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back to article Apple Mac Mini 2011

Last year’s Mac Mini was a bit of a let-down. Sure, it got a nice redesign, with a gleaming metallic, low-profile chassis and a new HDMI port that seemed like a belated attempt to try and repurpose the Mini as a media centre system. However, the hardware inside it was actually downgraded, which meant that you were paying almost …

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Bootcamp drivers don't require a DVD

It's perfectly possible to put them on a USB flash drive.

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Unhappy

Shame, that

The Mini's always been a great idea let down by a price tag that's just too fucking silly for the hardware you get. Removing the optical drive from a home box like this and then offering you a Superdrive (the most over-priced USB optical drive I've ever seen) is just par for the course, sadly.

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If last year was a let-down ...

this is the death of the Mac Mini.

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Boffin

Is an optical drive necessary?

I've not used my DVD drive in my desktop PC in probably 3 or 4 years.

With services like Steam allowing you to download games, and sites like LoveFilm letting you stream movies, Spotify for music, along with countless illegal ways for people other than me to get this 'entertainment' media, I wouldn't be upset if I purchased a computer without an optical drive.

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Silver badge

@Dayjo

"I've not used my DVD drive in my desktop PC in probably 3 or 4 years."

Good for you.

However, basic level home users that are likely to be buyers of such a device may well want/need one.

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FAIL

Presumably then

Apple will be removing optical drives from their entire range of computers if "you don't need one"?

All the more amusing when they're quite happy to sell an external optical drive, indicating that, perhaps some people do actually need them. And since when has lowering the cost of anything been something they actively cared about?

It may as well read "WE couldn't be arsed to put an optical drive in here, but thats ok, because YOU don't need one!".

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Meh

Eww. You're making me defend a Mac ...

Pretty sure you can add the Windows drivers from boot camp to a USB drive as I did it the other day on a Macbook Air.

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I have to agreee with Steve on optical drives

Permanently doubling the size of the Mac mini just to allow a one-time install is not worth it.

And for the desperate ones unable to properly configure a bootable USB stick, then I would suggest to go for a cheap external CD/DVD burner, that they'll also be able to share among other gadgets such as netbooks, which have given up the opical drive long time ago.

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FAIL

Permanently doubling the size?

Given that the physical size is identical to last year's, which HAD the slot loading drive, I fail to see your point in "permanently doubling the size for a one time install".

What they have done, if you want to pull it completely apart and mess around with it to the nth degree, is leave almost enough space to slot another HD in.

I'd rather the DVD drive than 2 HDs in this thing, and it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination. My mother struggles to turn a computer on, let alone get things off a network (which, funnily enough, she doesn't have). And this is precisely the type of machine that should be aimed at her.

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Just an FYI

This mini is the exact same size as the last one that had an ODD. All they did was make it like last year's server model with a hard drive taking up the empty space, or its just empty if you get it with one hard drive.

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Overpriced

I bought the first Mac Mini back when it was £399. Seemed like a reasonable price for a headless iMac with an optical drive.

£599 for a base model system with limitations is quite steep.

The optical drive may be on it's way out (I hardly use the external one I bought for the netbook) but it is still useful on a desktop / home entertainment machine.

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Weak pound

The £399 price was back when the pound was two to the dollar. Now it's stuck around 1.6 I doubt we'll be seeing those sort of prices for a while!

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yep

i got one too and it's still going well.

the mini has now been ruined by apple. it was supposed to be an entry level computer. the dell zino is now much better value...

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Anonymous Coward

Far Cry 2

Over the 'minimum' 60fps? Not bad. I'd still be a bit nervous though...I'm used to playing games on stuff with big PSU's and lots of fans.

I could actually consider this as my pending desktop replacement, as I'm too old, over-endowed with children and boring for serious game time.

Oh wait. The price. Never mind then.

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Anonymous Coward

The questions are...

1. at what resolution?

2. at what detail setting?

Also that was the £700 version, any PC in that price range should easily do that.

Get one in a bigger case and you could also save about £300.

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Unhappy

bootcamp drivers

Bootcamp drivers can be saved to a USB stick as well as burnt to DVD. But that's not to say I agree with removing the DVD drive, no matter how easy it is to hook up a USB drive as an alternative. It's a major barrier to any form of easily portable Windows gaming (e.g. LAN parties) where many games need the disk in the drive to work or a dodgy nodvd hack to get around it.

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FAIL

Typical Mac

Pointless, over-expensive hardware designed to appeal on looks alone.

