Mac Mini Explained
Mac mini
Developer:Apple Inc.
First Release Date:March 3, 2009 (current model)
January 15, 2005 (original release)
Release Date:March 03, 2009 (current release) January 22, 2005 (initial Release)
Processor:Intel Core 2 Duo (current model)
Intel Core Duo
PowerPC G4 (original release)
Baseprice:US$599 and US$799 (as of March 2009)

The Mac Mini (officially capitalized Mac mini) is a desktop computer made by Apple Inc. Like earlier Mini-ITX PC designs, it is uncommonly small for a desktop computer: 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) square and 2 inches (5.1 cm) tall. It weighs 2.9 pounds (1.31 kg); its external power supply is roughly one third of the size of the computer itself.

The Mac mini was introduced at the Macworld Conference & Expo in January 2005, and has been updated with newer processors and other expansions several times since. It was announced at the same time as the iPod Shuffle, both scaled-down and less expensive alternatives to the company's main products in those lines. It was described by Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the time as the "most affordable Mac ever".

On March 3, 2009, 19 months after the previous update, Apple updated the Mac mini, featuring new NVIDIA chipsets and the new Mini-Display Port that has become standard on all the current Macintosh computers. It also features new peripherals, but it still looks almost the same as its predecessor. The new Mac Mini features a NVidia 9400, allowing for more graphically intensive applications to be run than before. Apple now ships the 2.0Ghz and expandable to 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, at the same price as earlier versions in the U.S. In the UK, the price has risen by £100 on the standard specification with the high specification at £649.00. The Mac mini still comes with 1GB RAM standard and 2GB in the higher specification, although it is now expandable to 4GB. The wireless networking has also been upgraded to 802.11n, there are 5 USB ports and the FireWire 400 port has been replaced with FireWire 800.


As of 2008, the Mac mini ships with Apple's Mac OS X Leopard operating system installed, and also includes software such as the Safari web browser and the iLife suite of Apple applications to create and manage videos, music, photos and DVDs. Trial versions of iWork and Microsoft Office are also included. The Intel-based Mac mini also comes with Front Row, an application which integrates the media management features, and the Apple Remote.

The Mac mini is the first Macintosh desktop not to include a keyboard or mouse. (The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh also shipped without a mouse, however it included a re-positionable touchpad). In addition there is no included display. The primary intended market for the Mac mini was for "switchers" who would already own a display, USB keyboard and mouse, and other customers could easily purchase these if needed.

Componentcolspan=2PowerPC G4colspan=2Intel Corecolspan=2Intel Core 2
ModelMac mini (orig.)Mac mini (Late 2005)Mac mini (Early 2006)Mac mini (Late 2006)Mac mini (Mid 2007)Mac mini (Early 2009)
GraphicsATI Radeon 9200 graphics processor with 32MB of DDR SDRAMATI Radeon 9200 graphics processor with 32MB or 64MB of DDR SDRAMcolspan=3Intel GMA 950 graphics processor using 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared by main memory (up to 224MB in Windows through Boot Camp).colspan=1nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor using 128MB or 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared by main memory.
Hard drive40GB or 80GB Ultra ATA/100, 4200-rpm40GB or 80GB Ultra ATA/100, 5400-rpm60GB, 80GB
Optional 100GB or 120GB, 5400-rpm.
60GB, 80GB
Optional 100GB, 120GB or 160GB, 5400-rpm.
80GB or 120GB
Optional 160GB, 5400-rpm.
120GB or 320GB
Optional 250GB, 5400-rpm.
Processor1.25Ghz or 1.42Ghz PowerPC G4 (7447A)1.33Ghz or 1.5Ghz PowerPC G4 (7447A)1.5Ghz Intel Core Solo or 1.66Ghz Intel Core Duo (T1200/T2300)1.66Ghz or 1.83Ghz Intel Core Duo (T2300/T2400)1.83Ghz or 2.0Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo (T5600/T7200)2.0Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo (P7350), Optional 2.26 GHz (P8400) with 3MB on-chip L2 cache
Memory256MB or 512MB PC-2700 DDR SDRAM
Expandable to 1GB
Expandable to 1GB
colspan=2512MB (two 256MB) PC2-5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM SDRAM
Expandable to 2GB
1GB (two 512MB) PC2-5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM SDRAM
Expandable to 4GB although not officially confirmed by Apple.
1GB (one 1GB SO-DIMM) or 2GB (two 1GB SO-DIMMs) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Expandable to 4GB..
AirPort Extremecolspan=2Optional or Integrated 802.11b/gcolspan=3Integrated 802.11b/gcolspan=1Integrated 802.11a/b/g and draft-n
Optical drive8x DVD read, 24x CD-R and 16x CD-RW recording, 8x DVD±R read Combo drive or 8x DVD±R read, 8x DVD±R writes, 4x DVD±RW writes or 2.4x DVD±R writes, 24x CD read, 24x CD-R, and 16x CD-RW recording SuperDrivecolspan=48x DVD read, 24x CD-R and 16x CD-RW recording Combo drive or 8x DVD±R read, 4x DVD±R writes or 2x DVD±RW writes, 24x CD read, 16x CD-R, and 8x CD-RW recording SuperDrivecolspan=18x DVD±R read,, 6x DVD±R-DL writes, 8x DVD±R writes or 6x DVD±RW writes, 24x CD read, 24x CD-R and CD-RW recording SuperDrive
Minimum operating system requiredMac OS X Panther 10.3.7Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.2Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.5Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.7Mac OS X Tiger 10.4.10,
Mac OS X Leopard 10.5
Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6
Weightcolspan=62.9 pounds / 1.32 kg
Dimensionscolspan=62 x 6.5 x 6.5 inches / 50.8 x 165.1 x 165.1 mm

