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It's small..it's quiet, it's powerful. It's a Mac mini
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It’s small..it’s quiet, it’s powerful. It’s a Mac mini

A few months ago I told you about my first flirt with the dark side by bringing a MacBook Air into a long time Windows household. It turns out that was just the beginning..I really liked working in OS X so it was only a matter of time that I went all the way…but what to buy…the new iMac’s look nice but I already have a really good monitor that at 23″ is the perfect size for me. So Mac mini it was to be.

I ordered my mini online because I wanted more than the basics…I ordered it with the 2.6GHz Intel Quad Core i7, 8Gb of SDRAM and the 256Gb Solid State Drive…pretty much all dressed the only thing I could have added was another 8Gigs of memory..a bit of overkill I thought. I was tempted to try Apple’s new Fusion Drive  which combines  a 1TB hard disk and 125Gb of flash storage that appears as one volume. With daily use, the fusion drive shifts the less frequently used data to the 1TB hard drive, which offers slower speed, but more storage capacity. The result is speedy SSD performance for the data you use most frequently, without the cramped storage you’d contend with on a pure SSD. But, for my usage pattern the 256Gb SSD is perfect and I keep the stuff I don’t use often on a Seagate Backup Plus USB drive.

The Mini is typical Apple minimalist design…a milled aluminum round edge square 1.4 by 7.7 by 7.7 inches with a black Apple logo on top and a round port on the back which gives you acces to the memory slots only…if you want to upgrade anything else you have better know what you are doing and own a torx screwdriver. All the inputs and outputs are on the back..Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps), FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps), Four USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps), HDMI port,  SDXC card slot, Gigabit Ethernet port, Audio in/out as well as Power plug  and switch. On the front is a power light and an IR Receiver.

Sutup couldn’t have been simpler…I plugged in the power and an ethernet cable…I could have used the internal Wireless N but my router is close by so I went for the Gigabit speed…not that I really need it :). I turned on the wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad (both Bluetooth) which by the way, were not included with the mini..After flipping the power switch it was pretty much automatic..i did have to go through a brief pairing procedure for the keyboard…the trackpad paired automatically and I was ready to go.

Once I loaded a few apps and started to use my mini I was impressed it was fast as stink. Apps opened quickly..a bit faster than my MacBook Air..clearly Apple has equipped the mini with a top of the line SSD..take a look at these benchmarks.

Video conversions were no problem for the fast i7 processor I was able to keep four other apps open as well as play another movie while converting a 720p avi movie to mp4 and the mini remained silent under this load.  However, forget about serious gaming with the mini…the Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics just won’t handle  the latest and greatest high end 3D titles…but it is fine for les demanding titles such as Diablo III

No question this cute little box has plenty of power for all but the most demanding situation..I was able to stream a movie to my Apple TV while using Windows 8 in Parrallels..which by the way seemed to run just as well as it did on my big powerful homebuilt tower.

I love my mini after a week of daily use I find  it is the perfect computer for the average home user…I may have overdone it a bit with the high end model I bought but, I think even at $300 extra the SSD was a good investment because all my other computers have SSDs and I am used to the speed…sure, I could have bought an equally fast SSD for a hundred dollars less and installed it myself…and void my warranty. I have tried out the lower priced hard drive model at the Apple store and it is perfectly fine…the pokey 5400RPM drive does boot and load apps slower but once you are up and running there isn’t a huge difference.

The Apple Mac mini starts at $599 at the Apple Store, the all dressed unit I bought cost $1299.

[ratingbox]

Bob Benedetti

Former RCAF Fighter Pilot Bob worked for CTV Montreal as a Reporter, Producer and Executive producer for 35 years retiring in 2004. Bob started reporting on personal technology in 1995 at CTV and continues today at Home Technology Montreal

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