A mini review of my '09 Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by CubeHacker, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. CubeHacker macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    I still see that people are occasionally curious about how the mini performs, so I thought i'd write a small review and answer any questions people might have.

    I picked up a stock 2.0ghz 09 Mini. Its 100% untouched so far, with the original HDD and 1gb of RAM.

    The first thing I noticed was the smell. It hit me like a brick when I opened the packaging. It reminded me a lot like some kind of glue - not your ordinary "electronics" smell like one would find on a new CRT. The smell increased in intensity when the unit was turned on. After a day or two, its now completely gone, so its no big deal really.

    The first thing you notice when turning the Mini on (besides its small size!) is just how quiet it is. The fans rev up briefly when activated, but then slows down to the point of being inaudible. So just how quiet is this guy? I don't have a decibel meter, but I can say with assurance that its quieter than my fanless G4 Cube. You can hear a very slight "sssssssh" sound with your ear next to it. In the dead of night with it running 24/7 you can just about hear it, but it not annoying. Its by far the quietest computer i've ever come across, and thats saying a lot considering i'm a quiet nut. Its not SILENT, but its about as close as you can come considering there is a fan and a HDD spinning inside.

    My guess is a good deal of the silence has to do with the HDD. Its the default 120gb 5400rpm drive, which OSX identifies as a Hitachi. I'm actually hesitant to swap the drive out, because i'm almost positive anything else I would stick in there would be louder. Even the seeks are inaudible.

    I've tried running the mini with the CPU pegged at 100% for an hour. After that time, it does warm up slightly, and you can feel warm air blowing out the rear. However, not once did the fan speed up. Impressive. The mini supposedly only uses 12-14w when idle, so its the perfect setup to have running 24/7. Just make sure to set your screensaver to "computer name". Any of the fancier 3d ones take up CPU and GPU power, and heats up the system and wastes electricity.

    The next big topic would be performance. Considering the "slow" 5400rpm drive in the machine, i'm surprised how fast it boots. I don't even get to see the OS X loading bar. It goes straight from the grey Apple screen to the desktop in just a few seconds. Apps load quickly (1-2 bouches) though I haven't tried anything really intensive like photoshop.

    Everything runs rather quickly. Not quite as fast as running Windows XP on a Core2 chip, but certainly better than Vista. Considering all this is with only 1gb of RAM, i'm impressed. Occasionally the system will "stall" for a split second (probably due to swapping ram), but not once have I seen a beach ball.

    I've tried several 1080p trailers off of Apple's site and they all run perfectly, using up about 50% of the CPU (or approx 100% of a single core). My biggest complaint so far would be flash performance. While I haven't run into anything that stresses the system to the point of skipping frames, flash sites take up WAY too much CPU usage. A single, low quality youtube video takes up 40% of total CPU. Thats just ridiculous! The same video uses up maybe 5% under Windows. A HD version of a Hulu video sucks anywhere from 50-70% of total CPU usage depending on the scene. There are no skipped frames however. I'm not sure if this is Apple's or Adobe's fault, but it would certainly be nice to have this fixed.

    How's gaming performance? Well, I don't really have any games for OS X. I do have WoW on my USB stick, but I don't have an account. Best I could do was watch the performance on the login screen. Running at 1600x1200, the login screen ran at a paltry 10fps. Certainly not a gaming machine.

    I've yet to have any application crash. However, this morning I woke up to find the whole system had crashed. The screensaver wasn't running, and all I had was a black screen with a mouse pointer which would respond to movements, but nothing else. Force quit commands did not work. All I could do was to manually shut it down by holding the power button down. Considering i've had PPC macs before with 6 months of flawless 24/7 uptime, its disappointing that the Mini couldn't last 3 days.

