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My New Mini
April 9, 2013 - Dave Hecei
2012 Mac mini, the base 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 model. While I get to play with new Macs all the time, this is the newest Mac that I own. The last Mac that I bought was in early 2010. I purchased a 2.53GHz MacBook Pro 15-inch (Mid-2009 model). Here’s a quick run-through of my new 2012 Mac mini.
In my home I still have a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo mini, which replaced a 1.83GHz Core Duo mini. Yes I love minis and I’m surprised that I don’t have more. (By the way, anyone want to buy a G4 Cube? I have a few left.) This is the older white-top model, which has an internal optical drive and an external power supply. My old mini has pretty much been dedicated to my HDTV as a home theatre PC and PVR using the fantastic Elgato EyeTV 250+.
My new mini is the base late-2012 model with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor, 500GB hard drive and 4GB RAM. As with the last few Apple products that I have purchased for myself, I got this mini from the online Apple Store in the refurbished section. You can find this by going to http://store.apple.com and then looking for the Special Deals header near the bottom on the left side. Here you will find links for Refurbished Macs, Refurbished iPods, and Refurbished iPads.
The great thing about buying refurbished products directly from Apple, they treat them just like a new item, except for the price. A refurbished Mac from the online Apple Store comes with all the same accessories and more importantly, the same warranty. At the time I purchased my mini it was $509. The current retail price for the same mini is $599. This might not be a huge savings, but 90 bucks is 90 bucks.
Opening up the box revealed a nice new-looking Mac mini. There really wasn’t a mark on it. Inside the box was the mini, a power cable, an HDMI to DVI adapter, and a small information pack. That’s all that comes with any mini. The mini is Apple’s lowest cost computer, if you don’t include the iPads, and as such allows you to either bring your own keyboard, monitor, and mouse or purchase them separately. For someone buying their first computer this is a bit of a pain, but you get to choose any peripheral you want (even something better, or cheaper than Apple). You could always go Apple Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse. But that will set you back almost $140. Why not go with the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 3000 for about $40.
Apple redesigned the mini back in 2010 making it match the unibody laptops and aluminum iMacs. The new design has a lower profile, only 1.4 inches high, but is a bit wider at 7.7 inches. This bigger stance is fine with me since the power supply is now inside the mini itself. No more power bricks to deal with. All the ports are still in the back. Looking at the back, from left to right: Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 4 - USB 3.0, SDXC slot, audio in, and audio out.
As is the case with all the latest Macs, except the Mac Pro, there is no optical drive in the mini. For some this might be a big deal, but for most they probably won’t miss it. New Mac owners will probably get most all of their software from the online Mac App Store. Add to this buying music and movies online along with streaming content, optical drives are not really a necessity. For those times when you need an optical drive, either for reading a disc or burning one, you can simply attach an external portable drive. You could choose the one Apple sells for $79 called the SuperDrive. I went with a Samsung portable DVD burner priced around $30.
I don’t have any Thunderbolt products yet, but I do have a couple USB 3.0 external hard drives. I have to say that I am in love with USB 3.0. I have always been a fan of Firewire, but for shear hard drive speed, USB 3.0 is amazing. I’ll have to wait and see how robust it is over the next few months, but I probably won’t be buying any more Firewire drives in the near future. I’d love to get a RAID 0 Thunderbolt drive (the LaCie Little Big Drive or something similar) to see just how fast data can move through the mini.
The new Mac mini does have something that no other Mac has, an HDMI port. Yes, something that you can find on most every PC laptop and many PC desktops is only on the Mac mini, Apple’s lowest priced computer. Of course an HDMI port can be added to any Mac with miniDisplayport or Thunderbolt by using a dongle adapter. Since the mini now has a true HDMI port plus a Thunderbolt port, it can drive two separate monitors.
While I love the Mac mini design, the speed of the Core i5, and USB 3.0, I haven’t really warmed to Apple’s latest OS – 10.8 Mountain Lion. I have been living with Snow Leopard for the past couple of years. I tried out Lion when it launched, but only on a secondary drive that I could boot too when I was feeling adventurous. Apple’s latest OS is fast and pretty, but for someone like me who has been using Macs since OS 6, it just feels confining. As an example, you can’t just copy files to the hard drive, which most would call the root directory. You’re not supposed to do that so Apple won’t let you. You shouldn’t be in the User Library folder because you might screw something up. So Apple doesn’t even let you see it – it’s hidden. There are workarounds for most of the quirks in Lion and Mountain Lion. I just don’t like having to deal with quirks.
In the end, my new mini runs circles around my old mini. This is no real surprise since they are at least three generations, or more, apart. So far, all of my software and hardware seems to run fine, except for my old copy of Office but I have been using LibreOffice for a little while now and it’s working out just fine. Now if only iTunes 12 would get here soon. But that’s a whole different story.
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