Shopping for an inexpensive PC? Make it a Mac Mini. You won...


SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
ARRRRGGGHHH!

No mention of upgrading to 512MB. Dang it! No one should be using 256MB. Esp new switchers. They are going to get the idea that the system is slow because the OS and its apps are going to continuously be thrashing the disk. *bangs head into keyboard* What was Apple thinking!??!
 

1macker1

macrumors 65816
Oct 9, 2003
1,375
0
A Higher Level
You just can't beat dell's cost. 499.99 with a display, Flat screen monitor, keyboard & mouse, and a printer is had to beat. Yeah yeah yeah, this isn't ment for people that dont already have these items, but still, that's a hard sell. I dont think many people will switch due to the Mac mini, but I dothink that current Mac users will by this cheap machine just to have another Mac around the house.
 

wrldwzrd89

macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
12,106
73
Solon, OH
SiliconAddict said:
ARRRRGGGHHH!

No mention of upgrading to 512MB. Dang it! No one should be using 256MB. Esp new switchers. They are going to get the idea that the system is slow because the OS and its apps are going to continuously be thrashing the disk. *bangs head into keyboard* What was Apple thinking!??!
I agree that upgrading to 512 MB of RAM is a good idea. However, 256 MB of RAM is the current standard for low-end Windows PCs, so Apple is merely following the standard in that respect. With the most recent PowerBook update putting 512 MB in all the models by default, I'd expect all other Macs Apple sells to eventually follow suit.
 

Timelessblur

macrumors 65816
Jun 26, 2004
1,086
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on big diffence though. Windows is pretty useable at 256. OSX is tollable at 256. Basicly a windows computer a 128 megs of ram runs as well as OSX does at 256.
 

wrldwzrd89

macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
12,106
73
Solon, OH
Timelessblur said:
on big diffence though. Windows is pretty useable at 256. OSX is tollable at 256. Basicly a windows computer a 128 megs of ram runs as well as OSX does at 256.
Which version of Windows? Windows XP? I've heard that Windows XP is a RAM hog, like Mac OS X...but I didn't realize the difference was that great. I guess that goes to show that more powerful OS features are going to require more resources.
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
wrldwzrd89 said:
I agree that upgrading to 512 MB of RAM is a good idea. However, 256 MB of RAM is the current standard for low-end Windows PCs, so Apple is merely following the standard in that respect. With the most recent PowerBook update putting 512 MB in all the models by default, I'd expect all other Macs Apple sells to eventually follow suit.
Sorry dude but I hashed this out with someone before. Windows eats less RAM out of the box. 128MB usually. (Doing a little tweaking I can get it down to 64MB but that is dinking with the OS something the average user won’t do.) Add AV software, browser, e-mail, word processor, iTunes and you are still just barely hitting 256MB. (Maybe a litttle over, maybe a little below.) If you want I can do some screenshots when I get home of examples.
Also most PC's now a days do not ship with 4800RPM drives. They typically ship with 5400RPM and typically 7200RPM drives. And for those that do ship with 4800RPM drives. What do you expect for a $300 computer POS?
Why does this matter? If the OS is going to be thrashing a HD you want the fastest you can get your hands on. In the case of the mini Apple could have gone with 256MB and a 7200RPM drive or 5400RPM drive and 512MB. The combo they chose was just a bad call IMHO and don’t tell me they couldn’t eaten the price of a 512MB stick of RAM and kept it at 499 and STILL made a profit. They could have.
In my case I’m going to ship my mini with base RAM and base HD. I’m going to jack both up. 1GB RAM and 100GB 7200 RPM HD. Guaranteed you will see a performance boost on such a system.
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
5,889
0
Chicago, IL
wrldwzrd89 said:
Which version of Windows? Windows XP? I've heard that Windows XP is a RAM hog, like Mac OS X...but I didn't realize the difference was that great. I guess that goes to show that more powerful OS features are going to require more resources.
2K eats about somewhere between 64-128MB of RAM. XP runs around 128MB solid. Again if you stop all the bloat services that it has you can get it below 128MB but the average user is not going to know what services are critical and which ones aren't. And Windows 98...well 9x sucks so we won't even bother to talk about that OS. I know nutten nutten.
 

