The Bottom Line
- Extremely Small and Silent
- USB 3.0 Ports For Easy Expansion
- Easy Access To Upgrade Memory
- Lacks DVD Drive
- Keyboard and Mouse Not Included
- SD Slot Would Be More Useful On Front Rather Than Back
- Intel Core i5-3210M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Intel HDA 5.1 Audio
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Four USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, HDMI, FireWire 800, SDXC
- 7.7" x 7.7" x 1.4"
- Mac OSX 10.8, iLife
Review - Apple 2012 Mac Mini
Powering the latest revision of the Mac Mini is the more energy efficient Ivy Bridge processors from Intel. For the base $599 model, this is the Intel Core i5-3210M dual core mobile processor that is typical for many laptop computers. While not as fast as traditional desktop processors, the thermals allow the Mac Mini to remain silent while still providing sufficient performance for the majority of users. It isn't a huge upgrade in performance from the 2011 version but it is faster for those wanting to do a bit more demanding tasks. The bigger upgrade is the shift from the meager 2GB of memory to 4GB that allows the operating system to be a bit smoother when multitasking. This is still somewhat small for overall memory but at least it is still very easy to upgrade the memory.
The storage features of the base Mac Mini remain relatively unchanged. There is still no optical drive which is becoming the norm for Apple products but makes the system a bit less useful in the home theater environment where the mini system is a great fit for as it can't play DVD movies. It still uses a 500GB hard drive that provides it with a good amount of space for applications and data but may become cramped if buyers intend to use the system as a media center that houses digital media. Thankfully, the external peripheral ports have been upgraded. In addition to the Thunderbolt port that was added to the 2011 model, this version also included four USB 3.0 ports for the more common high speed external storage devices. Surprisingly, Apple continues to support FireWire 800 on this tiny system even though it has dropped the port on many of its mobile products. An SDXC card slot is also there for use with the media cards from digital peripherals but it would have been nice if this was on the front to make it easier to use.
Along with the processor upgrade, the graphics also received a boost thanks to the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that come on the Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. This gives it more 3D performance than the previous 3000 version but still offers limited 3D performance that is really only suited for casual gaming at very low resolution or detail levels. With the HDMI port it is extremely easy to attach the Mac Mini up to a standard desktop monitor or even better a large HDTV for a home theater PC. It also features the Thunderbolt port for use with Apple's Cinema display or with other DisplayPort compatible monitors.
The biggest drawback to the Apple Mac Mini continues to be the lack of any keyboard or mouse to come with the $599 system. The system does feature four USB ports for use with standard keyboards and mice but with the built-in Bluetooth, the Apple Magic Mouse and Wireless Keyboard work extremely well and are compact for easy storage but will add $138 to the overall price of the system.
Overall, the changes are welcome and frankly much needed to Apple's least expensive system. It still remains one of the smallest and quietest computer systems that consumers can buy and frankly a great computer for any home theater system even without the optical drive. The closest competitor would be the Shuttle XPC X6100 which offers greater performance from a quad core desktop processor and DVD burner but is twice as large and lacks any high speed external peripheral ports.