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WTF?

indeed..

Style over substance?

How is this different from any other Apple product?

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Stop

About time.

The Mini was released a MONTH ago. It took you that long to say the exact same things everyone else said on release day?

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Go

I agree with Lord Zedd.

Thanks for taking the time to properly consider your own opinion, rather than simply spouting copycat quotes from other reviewers on launch day, most of whom probably knew their opinion before the thing was out of its box. That's one of the reasons I like you guys.

That was what he was saying, right?

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Anonymous Coward

BootCamp

"Boot Camp requires you to download various Windows drivers and burn them onto DVD"

I think that's the least of your worries (I'm sure you could install the drivers from a USB stick anyway) - how the hell are you going to install Windows without a DVD drive?

I'm with you on Apple being premature here - previous 'retirements' of media (floppys etc) were purely data but most of us still have DVD's and CD's and are not going to be binning them any time soon. I don't use the DVD drive on my Macs a lot but often enough that I still want them internal. On an ultraportable it's a different story.

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FIA

Re: titled

"how the hell are you going to install Windows without a DVD drive?"

Why, from a USB stick of course. :)

http://emea.microsoftstore.com/UK/en-GB/Help/Windows-7-USB-DVD-Download-Tool

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Anonymous Coward

Windows over USB stick

is surprisingly easy.

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MrT
Bronze badge
Happy

Easy and 10-minutes quick...

...over USB3

Oh, right...

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Anonymous Coward

iMac

If you think they dropped the dvd drive to get the price down, think again. Remember 1998, the first iMac came out without a floppy drive, pundits were prognosticating the end of Apple in about a year. The MacBook Air and now the Mac Mini are showing the way Apple is moving. With the App Store, they feel there is no longer a compelling reason to hang on to out-dated tech.

The new MacBook Pro's coming out will not have a dvd drive either,

As far as I'm concerned this is a step in the right direction. I don't think I even used my dvd drive at all this year, yet I am lugging the damn thing around every day. Why?

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There is also the flash drive option

Getting rid of the optical drive does allow a second hard drive or flash drive to be added. Apple is offering build to order options with one hard drive and one flash drive, which makes for a nice quick startup machine I would think. It is apparently not hard to buy an option with one drive and add a second yourself, too.

This is potentially of more use to me than an optical drive that I only use occasionally. A third party external USB DVD burner can be purchased for about £20 if you really need one.

Another thing that is quite interesting is that Apple is selling a non-server configuration with the AMD discrete GPU but only with dual core processors (up to a 2.7GHz dual core Core i7) and is selling a server configuration with a quad core Core i7 but only with the Intel graphics. You can't buy the machine with both, which is a shame because that would be quite a nice machine.

I guess this is probably about heat, but one gets the sense that Apple is trying the shove as much as possible into a case that is really too small for it. A slightly larger box might be able to fit the two drives, the discrete GPU, and the quad core CPU. If it did, I would find it a tempting machine.

I do have a Mac mini, as it is the only headless desktop machine that Apple makes. It is very pretty , but underpowered.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple left out iMac's floppy, owners added it anyway.

"Remember 1998, the first iMac came out without a floppy drive, pundits were prognosticating the end of Apple in about a year."

Is this the same iMac that everyone who owned one rushed out and bought a transparent-plastic-clad external floppy drive for? I do believe that it is!

Remember that the first iMac only included a CD *reader*. CD writers were still a couple of years from being cheap enough to be a realistic "base" option at this point, and dirt-cheap pen drives were even further off. The only built-in way of sharing information was via a dial-up Internet connection. The fact that the iMac was a major success doesn't change the fact that leaving out the floppy without a practical alternative in place was jumping the gun.

Back to the Mac Mini- I think BadBeaver got it when he/she said "Also, you just know that this is not about the "obsolescence of the disc" but about their walled garden."

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No longer a media server

Apple's removal of Front Row from Lion and failure to replace it with anything means that the Mini is much less use as a media server than its predecessor.

Given that everyone I know who has a Mini uses it as a combination AppleTV/PVR/Music Server, I can't see who Apple think will buy this now.

It sounds weird to say this, but Apple appear to have completely lost the plot when it comes to media playback. The AppleTV is rubbish without storage if you don't have a rock-solid fast network connection, the alternative of using a Mac Mini instead is now blocked off because they've dumped both the optical drive and crucial piece of software.

I don't know where they're headed, but it looks like a complete dead end.

