Thursday, January 13, 2005

Apples to Apples

Lots of people are comparing the Mac mini to a cheap PC. They compare it to Dells, custom built PCs, and even used systems. This is craziness. The Mac mini is different. Sure it's just another computer. Sure it's just a cheap Mac. But there are differences.

It's sold without a keyboard and mouse. I love this. Input devices are very personal. Some people like two buttons, some like ten, I prefer a trackpad. Now you don't have to pay for stuff that you don't want and will just end up in a drawer.

You can put it anywhere and it doesn't sound like a 747. I've had a fetish for small computers for ever. The Cube was great. The iMac flat panels are great. SFF PCs are great. But you had to pay a premium over a big system. The mini is different. It's less than $100 more than any PC from a major manufacturer. You could point out that with a mid tower PC you get more expansion. But now a days most people NEVER upgrade. They do notice how loud their computers are.

This sounds crazy to PC enthusiasts. Trust me I used to be one. I would spend hours reading the latest reviews. I knew the difference between CPUs, fans, motherboards, video cards, chipsets, hard drivers, optical drivers, cases, power supplies, etc. Now I just don't care. I've lost my taste for first person shooters and games in general.

I still spend lots of time online, listening to music, watching TV shows and movies. And the Mac does this better. Now people don't have to pay a premium to experience computing without hassles.

Summing up what makes the Mac mini different. You can use whatever mouse you want. You don't need a computer desk. You don't have to turn up your speakers to block out the noise. You don't have to hassle with spyware, viruses, drivers, and keeping your system up to date. Now you don't have to pay more.

35 Comments:

At 1/13/2005 02:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

110% in agreement. After awhile, you begin to lose your taste for most of the computer game fare. My mac is still a form of entertainment, but it's not so that I can walk around a corner and vape someone yet again.

Apple seems to be afraid to go head on in the cheap machine market, so they offered something in the low price range that is almost nothing like the competitors. I'd almost say the Mac Mini is part of a different competition all together.

My Mac Mini will be a nice media machine. I use torrents to download shows, and I watch flash pieces and listen to music. Between Airport Express and an s-video out and some filesharing and scripts to sync, I'm going to be in media heaven. :) I definitely could not set up something as easily and as cheaply on the PC side with a stock box.

 
At 1/13/2005 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Seven said...

I second that...

People will undoubtedly compar this to cheap Dells and Gateway PC's that are about 10's the size, with loud fans, a sloppy OS and case designs about as old as the companies that sell them.

 
At 1/13/2005 03:26:00 PM, Blogger darth said...

its impossible to compare cheap dells, gateways, and shuttles to the mini, until you can get OS X on those machines. because what apple is really doing is offering OS X and iLife to the masses. which is a good thing.

and apple never used to ship their cpus with keyboards or mice. those were the days. and when they started to do it again (iMac), they gave us that crappy ROUND mouse.

 
At 1/13/2005 05:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As mentioned before, "what apple is really doing is offering OS X and iLife to the masses." This is hardly ever mentioned in the reviews so far. The focus is usually on the hardware, which I believe is only half of what you are getting here. The value should be determined by considering the software as well. Just see how much it costs to get an equivalent suite of software for a PC to match the capabilities of iLife. This isn't just fluff and half-functioning demos bundled with the mac here. This is a very carefully engineered "experience." BTW, I'm on a PC, but I might consider running parallel systems at this price.

 
At 1/13/2005 10:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your post and the comments here are right on target. I think that new Mini has a market and will do well.

I have bounced back and forth between computer platforms from Mac, Windows, Linux and even BeOS. There have been times when each has been my platform of choice. As of last year I got a new PowerMac Dual G5 and the Mac is once again in my favor. That G5 is a darn good workhorse that gives a smooth working experience (even while crunching video in the background).

A few years ago it seemed that nobody made a computer that was fast enough. I went to great lengths to over-clock pc hardware. All I cared about were the specs and I would painstakingly piecemeal together a premium rig out of the best parts I could afford. All the cooling required when pushing a computer that hard made the beige beast so loud that it became annoying. Computers have become so powerful that over clocking is really not needed anymore. In fact hard-core gamers are the only ones who need the top of the line specs. Image and video editing applications no longer drive the high end of computing. Unfortunately, the gigahertz wars have caused a generation of very noisy PC's

I am still a power user so I did go for the extra kick of the G5. The engineering apple has put into its cooling has made it as quiet as most laptops and I like that a lot. I would still be happier if it was totally silent. Though the PowerMac is attractive, I would be happier without a skyscraper on my desk. Perhaps in a couple of years all the computing power I need will make it down to a package as elegant as the mini.

That being said, the little Mac Mini will be perfect 60% of computer users out there. The iLife that apple is bundling will give it the polish that none of the other pc makers can match. I think that it also has a good shot at being useful by some enthusiasts as a Home Theater PC.

