back to article Apple Mac Mini 2011

Last year’s Mac Mini was a bit of a let-down. Sure, it got a nice redesign, with a gleaming metallic, low-profile chassis and a new HDMI port that seemed like a belated attempt to try and repurpose the Mini as a media centre system. However, the hardware inside it was actually downgraded, which meant that you were paying almost …


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  1. xenny

    Bootcamp drivers don't require a DVD

    It's perfectly possible to put them on a USB flash drive.

  2. Captain Underpants

    Shame, that

    The Mini's always been a great idea let down by a price tag that's just too fucking silly for the hardware you get. Removing the optical drive from a home box like this and then offering you a Superdrive (the most over-priced USB optical drive I've ever seen) is just par for the course, sadly.

  3. Dan Harris

    If last year was a let-down ...

    this is the death of the Mac Mini.

  4. Dayjo

    Is an optical drive necessary?

    I've not used my DVD drive in my desktop PC in probably 3 or 4 years.

    With services like Steam allowing you to download games, and sites like LoveFilm letting you stream movies, Spotify for music, along with countless illegal ways for people other than me to get this 'entertainment' media, I wouldn't be upset if I purchased a computer without an optical drive.

    1. Mark 65


      "I've not used my DVD drive in my desktop PC in probably 3 or 4 years."

      Good for you.

      However, basic level home users that are likely to be buyers of such a device may well want/need one.

    2. andy 103

      Presumably then

      Apple will be removing optical drives from their entire range of computers if "you don't need one"?

      All the more amusing when they're quite happy to sell an external optical drive, indicating that, perhaps some people do actually need them. And since when has lowering the cost of anything been something they actively cared about?

      It may as well read "WE couldn't be arsed to put an optical drive in here, but thats ok, because YOU don't need one!".

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Eww. You're making me defend a Mac ...

    Pretty sure you can add the Windows drivers from boot camp to a USB drive as I did it the other day on a Macbook Air.

  6. calagan

    I have to agreee with Steve on optical drives

    Permanently doubling the size of the Mac mini just to allow a one-time install is not worth it.

    And for the desperate ones unable to properly configure a bootable USB stick, then I would suggest to go for a cheap external CD/DVD burner, that they'll also be able to share among other gadgets such as netbooks, which have given up the opical drive long time ago.

    1. frankgobbo

      Permanently doubling the size?

      Given that the physical size is identical to last year's, which HAD the slot loading drive, I fail to see your point in "permanently doubling the size for a one time install".

      What they have done, if you want to pull it completely apart and mess around with it to the nth degree, is leave almost enough space to slot another HD in.

      I'd rather the DVD drive than 2 HDs in this thing, and it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination. My mother struggles to turn a computer on, let alone get things off a network (which, funnily enough, she doesn't have). And this is precisely the type of machine that should be aimed at her.

    2. Lord Zedd

      Just an FYI

      This mini is the exact same size as the last one that had an ODD. All they did was make it like last year's server model with a hard drive taking up the empty space, or its just empty if you get it with one hard drive.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I bought the first Mac Mini back when it was £399. Seemed like a reasonable price for a headless iMac with an optical drive.

    £599 for a base model system with limitations is quite steep.

    The optical drive may be on it's way out (I hardly use the external one I bought for the netbook) but it is still useful on a desktop / home entertainment machine.

    1. TuckerJJ

      Weak pound

      The £399 price was back when the pound was two to the dollar. Now it's stuck around 1.6 I doubt we'll be seeing those sort of prices for a while!

    2. louis walsh's toilet


      i got one too and it's still going well.

      the mini has now been ruined by apple. it was supposed to be an entry level computer. the dell zino is now much better value...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Far Cry 2

    Over the 'minimum' 60fps? Not bad. I'd still be a bit nervous though...I'm used to playing games on stuff with big PSU's and lots of fans.

    I could actually consider this as my pending desktop replacement, as I'm too old, over-endowed with children and boring for serious game time.

    Oh wait. The price. Never mind then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The questions are...

      1. at what resolution?