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Anonymous Coward

Snags

Agree totally on Frontrow - one reason mine has not been upgraded to lion - it sits under the TV, and I run Frontrow regularly.

However, Apple are their own worst enemy when it comes to media drives. Need I mention Blu-ray? Without the ability to decode it, there's no point having a blu-ray drive...but for a machine seemingly perfectly suited to under-the-telly work, it's madness *not* to have one. so yeah, expect sales to drop.

I don't like being forced down the itunes route for my HD content either, which this blu-ray-less design precedent is trying to do...(it won't work btw Apple...thanks to bootcamp and and external blu-ray, I rip my own now, and in 1080 too, none of this 720 crap).

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Gimp

External drive

Why would I need to pay £66 for an external Superdrive when I can pick up a standard external DVD for about 15 quid? Any external USB DVD drive will play nicely with a Mac.

In fact I can even burn Blu-Rays on my Mac even though as far as Apple is concerned Blu-Ray does not exist and anyone who says otherwise smells of wee.

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Anonymous Coward

SSD?

I agree that the removal of the optical drive is pointless and stupid. Also stupid is that it doesn't come with an SSD and it looks like a giant pain to swap the drive yourself. I wonder if the Mini uses the same drive protocol/connector as the iMac, meaning that installing an SSD would cause the fan to spin at full speed all the time.

It's ridiculous that Apple's mainstream desktop computers are so much more difficult to upgrade than their [non-Air] laptops.

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Apple does indeed offer it with an SSD, if that's what you want.

If you go to the online Apple Store and look at the build to order options, you can buy it with a hard drive, a SSD drive, or one of each.

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Anonymous Coward

Not on the base model...

... that I was looking at. But good point. I guess that means installing a 3rd party SSD in addition to the hard drive that it comes with should be possible, if not easy.

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cd

Thunderbolt

If Thunderbolt is so great, why isn't the optional drive using that interface? Even Apple doesn't have anything to fit in that port.

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Er

What would the point be in using the ridiculously expensive but also ridiculously fast interface for a bloody DVD player? I've got doubts about there being much point in that.

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FAIL

You want to use a 20Gbit port to drive a DVD writer?

USB 2 is more than able to cope with that.

And Apple don't have anything for the interface, unless you count the Promise Pegasus RAID unit, or their 27" cinema display (with FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2 ports on the back all working via Thunderbolt) which is due to ship in a couple of weeks?

Try looking at how much USB kit was available in it's early days. How much kit available in the early days of a standard is no indication of how popular it may be later on.

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Yes it does.

Check out Apple's latest Monitor.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

I haven't read the article, but: I'd guess that the drive doesn't need anything like the bandwidth of a thunderbolt link and the thunderbolt cables are outrageously expensive.

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Linux

Not all it's cracked up to be.

> I haven't read the article, but: I'd guess that

> the drive doesn't need anything like the

> bandwidth of a thunderbolt link and the

> thunderbolt cables are outrageously expensive.

That kind of flies in the face of a lot of rhetoric that has been spouted about Thunderbolt.

USB has it's own problems even if you compare it to current tech. Something like a bus powered firewire DVD drive would be a cool thing. The same goes for an equivalent with a newer interconnect.

Of course the 50 cables kind of spoil the party.

Based on speed and system overhead, I would still be inclined to favor firewire. I only use USB for the convenience factor (bus power & no wall wart).

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FAIL

Thank you for reminding me

After ONE MONTH I almost forgot how pissed off I am regarding this "upgrade". Idle much? ;)

You buy a Mac mini, you know you are being shafted. It has always been little more than a glorified notebook without a screen. You buy it because it is a small, stylish and quiet way to not being forced to use a glossy display but rather on of your choice. Specs are fine for most uses. So you pay the fruit-tax and chug along happily.

Taking away the drive though, that is a step too far. It makes the whole machine incomplete for many of its intended uses. Also, you just know that this is not about the "obsolescence of the disc" but about their walled garden. Dammit, I do not want to have to rely on something as flaky as internet-access only to watch a movie. And I do not wish to clutter my desk with extra drives or set one up each time I need a disc.

This falls in line with a number of other fruit-FAILS of late. The whole ship is headed into a direction I do not like, turning into company that I care about less and less. Which is somewhat sad, as I have been a loyal customer for 15 years, sending lots of people their way.

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Linux

Whats the power consumption? Is there any PC close to as quiet/small/low/power?