    My only other (small) complaint would be with the mouse. Besides OS X's annoying acceleration curve, i've found that when right clicking, the menu's that pop up tend to flash a few times. For example, right clicking on a link in Safari, or on the desktop causes the menu which appears to flash two or three time before displaying. It does this about 50% of the time. Very odd.
  2. SnowX macrumors newbie

    Jan 21, 2009
    Good review. I'll add that when running Photoshop/Illustrator/Dreamweaver/FireFox/iTunes/Mail, I get alot of beachball action. But like you, I have the base config with 1G ram. Need to upgrade.
  3. bchreng macrumors 65816


    Jul 26, 2005
    Nice write up! My complaints pretty similar. The smell did go away after a few days and flash and pdf performance aren't that great compared to Vista. It's also a little strange getting used to the fact that the 'Home' and 'End' keys don't seem to function under OSX. The mouse acceleration bugs me a bit too. My mouse hand becomes sore faster than when I'm using my PC having to physically compensate for the acceleration.

    Otherwise, it's a nice little machine. The OS has yet to crash on me, but then again, I haven't installed anything outside of what it came with.
  4. CubeHacker thread starter macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    Just wanted to make a small update. I have come across some flash video's that do occasionally skip. Activity monitor shows its using 50%, with Safari taking up 105%. My guess is that flash is single threaded and can't use up more than 100% but needs to, so it start skipping. Though that doesn't explain why the hulu HD video's played flawlessly while using up more than 50%. Different video codec's in flash perhaps?

    I don't have any problems with PDF's. OS X has always been fast with PDF's ever since Panther in my experience. However, Safari sometimes appears sluggish, especially if you've ever been to one of those "post your funny gif" threads. All the moving gif's slows the system down to a crawl. No such problem under windows running Firefox.
  5. OldCorpse macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2005
    compost heap
    My friend just bought the new mini, and has had a similar experience... CRASH! His PPC mini never crashed. I have to say, it seems in many people's experiences, the PPC architecture is just more stable and efficient, while Intel has problems. Additionally, speed for speed, PPC seems more efficient - of course, by now x86 chips have so much advantage in clock speeds that it's not even a contest and inefficient though they may be, they'll overwhelm with brute force. That's one (of many) reasons I've been resisting going Intel... of course, one day I'll have to, but I'll mourn the stability of PPC compared to the flaky Intel. Maybe by Snow Leopard they'll iron out the kinks, assuming of course that it's not something to do with the fundamental nature of PPC architecture vs x86. What a bummer, I hate unstable systems!
  6. mastershakess macrumors 6502

    May 14, 2008
    Bel Air, MD
    my intel mini likes to freeze as well :(
  7. eXan macrumors 601


    Jan 10, 2005
    I find it odd that your mini skips sometimes in Flash videos. My 2006 MacBook (obviously slower) never skipped in any Flash videos I've played on it, and I watch a LOT of Flash. Fans running at 6200 RPM is annoying though :p
  8. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

    Sep 4, 2006
    That is very strange. My mac mini 09 model has 4GB of RAM, 320GB 7200 rpm hdd and it handles anything I throw at it.

    I'm currently using it as my main machine to drive my 24" LED ACD + a 40" Sony Bravia XBR6 in dual monitor mode to play 1080p bluray movies thats about 16GB big.

    All that while d/ling 50GB worth of files via unison and uploading 20GB of files via transmission, have about 20+ safari tabs open even playing a flash hd trailer on gametrailers.com (of course I have to pause the 1080p bluray movie that was playing on my braiva on the 2nd monitor of the 40" bravia in order for the flash video to play) and it plays it flawlessly.

    One thing I do notice though is that the fans never go any higher than 3500 rpm, runs very cool and very very quiet its freaakin sweeet.

    This mac mini was supposed to be my temporary main machine until I get a Mac Pro or decide on a 17" unibody mbp... but so far it runs everything perfectly with no slow downs. I think I'm going to save myself 3-4k and just use the mini for everything!
  9. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004

    Flash sucks on Macs.

    Adobe sucks too ;)

    My theory of why there is no flash on the iPhone....

    Apple tells Adobe, if you can't get it working on a 2 year old Macbook Core2Duo without 70+ Cpu usage and fans going full blast, then you definitely can't optimize it for the iPhone.

    Apple is withholding assistance bringing flash(lite) to the iPhone until Adobe fixes it to work well on Macs still covered by Applecare. Reasonable.