 
At 1/14/2005 09:01:00 AM, Blogger ExhibitQ said...

Looks like a great little "basic" unit for all the basic stuff that people do with computers. Looks like I finally have a "don't mess with" system that I can setup and forget and leave me more free to tweak and mod my PC.

 
At 1/14/2005 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no contesting the Mac mini is seriously underpowered by today's standard. To explain why it's still the hottest of news, lets first clarify the fundamental difference between a Mac mini and a budget PC.

The budget PC runs Windows, the Mac mini runs Mac OS X.

I personally can't use Windows for more than five minutes before slipping into a deep depression. Ten minutes, and I'm suicidal. Fifteen, homocidal.

I don't know why this is so, and certainly can't make a convincing argument about why Windows is so utterly unusable. For me, it just is.

This makes a PC-box, any PC-box, a non-option from the beginning. Put a 100 MHz Mac next to a 100 GHz PC, and I'll still pick the Mac. Give away the PC for free, and I still won't touch it. Why? Because it runs Windows, is why!

I have nothing against all you perfectly happy Windows users out there. It works for you and that's fine. But, being the Windows-impaired freak I apparently am, I have no choice but sticking with Mac OS X and the Apple hardware needed to run it, at any cost.

So what kind of Apple hardware do I need?

Currently I run OS 10.3 on an old 400 MHz G3 iMac with 320 MB RAM. This dependable little machine has served, and continues to serve, me well for twelve hours a day since I got it.

Not to mention it's got a friendly indigo color.

And get this, the horsepower of even this almost antique machine is entirely sufficient for my humble needs (Writing text and scavenging the web). I also greatly appreciate the lack of fans on my current machine, and am not in a hurry to downgrade to a triple-fan G5 iMac, thank you very much.

All I really crave is a nice big LCD, and something to drive it. The only LCD's I like happens to be those of Apple's Cinema Display line, so that choice is an easy one too. I'll settle for the 20 inch model. That's big eough for me.

But what to hook it up to? A 9-fan liquid cooled dual 2.5 GHz G5 Powermac perhaps? Not bloody likely! I've been secretly yearning for the return of the cube for some time now.

Enter the mini.

Compact. Silent. Affordable. Sporting a DVI jack. In short, it's my next Mac.

Does it matter to me how fast it is? No.

Does it matter to me what it costs? No.

I want one, and the only thing that could stop me from getting one, would be if I just couldn't afford it no matter what.

It's just that I'll probably wait and pick up a rev B mini in six months, when any original flaws in the design have been sorted out, and when it ships with Tiger. I'll be using it for many years to come, so there's no hurry. In the meantime, my trusty old iMac will do perfectly fine. It always has.

Try explaining this to an overclocker.

 
At 1/14/2005 01:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting a user name here requires Japanese reading skills...

 
At 1/14/2005 02:51:00 PM, Blogger Jason Sares said...

What problems are you having setting up an account? Maybe I can help.

 
At 1/15/2005 01:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The triple-fan iMac G5 is not all that loud. Well, my neighbor's was kinda loud but I opened it up and discovered a piece of flex-plastic rubbing against one of the fans. Moved it out of the way and the noise level is now very acceptable. I'm pretty anal about case noise and the iMac really just makes a subtle hum.

It's possible if you witnessed a loud iMac G5 that the same piece of flexible plastic was the culprit. At any rate, if I were in the market for a desktop Mac, I would have to think hard not to get an iMac. This coming from a life-long full tower PC owner!

 
At 1/15/2005 03:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the trouble with the iMac noise level seems to be it depends on the build quality of the particular box. Some specimens are reported (and measured) to be practically whisper-quit. On the other hand, many people have reported extremely annoying, and ear-fatiguing, whining noises that constantly change pitch with changing CPU-load. The audio spectrum of such boxes will measure tall spikes in the 1-2 kHz region.

Threads at Apple's discussion site dealing with this issue seem to pop up faster than Apple can manage to delete them.

It's a known risk you take with Macs: When ordering an Apple, you might end up with a Lemon. (But then ALL PC's are lemons to begin with.)

How then does your friendly Apple Support handle such cases? All experiences, mine included, seem to agree:

Apple will pretend the problem doesn't exist, no matter how many reports of similar issues you've found on the net:

"How strange you're having that problem, we've *never* heard about anyone having that problem before. Are you *sure* you inserted the Power Cord correctly?"

This is because Steve Jobs is a bit of a Nazi actually, and noone at Apple is allowed to comment on anything, other than to repeat His Word. If Jobs hasn't officially acknowledged the problem, it doesn't exist.

Officially.