Mac mini G4

January 2005–July 2005

Two models were announced on January 11 2005 at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco:

Each model also included:

Optional built-to-order add-ons included:

July 2005–October 2005

On July 26, 2005, slightly revised models were made available. The biggest change was a doubling of each unit's shipping amount of RAM, from 256 MB PC2700 (or PC3200 supported at PC2700 speeds) Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) in the prior units to 512 MB in the newer models (256 MB having been widely considered insufficient for OS X and its applications).

At this time, the 1.42 GHz model stopped including the internal modem as standard equipment, however it could still be purchased as a build-to-order option.

In addition a high-end model was introduced:

October 2005–February 2006

The Mac mini was silently upgraded in October 2005 to 64 MB VRAM, and either a 1.33 GHz (up from 1.25 GHz) or 1.5 GHz G4 (up from 1.42 GHz) processor, with 512 MB of PC3200 RAM while underclocking it to PC2700. The 80 GB drive was a Seagate Momentus 5400.2 ST9808211A, which runs at 5400 rpm with a 8 MB cache. The SuperDrive is a MATSHITA DVD-R UJ-845, which supports DVD+R DL burning, and may also have unofficial support for DVD-RAM. Also, the internal mezzanine board was upgraded to accommodate the AirPort Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology onto one chip. In previous models, the Mac mini included an AirPort Extreme card taped to the mezzanine board and a separate Bluetooth module. This new Wi-Fi card also no longer uses an MCX-Female connector for the antenna (as the previous models did) but rather a proprietary Apple one. The serial number and specifications sticker on the underside of the machine itself do not carry the actual specs of the upgrade. For example, on a 1.5 GHz model, 1.42 GHz is listed. The product packaging also did not reflect the upgrade.

Apple did not revise the official specifications on their web site. This may be to avoid issues with discounting or discontinuing of old stock.

Mac mini Core

February 2006–September 2006

Two new Intel-based models were announced on February 28 2006, replacing the older line:

Both models include:

September 2006–August 2007

On September 6 2006, Apple increased the speed of the US$599 model to a Core Duo T2300 1.66 GHz [MA607LL/A], and the US$799 model to a Core Duo (T2400) 1.83 GHz [MA608LL/A]. With this change, all Macs now use multi-core processors.

Mac mini Core 2

August 2007

On August 7, the Mac mini was refreshed with new hardware and software features, including:

November 2007

March 2009

On March 3, the Mac mini was refreshed with new hardware features after 19 months, including:

The 2007 Mac mini did not offer 802.11n support, but the 2009 revision does. The Mac mini now has a 1066MHz front side bus and nVidia 9400M graphics, identical to the nVidia 9400M graphics chipset and 1066MHz front side bus found in all of the 'unibody' MacBooks that were introduced in October 2008.

