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back to article Review: Apple Mac Mini 2012

On 10 December 2012, Apple posted the called for Mac Mini HDMI-centric firmware update, after this review was written and published. We will be testing the machine with the new code, and will report back here shortly. I should say right up front that, much as I quite like the Mac Mini’s form-factor, looks and, more particularly …

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Quality?

The old mantra that buying Apple and it "just works" is seriously slipping.

I can't imagine most people not using HDMI as the main output from this.

Apple are getting greedy and quality is going out the window. It's a slippery slope ......

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Re: Quality?

The issue is related to the Intel Chipset, which they (intel) have addressed for other OEMs - just waiting on the Apple version of the fix

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Meh

Re: Quality?

Not as big a mongolian cluster as iOS Maps, but certainly the shine has come off the apple since Tim Cook is calling the shots. No real fanboi can possible deny that things seem more ordinary over the last 14 months.

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Re: Quality?

Apparently a Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter solves the issue in the meantime, so apple should issue these until a permanent fix is found.

Let's face it, it will cost Apple pennies and keep people happy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

Intel have fixed it, they have also passed the fix onto Apple. the problem now lies with Apples insistence that they tamper with everything and produce their own versions just like they used to do with java and so the patches end up weeks or months behind everyone else.

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Re: Quality?

Irrelevant - if it's not ready for release, it shouldn't have been released. If I bought a car with a faulty radio, the car manufacturer would be responsible and fix it.

Looks like it was just rushed for Christmas

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Devil

Re: Quality?

Standards are slipping. Tim's said that everyone should like working with each other. Steve would have fired the Mini's project manager to put the fear of God into everyone else then popped round to Intel and showed them an iMac running ARM to put the fear of God into them.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dan 55

I hardly think that Steve Jobb's management style is something to be held up as an ideal way to do things, even if only half of what's said about him is true.

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Linux

Re: Quality?

It doesn't matter who you try to redirect the blame at. This sort of thing should have not made it out of QA in Cupertino.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

> The issue is related to the Intel Chipset, which they (intel) have addressed for other OEMs - just waiting on the Apple version of the fix

Really? It's not Apples fault?

So Apple just put the hardware and software together and never even tried hooking up the HDMI port? Because if they did then would have seen the crappy HDMI performance and that makes it their fault. Despite the obvious issues with the HDMI Apple decided to go ahead and release it and despite Intel having addressed the problem Apple have decided not to make getting a fix out a priority.

Anyway you look at it it is Apples fault. They would have been aware of the issue before release and they have had enough time to issue a fix.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

Apple have been shafted by Intel, NVidia and ATI before now. It's just a lack of expertise in writing drivers for the OSX kernel.

Due to all the NDA crap and trade secrets I can only assume that Apple can't write these drivers themselves. Therefore they are at the mercy of a 3rd party who don't seem to know how to code OSX kernel drivers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

Bullcrap, Apple tampering with what exactly? Oh yeah, making a *MACH* kernel version of the driver changes, y'know that kernel that pretty much only OSX uses.

What good would Windows or Linux driver code be to Apple? none at all.

More likely they are testing it well as they're pissed off with shoddy hardware and code from Intel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

It's a hardware glitch and therefore it may not have shown up in the test environment. HDMI isn't a very simple dumb thing like VGA was.

There is 1.0, 1.3, 1.4 and version 2.0 of HDMI, 5 transfer modes, HDCP and so on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

> It's a hardware glitch and therefore it may not have shown up in the test environment.

Then its a pretty damn poor test environment. This "glitch" is showing up all the time, not just with some obscure film that only three people ever bought.

Apple is a multi-billion dollar company, not some corner shop computer assembler who can't afford half a dozen different versions of hardware to test their assemblies. The 5 versions and 3 transfer modes are easily tested in a day or two (no matter how many different video modes their are).

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Re: Quality?

The update from Apple to fix the HDMI issue was released today. Just fire up the Mac App Store and download.

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Practically certain to be a HDCP issue

Remind me again why DRM is a good idea?

So far in my experience all HDCP has achieved is to confuse users and annoy support, when stuff "magically" degrades because the handshake didn't work, or refuses to display at all.

Had both happen at a lot of conferences - "We'll bring the media on our laptop" generally turns into a last-minute panic when the media will not play on the data-projector.

On the bright side it cranks up the price when we have to fire up our kit to rip out the DRM and play it.

That's even usually media generated and owned by the client.

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Facepalm

Re: Quality?

"It's a hardware glitch and therefore it may not have shown up in the test environment. HDMI isn't a very simple dumb thing like VGA was.

There is 1.0, 1.3, 1.4 and version 2.0 of HDMI, 5 transfer modes, HDCP and so on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI"

My gosh you're right. If only Apple had the resources to buy a few of these units to test on. Unfortunately they only have a single 12" Samsung TV in their test lab that they all have to share...