jbembe

macrumors 6502a
Jun 2, 2003
765
0
Baltimore, MD
These comparisons aren't completely valid. What matters is what happens after the program is open. I'll bet iTunes can burn a CD just fine with that memory. Example of common user perception: My sister-in-law spent 3hours trying to burn a CD with crappy windoze software/computer with my brother-in-law for 12 songs, then she sat down with me and burned 4 CD's @ 18 songs each (in both cases these were imported from her collection, she likes to make mixes of her music for herself) on my 700mhz 512ram iMac. The biggest difference was organizing the songs after importing and the ease of burning right in the program. These user-friendly differences in software usage probably make a significantly greater impact on the cheap computer user than a 2 second delay in opening or toggling between programs. The RAM might increase the burn/importing somewhat (don't know this) but I don't think that's what saved the most time.

So, overall ease of use should trump RAM IMO.
 

wrldwzrd89

macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
12,106
73
Solon, OH
SiliconAddict said:
Sorry dude but I hashed this out with someone before. Windows eats less RAM out of the box. 128MB usually. (Doing a little tweaking I can get it down to 64MB but that is dinking with the OS something the average user won’t do.) Add AV software, browser, e-mail, word processor, iTunes and you are still just barely hitting 256MB. (Maybe a litttle over, maybe a little below.) If you want I can do some screenshots when I get home of examples.
Also most PC's now a days do not ship with 4800RPM drives. They typically ship with 5400RPM and typically 7200RPM drives. And for those that do ship with 4800RPM drives. What do you expect for a $300 computer POS?
Why does this matter? If the OS is going to be thrashing a HD you want the fastest you can get your hands on. In the case of the mini Apple could have gone with 256MB and a 7200RPM drive or 5400RPM drive and 512MB. The combo they chose was just a bad call IMHO and don’t tell me they couldn’t eaten the price of a 512MB stick of RAM and kept it at 499 and STILL made a profit. They could have.
In my case I’m going to ship my mini with base RAM and base HD. I’m going to jack both up. 1GB RAM and 100GB 7200 RPM HD. Guaranteed you will see a performance boost on such a system.
I agree with everything you posted. The reason Apple didn't put 512 MB of RAM in the Mac mini is their product differentiation policies, or what some members like to call "games". Apple says they do it to clearly define each product's market. I don't think it's particularly bad or good, just different - I'm simply explaining the situation from how I see Apple's point of view.
 

Timelessblur

macrumors 65816
Jun 26, 2004
1,086
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wrldwzrd89 said:
Which version of Windows? Windows XP? I've heard that Windows XP is a RAM hog, like Mac OS X...but I didn't realize the difference was that great. I guess that goes to show that more powerful OS features are going to require more resources.
I am talking about XP. back home in houston the family computer is is running XP with 256 on a 1ghz AMD and my laptop is a 2ghz p4 with 256. The home computer does not really start showing strain untel we have 4 users log in and really eat up the ram. There are XP computer in the dorm running on 256 and if you did not know that they were running 256 you could not tell. a Mac you can tell when it only has 256 over 512.

OSX is a huge ram hog and it memory manage is really piss poor. It not a big deal if you have a lot of ram but when you only have 256 it start showing up. Look at the page file usage on a mac it not suprising to see it cross 3 gigs. XP it does not cross 1 gig very off.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,551
1,186
The drive RPM is because it's a laptop drive. You can't compare drive RPM to a Windows PC fairly unless that PC is as compact.

I recommend 512 to everyone, but I know people who can't tell the difference when they went from 256 to 768. The difference IS there, and it's a big one for me. But for many people, 256 is NOT unacceptable.

In fact, when I had RAM go bad, I did high-level pro work (Photoshop etc.) and 3D gaming at 256 MB--with a laptop HD. Load times were longer, but the job got done. $50-75 is worth it to me, but not to everyone.

Bottom-end PCs tend to leave out far MORE vital things... like CD burners and antivirus software. Apple's not the only PC maker that wants you to buy options.

Also I believe RAM usage displays in OS X are easy to misinterpret. You can see high numbers like 3 GB, but I have been running for weeks with only 200-500 MB free on my HD, and I don't suffer for it.

The question becomes... is OS X actually DOING something of value to justify preferring more RAM? Just running the same apps doesn't mean Windows is doing as much behind the scenes as OS X is. I'm not the expert to answer that question, but I do know OS X does a lot for me... and that there's no free lunch.
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
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Chicago, IL
jbembe said:
So, overall ease of use should trump RAM IMO.

