Mac Mini Looks Great But Sounds So-So
Angela's apparently got a death wish this week (or a Mac-fans-please-send-crankymail wish, anyway), as she states that, for Windows users, the Mac interface may not be vastly superior to the one to which they're accustomed, but it probably won't prove hard to master once they've gotten the hang of it. (And reiterating: the most intuitive user interface is the one you're used to. Bring it on, Apple evangelists.) Steve concurs, noting that there are subtle differences in the way menus work, there's that one-button mouse to consider, and there are dozens of niggling little differences that you'll have to adjust to and figure out.
That said, one of the things Wintel users will happily adjust to is not having to deal with most of their current security problems--Macs, at least for the moment, are significantly more secure than Windows PCs. An Apple machine won't eliminate all your potential woes, but switching to Mac will sure cut down on the virus and worm attacks. (Thanks to the underlying code? Thanks to the smaller installed-user base? The Duo are uncharacteristically silent on this point.)
So what's not to like about this thing? The Duo have a few quibbles with the Mac Mini. Along with one FireWire port, you've got exactly two USB ports. That's skimpy by modern standards, so figure you'll have to buy a USB hub eventually. They're cheap, but it's one more wire and one more expense. And, returning to the week's aesthetics theme, you're not going to end up with quite the pristine look you see in the ads. At minimum, two cables will connect to the Mini: the power cord, and the one from the monitor. (If you choose a wired keyboard and mouse, that's two more.)
And the unit has a tinny, tiny speaker, which leads the Duo to the Mini's astonishing shortcoming: audio. Steve and Angela noticed a surprising amount of audio noise, something you used to hear a lot in portable units (since the components are crammed in there closely). And the CD player made a racket you could hear across the room--drowning out the music if the volume was low. The audio jack also had surprisingly low output. All these problems don't affect the music itself--it'll sound as good as ever once it's safely on your IPod--but it's a bizarre shortcoming in a machine otherwise bound to appeal to younger users.
But the Duo save the (arguably) best for last: a secret weapon that's a nearly irresistible lure to anyone considering a change of platforms. Anyone who's gone through the process of upgrading a Windows computer knows it to be a truly nerve-wracking, time-consuming process. Macs, however, come with software called Setup Assistant, which lets you hook two machines together with a FireWire cable and move everything from the old one to the new one--all your old files, all your applications, even your registration info. It would be nicer if it worked over your home network, and it would be even nicer if it worked directly with the older Mac operating system, OS 9, but the Windows world has absolutely nothing this elegant. Easy upgrades, says Angela: that's a Mac style secret Microsoft doesn't want you to know about.
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