Of cause, some of the more friendly support people will offer a fix for the non-existing problem anyway, if you push hard enough. The fix might even help. Or it might not. You might even receive a new machine. Then again you might not.

Or you might be able to fix it yourself, as suggested above. Or not.

This Apple policy of "you have no rights whatsoever, but don't worry about that, we might choose to help you anyway, at our own discretion" really isn't all that reassuring!

By the way, Apple's policy regarding dead pixels on LCD's is:

"We decide how to handle this on a case-to-case basis."

This translates to "you'll get a new monitor if you have the time and energy to bugger us like hell."

I'd feel a lot more confident about picking up a Mac at a store, rather than ordering one unseen. But I'm in Sweden, and we don't have any Apple stores here.

 
At 1/15/2005 03:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with getting an account is, you're required to fill out fields marked ユーザー名を選択, パスワードを入力, 再入力, ハンドルネーム, 電子メール アド and レス. Then you'll have to decide whether to check the box marked 規約に同意.

THat's where the Japanese reading skills enter the picture. Maybe you can help?

 
At 1/15/2005 04:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't this all just someone's bias opinion?

The Mac is online, watched tv movies and shows, and listens to music better than a PC. I mean, WTF is that? That's simply your bias opinion there.

It's all relative to the user and for you, it might be easier, but for another, it could be a nightmare.

"The mini is different. It's less than $100 more than any PC from a major manufacturer."

Again, WTF is that? Did you know you can buy a Dell for the same price as a mini?

"Summing up what makes the Mac mini different. You can use whatever mouse you want. You don't need a computer desk. You don't have to turn up your speakers to block out the noise. You don't have to hassle with spyware, viruses, drivers, and keeping your system up to date. Now you don't have to pay more."

Those have got to be some of the dumbest reasons to purchase a mini.

You can buy a mouse for any computer. You will still need a computer desk. I mean, tell me where the monitor, keyboard, and mouse are going to go? In your lap? The enthusiast doesn't care about noise and the non-enthusiast buy quiet computers anyways. As for the spyware and viruses, I can see. The other two, I don't. Must moronic thinking from the looks of it.

Personally, I'd rather spend the extra cash and pick up this.

http://techreport.com/etc/2005q1/ces/aopen1.jpg

The case is also available in half that size. Even if you don't feel like going down that road, their are ITX computers.

http://www.mini-itx.com/

 
At 1/15/2005 08:38:00 AM, Blogger Jason Sares said...

Of course some of it is my opinion. This is a blog after all. If your opinion was It is my informed opinion since I've lived with both. It's subjective. that Windows did something better I would leave it at that.

The fact that it doesn't come with a mouse is different than any other Mac. Which should shut up PC users who would complain about the single button. Now they don't have to sully themselves with a Apple mouse and can just buy a nice twenty button mouse.

And if read my Windows mini Build Challenge you will see that I'm well aware of SFF PCs having own/ed several but it get one the same size costs more.

 
At 1/15/2005 08:42:00 AM, Blogger Jason Sares said...

*edit of above

Of course some of it is my opinion. This is a blog after all. It is my informed opinion since I've lived with both. It's subjective. If your opinion was that Windows did something better I would leave it at that.

The fact that it doesn't come with a mouse is different than any other Mac. Which should shut up PC users who would complain about the single button. Now they don't have to sully themselves with a Apple mouse and can just buy a nice twenty button mouse.

And if read my Windows mini Build Challenge you will see that I'm well aware of SFF PCs having own/ed several but it get one the same size costs more.

 
At 1/15/2005 08:50:00 AM, Blogger Jason Sares said...

Sorry my Japanese is a little sketchy lately ;-). At what step are you required to fill out fields in Japanese? I just had a friend signup and it went fine.

 
At 1/15/2005 09:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ユーザー名を選択 = your username
パスワードを入力 = enter your password
再入力 = re-enter it
ハンドルネーム = your "handle name"
電子メール = email address
アド = ad (i.e., advertisement)
レス = response
に同意 = consent. (lacking context, i assume it's asking you to accept email ads or newsletters of some sort.)

 
At 1/15/2005 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Jason Sares said...

That's awesome!

 
At 1/16/2005 03:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To author of the Blog : I think your views on PCs are very generalistic and narrow minded. (ie : You have no clue what you can really do with a PC, even if you were a PC enthusiast and even then I would really question your knowledge).

(1) PCs can use other OSs aside from Windows.

There is a reason for the existence of FreeBSD and Linux, of which both are freely available to download.

BTW, some of Mac OS X's components are from FreeBSD. Example : TCP/IP stack.

The difference here is, you don't pay for an OS, you download it for free. And just like Mac OSX, you aren't as susceptible to nasties found on the web.

(2) You can build a PC cheaper and just as quiet as a Mac. (But the level of knowledge you have isn't aware of this...Which makes me really wonder if you are a PC Enthusiast).