The Fanboi-ism is strong with this one!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quality?

>> It doesn't matter who you try to redirect the blame at. This sort of thing should have not made it out of QA in Cupertino.

It doesn't matter who you try to redirect the blame at. This sort of thing should have not made it out of QA at Intel either!!

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Bluetooth

"The Mini has Bluetooth 4.0 too, but who cares much about that these days?"

If you wanted to use an Apple wireless keyboard and mouse, you'd care.....

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Re: Bluetooth

Yeah, but Bluetooth 1.0 and 2.0 will do that. So what's 4.0 got to do with keyboards and such?

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FAIL

Re: Bluetooth

Apple Wireless Keyboards are still on Bluetooth 2, the power saving version of Bluetooth is Bluetooth 4, so it makes no difference whatsoever.

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Anonymous Coward

"Hook the Mini up to an ordinary 1080p TV – as I did – ..... I have one of these old ATVs, hacked to run the open source XBMC media centre software, which it runs a treat. It also generates an HDMI image that’s just fine. So I know the new Mini’s woeful HDMI output is nothing to do with either HDMI or my television."

The old ATVs did not support 1080p, only 720. So it doesn't actually follow that because you don't get issues at 720p with an ATV that your telly isn't the problem when trying to run at 1080p from a new mac mini. Unless I've missed something.

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Linux

A pretty superficial review...

As an HTPC, there's just a little bit more than having a cable that connects to your TV. The fact that the machine is tiny may or may not make a difference depending on your setup. You might actually want a larger machine for better heat dissipation or a better GPU. How it interacts with the rest of your AV gear is important.

Talking heads like to beat this particular dead horse but I don't think any of them actually put Macs through their paces in this area.

I used to use Minis as HTPCs before it was trendy.

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FAIL

Re: A pretty superficial review...

There's also the small issue that Apple saw fit to remove Frontrow from OSX a few versions back, thus destroying the out-the-box media centre USP of the mac mini.

<--- This fail is for you, Apple.

Edit: Luckily, mine still chugs along just fine with it in place, and I have no reason to upgrade, knowing I will lose Front Row. Well done Apple - another upgrade sale lost?

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Wow......it isn't £1=$1......still pretty damn close though. I can accept that there is a cost in shipping the things across the puddle but there is no way it is $200 per unit which the UK price suggests at today's exchange rate.

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There would be a cost in shipping them across the puddle, although as they're probably assembled in China and shipped from there it would be an odd route to take. Having said that the shipping cost from either point would be in the order of a few dollars at most assuming they're being sent on a container ship and not their own seat on a 747.

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Apples & pears

UK price is £499 including VAT. US prices excludes all sales taxes.

$599 + 20% VAT = $719, or £449 at $1.6=£1

So there's a 10% difference. Not great, but also not the $200 you quoted.

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Anonymous Coward

Or the 20% VAT that's added?

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Ignoring shipping, they cost more here because Apple use UK staff, paid UK wages. Conversely European hardware costs less in the USA, because the US retail and supply chain staff are on lower wages.

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No percentage score?

How can we moan about Apple bias if there's no score?!

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No point. Apple never scores below 85% no matter how poor their offering.

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@spencer

I wanted to say the same thing. Seems odd to me.

The review indicated this was a poor release, but avoided giving the percentage number for comparison.

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Stop

"And it may not even be Apple’s fault, at least not directly."

No, that is Apple's fault. Apple products (allegedly) Just Work. That means when things don't work, that is their fault. Or are all the Apple product reviews going to go on about how amazing Samsung and Intel are in the future?

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the 2009 mac mini (which looks identical) has an nvidia GT320M on it and as such runs XBMC on Linux through HDMI just perfectly; although thanks to their odd EFI implementation it's a bit of a fight getting the initial linux installer to boot.

Buying a media player outright now, I'd rather get a Zotac ID80, with an onboard GT520 - rubbish for gaming apparently, but therefore cheap and perfect for media-playing. Even if cost isn't an issue, these Intel HDx000 integrated GPUs seem to have been a bit of a disaster for media-player-type use. The HD3000 models couldn't even lock to 23.976Hz for movies; I don't know if they finally fixed that for HD4000, but shipping with this HDMI bug doesn't give confidence that they're paying attention to that use-case.

I think the current crop of mac minis are great, but not as media players. They're fine desktop machines if you want to choose your own monitor, and great little servers.

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If you want cheap

Then see if you can find a emachines er1401. I paid about £100 and it's a great little media centre. get rid of the awful linpus linux and stick xbmcbuntu on it (v11.0 eden) and it works brilliantly.

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Headmaster

Urrr, no

The 2009 model did not look identical. The current shape (but with optical drive) came out in mid 2010. Prior to that you had the fat minis.