      2. at what detail setting?

      Also that was the £700 version, any PC in that price range should easily do that.

      Get one in a bigger case and you could also save about £300.

  9. Fat Jez

    bootcamp drivers

    Bootcamp drivers can be saved to a USB stick as well as burnt to DVD. But that's not to say I agree with removing the DVD drive, no matter how easy it is to hook up a USB drive as an alternative. It's a major barrier to any form of easily portable Windows gaming (e.g. LAN parties) where many games need the disk in the drive to work or a dodgy nodvd hack to get around it.

  10. Steve McIntyre

    Typical Mac

    Pointless, over-expensive hardware designed to appeal on looks alone.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Style over substance?

    How is this different from any other Apple product?

  12. Lord Zedd

    About time.

    The Mini was released a MONTH ago. It took you that long to say the exact same things everyone else said on release day?

    1. BorkedAgain

      I agree with Lord Zedd.

      Thanks for taking the time to properly consider your own opinion, rather than simply spouting copycat quotes from other reviewers on launch day, most of whom probably knew their opinion before the thing was out of its box. That's one of the reasons I like you guys.

      That was what he was saying, right?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Boot Camp requires you to download various Windows drivers and burn them onto DVD"

    I think that's the least of your worries (I'm sure you could install the drivers from a USB stick anyway) - how the hell are you going to install Windows without a DVD drive?

    I'm with you on Apple being premature here - previous 'retirements' of media (floppys etc) were purely data but most of us still have DVD's and CD's and are not going to be binning them any time soon. I don't use the DVD drive on my Macs a lot but often enough that I still want them internal. On an ultraportable it's a different story.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: titled

      "how the hell are you going to install Windows without a DVD drive?"

      Why, from a USB stick of course. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Windows over USB stick

      is surprisingly easy.

      1. MrT

        Easy and 10-minutes quick...

        ...over USB3

        Oh, right...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you think they dropped the dvd drive to get the price down, think again. Remember 1998, the first iMac came out without a floppy drive, pundits were prognosticating the end of Apple in about a year. The MacBook Air and now the Mac Mini are showing the way Apple is moving. With the App Store, they feel there is no longer a compelling reason to hang on to out-dated tech.

    The new MacBook Pro's coming out will not have a dvd drive either,

    As far as I'm concerned this is a step in the right direction. I don't think I even used my dvd drive at all this year, yet I am lugging the damn thing around every day. Why?

    1. Michael Jennings

      There is also the flash drive option

      Getting rid of the optical drive does allow a second hard drive or flash drive to be added. Apple is offering build to order options with one hard drive and one flash drive, which makes for a nice quick startup machine I would think. It is apparently not hard to buy an option with one drive and add a second yourself, too.

      This is potentially of more use to me than an optical drive that I only use occasionally. A third party external USB DVD burner can be purchased for about £20 if you really need one.

      Another thing that is quite interesting is that Apple is selling a non-server configuration with the AMD discrete GPU but only with dual core processors (up to a 2.7GHz dual core Core i7) and is selling a server configuration with a quad core Core i7 but only with the Intel graphics. You can't buy the machine with both, which is a shame because that would be quite a nice machine.

      I guess this is probably about heat, but one gets the sense that Apple is trying the shove as much as possible into a case that is really too small for it. A slightly larger box might be able to fit the two drives, the discrete GPU, and the quad core CPU. If it did, I would find it a tempting machine.

      I do have a Mac mini, as it is the only headless desktop machine that Apple makes. It is very pretty , but underpowered.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple left out iMac's floppy, owners added it anyway.

      "Remember 1998, the first iMac came out without a floppy drive, pundits were prognosticating the end of Apple in about a year."

      Is this the same iMac that everyone who owned one rushed out and bought a transparent-plastic-clad external floppy drive for? I do believe that it is!

      Remember that the first iMac only included a CD *reader*. CD writers were still a couple of years from being cheap enough to be a realistic "base" option at this point, and dirt-cheap pen drives were even further off. The only built-in way of sharing information was via a dial-up Internet connection. The fact that the iMac was a major success doesn't change the fact that leaving out the floppy without a practical alternative in place was jumping the gun.

