"I Will Call Him... Mini-Mac."

Martini Boy emailed me asking what I thought about the mini-Mac that was announced yesterday. Full disclosure: I’ve been a Mac owner since 1989, and I worked in Apple support for a few months in 1993 (in the Apple food chain, I was somewhere below plankton, but I enjoyed my time there). I use Windows and UNIX variants at work (and at home; I have a cheap PC, too), but I definitely prefer the Mac OS over both.

Anyway, as a public service, here’s what I told Steve:

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a “mini,” but that’s because I’m an engineer and a gadget freak. I’m always wanting to rip the cover off and tinker. Jobs hates that; if he could get away with it, every Mac would be a sealed box.

There are basically three reasons to not buy a mini-Mac: 1. If you think you’ll ever want to add a PCI card (it doesn’t have any slots), 2. If you want to run two monitors (I do, but if you aren’t used to that, you probably won’t miss it), or 3. It’s underpowered by current standards.

The G4 chip in there is perfectly zippy for most tasks (I’m currently using a G4 tower with about half its clock speed, for instance). It’ll do fairly advanced video editing and compression, not as quick as a G5, but it’ll probably do everything you’ll want, with the exception of very advanced games (not an issue for me; get beyond Galaga and I lose interest).

It’s very hard to upgrade RAM–you have to take it in to an authorized repair shop–and for a bigger hard drive (a necessity–40 to 80GB? Who are you kidding, Jobs?), forget upgrading the internal, just buy an external Firewire case. Less arse-pain and money.

So, IMO, it’s not really a $500 box, it’s more like a $650-700 box once you get the bigger hard drive and at least 512MB RAM. I’d bite the bullet and buy the RAM installed ($75) up front. It’s overpriced, but the hassle factor is low. Get the smaller hard drive model (an extra 40GB is not worth $100) and plan on getting a large-capacity (200GB minimum) Firewire external from Day One. Just use the internal drive for applications and the OS, and store everything else on the external drive.

If you can handle all that…