We aren't talking ease of use. We are talking perceived performance and what the minimum specs are for each OS that will still allow someone to multitask. Perceived performance is important for first time switchers. If the system seems drastically slower then a comparable $500 PC at CompUSA or Best Buy its going to influence their likelihood of purchasing another Mac down the road. Like it or not people will do other things while burning a CD, ripping a movie, downloading a file and that means using memory. Be a RAM or a disk swap file. Ease of use is important as well but keep in mind that hardware and software go hand in hand. A deficiency in one or the other will put a dent in the overall systems credibility.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,551
1,186
That $500 PC may better handle doing several other things at once while burning a DVD (although I don't think such multitasking is QUITE the norm for low-end shoppers). But it will fall short a zillion other areas that the Mac does great in--like security and software bundle and ease-of-use.

I'm sure SOME people judge the Mini with a stopwatch alone and no regard to actual out-of-the-box usefuleness, but I wonder how valuable a market those people could EVER be to Apple.

If, 2 years down the road, they think: "OS X and iLife offer nothing to me, and my Mini bogs down while multitasking," then they'll get a PC next time. But they'd do the same regardless of multitasking.
 

SiliconAddict

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
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0
Chicago, IL
nagromme said:
The drive RPM is because it's a laptop drive. You can't compare drive RPM to a Windows PC fairly unless that PC is as compact.
drive format is irrelevant. Again I'm talking perceived performance you are trying to ignore that fact by making the size of the mini more important then performance. To a certain extent that will hold up. But at the end of the day a 4800 with 256MB is going to feel a hell of a lot slower then a 5400 or 7200 with 512MB or 1GB. And it doesn’t change the fact that Apple could have fixed this situation by putting about $50 worth of components in the thing.

I recommend 512 to everyone, but I know people who can't tell the difference when they went from 256 to 768. The difference IS there, and it's a big one for me. But for many people, 256 is NOT unacceptable.
Then explain why just about every review I've read so far says the performance hurts on 256MB and recommends 512MB? If its so great no one should be complaining, but they are.


In fact, when I had RAM go bad, I did high-level pro work (Photoshop etc.) and 3D gaming at 256 MB--with a laptop HD. Load times were longer, but the job got done. $50-75 is worth it to me, but not to everyone.
I either call BS or you adjusted your work habits to meet that deficiency. How many apps did you have open at one time? What type and speed was your system and HD? At any rate you don’t do any major work in PS with 256MB without sitting there waiting forever for the task to complete. Try doing some work in iDVD while burning a CD and playing iTunes. Lets see which pukes on it first.
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,551
1,186
It's possible to find a mid-point between two simplistic extremes--and that's almost always the reasonable course.

One extreme is that 512 MB is always needed and anything less is always unacceptable. ("No one should be using 256MB.")

You act as though I take the other extreme--that 256 is always just great.

I have not, of course, said such a thing. Neither extreme is reasonable. I state a position in the middle of those extremes.

SiliconAddict said:
Then explain why just about every review I've read so far says the performance hurts on 256MB and recommends 512MB? If its so great no one should be complaining, but they are.
I've already explained why *I* recommend 512. Nobody's calling 256 "great"--but acceptable? For many people, definitely.

SiliconAddict said:
I either call BS or you adjusted your work habits to meet that deficiency. How many apps did you have open at one time? What type and speed was your system and HD? At any rate you don’t do any major work in PS with 256MB without sitting there waiting forever for the task to complete. Try doing some work in iDVD while burning a CD and playing iTunes. Lets see which pukes on it first.
Call me a liar all you like, it's still true. I've already said it was not ideal--I prefer 1 Gb myself--but it DID do the job. I did not modify my habits in terms of apps open at once. I did, as I stated, face longer load times--frequently. 1.25 Ghz G4 PowerBook. Drive RPM is higher than the Mini I believe. The point, however, is that OS X can be highly functional with 256 RAM, and that one person's judgment of that (like mine, which agrees with yours) is not the final answer for every buyer.

Maybe Apple chose the wrong compromise. Maybe they should have cut back something else, or raised the price. Time will tell.
 

shamino

macrumors 68040
Jan 7, 2004
3,386
130
Purcellville, VA
nagromme said:
I've already explained why *I* recommend 512. Nobody's calling 256 "great"--but acceptable? For many people, definitely.
While I agree that you can be productive with only 256M, I wouldn't ever recommend it to another person.