      Back to the Mac Mini- I think BadBeaver got it when he/she said "Also, you just know that this is not about the "obsolescence of the disc" but about their walled garden."

  15. chr0m4t1c

    No longer a media server

    Apple's removal of Front Row from Lion and failure to replace it with anything means that the Mini is much less use as a media server than its predecessor.

    Given that everyone I know who has a Mini uses it as a combination AppleTV/PVR/Music Server, I can't see who Apple think will buy this now.

    It sounds weird to say this, but Apple appear to have completely lost the plot when it comes to media playback. The AppleTV is rubbish without storage if you don't have a rock-solid fast network connection, the alternative of using a Mac Mini instead is now blocked off because they've dumped both the optical drive and crucial piece of software.

    I don't know where they're headed, but it looks like a complete dead end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Agree totally on Frontrow - one reason mine has not been upgraded to lion - it sits under the TV, and I run Frontrow regularly.

      However, Apple are their own worst enemy when it comes to media drives. Need I mention Blu-ray? Without the ability to decode it, there's no point having a blu-ray drive...but for a machine seemingly perfectly suited to under-the-telly work, it's madness *not* to have one. so yeah, expect sales to drop.

      I don't like being forced down the itunes route for my HD content either, which this blu-ray-less design precedent is trying to do...(it won't work btw Apple...thanks to bootcamp and and external blu-ray, I rip my own now, and in 1080 too, none of this 720 crap).

  16. Anonymous Coward

    External drive

    Why would I need to pay £66 for an external Superdrive when I can pick up a standard external DVD for about 15 quid? Any external USB DVD drive will play nicely with a Mac.

    In fact I can even burn Blu-Rays on my Mac even though as far as Apple is concerned Blu-Ray does not exist and anyone who says otherwise smells of wee.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I agree that the removal of the optical drive is pointless and stupid. Also stupid is that it doesn't come with an SSD and it looks like a giant pain to swap the drive yourself. I wonder if the Mini uses the same drive protocol/connector as the iMac, meaning that installing an SSD would cause the fan to spin at full speed all the time.

    It's ridiculous that Apple's mainstream desktop computers are so much more difficult to upgrade than their [non-Air] laptops.

    1. Michael Jennings

      Apple does indeed offer it with an SSD, if that's what you want.

      If you go to the online Apple Store and look at the build to order options, you can buy it with a hard drive, a SSD drive, or one of each.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not on the base model...

        ... that I was looking at. But good point. I guess that means installing a 3rd party SSD in addition to the hard drive that it comes with should be possible, if not easy.

  18. cd


    If Thunderbolt is so great, why isn't the optional drive using that interface? Even Apple doesn't have anything to fit in that port.

    1. Michael Vasey


      What would the point be in using the ridiculously expensive but also ridiculously fast interface for a bloody DVD player? I've got doubts about there being much point in that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I haven't read the article, but: I'd guess that the drive doesn't need anything like the bandwidth of a thunderbolt link and the thunderbolt cables are outrageously expensive.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Not all it's cracked up to be.

        > I haven't read the article, but: I'd guess that

        > the drive doesn't need anything like the

        > bandwidth of a thunderbolt link and the

        > thunderbolt cables are outrageously expensive.

        That kind of flies in the face of a lot of rhetoric that has been spouted about Thunderbolt.

        USB has it's own problems even if you compare it to current tech. Something like a bus powered firewire DVD drive would be a cool thing. The same goes for an equivalent with a newer interconnect.

        Of course the 50 cables kind of spoil the party.

        Based on speed and system overhead, I would still be inclined to favor firewire. I only use USB for the convenience factor (bus power & no wall wart).

    3. Ivan Headache

      Yes it does.

      Check out Apple's latest Monitor.

    4. Steve Todd

      You want to use a 20Gbit port to drive a DVD writer?

      USB 2 is more than able to cope with that.

