We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PCs Reviews
15,669 Reviews PC Advisor Gold Award

Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) review

£649 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Billed as the world's most energy efficient desktop computer, the Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) has been gently revised with faster processors and more memory and storage

Billed as the world's most energy efficient desktop computer, the Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) has been gently revised with faster processors and more memory and storage.

See also: Apple Mac mini review (mid 2010)

Apple's entry-level Mac was in the doldrums for almost two years... and now sees two updates just six months apart.

The first update in March this year saw more socketry for the venerable compact PC, in the shape of an extra USB port, FireWire 800 and two digital video outputs. And with that came faster processors, bigger hard drives and more RAM. But the biggest step forward was an upgrade to the graphics processor, moving from an integrated Intel GMA 950 to an nVidia GeForce 9400M.

Where previous models could only handle the most basic of 3D games, the Apple Mac mini (Early 2009) could now take on modern games, providing details settings were kept modest.

Now Apple has three base Mac mini models to choose from: two regular minis incorporating the familiar slot-load DVD±RW drive, plus a slot-less version that slips in an extra 500GB hard disk where once was the optical drive. We'll return to this Mac mini server, which includes Snow Leopard Server as standard, in another review.

Visit Digital World for more home entertainment reviews

The two standard Mac minis have now been spruced up again in the key areas of processor, memory and storage. This year's £499 entry-level Mac has moved from a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo to 2.26GHz; from 1GB to 2GB of DDR3 RAM; and from 120GB to 160GB SATA hard disk.

Meanwhile, the higher-spec version we tested here at £649 takes a 2.53GHz dual-core processor, 4GB RAM and 320GB hard drive.

All other specs remain the same as when we last tested, including five USB ports, FireWire 800, optical digital audio in and out, and mini DVI and mini Display Port video outputs. For wireless connections, there's built-in Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11n wireless.

Our lab testing process gives a level playing field to Windows and Mac PCs, using WorldBench 6 running in Windows to check real-world speed by timing real programs at work. When we tested the entry-level Mac mini, we found it hampered by its limited 1GB of RAM.

While that amount may be fine for the leaner Mac OS X, providing you don't have too many programs running at once, we found the Mac mini almost unusable in Vista with the same 1GB RAM.

That 2.0GHz Mac mini scored an uninspiring 72 points, although this quickly rose to 83 points once we upgraded memory to 4GB.

The new 2.53GHz Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) romped home in the WorldBench 6 test with 95 points.

We also ran our standard graphics test, playing FEAR at Maximum quality settings. Here the new Mac mini could keep an average framerate of 14fps; below what's needed for smooth gameplay, but easily resolved simply by lowering quality settings one level to ‘High', where it played at a smooth 37fps.

Visit Business Advisor for business news and reviews

Despite using a more powerful processor, with an expected rise in required power and heat output, the new Apple Mac mini was as cool and quiet as ever. In fact, the 2.53GHz Intel P8700 CPU is listed with the same 25W thermal design power (TDP) rating as the 2.0GHz P7350 processor in the Mac mini model we tested in March.

In lab tests, we noted the idle power consumption was down at just 12W, rising to 40W peak when under load. And in use, this top-spec Mac mini remained essentially silent, with just a single low-speed fan quietly venting through rear ventilation slots.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) Expert Verdict »

Apple Mac Mini MC239B/A (Late 2009) Scores 8.9 out of 10 based on 13 reviews
2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8700
1066MHz FSB
3MB L2 cache
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
320GB 5400rpm 2.5in SATA HDD
4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1066 RAM
nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics with 256MB shared system RAM
1 x mini DVI, 1 x mini DisplayPort
slot-load 8x DVD±RW DL drive
Gigabit Ethernet
5 x USB 2.0
FireWire 800
line in/line out audio with Toslink S/PDIF
mono speaker
802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
12W (idle)/40W (load) 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

The Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) is now more compelling than ever as a compact computer – one that's built to very high standards, and includes a feature set unmatched by any other PC on any platform. Whether used as a space-saving desktop PC for the office or home, a room-friendly media centre hub or even as an office or business server, the Apple Mac mini (Late 2009) represents peerless performance at the price.

  • Apple Mac mini (Early 2009)

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

  • Mac mini vs iMac comparison review

    Mac mini vs iMac comparison

    We compare the Mac mini and iMac - Apple's two most popular desktop PCs. Which is best for you - Mac mini or iMac? Read our Mac mini vs iMac comparison review to find out.

  • Mac mini Core 2 Duo

    Mac mini Core 2 Duo

    It was a welcome surprise when Apple quietly updated the Mac mini to include Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

  • New Mac mini review (2012)

    New Mac mini (2012)

    The 2012 Mac mini offers quad-core computing in a tiny box with very little power draw. Here's our new Mac mini review.

  • Apple MacBook Pro 13in (Spring 2010) review

    Apple MacBook Pro 13in (Spring 2010)

    The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15in and 17in models.


IDG UK Sites

Nokia branding killed in place of 'Microsoft Lumia': Windows Phone moves into new era

IDG UK Sites

Why you shouldn't buy the iPad mini 3: No wonder Apple gave it 10 seconds of stage time

IDG UK Sites

Halloween Photoshop tutorials: 13 masterclasses for horrifying art, designs and type

IDG UK Sites

Should you update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8? iOS 8.1 brings back Camera Roll, adds Apple Pay in...