocking a Mac mini got me hooked on souping up Macs, Adam Geller, My First Mac, 2008.09.04. Stories of hot rodding iBooks, G3 iMacs, and PCI Power Macs on the cheap.
- Does running OS X system maintenance routines really do any good?, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.08.26. Mac OS X is designed to run certain maintenance routines daily, weekly, and monthly – but can’t if your Mac is off or asleep.
- Turn your old Mac into a web server with Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, Jason Packer, Macs in the Enterprise, 2008.07.09. Step-by-step instructions for installing and configuring Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP on an older Mac.
- Glimmers of innovation in a world of copycat PCs, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.06.10. Everyone can’t play Follow the Leader – someone has to be the first to try something different.
- 1 display with 2 Macs, flash memory for file transfer, Quicksilver or TigerLaunch?, and more, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.05.21. Also running a PowerBook 1400 from Compact Flash, format=flowed for email, and OS 9 nice for browsing without Flash.
- SheepShaver brings Classic Mac OS to Intel Macs and Leopard, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.05.20. Mac OS X 10.5 doesn’t support Classic Mode. Neither does Leopard. But SheepShaver lets you emulate a PowerPC Mac and run the Classic Mac OS.
- OS X for PCs, Mac mini with HDTV, 802.11n options, upgrading from Mac OS 9, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.04.22. Also reviving a dead PowerBook 5300, Lucida Grande, external FireWire SuperDrive advice, OS X and the DeskWriter, and royalties.
- Mac mini with HDTV, Lucida Grande on Low End Mac, the Open Computer, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.04.17. Also using a computer display with HDTV and cleaning your keyboard in the dishwasher.
- Restore stability to a troubled Mac with a clean system install, Keith Winston, Linux to Mac, 2008.01.15. If your Mac is misbehaving, the best fix just might be a fresh reinstallation of Mac OS X – don’t forget to backup first.
- Overheating Mac minis, ‘Road Apple’ label reconsidered, eMac repair extension, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.11.16. Also why the Mac mini is a wonderful computer, more Leopard on unsupported Macs, and contextual ads on Low End Mac.
- G4 Mac mini not a Road Apple, big drive support in Leopard?, leaking capacitors, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.11.15. Why the original Mac mini shouldn’t be considered a Road Apple, maximum Power Mac RAM, a dual 933 MHz G4 upgrade, and more.
- G4 Mac mini, a Limited Mac, Dan Knight, 2007.11.14. The smallest, cheapest Mac ever could have been faster and even cheaper if Steve Jobs hadn’t insisted it had to be so small.
- Proof Macs cost less, Leopard spanks Vista, Mac pride pins, Arabic OS X 10.4.10, and more, Mac News Review, 2007.11.09. Also the pitfalls of Macintel recovery, waiting for the 10.5.1 update, QuickTime 7.3 released, new Leopard books, and more.
- Road Apple nominations, OS X 10.5 on MDD Power Macs, UMPCs and Apple, and a broken power button, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.10.12. Whether some additional Macs merit the ‘Road Apple’ label, Leopard on Mirrored Drive Doors Power Macs, the usefulness of ultrasmall computers, and dealing with an iMac with a broken power button.
- External $100 Sony DVD burner likes Macs, Brian Gray, Fruitful Editing, 2007.10.10. The box and manual say nothing about Mac compatibility, but this 18x USB 2.0 DVD burner is plug-and-play (at least with Tiger).
- I love the Mac mini, no iPhone in court, no region-free DVDs on MacBooks, and more, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2007.07.31. Also 15 years of ThinkPads, reliability and all-in-one devices, and thoughts on upgrading operating systems.
- The Mac mini is dead: Why it missed the target, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.07.26. The Mac mini is compact, elegant, and affordable (for a Mac). What the market wanted was expandable and affordable compared with a Windows PC.
- Code doesn’t rust, Core Image and G4 Macs, and a fallback plan for losing G3 support, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.05.17. Old versions of the Mac OS are just fine, Core Image requirements, alternatives to Apple’s discontinued AirPort Card, G4 Mac mini GPU doesn’t support Core Image, and more.