IMO, the boxed minis should come with 512M preloaded. Since you're targetting switchers, you can't expect them to know where the sweet spot is. You want them to have a good user experience right out of the box.

I also think, however, that 256M should be a BTO option (for a discount) so that people like me can buy a their own upgrade and save money over Apple's pricing. (Ideally, I'd actually like to be able to buy it with no RAM and install it all myself, but no big-name computer maker will do that.)
nagromme said:
Maybe Apple chose the wrong compromise. Maybe they should have cut back something else, or raised the price. Time will tell.
This is the big question. A higher price would probably be bad, since you'd start running up against the $800 eMac platform.

As for what to cut, if not RAM? That's a hard decision. At Apple's retail price, 512M adds $75. I don't think there's another component you could cut to save $75.

Unfortunately, as much as I think 256M is insufficient, Apple may not have had a better option available to them, given their pricing constraints.
 

24C

macrumors 6502a
Nov 9, 2004
519
0
IMO if you're a casual user, emailing and using the web, the 256 Mb is probably enough, because the system you might be moving from is probably worse.
However, as soon as you try to do more involved stuff 512 is always a lot better. I noticed a latency on my DVI P'book, when the top RAM clip broke and I was down to 1x256 module from 2x256. I had to get a new 512 stick from Crucial, and did I notice a difference. I didn't notice a slowdown ripping CDs to iTunes with 256, cos the limitation is the combo drive on my machine, but openng & using iPhoto was definitely slower.

I understand that from a PC standpoint, faster hard drives, more RAM, better GPU's, more USB ports, and line ins are the be all and end all, but they aren't in the Mac mini yet, and if they were... it wouldn't be a Mac mini or at it's pricepoint. Yes, it could have been better with hindsight, and I hope the next upgrade will nullify some of the criticisms.

PS I don't see the HD situation getting much better, 'cos it's a mobile derived product and it's small form factor will always put it at a disadvantage, especially when people just look at specs without realising the form factor has negative consequences too.
 

Applespider

macrumors G4
Let's face, we're not typical users and to us, a system with 256 would likely feel slow partly because we perceived it to be and partly because we're used to our systems with more RAM. To light users, 256 is OK - yeah, they'd notice an increase... but all that much?

My mother's iBook still only has 256 and she thinks it's just fine. When I use it, it drives me nuts waiting a couple of seconds for the System Prefs to open etc. She still manages to use Mail, Safari and Word without any hassle.
 

wrldwzrd89

macrumors G5
Jun 6, 2003
12,106
73
Solon, OH
Applespider said:
Let's face, we're not typical users and to us, a system with 256 would likely feel slow partly because we perceived it to be and partly because we're used to our systems with more RAM. To light users, 256 is OK - yeah, they'd notice an increase... but all that much?

My mother's iBook still only has 256 and she thinks it's just fine. When I use it, it drives me nuts waiting a couple of seconds for the System Prefs to open etc. She still manages to use Mail, Safari and Word without any hassle.
I've actually never owned a Mac with 256 MB of RAM, nor have I owned one with 128 MB.

Mac History:
1. Apple IIgs (RAM unknown)
2. PowerMac 7200/75 (64 MB, upgraded later from ?? MB)
3. 15" PowerBook 667 old (512 MB)
4. 17" iMac G4 (512 MB, upgraded at purchase time)
 

shamino

macrumors 68040
Jan 7, 2004
3,386
130
Purcellville, VA
wrldwzrd89 said:
1. Apple IIgs (RAM unknown)
According to Apple History, a IIgs has 256K on the motherboard and can be expanded to 8M. Later models came with 1M.

IIRC, they were often sold bundled with memory expansion cards as well. I've seen 1.2M and 3.2M systems (the 256K built-in, plus 1M or 3M expansion.)
 

jchen

macrumors member
Aug 2, 2004
68
0
San Francisco
Why is 256 megs RAM so bad? Where are the tests?

SiliconAddict said:
ARRRRGGGHHH!
No mention of upgrading to 512MB. Dang it! No one should be using 256MB. Esp new switchers. They are going to get the idea that the system is slow because the OS and its apps are going to continuously be thrashing the disk. *bangs head into keyboard* What was Apple thinking!??!
I think there's more emotion on this RAM issue than there is fact. Where are the "tests" that show 512 megs RAM is more better, and 1 gig RAM is much more better?

