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Apple Mac mini (Early 2009) review

£499

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5 User Rating: Our users rate this 3 out of 10

Mac mini - the starter Apple Macintosh - is now more attractive than ever (REVISED 31 MARCH 2009)

Mac mini - the starter Apple Macintosh - is now more attractive than ever

See also: Apple Mac mini review (mid 2010)

To lower the entry price for Mac ownership, Apple introduced the Mac mini in 2005, with a price starting at £339. It was a basic desktop PC, measuring just 6.5in square and 2in high, running a modest 1.25GHz G4 processor. All you needed to make a working system was to bring your own keyboard, display and mouse.

Apple was keenly preying on Windows ‘switchers' to make a cheap yet cheerful Macintosh available to a wider audience. Perhaps inadvertently, it also created a popular and highly capable home media centre, ideal for siting in the lounge alongside a television and home entertainment system

Four years after introduction, with all Macs now run Intel processors, Apple has upgraded the little Apple Mac mini after 19 months of stasis, this time adding new ports as well as faster processors and a more worthy graphics card. The form factor is essentially unchanged, with an aluminium extrusion squaring off the Apple Mac mini's white plastic top. At front we have a slim aperture for the slot-load DVD drive; at the rear an exhaust vent from the near-silent cooling fan, and a host of port options.

Read more Apple news on our dedicated news page

There's now five USB 2.0 ports lined up in a row on the Apple Mac mini, up from two on the original PPC model, and four on the previous Intel minis. Out goes a regular FireWire 400 port, in favour of FireWire 800. (An adaptor allows legacy FW 400 devices to be used on the faster interface).

There are two standard configurations of Apple Mac mini on offer, the cheapest at £499 with 1GB RAM and 120GB hard drive; the second with 2GB RAM and 320GB storage. Apple could be accused of being parsimonious with its 1GB RAM offering, but the fact is that Mac OS X will run on this amount of RAM, in stark contrast to Windows Vista in whichever of its lame versions, which cannot.

Where the previous Apple Mac mini was available at 1.83GHz or 2.0GHz speeds, both versions of the Mac mini (Early 2009) - as Apple identifies it - include an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 at 2.0GHz. Alternatively, there is a built-to-order option which allows for a 2.26GHz CPU. Importantly, the new processors have a faster bus to run DDR3 RAM.

NEXT PAGE: Much improved graphics >>

Apple Mac mini (Early 2009) Expert Verdict »
2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350
Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6
120GB 5400rpm 2.5in HDD
1GB (1x1GB) DDR3-1066 RAM
nVidia GeForec 9400M graphics with 128MB shared system RAM
1 x mini DVI, 1 x mini DisplayPort
slot-load 8x DVD±RW DL drive
Gogibit Ethernet
5 x USB 2.0
FireWire 800
line in/line out audio with Toslink S/PDIF
mono speaker
802.11b/g/draft-n
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
15W (idle) power consumption
165x165x51mm
1.31kg
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 9 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

While the price of entry to Mac computing may have risen from £391 to £499 with the release of the 2009 Mac mini, the manifold revisions of the new model fully justify the updated starting price. In simple speed terms, there’s faster wireless (11g to 11n), a faster DVD±RW drive with dual-layer support, and faster processors with higher-speed RAM. Then there’s the new ports, namely an extra USB, FireWire 800 and mini DisplayPort. Last and very far from least, a much improved graphics chipset means that gaming once again becomes an option to the Mac mini household. All wrapped up in an essentially silent minimalist package, the Apple Mac mini (Early 2009) makes a great desktop PC, and an even more effective home media hub.

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