    Anyway,I haven't done much with my new stock 2009 Macmini. Just RipitApp, Fairtox, and Handbreak, but this thing is much quieter than my black MacBook, except for the superdrive, but now I am using an external which is quieter.
  10. tamasvarga67 macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    Good review...
    I upgraded the RAM to 4GB before I first turned the Mini on and a week later when the 320GB 7200 WD Scorpio arrived I swapped that too. I haven't noticed significant - or I would say any - difference in noise and heat. It is really quiet even the clock on the wall is louder then the Mini.
    I ran Xbench benchmark test after the upgrades and the Mini (2GHz/4GB/320GB-7200) scored better than my MBP 2.5/4GB before I upgraded its HD to the same 320/7200 WD which is impressive.
  11. davemulheran macrumors regular

    Mar 6, 2009
    UK - London/Kent
    What model HDD do you have?
  12. CubeHacker thread starter macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    I really don't think that PPC is any more "stable" compared to x86 architecture. Its just that apple has been coding for the last 15+ years for PPC processors. OS X was made to run on PPC first and foremost, and Intel was a "backup" incase something went wrong. Obviously most of the bugs will have been worked with OS X running on PPC architecture, but that doesn't mean x86 is any worse. Hopefully Snow Leopard will bring the speed and stability we require for Intel processors.

    Yes, and flash really sucks under OSX. I really don't understand why. Back when Apple was still running G4's and G5's, we could just assume that Adobe was lazy in optimizing the code for PPC. But now that Intel processors are here (for a few years now!), that excuse just doesn't cut it anymore.
  13. jw2002 macrumors 6502

    Feb 23, 2008
    Has anyone noticed the smell with the 2.26 GHz minis? I bought one, and it did not come with any smell. I figured that since they are customized to order that they might not come from the same stinky bin as all the 2.0 GHz minis.
  14. dongmin macrumors 68000


    Jan 3, 2002
    Acrobat is really slow on OS X. It's slow on Windows too but on OS X, it's really unacceptable. Preview, however, renders PDFs MUCH MUCH faster.
  15. sushi Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    I've experience issues with my Intel based Macs (MBP and iMac) where my PPC Macs (PB and PM933) just run and run.

    IMHO, the PPC Macs were much more bullet proof when it came to handling changes such as network changes, plugging and unplugging peripherals. Hopefully with Snow Leopard, the OS will become more stable.
  16. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    As long as I run Adobe Acrobat 9 at boot, it brings up PDFs just fine. That initial loads takes too long.

  17. jincongz macrumors member

    Jun 2, 2008
    And why are you running Acrobat to open PDFs? Preview kicks arse, and scrolls like no other.
  18. cobock1 macrumors newbie

    Mar 27, 2009
    I agree with your review nearly 100%. The machine runs great, even with only 1gb of ram. I can still occasionally see (especially in WoW) that its performance will greatly improve with 2gb installed. I have never experienced any freezing or glitching of my OS and my new mini hasn't been restarted in a week. I run WoW every couple of days for a few hours in 1440x900 and it runs fine (pretty playable framerate) with some settings set at medium and some at high. Areas where it has to load lots of new content quickly (like Stormwind or highly populated areas) the frame rate drops for a few seconds, but recovers. This will be fixed with a second stick of RAM and the additional 128mb of video ram it will bring with it. Quake 4 also runs great at 1440x900 with settings at high and medium. I also run XP pro in virtualbox and it runs great too. I'm able to surf the net, run virtualbox, utilize itunes, and chat on ichat without much slowdown with only 1gb of ram. OSX is an impressive OS and the mini is a pretty impressive machine, given it's size.
  19. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    Create and edit PDFs all day.

  20. cleric macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    Has anyone tried swfdec in safari?

    I was also impressed how well it runs with 1gb of ram, though VMWARE wasn't happy :-/
  21. 3121 macrumors member

    Feb 7, 2007
    thats an excellent review! it makes it harder for me to choose between Mini or imac now!
  22. CubeHacker thread starter macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    It really depends on what you want. The imac is certainly faster in every aspect. The only reason i'd consider the mini is if you don't want/like the built in display, or have a good one already.

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