      And Apple don't have anything for the interface, unless you count the Promise Pegasus RAID unit, or their 27" cinema display (with FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2 ports on the back all working via Thunderbolt) which is due to ship in a couple of weeks?

      Try looking at how much USB kit was available in it's early days. How much kit available in the early days of a standard is no indication of how popular it may be later on.

  19. Bad Beaver

    Thank you for reminding me

    After ONE MONTH I almost forgot how pissed off I am regarding this "upgrade". Idle much? ;)

    You buy a Mac mini, you know you are being shafted. It has always been little more than a glorified notebook without a screen. You buy it because it is a small, stylish and quiet way to not being forced to use a glossy display but rather on of your choice. Specs are fine for most uses. So you pay the fruit-tax and chug along happily.

    Taking away the drive though, that is a step too far. It makes the whole machine incomplete for many of its intended uses. Also, you just know that this is not about the "obsolescence of the disc" but about their walled garden. Dammit, I do not want to have to rely on something as flaky as internet-access only to watch a movie. And I do not wish to clutter my desk with extra drives or set one up each time I need a disc.

    This falls in line with a number of other fruit-FAILS of late. The whole ship is headed into a direction I do not like, turning into company that I care about less and less. Which is somewhat sad, as I have been a loyal customer for 15 years, sending lots of people their way.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Whats the power consumption? Is there any PC close to as quiet/small/low/power?

    Until recently I used to use a 2005 Mac Mini as home server (mail, files, media, network PVR) and it did a very serviceable job until the hard disk died. (I probably should have moved to just using an external USB disk to boot off in addition to being the media store.)

    At the time a couple of months ago the specs of the Minis was just too pathetic for the price and I bought a Dell Zino, much more bang for the money but not as quiet, probably higher power (important for an always on server). Given the choice now I would take the new mini over the Zino as the performance gap has closed enough.

    My question is are there any good alternatives to these and could some idle power consumption figures be given in these reviews. This could affect the value argument over a five year always on lifetime.

    BTW the mini and the zino use the same software Linux and MythTV (specifically Ubuntu). Video playback is general done over DLNA either directly on a current year Sony TV or a PS3 for the other TVs. Tuners are USB, a Sony PlayTV dual tuner plus a Hauppage Nanostick T2 for the HD.

    1. Mark 65

      EEE PC?

      The lower power take is coming from an Atom/Ion chipset. Better for always on but depends on how much grunt you need.

    2. Dave Robinson
      Thumb Down

      Quiet until you use it

      Cooling seems to be marginal. As soon as you ask it to do anything complicated, it makes an intrusive racket. Certainly wouldn't want to play games on it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Acer Revo

    I've mentioned this before but the Acer Revo is a great alternative to a Mac Mini for a fraction of the price. Yes sadly no optical drive either but they are small, funky and fairly cheap. I have Windows 7 on mine and I'm really surprised how well it runs.

    No doubt those people who are minded to could install OSX on it. Although as a Mac fan I must admit I quite like Windows 7.

    1. James Hughes 1

      I agree

      A Revo (£150) with a bit more Ram and Ubuntu, optional USB DVD, all for < £200 IIRC. Great for the aged parents.

      Or the eMachines equivalent ER1401 - even cheaper.

  22. P. Lee

    DVD drive on a mini is not for installing software

    It's for watching dvd's.

    .... and they've removed it.

    That's just a bit petty I think.

    Ok, I haven't rented one for ages but I'm pretty sure I'd want the option of cheap-night multi-rental at blockbuster over buying off itunes and waiting for a few hours for a download.

    I must be getting old - I've given up on big tv's and just watch while sitting in bed with a laptop or on my (non-widescreen) imac. Mythtv on a usb stick in my work laptop does the front-end and an athlon xp1800 does the dual-hd-tuner recording and other home-server functions. Dual core server? wassat and why would I want one?

    Oy, you clear orff my lawn!

  23. goats in pajamas


    Apple sell piece of junk with little useful hardware remaining and a list of reasons why it's both crap and extremely expensive.

    Punters queue up to purchase.

