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Tuesday, 01/11/05

The Mac Mini looks compelling. I was always a fan of the Cube, and was sorry to see its plug pulled. The price is lovely, well-targeted at many people (especially Windows people) who already have keyboards, mice, and VGA/DVI displays lying around. It's also a good option for people who want a cute little computer to go with their enormous new HDTVs.

The G4 is still a worthy performer by most people's standards, so I'm not concerned about that. The graphics card won't be able to hack CoreImage when Tiger comes out, however, and for a machine introduced just a few months before Tiger ostensibly ships, that's potentially more of a problem.

Unfortunately, the price takes a beating if the tech specs page is correct in asserting that any "[m]emory upgrade must be performed by an Apple Authorized Service provider." Mac OS X can sulk something fierce if you skimp on memory. With only one slot (as indicated by the round 1GB maximum), and suffering an extra expense to have it put into place, it doesn't make sense to get less than the maximum, which adds $425 to the sticker price from the Apple Store. Froogle indicates that even if you shop around, you're still spending about $300 for the 1GB "DDR 333" chip by itself, more than 30% higher than than the comparable PC2100 chip for my powerbook, before any cost of installation. Ow.

Update 1/12/05: I was wrong about the cost of third-party RAM: it's way cheaper than I thought, with three sources and four brands below $160 for a shipped 1 GB module. That's close to Apple's typical 3-to-1 markup for factory-installed RAM. It's far more affordable to buy it yourself and have it professionally installed than I thought yesterday.

There's no telling yet how protracted a job that'll be, as the Mini allegedly won't even have screws, but at least the RAM chip doesn't appear to be buried inside the unit. Thanks to Tony Cary and Mike Slater for the price update and the timely picture of the internals.

Update update: Henry Norr, who is credible even when being published by Macintouch, says that Mac Mini users can laboriously open the case and replace their own RAM, which, with moderate hilarity, "does not void the warranty unless you damage something." Airport and Bluetooth will not be user-installable after purchase, and will only be dealer-installable as a pair. 11:43AM «

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