The Mac mini’s front panel is very minimal – just a lengthy, thin split for the optical drive slot and a tiny power light. All ports are in the region of the back, including FireWire 800 and Ethernet ports, an SD card reader and four USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI plus an audio-in jack and a headphone jack. It also has 802.11n Wi-Fi built-in, meaning it is equipped out of the box for a Wi-Fi network.
Apple portrays the Mac mini as “the world’s most energy competent desktop CPU,” with an inactive mode power ranking of less than 10 watts. It is also one of the quietest computers tested. A neat touch is the stipulation of an interior power supply unit, so there is no bulky power cable to contend with.
There is also a good choice of education-pleasant software, including GarageBand, iMovie, and iPhoto. If your school has been using computer equipment until nowadays, you will be pleased to note that you can use a standard USB mouse and keyboard with the Mac mini, which is just as well, as it comes without any peripherals. The cheapest Apple keyboard and mouse will cost you £40 each.
In terms of performance, there is a lot to like regarding the Mac mini, merit to its processor which is 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo – which scored 0.72 in the computer Pro benchmarks – Intel high definition audio chipset and Nvidia Geforce 320M graphics processor. It has the power to run even the most demanding creative applications, HD video is not a challenge, and sound quality is clear and crisp through headphones, although, unsurprisingly metallic through the unit’s built-in speaker.
All in all then, the Mac mini is an excellent piece of kit, but there are a couple of issues. The first to do with ergonomics. Setting all the linking ports on the backside certainly creates a sparkling and organized front panel, but it does denote turning roughly the Mac mini each time you desire to connect a device, use headphones or insert an SD card. What is more, if you use the USB port nearest to the SD card slot, it is even more awkward to insert a card, and the headphone outlet is inserted in a bottom corner.
Its educational £479 price tag and a second-rate one year, return-warranty, also lets you aware that you are paying a premium. The Mac mini looks great and offers very good performance, but, in these challenging times, another mini desktop computer may seem more attractive.