A starter Mac at a very sensible price which should tempt a few more people away from Windows
Quiet and utterly sexy
Meagre memory configuration
Limited expansion possibilities
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Admit it. You're sorely tempted by Apple's new Mac because it's well priced, reasonably powerful and... well, it just looks so damn cute. It's the perfect excuse to dump that ugly old beige Wintel box in the corner of the room. Apple has finally designed a powerful computer that doesn't hog much space and looks as sleek as every other bit of kit in your living room.
So what else is so special about this mini marvel? In essence it's a laptop in a biscuit tin, minus the display and keyboard. Everything is ingeniously crammed into a surprisingly heavy square aluminium case that's a fully functioning G4 Macintosh computer with some respectable specifications. And when you consider that it isn't much larger than about five stacked CD jewel cases, it really does make for a very attractive package.
At the heart of the Mini is a 1.25 or 1.42GHz G4 chip that's cooled by a small, whisper quiet fan. The motherboard that hosts the processor is about the same size as a CD insert while the laptop hard drive offers a choice of 40 or 80GB of storage.
Nestling above the hard drive is a smart slot-loading CD/DVD combo drive. If you're feeling flush you can upgrade that to a DVD writer, AirPort wireless networking and Bluetooth. In fact, the Mini has most of the makings of a Media Center... all it needs is some suitable software and you could have a Mini sitting beneath your television, burning shows to a DVD or simply storing them on the hard drive like a Tivo.
It's not quite there yet, and Apple certainly isn't touting the Mini as an entertainment PC, but you can see where thoughts are heading.
Of course, for a mere £340 there's no keyboard or monitor bundled with this cute little device, but you can easily plug in your existing screen, keyboard and mouse. And because the Mini runs Apple's OS X operating system you can be sure there won't be any troublesome viruses or adware waiting to put your computer out of action.
At the rear of the Mini is a gamut of ports including Ethernet, V92 modem, USB 2.0, Firewire and a DVI socket driven by a Radeon Mobility chipset with 32MB of RAM. Memory is equally as stingy at just 256MB, but that's upgradeable to a maximum of 1GB in a single slot of SD RAM.
You can get Apple to fit the extra memory for you but be prepared for an eye-watering £220 bill. Alternatively do it yourself with the aid of a putty knife and a stick of RAM from Crucial.com for about £150.
The Mini belts along for a device of its diminutive proportions, and the bundled iLife software and other goodies run well enough given a decent dollop of RAM. Either model of Mac Mini is fine for email, surfing and word processing... just don't try to edit a Hollywood movie on it or attempt any complex 3D art.
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