Read this before you get your Apple Mac mini

“Think of the Mac Mini as a laptop with the screen, keyboard and battery sliced off, or a desktop with all the air sucked out of its case. Apple has taken the stuff of everyday computing and stuffed it into the smallest possible enclosure. To judge from the past week of testing, the Mac Mini fills that role just fine — as long as you choose your setup wisely. The Mini’s shrunk-to-fit design forces some compromises that can drastically limit its usefulness,” Rob Pegoraro writes for The Washington Post.

Pegoraro recommends that you order your Mac min with at least 512MB of RAM, as does MacDailyNews. Think about adding the SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW), AirPort Extreme Card, and Internal Bluetooth module options, too. Also, Pegoraro writes about using a Windows keyboard and mouse with the Mac mini:

The other potential hiccup with the Mini comes when you try to attach an existing keyboard and mouse to it. (They aren’t included in the box.)

It’s not that the Mac Mini won’t accept non-Apple gear. An IBM keyboard worked instantly; the only trick was guessing that its Windows-logo key took the role of a Mac’s Command/Apple-logo key, while Alt subbed for the Option key (the Mini’s manual should explain this but does not). Similarly, every mouse I tried — even a fancy Logitech wireless model — functioned immediately, without needing extra software for its right button and scroll wheel to work on the Mac.

So, think about getting an Apple keyboard for your Mac mini – it’ll be worth the $29. “If you can steer past the memory and USB roadblocks, the Mac Mini should be an utterly pleasant machine,” Pegoraro writes.

Pegoraro concludes, “I didn’t try to match the software bundles of those PCs to that of the Mini, because that’s not possible. The PC universe has no answer to Apple’s elegantly matched bundle of its virus-free Mac OS X Panther, its Safari, Mail and iChat Internet applications and its new iLife ’05 multimedia suite. There’s still a difference between the start-up costs of Windows and Mac computing, but with the Mac Mini, Apple has shrunk them to the size of an ATM withdrawal, not a car payment or a month’s rent in a group house. That ought to be enough to make buyers give Apple a second look. Given the woeful state of Windows computing, they should.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Here are a couple of other pointers for those new to Mac OS X. Drag your hard drive icon to the right side of the Dock. Then, you’ll be able to click and hold on it (or right-click with a two-button USB mouse) and you’ll be able to dive down into its contents with ease. You might also want to drag your Applications folder to the Dock for the same reason. We don’t know why Apple doesn’t ship Macs set up this way by default. You’ll also want to drag your commonly-used applications to the left side of the Dock for convenience and slide them around to group them into whatever order makes sense for you.

Also, you don’t have to shut down your Mac all the time. Sleep works perfectly well in Mac OS X, so when you’re done with your Mac, just choose “Sleep” from the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your screen. Then when you’re ready to use your Mac again, just tap the spacebar on your keyboard or move your mouse and you’re back in business again in an instant. No more waiting for start ups!

[UPDATE: 6:45pm ET: fixed description of location of Apple menu to upper left. Duh.]

22 Comments

  1. By the way that was a great article. Positive but with the limitations and how to solve them explained perfectly. This kind of article will do much more to switch users than a wholly positve, gushing one.

  2. I bought my Mac Mini Thursday and it’s doing very well, thank you. I picked up a Kensington Wireless Optical Desktop for Mac at the same time and it is a good fit. It only takes one USB slot (RF Unit with built-in battery charger), has a REAL mouse (scroll wheel and two buttons) and a number of hot keys- all in a Mac layout. They cost less than the Bluetooth combo Apple offers and will work better for most people.

  3. Quicksilver? Ugh. I removed that from my PowerBook a while back. Lame.

    Magic word: reaction …as in “I have an allergic reaction to over-bloated hack-ware.”

  4. I honestly can’t understand BSOD’s comments about Quicksilver. It is simply so useful it’s mind-boggling. The thought, now, of delving through Applications folders or Documents folders to find hidden-away apps when I could just hit control-option-Space (too many commands mapped to my Space key functions ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue rolleye” style=”border:0;” /> ) and type in the first couple of letters to access it instantly without taking my hands from my keyboard is simply repulsive.

    And the interface deserves so much kudos as well. The ease of installation of plugins, the beautifully refined animations and appearance (it pains me to have to choose between the beautiful Glass Bezel interface and the incredibly slickly animated Primer interface, both included) makes it feel like a true Apple app more than the third-party add-on it is. If anything, it works and feels *better* than some Apple apps, and that’s high praise. And it functions perfectly even on my ancient G3 iMac, so kudos there too… Dear God, I need a new Mac…

  5. I just took a friend to the Apple Store to check out the Mac mini. Two hours later, he was hooked. He’s going to go buy one online (the store only had 256MB memory minis in stock, and he decided that the 512MB would be better). After 10 years of using a PC, which he barely touches unless he had to, he finally enjoyed playing on the computer. Two hours of dinking around in GarageBand, iPhoto, iTunes, and Safari. I showed him tabbed browsing, exposé, moving items around the dock.

    Three years ago, a friend of his build a PC for around $400 for him. That PC has been nothing but trouble, not the least of which were viruses. That same friend said to him “There’s a new Mac called the mini. If you get that, I’ll be at your beck and call for any problems that will come up, because I know that they won’t have hardly any problems!” Turns out he’s a big Mac fan of late.

    I’m blabbing. I just wanted to share, because I was so thrilled to see a good friend finally understand what the Mac is all about.

  6. We’ll use our old Apple mouse with the new mini and keep our Kensington trackball on the current eMac. The trackball that’ll replace the Apple mouse is MacMice’s upcoming Bluetooth trackball, shipping in April. I still hate to use a mouse, though.

    MDN magic word: not
    I will NOT use a mouse for very long!

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