- 11 No Cost Tips for Optimizing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Performance, Ed Eubanks Jr, The Efficient Mac User, 2007.03.12. If your Mac is getting sluggish, here are 11 tips that can help restore its original performance.
- One year with my ‘free’ Mac mini, Hardy Menagh, Empowered, 2006.11.20. “For something the size of a fruitcake, the mini is a powerful little computer.”
- Mac market up 34.6%, Core 2 minis?, red mice and iPods, a $30 Bluetooth 2.0 dongle, and more, Mac News Review, 2006.11.10. Also Apple’s blue motherboards, Other Red helps orphans in Africa, Bluetooth for G4 minis, SoundTech’s XLR-to-USB microphone cable, and more.
- Region Free DVD Viewing Options for Intel and PowerPC Macs, Andrew J Fishkin, The Mobile Mac, 2006.09.12. Several hardware and software options that will let your view ‘wrong region’ DVDs on your PowerPC or Intel Mac.
- $899 education iMac, Classic on Intel Macs, LCD in an eMac, Mac mini in a Prius, and more, Mac News Review, 2006.07.07. Also Mac mini ‘almost sinfully attractive’, Mac mini benchmarks, iPod Updater 2006-06-28, new iPod car options, and more.
- Macs take away Microsoft pain, Macs revive James Bond, iMac king of all media, iWoofer, and more, Mac News Review, 2006.06.16. Also Windows users guide to switching to the Mac, Bluetooth firmware update for PPC Macs, universal USB 2.0 drive adapter, waterproof case for video iPod, and more.
- Drive matters, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2006.06.14. There’s more to picking the right hard drive than size, spindle speed, buffer size, and price. But how can a 5400 rpm drive ever outperform a 7200 rpm drive?
- End of G4 models points to unprecedented value for used G4 Macs, Leaman Crews, Plays Well with Others, 2006.06.02. The PowerPC G4 may no longer have a place in Apple’s product line, but that’s a far cry from saying G4-based Macs are obsolete. If anything, their value is going to increase.
- The sun has set on the G4, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.05.23. After seven years with the G4, Apple has discontinued the last model to use it, but that doesn’t make these machines obsolete.
- NewerTech miniStack: A great drive even if you don’t own a Mac mini, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Reviews, 2006.02.08. Although it’s designed to match the Mac mini, the miniStack hard drive can add USB 2.0 and FireWire ports to any Mac while keeping your fast external hard drive cool.
- Matias OS X and USB 2.0 Keyboards reviewed, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2006.01.03. Two very good, nicely priced keyboards for the Mac – one even has a USB 2.0 port for the iPod shuffle and other devices.
- A scrounger’s guide to equipping the Mac mini: Choices for the budget conscious, Hardy Menagh, Empowered, 2005.12.22. How to add a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and stereo sound to your Mac mini for little or no money.
- Yes, you can get a ‘free’ Mac mini – but is it worth the hassles?, Hardy Menagh, Empowered, 2005.12.15. You’ve seen the offers for free iPods, Palms, gift cards, and Mac minis. What’s the catch?
- Mac mini vs G4/800 dual, completely washable mice, PatchBurn enables unsupported burners, and more, Charles W Moore, Mac News Review, 2005.12.09.
- The macmini touchscreen edition, MacMartin, 2005.03.01. How to set up and use the Mac mini with a 7″ touchscreen LCD – no keyboard or mouse required.
- Touchscreen VGA displays, mp3car, 2005.03.01. Seven 7″ to 10.4″ touchscreen LCDs that should work with the Mac mini. Prices: US$279-579.
- Apple’s new $499 Mac mini after a month of use, Macs Only!, 2005.02.22. In short, it’s a terrific computer for its target market, 256 MB is enough memory, and the stock hard drive is a decent performer.
- Performance increase in replacing a mini’s hard drive, Jamie Dresser, Other World Computing, 2005.01.27. Alternate hard drives can boost disk performance by 25% to nearly 50% compared to Apple’s stock hard drive.
