10 Reasons Why the Mac Mini Is a Worthy iPad Alternative

News Analysis: The Mac Mini has been updated with a new design and some impressive new features. Thanks to those updates, Apple's budget Mac just became a worthwhile alternative to the company's iPad.

Earlier this week, Apple released a new Mac Mini. The device comes in two versions, including a $700 model that includes better graphics functionality and a new design. While the device is undoubtedly well-built, it comes without a keyboard, monitor or mouse.

In order to use a Mac Mini, consumers are forced to buy those peripherals before they boot it up. That said, it's not such a big deal. The Mac Mini is mostly designed for the living room where users can plug it into an HDTV. And since it comes with Bluetooth functionality, connecting a wireless keyboard and mouse to use from the couch is quite easy.

But there is more to the Mac Mini than meets the eye. The device might seem like a simple alternative to a Mac, but it's actually a fine alternative to the iPad, as well. Apple's tablet is being marketed as a device for those who want computing functionality in the living room or while they're away from home. Admittedly, the Mac Mini can't quite match the iPad's mobility factor. But for those folks who want to have a computer to use while home, the Mac Mini easily bests the iPad on practically every front.

Here's why:
1. It's cheap

Although the low-end model of the iPad costs less, the Mac Mini is offered at a surprisingly affordable price. For just $699, customers get a fully equipped computer, complete with a 320GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics and much more. Apple's tablet, especially the versions featuring heftier hard drives, is expensive compared with the Mac Mini. If it's value that consumers are after, it's difficult to go with the iPad over the Mac Mini.

2. It's simple

One of the best aspects of the Mac Mini is that it's designed to be the simple alternative to all the other Macs on the market. In essence, it's a cheap, small box that can be connected to any display. It allows users to surf the Web, check e-mail and perform basic computing tasks. It certainly won't provide the power that other Macs will, but it's not designed for that. The iPad is quite similar to the Mac Mini. The tablet is basically a big iPod Touch. It's not meant to be a MacBook Pro. Realizing that, customers need to choose which simple computer they should buy. Considering the Mac Mini offers more functionality, it seems like the better choice.

3. Mac OS X

Apple's iOS might be appealing to those who need a simple operating system while they're working away from the office, but it pales in comparison to Mac OS X from a productivity perspective. Thanks to Mac OS X, Mac Mini owners can install more programs, have a more robust browsing experience and run Microsoft Office. The iPad is lacking in all those areas.

4. Bring your own keyboard, display, mouse

Although some might prefer to have a device that comes with a touch screen, others like having the ability to choose how they will interact with a computer. That's precisely why Apple's decision to offer the Mac Mini without a keyboard, display or mouse is so interesting. If folks have a favorite Bluetooth-equipped keyboard and mouse, it will work with the Mac Mini. Plus, the device is designed specifically to be connected to an HDTV. It's not a stretch to say that most consumers would choose a 50-inch plasma to display Web content over a 9.7-inch touch screen.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...