I have been on a bit of an Apple kick lately. I have had iPods for years, and a couple years ago I jumped to the iPhone. I have had a Mac Mini that I use at work for a couple years too. I am fairly agnostic when it comes to platforms and Operating Systems. I use a Dell Studio XPS for my daily laptop. I have an iPad for glancable data, monitoring, news, RSS and other fun stuff. I use a Mac Mini to keep current with Apple “things” and to assist with support of our Mac users, and to admin my several Linux servers (I primarilly use Redhat, and CentOS).
At home I run my own weather station, website, and participate in the Stanford Quake Catcher Network. I had a couple of older linux boxes in a rack in the garage. They were loud, and sucked down about 300 watts. When the new Mac Mini was announced, I decided the time was right, and so was the price. So a 1U and a 3U server were replaced with a single Mac Mini. The Mini uses about 15-22 watts (As measured by a Kill-o-Watt meter). It is virtually silent. It takes up a small corner of my desk instead of a rack in the garage. Plus, I get all the regular Mac bells and whistles. I can now use iMovie, etc. If I really wanted I could install Windows 7 virtualized. But I have a regular uber PC box for that.
My weather station is way more stable. And the quake catcher software makes a pretty cool screen saver. I have not “caught” any earthquakes yet. But I expect one any day now. It is a bit like snipe hunting. But I digress.
The new mini has dual display support, an SD mini card reader (in the back, so it is a pain to use), 4 USB ports, Mini DVI and HDMI. The HDMI is cool, but on my monitor I had to use the overscan feature to get the screen to the right size. This made the text a little fuzzy on my 720P 26″ display. So I used the DVI connector instead.
I have had it for a couple of weeks now and I have to say I really like the form factor. I like the operating system. I like the applications. It is zippy and responsive. The Mac Mini I have at work has been running almost 24/7 for over 2 years. I don’t really expect anything less with the new one.
With the addition of an external hard drive, I can easily use this as a home media server for music, pictures, etc and have some backup for redundancy in case of a drive failure.
If you are on the fence about Mac products, and want to get your feet wet, the mac mini is a great entry in the the world of Apple. You probably already have an extra keyboard and mouse lying around. And many monitors have multiple inputs. So you may already have everything you need to get started. If after you use it for a while and you find you are using he Mac Mini more often than your regular PC, when then you may have been a closet Apple person the entire time and just didn’t realize it. Or, like me, you just want to have the right tool for the job, and having both options available to you is just a smart bet.