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Intel Mac mini Q&A - Updated November 5, 2009

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What are the "pros and cons" of the Intel Mac mini? Is one right for my needs?

Like any other purchase, only you can make the decision whether or not the Intel Mac mini is the right Mac for you, but you can evaluate the pros and cons of the series to see if your needs are met. This "run down" may be helpful in making a decision:


  • Attractive, compact, and elegant case design.
  • Lack of integrated or bundled display, keyboard, and mouse allows one to use existing peripherals or choose from a variety of third-party options, some of which cost less than Apple's and can be reused with a new system later at no additional cost.
  • Processor can be upgraded (on models released prior to the "Early 2009" line on March 3, 2009).
  • Dual display capability ("Early 2009" and "Late 2009" models).
  • Optical digital audio input/output.
  • Least expensive new Apple computer.


  • Requires one to have, or to purchase, a display, keyboard, and mouse. Depending on the desired configuration, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a faster Intel-based iMac.
  • Upgrading the RAM, hard drive, or processor requires prying open the case. Apple does not support individuals upgrading their own system.
  • MacOS X applications forced to run via "Rosetta" on long ago discontinued "Core Duo" (2006) configurations are slower than the same applications -- and even some "native" applications -- running on the less expensive Mac mini G4 that it replaced.
  • Integrated graphics "borrow" system RAM/slower than dedicated graphics (the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics on the "Early 2009" and "Late 2009" models are significantly faster than graphics provided by earlier models).
  • No support for MacOS 9/Classic.

Basically, if you are looking for the cheapest new Apple computer you can buy, have no need for internal expansion, have no MacOS 9/"Classic" applications, and no "mission critical" MacOS X applications that are incompatible or run too slowly using "Rosetta", then an Intel-based Mac mini would be a good choice particularly if its compact size is important to you.

If performance is a higher priority, but cost and compatibility with older applications are less important, an Intel-based iMac might be a better choice. If compatibility with older applications is critical and physical size is important, but cost is a factor, a Mac mini G4 might be ideal.

Site sponsor PowerMax sells all of these systems. Operator Headgap Systems specializes in refurbished, and often heavily upgraded, systems capable of using both MacOS X and MacOS 9 applications.

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