  24. Jon Green

    Way overpriced

    I bought a G4 Mac Mini back in the day, to try out MacOS on the cheap (on the recommendations of trusted colleagues), and test the waters of Mac development. I liked it, and it became the workhorse admin computer of a previous company. The price:performance ratio was quite decent.

    But £529 for an Intel Mac Mini that's not much different internally from a mid-market laptop (which - please note - would also include a screen, keyboard and a bunch more ports, not to mention inbuilt UPS)?

    Not on your Nelly.

    If it were more like £359-£399, I might punt the money - but at its current price, there's no benefit.

  25. heathentoy

    As I said before

    I said in a previous post prior to the release of the new mac mini that I thought Apple would go this way. We all don't download our music or movies. Some of us like to have a physical product that allow us to rip music to our Macs etc, and play in our car etc. We also like to watch our movies on different mediums. Alot of us want to install software that we have only on disk and not have to pay out for more 'Stuff' just to be able to do what can already do with existing equipment.

    I don't see the lack of a drive as an advancement until the whole of the UK has superfast broadband where we can all watch and download movies via the web, (my speed is okay so I am not a grumpy old git ). I just see the situation as an expensive box of tricks that looks good but one you add additional equipment makes the whole thing an untidy box.

    Oh well.....

  26. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    You have to remember ...

    Firstly, Apple is now about selling you content - that means over the internet via iTunes. Thus it makes perfect sense to drop that dastardly optical drive that makes it easy for people to buy their films etc on disks that they can use as often as they want for as long as they want. What rotters, people shouldn't be shafting Apple like that ;-)

    But also, on these machines there is a boot option (from memory, I've only fiddled with a Mini Server once and that was a while ago) to boot from a disk in the optical drive of another computer on the network. And also to use said drive later as well.

    Oh yes, and if you don't have an optical drive - people can't complain that it's not BlueRay :-/

  27. b166er

    Who in the hell

    installs Windows from an optical disc?

    Nice looking, but I'm sure it will not last 10 years due to excessive heat and it's over-priced.

    1. hexx

      how is it

      overpriced? can you build or buy the same form factor computer with similar or same components for less? last time i checked it was impossible.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Are you kidding?

        > overpriced? can you build or buy the same

        > form factor computer with similar or same

        > components for less? last time i checked

        > it was impossible.

        This is a terribly generic configuration. The whole "CPU/GPU" thing pretty much seals it. All you need to replicate this is to get yourself a comparable Sandy Bridge motherboard. They even come in mini-ITX.

        I was contemplating this very sort of thing myself MONTHS ago as potential replacement for ION machines.

        Sticking with the onboard GPU makes it TRIVIAL to replicate this even at the same size as a Mini. Ditching the optical drive just makes it all that easier. At least with an nvidia GPU, it made things a little tricky (also something else I was already contemplating).

        1. hexx

          no, it's not trivial

          I tried to build 'mini clone' for a friend, in the end he bought mini. yes, you can get a mini itx board but it isn't the end, you need 'N' wifi, you need bluetooth, you need wireless keyboard/mouse and so on. it is impossible to build it up to the specs/looks/noise of mac mini.

          Yes you can build it cheaper if you use shit noisy psu, large case, normal mobo and so on but then it's not like mac mini is it.

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Are you kidding? (yet again)

            Bluetooth and wireless keyboard? Are you kidding? Those are hardly show stoppers.

            Bluetooth is a $20 part. So is a wireless keyboard and mouse. Not that the Mini even comes with the latter anyways.

            If anything, Bluetooth is a much better candidate for "just add it on later". Same even goes for whatever the current wifi standard happens to be. Although that's not even necessary.

            No. What's hard is putting a decent GPU in the thing. That gets tricky real quick.

            ...and you don't need a noisy PSU or a big case.

            Just quit swimming in the cool-aid.


      The revenge of "geeky specs"

      > Who in the hell #


      > installs Windows from an optical disc?

      Mac users.