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Facepalm

Re: Urrr, no

you're right; i'm off-by-one on the year. This one I have is a 2010 mac mini *server* originally, so didn't have the optical drive slot and is, thus, identical in appearance to the current models. :-)

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Re: If you want cheap

any old thing these days can do 1080p, including raspberry pi; the difficulties is in dealing well with interlaced material. Ideally you want temporal/spatial deinterlacing, for which the gt520 is needed. The 320m in my mac mini can't do it, only getting as far as vdpau-bob (although to my eyes there's not enough difference to be worth the extra outlay).

Needed if you watch a lot of BBC HD output through it. :-)

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Re: If you want cheap

+1 for the emachines jobby. I'm using one as my general pc. Low power consumption, more than powerful enough for general net stuff, plus HDMI and optical audio output. Not too good for a build machine though. Apparently, it's an Acer inside.

I paid £120 for mine. Rats.

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I wanted one of these

My Win7 Acer Aspire Revo, which was less than half the price, is a bit underpowered for high-res video. And its HDMI support is patchy.

I thought that if I got a Mac Mini, everything would Just Work. Sounds like maybe I dodged the metaphorical bullet by reading this review first...

*scratches Mac Mini off Santa list *

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Linux

Re: I wanted one of these

> My Win7 Acer Aspire Revo, which was less than half the price, is a bit underpowered for high-res video. And its HDMI support is patchy.

A Revo is more than capable of handling high-res video. The Nvidia GPU does all the work.

It can happily even play BluRays. That's about as rough as you're going to get in terms of high-res video.

It's stuff like Hulu and Amazon Prime that an ION box won't be able to handle (due to the weak CPU).

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Unhappy

Re: I wanted one of these

Every time I see the name "Revo", I shed a silent tear for PSION. The REVO was simply an outstanding device and the demise of PSION before the further development of those devices was a sad loss. :(

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Coat

Re: I wanted one of these

Every time I see the name "Revo", I shed a silent tear for PSION. The REVO was simply an outstanding device and the demise of PSION before the further development of those devices was a sad loss. :(

Lovely little device ... but spoilt by an inadequate NiMH battery and dodgy battery monitoring hardware. If Psion had had the courage to charge a bit more and use a Lithium battery with a decent capacity it would have been brilliant.

Agreed that Psion's withdrawal from the consumer market was a tragedy.

The devices may not have been developed further, but the OS became Symbian, of course. Such a shame that Symbian never shipped with the excellent application suite that Psion wrote for their PDAs, especially Agenda (the diary application) which was better by far than anything I've seen on any smartphone.

Mine's the one with the Psion 3mx in the pocket, though.

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No problem here.

I've got a 3570K-HD4000 running 10.8.2 over HDMI and have NO screen issues whatsoever. So either Apple's already patched it or it's not 'driver' but CPU related.

Agree though that Apple should've fixed it. Maybe the could fire someone.

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Re: No problem here. also

Set one of these up about 3 weeks back with a brand new AOC monitor connected with the HDMI cable provided by AOC. So far there haven't been any issues like the 'snow' some users are reporting and overall the user is very pleased with his purchase (he's having trouble adjusting to Mountain Lion though moving from Tiger)

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To be honest with you, I've not had any HDMI issues -- is it a TV thing too, or does it apply to all 2012 minis? I've had the odd flicker when resuming but figured that's exactly that, sleepy hardware cranking its way to life.

Don't be put off purchasing one though. It's a really nice system! I replaced an ageing Hackintosh that I had previously used for development work and was flaky as hell. I have even thought about replacing the little wall wart server I have with this as everything Linux-based just works (with a few --arg exceptions...) so it is instantly useful, small and exceptionally quiet. Power use is only marginally higher than that of the wall wart (a Guruplug derivative) so will do just nicely. Max your mini with 16Gig RAM and it is way beyond anything else as a roll-your-own media server, client or whatever really.

Totally happy with mine. I even posted while logged on so can be labelled a fan boy ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Faulty unit?

Weird review this. Did you speak to Apple? Might it have been a faulty unit?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Faulty unit?

Not seen this issue myself either so suspect it is not affecting all users / installations. Intel dropped the ball on this one.

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Stop

If you're only going to run this as some kind of media server you're wasting your money unless you have some kind of fetish for Mac OS X. You could probably build your self a Linux based machine for about half the cost. Even though my main home machine is a Macbook Pro I've given up on the Apple ecosystem for a media player. I mean if this is going to be used as a computer rather than a media player you might be able to justify the cost but it seems bloody pricey to me.

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agree, as a multiple-mac user myself; the mac mini under my tv is running linux, but only because it's spare and capable. i wouldn't be buying a new one just to be a media player.

Although I did once, running Plex; but I was feeling richer than I was in reality, and it didn't work out (aforementioned HD3000 bug wrt 23.976Hz) so that machine ended up on different work anyway, and I a little wiser. :-}

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