- Mac mini versus Cube versus iMac versus Power Mac, Bare Feats, 2005.01.27. 3D gaming is good except at highest resolution settings, but “The mini’s ‘Achilles heel’ continues to be the hard drive, which is a 2.5″ notebook model running at only 4200rpm.”
- The Mac mini experience, John Yanosko, OSNews, 2005.01.26. A one-time Mac user and current Linux devotee buys an Mac mini. How does it compare with his Linux box?
- Apple to honor price protection on BTO Mac mini, MacMinute, 2005.01.26. “Following yesterday’s price drops on certain build-to-order (BTO) Mac mini components, Apple said it will refund the difference to affected purchasers….”
- Apple’s new 1.25GHz Mac mini – How fast is it?, Macs Only!, 2005.01.24. Performance is very good, and the base 256 MB RAM doesn’t appear to be a bottleneck. However, the hard drive is slow – as expected of a laptop drive.
- Many faces of the Mac mini, Leander Kahney, Wired, 2005.01.24. “Positioned by Apple as an inexpensive impulse buy for Windows switchers, the Mac mini is already being put to a wide array of uses….”
- Going head-to-head with PC boxes, Gene Steinberg, Mac Night Owl, 2005.01.24. Will the Mac mini be appearing in Target stores soon? It could happen….
- Mac mini, Steve Wood, Educators’ News, 2005.01.22. “…my first impressions are that the new Mac is everything Apple advertised and more.”
- First Look: Apple’s Mac mini, Rebecca Freed, PC World, 2005.01.21. “If I were recommending a starter system to someone (who hadn’t already taken a side in the Mac versus Windows holy war), I wouldn’t hesitate to send them in the direction of the Mac Mini.”
- Hands On with the Mac mini: Taking Apple’s new desktop out for a test drive, Dan Frakes, Macworld, 2005.01.20. “…I decided to test the ‘switcher’ route. I unplugged my Dell LCD, keyboard, and mouse – I really did BMODKM, as Steve Jobs suggested in his keynote&emdash;and connected them to the mini.”
- The Mac mini: Inside and out, Dan Frakes, Macworld, 2005.01.20. How to get inside the Mac mini. “Now that I’ve done it, it won’t be difficult to do it again, but I’m not sure I’d recommend the procedure to some of my less-gadgety-inclined friends….”
- Mac mini vs. cheap Dell, Gateway, HP, and Compaq PCs, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2005.01.21. Surprisingly, HP and Compaq – not Dell or Gateway – have the most price-competitive models. How do they compare with the Mac mini?
- Is the Mac mini worth more than a low cost DIY Windows PC?, Adam Robert Guha, Apple Archive, 2005.01.21. If you’re already using a PC, you can probably build a new computer for a lot less than the Mac mini costs, but that doesn’t doom the mini.
- Apple and memory: Tossing conventional wisdom on its ear, Gene Steinberg, Mac Night Owl, 2005.01.21. For those who aren’t power users, 256 MB may be plenty of memory.
- Mac mini – the “just enough” computer, Giles Turnbull, MacDevCenter, 2005.01.19. “The ‘just enough’ approach will be sufficient to let the target audience experiment with OS X and see what they think. And it has the flexibility to be upgraded….”
- 1.42GHz Mac mini versus 1.4GHz Cube and others, Bare Feats, 2005.01.18. “The Mac mini is a decent performer when compared to Macs with CPUs running at similar clock speeds. Its ‘Achilles heel’ is the hard drive speed.”
- Taking apart the Mac Mini (how-to disassembly video), Smash’s World, 2005.01.18. “Somebody leaked me this video… It demonstrates how to crack-open the Mac mini’s casing, which makes all parts available to the user via further disassembly….”
- Mac mini: What you need to know, Jason Snell, Macworld, 2005.01.13. “…we’ve been gleaning what we can about the new $499 Mac from loving visits on the Macworld Expo show floor and technical discussions we’ve had with a few Apple officials.”
- Headless iMac, Philip Machanick, MacIntelligence, Mac Opinion, 2005.01.12. “The Mac mini is not as crippled as the horrible under-Performas of the 1990s. It is pretty much an eMac in a smaller box, minus keyboard, mouse and screen.”
- Apple Specs for Mac mini