None.

The ONLY tests I've seen anywhere came from MacsOnly a few weeks back.

Test #1 & Test #2.

Summary? Not much difference. For the basic uses that the average person requires of a PC, it would appear that there's little substantive difference between 512 and 256 megs on a Mac mini.

Here's what I think-- most Mac users here, and most media pundits automatically assume that more RAM is better for every purpose. There's not much substance to back up that assertion unless there's a specific requirement for more RAM (which the average Joe does have).
 

stcanard

macrumors 65816
Oct 19, 2003
1,490
0
Vancouver
jchen said:
IThe ONLY tests I've seen anywhere came from MacsOnly a few weeks back.

Test #1 & Test #2.
As has been already discussed, those tests are useless for this purpose as they are small enough they can fit within the RAM to begin with.

The real answer to is 256 enough is what are your expectations?

I know several people who are perfectly happy with 256, and don't see a change in an upgrade. Why? Because all they use is Mail and Safari and they don't even switch back and forth between them.

I, on the other hand, saw a noticeable difference when I went from 512 to 1.25GB. Why? Because with my standard "running" configuration being something along the lines of iTunes, Adium, Acrobat, Eclipse, Virtual PC, NeoOffice/J plus any side tasks I happen to be doing, and a tendency to switch constantly between them, my tasks certainly do not fit into 512M ram.
 

tpatricks

macrumors member
Oct 19, 2004
78
0
Los Angeles, CA USA
That's the spirit!!

nagromme said:
...I recommend 512 to everyone, but I know people who can't tell the difference when they went from 256 to 768. The difference IS there, and it's a big one for me. But for many people, 256 is NOT unacceptable.

In fact, when I had RAM go bad, I did high-level pro work (Photoshop etc.) and 3D gaming at 256 MB--with a laptop HD. Load times were longer, but the job got done. $50-75 is worth it to me, but not to everyone.

Bottom-end PCs tend to leave out far MORE vital things... like CD burners and antivirus software. Apple's not the only PC maker that wants you to buy options.

Also I believe RAM usage displays in OS X are easy to misinterpret. You can see high numbers like 3 GB, but I have been running for weeks with only 200-500 MB free on my HD, and I don't suffer for it.

The question becomes... is OS X actually DOING something of value to justify preferring more RAM? Just running the same apps doesn't mean Windows is doing as much behind the scenes as OS X is. I'm not the expert to answer that question, but I do know OS X does a lot for me... and that there's no free lunch.
Jackpot. The key is probably the user, not the amount of RAM. For example, I have a dual 2.5 PowerMac G5 with 3 gigs RAM. I popped out 2 gigs. Sorry, I can't tell the difference in performance, though I seldom have more than half a dozen apps open at one time.

Then I pulled dual 256 meg chips from another Mac which cut it down to 512 megs RAM (from the 3 gigs). Again, not much difference. When I started opening up a few more apps, then things slowed down a bit. A bit. Otherwise, it was business as usual.

Sometimes "we" Mac users are a bit elitist when it comes to configuring and outfitting our Macs. The "more RAM is better" syndrome is probably one of those that could be revisited for the average Mac mini user.

For many, many switchers, 256 megs RAM will be fine. For those with a little more knowledge and experience (and money), they'll upgrade to the faster mini with more RAM, possibly a SuperDrive.

Generally, 256 megs RAM is probably fine. For the first six months our site was live it ran on a 1.25 ghz eMac with-- you guessed it-- 256 megs RAM.
:eek:
 

mfeldman

macrumors newbie
Aug 19, 2004
26
0
Useless? Think again!

stcanard said:
As has been already discussed, those tests are useless for this purpose as they are small enough they can fit within the RAM to begin with.
:confused:

How do you figure those tests are useless? From what I could read, the tests were basic user applications on the Mac and showed little difference between 256, 512, AND 1gig RAM. Remember, the original article above was from a mainstream media PC guy who loved it. He probably didn't mention anything about the "need" to upgrade RAM because, for his purpose and perhaps 90% of Mac mini buyers, 256 megs is fine. For those who want more, or are intimidated or deluded into getting more RAM, they'll get it.

If there's a "real" need for a gig of RAM on a Mac mini, then the owner probably should have something besides a Mac mini.