Until recently I used to use a 2005 Mac Mini as home server (mail, files, media, network PVR) and it did a very serviceable job until the hard disk died. (I probably should have moved to just using an external USB disk to boot off in addition to being the media store.)

At the time a couple of months ago the specs of the Minis was just too pathetic for the price and I bought a Dell Zino, much more bang for the money but not as quiet, probably higher power (important for an always on server). Given the choice now I would take the new mini over the Zino as the performance gap has closed enough.

My question is are there any good alternatives to these and could some idle power consumption figures be given in these reviews. This could affect the value argument over a five year always on lifetime.

BTW the mini and the zino use the same software Linux and MythTV (specifically Ubuntu). Video playback is general done over DLNA either directly on a current year Sony TV or a PS3 for the other TVs. Tuners are USB, a Sony PlayTV dual tuner plus a Hauppage Nanostick T2 for the HD.

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Silver badge

EEE PC?

http://uk.asus.com/Eee/EeeBox_PC/EeeBox_PC_EB1501P/

The lower power take is coming from an Atom/Ion chipset. Better for always on but depends on how much grunt you need.

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Thumb Down

Quiet until you use it

Cooling seems to be marginal. As soon as you ask it to do anything complicated, it makes an intrusive racket. Certainly wouldn't want to play games on it.

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Silver badge

Acer Revo

I've mentioned this before but the Acer Revo is a great alternative to a Mac Mini for a fraction of the price. Yes sadly no optical drive either but they are small, funky and fairly cheap. I have Windows 7 on mine and I'm really surprised how well it runs.

No doubt those people who are minded to could install OSX on it. Although as a Mac fan I must admit I quite like Windows 7.

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Silver badge

I agree

A Revo (£150) with a bit more Ram and Ubuntu, optional USB DVD, all for < £200 IIRC. Great for the aged parents.

Or the eMachines equivalent ER1401 - even cheaper.

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Holmes

DVD drive on a mini is not for installing software

It's for watching dvd's.

.... and they've removed it.

That's just a bit petty I think.

Ok, I haven't rented one for ages but I'm pretty sure I'd want the option of cheap-night multi-rental at blockbuster over buying off itunes and waiting for a few hours for a download.

I must be getting old - I've given up on big tv's and just watch while sitting in bed with a laptop or on my (non-widescreen) imac. Mythtv on a usb stick in my work laptop does the front-end and an athlon xp1800 does the dual-hd-tuner recording and other home-server functions. Dual core server? wassat and why would I want one?

Oy, you clear orff my lawn!

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rofl

Apple sell piece of junk with little useful hardware remaining and a list of reasons why it's both crap and extremely expensive.

Punters queue up to purchase.

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Facepalm

Way overpriced

I bought a G4 Mac Mini back in the day, to try out MacOS on the cheap (on the recommendations of trusted colleagues), and test the waters of Mac development. I liked it, and it became the workhorse admin computer of a previous company. The price:performance ratio was quite decent.

But £529 for an Intel Mac Mini that's not much different internally from a mid-market laptop (which - please note - would also include a screen, keyboard and a bunch more ports, not to mention inbuilt UPS)?

Not on your Nelly.

If it were more like £359-£399, I might punt the money - but at its current price, there's no benefit.

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Facepalm

As I said before

I said in a previous post prior to the release of the new mac mini that I thought Apple would go this way. We all don't download our music or movies. Some of us like to have a physical product that allow us to rip music to our Macs etc, and play in our car etc. We also like to watch our movies on different mediums. Alot of us want to install software that we have only on disk and not have to pay out for more 'Stuff' just to be able to do what can already do with existing equipment.

I don't see the lack of a drive as an advancement until the whole of the UK has superfast broadband where we can all watch and download movies via the web, (my speed is okay so I am not a grumpy old git ). I just see the situation as an expensive box of tricks that looks good but one you add additional equipment makes the whole thing an untidy box.

Oh well.....

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You have to remember ...

Firstly, Apple is now about selling you content - that means over the internet via iTunes. Thus it makes perfect sense to drop that dastardly optical drive that makes it easy for people to buy their films etc on disks that they can use as often as they want for as long as they want. What rotters, people shouldn't be shafting Apple like that ;-)

But also, on these machines there is a boot option (from memory, I've only fiddled with a Mini Server once and that was a while ago) to boot from a disk in the optical drive of another computer on the network. And also to use said drive later as well.

Oh yes, and if you don't have an optical drive - people can't complain that it's not BlueRay :-/

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