Can a Mini Do

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2005-02-17 Print this article Print

Real Work?"> Can a Mini Do Real Work? People wonder whether a $499 Macintosh can actually do anything useful. The model Im using is the somewhat faster $599 model with a memory upgrade from 256 MB to 512 MB. This machine has performed quite well. Ive been running Office, editing photos, even recording television programs without problems. All of the iLife applications, which would be a good reason to invest in this hardware, work quite nicely.
Would they work better on an expensive Power Mac G5 dual-processor machine with gobs of memory? Of course they would. And I will admit I havent had the heart to load Photoshop onto the mini and try something really processor-intensive.
However, one of the magazines has done performance testing and found both minis to perform at a level below the eMac, Apples lowest-price all-in-one machine. The minis were much slower than the G5-processor-based iMac all-in-one machines, Apples other consumer hardware line. Still, for everyday tasks and iLifes creative applications, the mini performs quite well. That is, it performs well so long as you increase the memory to 512 MB. Apple charges $75 for this upgrade and its well worth the investment. Click here to read Andreas Pfeiffers opinion on the capabilities of the Mac mini. A Bigger Investment Than It Seems Something you may have already noticed is that, like most computers these days, the mini isnt quite as inexpensive as it may at first seem. The $599 model, with the faster processor and larger hard drive, ends up costing $873 when you increase the memory, add 802.11g and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, and replace the CD/DVD drive with a DVD burner. If you dont already own a mouse, keyboard, and screen that youll use with the mini, youd be better off buying a $1,299 iMac. Of course, the iMac takes some accessorizing, too, also raising its price before you leave the Apple store. To be fair, the Dell computers Ive recently ordered have significantly increased in price to meet my requirements, so Apple is certainly not alone in quoting the lowest possible price to get customers in the door. Finally, the Mac for Windows Users Is the mini the ultimate switcher machine? Yes. Or at least the concept works, even if you might want a machine with a tad more oomph. The problem with getting Windows users to buy a Mac has been threefold: Macs were too expensive; Macs came with built-in displays; and Windows users typically still need Windows-only apps that prevent them from tossing their PCs in favor of the Mac. The mini addresses all these issues: Its less expensive than any previous Mac; works with the screen you already own, saving both dollars and real estate; and is perfectly happy sharing your desk with a Windows machine. This removes significant barriers faced by people who wanted a Mac but didnt want to make huge changes in their computing lives in order to have one. It embraces the reality of the old Apple "switcher" ad campaign: Most new Apple customers didnt throw their PCs away when the Mac arrived. This made them "adders" rather than switchers. The mini is the perfect "adder" box and will probably bring Apple more new customers than all the switcher hype. However, dont be surprised if the switcher ads return. Or maybe Apple will make some new "adder" commercials instead, though they probably wont use that term, associated as it is with a family of deadly serpents. Australian Death Adders, anyone? Next Page: No extra software required.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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