General Intel Mac mini information

Although it has been removed entirely from the Mac mini's design, an Apple modem is still available - only now it is external, USB-based, and costs US$49 (UK£35).

While the industrial design of the Mac mini is handled entirely by Apple's in-house designers, some of the hardware has been engineered by Sparkfactor Design.

The first generation G4-based Mac mini was originally to include a built-in iPod dock connector in the white plastic top. The feature was left out, but on the G4 Mac mini an additional FireWire port can be found unwired on the secondary board hardware attached to the optical drive.

Both Core Solo and Core Duo CPUs provide Intel VT (VT-x) even though Intel documentation has suggested VT-x was not to be a feature of the Core Solo.

Initially, the Intel-based Mac mini was shipped with a bug that caused difficulties with VT-x. Apple subsequently released a firmware update that fixes this bug.

The Mac mini integrates a 2.5 inch hard disk drive (ATA in the G4 models and SATA in the Intel models), CPUs and other components originally intended for mobile devices such as laptops, compared with regular desktop computers which generally use lower cost, but less compact and more power-demanding components. These mobile components help keep the power consumption down: according to data on the Apple web site, the first-generation PowerPC Mac mini consumes 32 to 85 Watts, while the later Intel Core machine consumes 23 to 110 Watts. By comparison, a contemporary Mac Pro with quad-core 2.66 GHz processors consumes 171 to 250 Watts.


The current 2009 Mac Mini has a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M sharing up to 128MB or 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM with main memory. The decision to use a less capable 'integrated' graphics chip, the GMA950 GPU, on earlier Intel-powered Mac minis was criticized by those wishing to play games and use other graphically heavy applications, who felt it was a step down from the still earlier G4 models. In Apple's early marketing of the G4-powered Mac mini, it touted the superiority of the use of a discrete ATI Radeon 9200 32 MB graphics card over the integrated graphics included in many budget PCs: The GeForce 9400M in the 2009 model is considered competitive with the graphics in other computers in its price class.[1]

Home theater

The Mac mini is also well suited for home theater applications. The small footprint, CD/DVD player, multi-format video output, digital audio output and remote control make it relatively easy to use the Mac mini as part of an entertainment system.

It can be classified as a HTPC (Home Theater PC) with some limitations. The Mac mini does not include a tuner card and cannot be upgraded to integrate one internally, instead, external devices like Elgato's HD HomeRun can encode and manage broadcast television from a cable or satellite receiver.

The video connector on older Mac Mini was compatible with DVI, HDMI (video only), SVGA, S-Video, composite video and component video with the appropriate adapter. Sound is provided by a combination jack that uses both Mini-RCA (analog) and optical fiber cables (digital).

The Mac mini competes with the Apple TV: it has both iTunes for media rental, purchase, and management, and a similar front-end interface with Front Row. The Apple TV is limited to video in the mp4 format, whereas Mac mini users employing the appropriate QuickTime codecs can watch other video formats like Divx, Xvid, and Mkv without resorting to hacks. The faster of Mac mini models can display video at a maximum resolution of 1080p, compared to the AppleTV's 720p. The Mac mini can also incorporate third-party front-end applications like XBMC Media Center, Plex, and Boxee. Unlike the Apple TV, the Mac mini is backward compatible with televisions that have only composite or S-Video inputs.

With the release of the March 2009 revision of the Mac mini, the computer now supports the 9400M GPU and Mini Display Port technology to more easily run high resolution media. It is also no longer compatible with composite nor S-Video.

Opening the case and modifications

Some Mac mini owners have managed to use a putty knife or a pizza cutter to pry open the computer's case, thereby gaining access to the interior to install cheaper 3rd-party memory upgrades. In fact, the official Apple Service Source manual for Mac mini describes this procedure in detail, even including an official Apple part number for a "modified putty knife". It's also possible to use wires to pull the white plastic bottom case out of the metal top case. While opening the case does not actually void the Mac mini warranty, anything broken while the case is open is not covered. Other modifications include overclocking the processor and upgrading the wireless networking to 802.11n. The 2009 model can have its SuperDrive replaced with a 2nd SATA hard drive[2] .

With the switch to the Intel Core Solo and Duo line, Apple uses a socketed CPU in the Mac mini which allows the processor to be replaced. With the 2009 model they switched to a new glue process which does not allow for an easy upgrade.

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. CNET 2009 mac mini review