I decided to replace my late 2006 iMac and had been pondering its replacement since the beginning of the year. By February I decided to go with a Mac Mini. I decided against another iMac because:
- I didn’t want to give up the desktop real estate
- I didn’t want another all-in-one. I wanted the flexibility of separate components
- Price (I didn’t need a monitor or keyboard) which eliminated the Mac Pro with it’s $2,500 starting price
- I didn’t want a laptop as my primary Mac, this would be desk bound
So once I decided on the Mac Mini I followed my past practice and kept increasing the hardware. I ended up with the higher end of the two models:
- 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo (fastest currently available)
- 4GB RAM (maximum supported)
- 320 GB hard drive – this is the one component I didn’t upgrade, skipping the 500 GB upgrade. I plan to connect my Drobo and have disk on my Windows Home Server. The 320 GB hard drive is big enough to take everything currently on my iMac with room to spare.
- Superdrive DVD/CD drive
I currently have an older Intel Mac Mini with a 20” Apple Cinema Display in my bedroom. My plan was to move the iMac into the bedroom as an entertainment computer, replacing the Mac Mini that was there. The Apple Cinema display is now on my desk, connected to the new Mac Mini. That old Mac Mini is set up to run headless and I remote into it when needed. If I ever get a new TV that Mac Mini will probably be connected to it (not worth the hassle with my current tube TV).
Despite what passes as relatively low end Apple hardware these days, the new Mac Mini is noticeably faster than my 3+ year old iMac. While benchmarks need to be taken with a grain of salt, my iMac scored a 114.63 on XBench while the freshly minted Mac Mini scored a 126.01. Not a huge difference when viewed from the perspective of comparing a new machine to a 3 year old machine. But as I said, the performance is noticeably better, especially when I multitask.
With the iMac I was unable to run Handbrake and stream video at the same time. The Mac Mini handles this cleanly. Likewise running other apps with Handbrake is smooth. Handbrake keeps the CPU maxed out and on the iMac this would cause other apps to stutter, the Mac Mini handles them smoothly. Things that take time (like Handbrake encodes) are considerably faster.
I was hesitant to go with the iMac because I was concerned there wouldn’t be a noticeable improvement over my iMac. Sure it was 3 years old, but it was high-end at the time.
My only complaint is the video connection. I use the included mini-DVI to DVI adapter. It’s a few inches long and the DVI end of the cable has some weight to it. The mini-DVI connection on the Mac Mini is only held in place by friction. If the end of the cable slips of the edge of my desk the connection on the Mac Mini gets pulled away, but not completely. Rather than losing video, I usually just lose one color. A clamp would be nice.
But overall I’m very happy with my latest acquisition.