The Bottom Line
Sep 8 2011 - Apple still retains the title of most iconic of the mini desktops with their 2011 redesign of the Mac Mini, but not all of the changes are for the better. The system is still quit small but offers good performance without too much noise. Performance is improved thanks to the new second generation mobile Core i processor. Users also have the ability to easily upgrade the memory which they will likely want to do from the base 2GB. The big downside is that the DVD drive has been completely removed making the system less functional as a home theater PC that it excelled at. It is also the least expensive Apple computer on the market but do take into account the need for a keyboard and mouse when you purchase one as neither is supplied still.
- Extremely Small And Silent
- Improved Performance From Core i5 Processor
- Memory Can Easily Be Upgraded
- Lacks DVD Drive
- Ships With Just 2GB Memory
- Does Not Come With Mouse Or Keyboard
- Intel Core i5-2410M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 2GB PC3-8500 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics
- Intel HDA 5.1 Audio
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Four USB 2.0, Thunderbolt, HDMI, SDXC
- 7.7" x 7.7" x 1.4"
- Mac OSX 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple 2011 Mac Mini
Sep 8 2011 - Apple's 2011 redesign of the Mac Mini has both good and bad points to it. Let's start off with the good aspects first. Most importantly, the system has been updated from the older Core 2 processor series to the latest 2nd generation Core i processors. It still relies on mobile processor parts which does put it at a slight disadvantage against slightly larger mini desktops that use desktop processors. However, the Core i5-2410M is a good dual core processor that should be able to handle the majority of tasks just fine. It is disappointing the Apple still defaults the Mac Mini to only come with 2GB of DDR3 memory when the majority of systems feature 4GB now. At least Apple made up for this by making it much easier for consumers to upgrade the memory themselves.
The big change for the 2011 Mac Mini though is the storage. In particular, the system no longer features any optical drive. Past models featured a dual-layer DVD burner as does much of the competition. This is handy for those that would use the system as a home theater PC because it could double as a physical media player. Now, it doesn't feature this meaning that buyers will have to rely on another device, add an external drive or simply switch to all steaming and digital media files. The hard drive size has been bumped up a bit to 500GB in size and continues to be the notebook class drive with a 5400rpm spin rate. This means performance is modest.
The final change to the 2011 Mac Mini by Apple is with the graphics. It still uses an integrated graphics system but now it uses the Intel HD Graphics 3000 that come built into the CPU rather than the chipset. This is an improvement over past Intel solution but it actually is an overall performance decrease from the past NVIDIA GeForce 320M. Basically, it will work fine for HD video and standard graphics but it doesn't really have the 3D performance to be used for even casual PC games that require 3D acceleration.
Apple still retains the useful HDMI port which is the only Apple PC to do so. This makes it very convenient to be hooked up to a HDTV used in a media center making it still a good choice for a home entertainment center PC even if it does lack a DVD player. The DisplayPort that was on the past model is still here but has morphed into the Thunderbolt interface which is Apple's electrical version of Intel's Light Peak. This has the benefit of being able to connect to the new Apple Cinema Displays or for new high speed external storage arrays. Since Apple does not include USB 3.0 ports on their PCs yet, this at least gives users access to some form of high speed external storage.
As with past version of the Mac Mini, Apple does not include a keyboard or mouse. This is an important thing to consider as purchasing the Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse from Apple will add another $138 to the base $599 price tag. As a result, it makes the Mac Mini one of the more expensive mini desktops on the market if you have to add on these peripherals. Of course, if you are lucky, you may have an older USB keyboard and mouse that can be used to keep the costs down.
At least Apple continues to use its extremely small form factor design for the 2011 Mac Mini. The aluminum clad exterior is still one of the most stylish, not to mention quiet and cool running on the market. It would have been nice to see them put the SDXC card slot on the front of the unit instead of the back, especially with the removal of the optical slot, but they want to keep the design clean which makes it a bit more inconvenient for users who may frequently use it.