(3) Open-source OSs are free and flexible.

Which brings the issue: if I created a distribution of FreeBSD that can emulate all the functions of Mac OSX but cannot run on any Mac (for a delibrate reason), and just gave it all away as a free download, would you favour that as well?

Anyone knows that low cost or being free is what really sells. Just look at the number of GF4MX400 series of video cards that are being used. Just look how MS is responding to Linux in the server market.

When the lowest costing Mac is within the same price range as a PC that is far faster, which do you think people would go for?

Yes, I've tried a G5 based Mac (borrowed it for 2 months from a friend), and personally, its not for me. It has some interesting features, but I have no use for them.

We all have different uses for computers, but basically saying all PCs have issues with "this and that" (which can be corrected) is just showing you're plain ignorance as a typical no-clue person who claims to be a former PC Enthusiast.

 
At 1/16/2005 03:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to really make things ironic, you do realise that Mac components are just PC components?

Check the RAM specifications, Hard disks, video cards, etc...All from PC.

The biggest difference...You're a fool paying Apple for the component when you can pay alot less from somewhere else!

 
At 1/17/2005 04:35:00 PM, Blogger Bear Clover said...

I agree, the Mini is going to be great.

I use a PC too, but Macs are my favorite. OS X cannot be topped. I weary of people saying, "But for $XXX I can build this PC here ..." because they are missing the point. If it doesn't run OS X, I am not interested. I know where to find a cheap PC to run Windows. I want to run OS X.

Just because some people are satisfied with Windows (or if they haven't tried OS X so they cannot form a fair comparison), does not mean that those of us who prefer it are wrong, or are wasting our money.

 
At 1/17/2005 09:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am both a Windows and a Mac user.Currently, I have a G5 tower-Dual 1.8-yes, it is quiet and fast. I also have an IBM Thinkpad-T-41, also a quality machine.I network the two and use many Windows only apps,and use Office 2004 on the Mac. They both are pretty much identical. I wish MS would come out with a Viso and Project Version for OS X. Other vendors also need to step up with Mac versions as well. Anyway, the Mac OS is easier to use and has fewer problems. Viruses, corrupted software, worms-all a problem with Windows XP. Not there on the Mac. Speed on a G-4 1.25 Ghz vs a Pentium 4 running at 2, 2.5Ghz, or 3Ghz is not really an issue. My 15 year old has a 1 Ghz G4 (Sawtooth 350 with a Sonnett Encore accellerator) and uses it for videos-iDVD, iMovie & Garage Band. The best way to describe the difference between the Pentium and the G-4 is that of an elephants heart and a Mouse's heart. The mouse heart beats much faster than that of the elephant, but the elephant pumps much more blood and is more efficient. The new Mac Mini is faster than the old Sawtooth G-4 (faster Bus) PC 2700 Ram, which is relatively cheap. I think people will buy it as a replacement to older Pentium PC's, hook it to the TV, an accessory to the iPod, and a great portable. Keyboards and monitors are cheap. If they sell them at Radio Shack, Target, Circuit City, Best Buy, Walmart it will be the next iPod phenomenon and Apple will grow market share and the software people will respond.

 
At 1/28/2005 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Viking185 said...

first I have to say that anon's comment
"At 1/16/2005 03:03:51 AM, Anonymous said...
And to really make things ironic, you do realise that Mac components are just PC components?
Check the RAM specifications, Hard disks, video cards, etc...All from PC.
The biggest difference...You're a fool paying Apple for the component when you can pay alot less from somewhere else!"

really is rather funny...since the truth that there is no real mac tech inside the boxes :)...

also a little point that maybe you can clear up for me...haveing used both PCs and Mac on a daily basis for over 15 years now ;)...why does Mac OS X need a 2-6GB scratch disk...I thought Windows 560MB one was redikulous...but this is totally absUrd...especially with the mac's at work running 4800 or 5200 RPM drives...when working on a typical 300MB photoshop file the Mac OS INSISTS on using the slow OS residant drive even tough I've got PShop set up to use a faster 7200RPM drive for scratch...this causes the Mac to freeze for several minutes...usually just before I save a major change...the other thing about it which causes problems...is the fact that the OS doesn't really report the scratch space untill it's too late to do anything about it...so in general you have to keep at least 2GB free on your drive...if you don't..if OS X runs out of space it starts throwing things away like system preferances *i've reloaded my mail prefs and boxes 3 times now* in a seemingly random order...also perplexing me since a pref file is like what...60k at most :/...i've been able to minimize the scratch disk windows uses...it's a slimmer 100MB now...but I've not found a way to lock the Mac one to something small like that...and make it a visible file *like the windows one now* so I can at least get info on it to see if it's starting to bloat again...

Danké :)

 
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