Give me the Mac Mini that Apple aren't
November 13, 2008 12:50 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to get an up-to-date version of a Mac Mini - but Apple haven't released one. What are my alternatives?

So, the Mac Mini would be exactly what I want, but it hasn't been updated for a year and a half. I'd like a Mac Mini equivalent that has a bigger hard drive, more memory, and preferably a faster processor - but is still small, very quiet, and the same sort of price.

Ideally it would run OS X, but that's not essential; Linux would be fine as long as there's not too much fiddling with device drivers needed. I'm more interested in having a small, quiet home server than I am in using things like Front Row, although those would be a bonus.

The options I can see are:
a) wait until January and hope that Apple update the Mac Mini line rather than dropping it
b) buy a Mac Mini now and upgrade bits of it - which seems like it could be quite a bit more expensive
c) buy another quiet, small PC - what's good?

Which of the above would be best? Are there any options I'm missing?

Thank you!
posted by siskin to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm in the same position. I get the feeling that a lot of people (inc. me with an older G4 version) are using the Mini as a media centre instead of Apples preferred Apple TV solution which might be a reason for them to drop the Mini line.

I've been keeping an eye on the Refurbished Mac section of the Apple Store myself. This opton might give you a little financial breathing room to upgrade the HD, RAM &c. eBay too.

The other alternative is to get a refurb MacBook with a faster processor & bigger HD and run it closed although matching the Mini's $600 price tag might be hard. You'll have the added advantage of having a laptop should you need it. (The Mini is essentially a screenless laptop packed into a box.)
posted by i_cola at 1:54 AM on November 13, 2008

I like the look of these Asus EEE Pcs but they maybe underpowered for your purposes.

You could always buy a Mini and crack it open to add memory and a larger hard drive.
posted by laukf at 4:10 AM on November 13, 2008

If you're comfortable with rolling your own (or at least filling out a barebones box) Shuttle is pretty much the industry standard for small form factor machines.
posted by Oktober at 4:48 AM on November 13, 2008

Well, if you want to stay with OSX, they're apparently going to retire the Mac Mini sometime soon (there were some news reports on the usual rumor sites to this effect) BUT there's apparently also something new coming along to replace it, probably to be launched in January.
posted by slater at 4:50 AM on November 13, 2008

Well, according to Apple as reported to Ars Technica, there's something in the works. January/February has been generally reported as the timeframe since it lines up with the right conventions and known product release schedules.

I'd go with A or C, leaning toward A. You could easily load up one of those new Dell Studio Hybrids with XBMC or Boxee and have a server/media center PC, or if you're not concerned with power consumption, a small PC using normal hardware.
posted by mikeh at 7:03 AM on November 13, 2008

I'd wait.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:04 AM on November 13, 2008

i_cola: "I'm in the same position. I get the feeling that a lot of people (inc. me with an older G4 version) are using the Mini as a media centre instead of Apples preferred Apple TV solution which might be a reason for them to drop the Mini line."

Actually, if this were the case, this would be a good reason to drop the Apple TV, not the mini. My personal prediction is that the Mini will be around for some time yet. They are a cheap easy headless solution for people who need such things, and an easy entry for people who need a bit more than that.

Does the current Mini do what you what it to do? If the Mini doesn't do what you want it to do now, then buying one would be silly. If it does, no reason to hold off. No harm in waiting until MacWorld, see what happens. I predict the Mini will be around for some time.

I have a 100% accuracy rating on these things, but only because I forget all the times I'm wrong.

Other than drive and RAM there won't be a lot you can upgrade on one of these down the road.

Post MacWorld the prices on these will drop if a new one (or replacement product) is announced.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:34 AM on November 13, 2008

I'm in the same boat. My G4 seems horribly slow these days, but I can't bring myself to buy a current Mini. I definitely don't want an all-in-one like an iMac. If Apple don't release a new Mini soon I'm going to be quite annoyed.
posted by salmacis at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2008

What do you plan on doing with a home server that you need more memory or a faster processor than the current Mac Mini?

I understand the concern with the hard drive (though you could add a really big drive as an external). I ask, because my home server has the equivalent of an 800MHz Pentium3 and 512MB of memory I've pretty much never felt the need for more in the past 5 years.
posted by Good Brain at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2008

Good Brain - among other things, I'd like to use it as a continuous integration server running TeamCity.

Thanks for all the answers so far - I'm leaning towards the "wait until MacWorld and see what happens".

I don't have the patience anymore to build my own, so no Shuttle. The EEE Box looks interesting - and I see that there are rumours that more powerful Linux versions might be released. If Apple don't come up with the goods at MacWorld, then I'll look at it again and see whether new versions have come out.
posted by siskin at 9:40 AM on November 13, 2008

I love my mac mini and would love it so much more if it wasn't so underpowered. Put a decent graphics engine in there and an updated processor and honestly that would probably do it for me. Not sure how they would deal with the heat from a real GPU, though.
posted by fusinski at 10:02 AM on November 13, 2008

I have an EEE Box - it is "ok", but honestly I think I would prefer a Mini... It is hooked to a 720p TV, and yet it can't quite keep up to 720p video decoding.

For browsing and light use it is not bad. Very quiet compared to my "real" HTPC.
posted by jkaczor at 7:42 PM on November 13, 2008

I'd wait. In fact, I was in the market for a new Mini before the last update, and I'm glad I waited a bit longer. As soon as Apple rolled out the update, I bought my Mini - and I'm really pleased with it.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:45 PM on November 14, 2008

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