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The personal site of Jamie Knight, a slightly autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

2010 Mac Mini Review

I know, its a bit weird, writing a review for something you have just sold… i agree it’s a bit daft but i thought it would be good to share my experiences with the Mac Mini for those who are interested.

I only owned my 2010 Mac Mini for about 6 months in the end. It was a replacement for an aging 1.66ghz Mac Mini i purchased in 2006. Over the 6 months the 2010 mac mini had been used a number of ways, as a normal desktop hooked up to a few different displays (a 24” Cinema Display, and a cheap Samsung Display) and as a media centre under the TV.

This review will try to both review how the Mac Mini performs as a desktop computer, and how it works as a media centre.

Design

The Mac Mini is a very well designed little box. Inside its basically a unibody MacBook but without a screen or keyboard. This leaves you with a small, rounded aluminuim block with the port on the back and a DVD drive upfront.

The unibody construction is extremely sturdy, during my time with the Mini i dropped a few things on and it was completely unscathed. I do wonder why exactly a desktop needs such sturdy construction in the first place however it does add to the fit and finish of the product.

The ports are on the back of the computer, the highlights are a HDMI port, an SD Card Reader and a Mini Displayport. This means the Mini is capable of running two screens.

This is something i took advantage of, at one stage i had the Mac Mini plugged into a display on the desk, with a long HDMI lead connecting it to the TV on the other side of the room. This meant that we could use it as a desktop, and use it for playing back media.

Sadly, managing this arrangement is a little fiddly so we rarely used it. However, for occasional use it works well.

I was not that impressed with the HDMI port, no matter what screen i connected it too there were issues. On my Samung TV (a 40” 2009 model) the picture was terrible. Even after spending hours messing with TV setting i never got it to look right. The same was true of a 24” Samsung moniter i tried with the system.

However, connected to the 24” LED Cinema Display there were no such issues, so your experiences may be better.

As a Desktop

As a small footprint desktop computer the Mac Mini performs very well. Handling all the day to day compuing needs easily. Its not a powerhouse but it was good enough for basic gaming and media needs.

The Mac Mini was also used for web design and development work. With 8gb of RAM installed it performed very well with fireworks and coda.

The Mac Mini also acted as a media server for the house sharing a large (multi-terabyte) iTunes library.

As a midrange desktop the 2010 Mac Mini performs well and will cover the needs of most. The small size, super low energy usage and near silent operation all add up to make for a well balenced and impressive package.

As a Media Centre.

Alongside its role as a desktop, the Mac Mini was also purchased to work as a media centre. For a short while it sat under the TV connected via HDMI.

This is where the Mac Mini really underperformed, however the issue was only partially the hardware. While the HDMI port problems were annoying the real show stopper was the software. Much of our media is from iTunes, so that left us with Frontrow for playback. Frontrow has become extremely buggy and never ran smoothly on the Mac Mini. With OSX Lion Apple has dropped frontrow entirely.

Boxess & plex had many issues playing back iTunes protected media so they were not options.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Mac Mini to a friend, though with a couple of caveats. For desktop use its a wonderful machine, however it really does pay to pair it with a high quality moniter and Apple keybaord.

As a media centre, its only really an opiton if you are using something else (like an Apple TV) to connect to the TV or if your library does not contain any iTunes content.

I only briefly owned the 2010 Mac Mini, the frustrations with the screen setup and frontrow issues quickly made me annoyed and frustrated. After a short while it was replaced with an Apple TV and then a few months later it was sold to raise funds for an iMac.

Published: 10 February 2012 | Categories: , Permalink

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