The Mac Mini Netbook

The Mac Mini from Apple isn't exactly a netbook. But that shouldn't be surprising, since everything the company does is a little different from the norm, no? While it may not fit neatly into the minibook category, it still offers many of the same features that sub-notebook buyers are looking for... and then some.

The Mac Mini is compact, lightweight, and portable. At a mere 6.5" x 6.5" by 2" you can slip it into a carrying case with ease. At just under 3 lbs you'll hardly know it's there. Those specs easily compare with the majority of netbooks. Though it's a little more cube-like and less the flat, wide mini-laptop style, it's still small and weighs the same as many of the competitors' products.

It exceeds those competing machines in some important ways, though. The 2.0GHz (or 2.26GHz) Intel Core 2 Duo CPU blazes compared to the (still quite good) Intel Atom running at 1.6GHz. It's more than just a difference of clock speed frequency. The Atom is a great processor but it simply doesn't have the features of the more powerful Core 2 Duo.

The Mini also offers a 1066MHz frontside bus speed. That's the circuitry that moves data from memory to CPU and back. That's double the FSB speed of most netbooks on the market. The hard drive is also double that of most netbooks at either 120GB or 320GB, depending on configuration.

And, thanks to the 1GB (or 2GB) DDR3 memory - compared to 512MB to 1GB DDR2 onboard other Netbooks - you can expect stellar performance. It gets even better if you max out the Mini with 4GB of RAM, double what any other netbook allows to date. Add in the 3MB on-chip L2 cache (the intermediate storage on the processor for instructions and data used as applications run, typically 512KB for netbooks) and you really have a high-end hybrid here.

That performance is enhanced, of course, by Apple's outstanding operating system, based on Unix. Secure, smooth, with the company's well-known focus on style and ease of use, you'll find yourself glad to be different from the Windows crowd.

You won't have any problem using all that power anywhere you want to go, either. The built-in Airport Extreme Wi-Fi ensures that. The unit also offers built-in Bluetooth 2.1, only available as an option on most netbooks, and even then not on all.

There is also a built-in 10/100/1 Gigabit Ethernet connector, if you want to go hard wired. (10/100Mb is the best that minibooks supply.) Customers can also purchase an optional USB external modem. With 5 USB ports in back you'll find plenty of slots to insert add-ons.

The only place the Mac Mini really comes up short is in true portability. The unit itself is small and lightweight and provides communications features to allow you to take it anywhere. But there is no built-in screen. Still, the graphics support up to 1920 x 1200 on DVI or VGA, far surpassing the built-in screens of all minibooks. Carry a small, lightweight LCD flat panel with you in the carrying case and plug it in and you're ready to go.

The Mac Mini is not really a true netbook, but in many ways it is far superior. It won't satisfy the needs of those who want to take a netbook to school or on a plane trip. For one thing, you have to plug it into a wall. There's no laptop-style battery. But for customers looking for a highly portable, yet still extremely powerful small computing platform, it is an excellent choice.

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