Conclusion: A Worthwhile Investment - Exceptional Design, Simple To Use, Nearly Silent
Compared to the well-known SFF PCs , Apple's Mac mini stands out with its exceptional design. The choice of color, form and materials literally puts the mini into a class of its own. The high build quality and overall charm are also points in its favor, especially compared to other SFF PCs. Its very compact dimensions, its near-silent operation and the low power draw of roughly 20 W make its rivals from the Windows world look like amateurs.
The hardware configuration should be sufficient for most users, and additional components can be ordered at an extra charge. Yet even in this area Apple is able to be quite competitive: in its basic configuration, the Mac mini costs $499. Our maxed-out review sample would carry a price tag of just under $1000. Not quite a bargain, but that's not what the Mac mini is trying to be in any case. Buyers can save money when upgrading memory, which can be found much cheaper at the computer store around the corner.
On the whole, the Mac mini is a worthwhile investment, both for the home user and the corporate buyer. It becomes even more attractive once its depreciation in value is factored into the equation, which is much lower than that of the competition. Companies keeping a close watch on the long-term TCO will find this especially attractive.
The bottom line is that in many respects, Apple's Mac mini is a real trend-setter in the small computer market.
The only downside is that there are many fewer applications for the Mac than there are in the Windows world. Office tasks, however, can be just as easily and readily be accomplished on the Mac mini - indeed, MS Office is available for the Mac platform, as are other office suites. Meanwhile, Mac OS X 10.3 offers much greater ease of use than Windows XP.
A look at Apple's Safari browser, built into Mac OS X 10.3
Although a few worthwhile games are available for the Mac platform, playability will likely be limited to some extent by the Radeon 9200 graphics chip. Again, this isn't the Mac mini's target audience. After all - power gamers still build their own PCs and put them in their custom boxes to play, tweak and tinker with. Some things never change.