I've decided in the last months that it is time to upgrade my Mac. My 'ole Blue and White G3, although as upgraded as it can get, is wishing to be retired and given lighter duties. Thus, I have come to a crossroads in my choices for its replacement. I wanted something modern and new that is somewhat mobile.
Obviously, from the title, the two choices are the Macbook and the Mac Mini. I would most likely get both with stock 1GB RAM and the 120GB HD option (I'll upgrade the RAM afterwards to save a few dollars). Plus, I'll be looking at the 2.0GHz Mac Mini as opposed to the 1.8GHz one.
What I'm asking is what would you choose? Does the Mac Mini perform admirably in Leopard? Does the fact that the Macbook have the Intel X3100 instead of the GMA 950 make any real difference?
Please take into account that I'll be saving up the money somewhat slowly (bills, bills, and more bills). So, would the Macbook be worth the extra time in order to save up the money?
What you choose really comes down to whether you need something portable. Both machines are pretty comparable in performance and upgradability, so the difference really comes down to form factor.
The big plus for the Macbook (for being mobile) is that it comes with an LCD. That alone makes up for a big percentage of the price difference, then you have the battery power, etc. The mini is portable in the sense that it is small, but it still needs all the regular extras to work, of course. The Macbook will be your all in one solution to portability. The real question here is if you need a portable, on the go, Mac, or simply one that isn't a big hassle to move around. You can literally drop the mini in a backpack to what ever and take it on the go, but you can't just whip it out and start surfing the web at the library, for example.
One of the reasons why I eventually decided to consider the Mac Mini, aside from the price difference, is that I don't really need all the mobility that the Macbook would provide. Not needing built-in handles to lift it is a definite plus.
Does anyone know of the quality of the Mac Minis nowadays? From what I've heard over the years, the quality of Apple's 'lower end' product line has usually been... lacking. I'll admit my G3 isn't much of a speed demon, compared to today's computers, but it is essentially rock solid in its reliability.
My wife's year-old Mac mini is a great machine that's been very stable. I got a decent speed boost by swapping out the 5400rpm hard drive for a 7200rpm model, and I'm sure it'll get even speedier with another gig of RAM.
I don't know about the Intel minis but I've been very happy with my G4. I've got plans to upgrade to a 7200RPM drive as well, if PATA laptop drives keep dropping in price.
Personally if I needed to make this choice I'd scrape up between $900 and $1000 and wait for Superdrive-equipped refurb MacBooks to turn up on the Apple Store "Special Deals" page. It's not uncommon for them to have them at an $899 or $949 price point, which lowers the price premium over a DVD-burning Mini to just $100-150. (Forget comparing to refurb Minis. Apple almost *never* has any.) Of course, if you need the most "bang for the buck" then you also might consider dropping the money on a refurb iMac instead. It'll be much faster then either and takes a 3.5" hard disk internally.
Do you want a desktop or a portable? Frankly the Mini is *neither*, and although it floats some people's boats it seem to me it has the disadvantages of both with none of the advantages. The cheaper model is "cute" for hooking up to a TV set and playing videos if you don't want the lock-in of an Apple TV, but other then that it's pretty pointless.
Or, if there's an Apple reseller in the area, do what I did and watch their returns. I got my top of the line (at the time) mini at just under the cost of a bottom of the line mini because it was a return at MicroCenter. It had a 30 day full return policy, plus the remainder of the original Apple warranty. MC is pretty decent about returns, from the few I've done. If something doesn't work you can just go in and swap it for one that works. If you bought clearance/returns and there's nothing available then you just pay the price difference on the new item. Of course, MC is my choice for computer stuff in general, even if it is on the other side of the city...
That's pretty much how we got our Intel mini. Apple Stores used to have a "clearance table" from time to time, when they'd sell returned and demo stuff at a decent discount. We were poking around one day when we found this:
We were orignally planning on getting my wife an iMac, but since we had a spare monitor at home the mini at that price was a no-brainer. And what made it an even better deal was when we got it home and realized it had been upgraded to 1GB RAM from the stock 512MB.
The Mac Mini have the old Intel 950. The MacBook have the new X3100. Not a ATI chip or anything, but good improvement over the 950.
I am still waiting for the Mini to get revamped and get the X3100 before I get one.
One question. I know Intel and a lot of people are trying to tell me that the Core 2 Duo is a ture 64-bits processor. I know the Core Duo series supported EM64T. But is the Core 2 Duo ir the SR reversion a TRUE 64-bits like the Xeons or the Athlon64s?
The "original" Core Duo didn't support EM64T. It first appeared in the chips sold as "Core Duo 2". (Wikipedia article about x86-64) Admittedly it can be confusing to determine exactly which Intel CPUs support it, since the dual-core Pentium 4-based CPUs available prior to the introduction of the Pentium M-evolved "Core Duo" chips *did* include 64 bit support. (EM64T slowly seeped into all the Pentium 4 based lines, including the last P4 Celerons, although Intel never really announced that as a feature. About the only reliable indicator is that "socket 478" CPUs never support EM64T. With Socket 775 if it's dual core, yes, if not, who knows?)
As to what defines a "true" 64 bit CPU, well, the Core Duo 2 is as much a 64 bit CPU as the (64-bit capable) Xeon or Athlon 64 is. When running in 64-bit mode all these CPUs have 64 bit registers, 64 bit integers, and the ability to address more then 4GB of RAM in a "flat" memory model. (Intel 32 bit CPUs from the Pentium Pro onward support "PAE" which allows the systems theoretically to use up to 64GB of RAM through a paging technique, but the limit for a single memory structure or process is 4GB.) However, since the CPUs are an extension tacked onto an existing architecture and are physically compatible with motherboard chipsets designed for 32 bit applications you could make arguments about whether they're "true" 64 bit chips in the sense of from-scratch designs like DEC's old Alpha CPU or Intel's Itanium. Chipset limitations are the reason for the 3GB RAM limit in all "consumer" Apple machines prior to the latest "Santa Rosa" revision, for instance. (The 32 bit memory model for PC hardware has traditionally reserved the top 1GB of address space for peripheral memory and I/O space, and Intel's older consumer chipsets can have issues when RAM overlays the same space. Apple's solution to the paging bugs was to have MacOS avoid using any RAM over the 3GB mark, even if the machine has an EM64T-capable CPU.)
The Mini's officially the last Apple (consumer) machine to not use Santa Rosa, so if not having a "true" 64 bit computer bugs you it's worth avoiding in favor of an X3100-video equipped MacBook. It really doesn't make a difference unless you need 4GB of RAM, but... eh.