      Consider this an example of how you ignore the "finer points" at your peril. "specs" may be "geeky", but they are how stuff gets done. If you go out of your way to ignore them, you may find yourself SOL.

      Myself, I am really curious how that HD3000 turns out. This box represents a very generic configuration in PC terms. Since there's no discrete GPU, it's pretty easy to slap the PC motherboard equivalent of this into the low profile case of your choosing.

  28. hexx

    optical drive = redundant

    if you do need one get an external one, not a big deal. i haven't used mine for 3 years. complete waste of space

  29. defiler

    Pretty little thing

    I looked at the Mac Minis last time they were updated for a networked media player. Way overpriced though. Hacked the hell out of an ATV1 with XBMC, and it works nicely. Added another telly in my house, and looked at the Mac Mini again. Still stupidly expensive, so I have a dinky little eMachines 1401 running XBMC.

    I'd pay a premium for something that just looks really nice, but since I can play 1080p on a £130 eMachines box, that's a hell of a premium. Even if it was double the eMachines, I'd be interested, but at 4x the price? That dog won't hunt, Monsegniour.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Considered it ...

    ... but built a hackintosh instead.

    Yep, it's in a big old desktop case and don't look so purty ... but it cost me £350. (actually £210, but I already had a drive, PSU, video card & snow leopard)

    The crazy thing is, had the price been more reasonable - maybe £360 for low end, £480 for top end (not the server) - I would've gone for it. Thing is, that's how much it costs in the US, more or less.

    The amount of markup we pay in the UK for apple products is quite simply obscene. Yep, I understand shipping costs and taxes, but bloody hell, a £170 markup on the low end spec is a slap in the face!

    I'll get my coat, I've still got a lot of spare change in it ...

  31. corradokid
    Thumb Up

    SuperDrive unnecessary using RemoteDisc

    I didn't see anyone mention RemoteDisc... where if you have another computer (Mac -or- PC)WITH an optical drive on the same network as your optical drive-less Mac, you can share it and install things remotely over the network. The drive less Mac will see the other Mac's optical drive after giving it permission and things can install as you'd expect.


    Cloning the mini...

    Cloning the Mini is a lot easier now. It was a more interesting product than before. Dropping the nvidia GPU changes things quite a bit. Both Intel and AMD GPUs are common in motherboard chipsets and even on the actual CPU die (as is the case here).

    Building a low profile machine with an nv330 or nv430 or nv540 is a lot trickier because stuff isn't built onto motherboards. A separate card is going to be nearly as large as the whole Mini.

  33. Dropper

    Pricing is deliberate

    I doubt Apple cares if the price scares people off. I know I wouldn't buy one, but that's mostly because the spec is too low to be of any use to me. So it makes sense that Apple wouldn't care if I thought it was too expensive and the same applies to many other reg readers.

    Also they'll want to make a profit on every sale - they aren't console manufacturers who count on future mass production reducing costs so the manufacturing price allows them to move into profitability, with software sales balancing the books until that happens. They know if they sell most of what they make it will keep them in the computer market with the bonus of making a profit. And I see little point in complaining about a product none of us would ever want, even if the price was cut in half. I'm guessing that bar a few thoughts about media servers or coffee makers, most of the readers here want computers with significantly better specs.


      Alien interest in Apple products...

      > And I see little point in complaining about a product none of us would ever want, even if the price was cut in half.

      The whole "lets make this thing an HTPC now" hype is part of this. It's the sort of thing that's going to draw in the crowd of people who already do the HTPC thing. So they are going to "kick the tires" and put in their 2 pence.

      I got over that idea with the i945 Minis. ION buried the idea.

      Now a half price Mini would actually be something interesting (as an HTPC).


    ...and something else.

    ...and something else that just occurred to me.

    Now that they have "ditched removable media" they should have put more thought into it. Sure the obvious retort is "use a thumb drive" but think about it for a moment. The USB ports on a Mini aren't terribly convenient to get to.

    This thing needs a front facing USB port (or 3).

    Extenders and hubs are imperfect solutions. The thing needs a properly accessable USB port.

    It should be better thought out than a Revo.

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