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Are you wondering what goes on inside Apple’s Mac mini? Perhaps you’ve bought one and want to see what you can do with it?
If so, read on to discover everything you need to know about the Mac mini, from what it is, to how to set it up and tons of different things you can use it for, outside of a regular PC.
- The Apple Mac mini is a versatile machine noted for having a plethora of ports. Given the machine's age, it might be tempting to think of the computer as outdated. However, for specific uses such as video editing or even server hosting, the small Mac mini is.
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What is a Mac mini and what does it do?
The Mac mini is a small desktop computer made by Apple. What makes the Mac mini different from a regular computer is that it’s shipped without an accompanying screen, keyboard or mouse. As Apple likes to say, it’s “BYODKM” (Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse).
The reason behind the Mac mini being shipped solo, is because most of its use cases feature around using it to power up another device, as we’ll discuss in more detail below.
It also makes for more of a flexible purchase. For example, if you already have a screen, or a keyboard and mouse, you can pair these with the Mac mini rather than forking out for new ones. And if you don’t, you can easily purchase them alongside the Mac mini anyway.
The Mac mini has been around since 2005 (launched at the same time as the iPod shuffle) but its design and functionality have changed since then.
The latest 3.6 GHz Mac mini released in 2018 comes in two types of processing speed, the 3.6 GHz Mac mini Core i3 costing about $799 and the 3.0 GHz Mac mini Core i5 costing about $1099.
Specification of the Mac mini
Uses for the Mac mini
- Share presentations to screen
- Listen to music through an app like Spotify
- Share photos to a TV screen
- Access emails
- Play games
Benefits of the Mac mini
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Some of the key benefits of the Mac mini include:
- The cheapest Mac Apple sells
- Built in apps such as FaceTime, iBooks, Maps, iTunes and Mail
- Multiple ports, making it more akin to a PC than a media device
- Apple quotes that with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, the device is able to “keep up with computers twice its size”
- Wi‑Fi and Bluetooth
- Easy setup for a keyboard, mouse or screen
- The perfect size to use as the centre of a “digital home”
How to set up a Mac mini
Here’s how to get your Mac mini running, from getting it out of the box to using it for a purchase such as connecting to your home TV.
Before you begin setup some of the questions you may want to consider include:
- What screen will you be connecting to? You’ll need a desktop or a TV screen to get your Mac mini up and running
- How will you connect to the screen? Depending on what screen you’re connecting to you may need a converter lead
- Do you have a Wi-Fi connection? You’ll need this to set up some of the Mac mini features
- How will you control the Mac mini? You’ll likely need either a keyboard and mouse combo or an Apple remote
Once you’ve made your decision and purchased any additional items you need, here’s how to get set up.
- Add power
Plug the power adaptor into your Mac mini and plug the other end into your power outlet. Press the power button on the back of the Mac mini.
2. Attach to your TV or monitor
Connect your Mac mini to your TV or desktop. The Mac mini comes with a HDMI-to-DVI adapter for connecting to a monitor's DVI port, which will allow you to connect to an Apple monitor.
If you want to connect to a TV screen you may need to purchase a mini-displayport-to-VGA adapter which will allow you to connect your Mac mini to a standard analog monitor, projector, or LCD that uses a VGA connector or cable.
3. Connect to Wi-Fi
Once turned on, the setup guide should take you through a few simple steps, including setting up a Wi-Fi connection.
4. Sign in with your Apple id
This will give you access to the App Store and and will link your iCloud account if you wish to connect to your Mail, Photos, Calendar and so on.
5. Begin using your Mac mini
From here, you can begin using your PC or TV screen as a computer, using the desktop to search for apps, open web pages and more.
What can you do with your Mac mini?
Want to ensure you’re getting the most from your Mac mini device? Here are some ideas on how you can use it:
- Access apps on a TV screen
The Mac mini is a great way to take everything you’d usually do on your phone or laptop and access it on your TV screen. This could be sharing photos with a room, opening mail or accessing your documents.
- Use any screen as your computer
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The Mac mini is super light, which means you can take it anywhere, plug it into a desktop and you’ll have a powerful computer. This allows you to work from anywhere, or set up shop in any location where there’s a monitor and Wi-Fi available.
- Set up digital signage with the Mac mini
The Mac mini is a great way to turn any screen into a digital sign. This allows you to pre-schedule and setup content to show on your digital screen such as social media feeds, presentations, travel updates, news feeds and more. Read the full guide on setting up digital signage with the Mac mini here.
4. Create a home viewing centre
With the Mac mini and a screen, or desktop, you can create a home viewing centre that allows you to watch movies, surf the internet and listen to music. Via streaming apps such as Netflix, or even through movies you’ve bought on iTunes, you can easily set up movies to play on any screen. You can also use music apps available in the Apple App Store or use Safari to get online.
5. View and share photos
The Mac Mini includes a SDXC card slot so you can simply remove the memory card from your camera and insert it. This allows you to view photos on a monitor, or share them with the room from your TV screen.
Mac mini question buster
Can you use any monitor with a Mac mini?
The Mac mini doesn’t come with a monitor, but you can connect it to one using one of the ports on the back of the device. Using the right adapter, you can connect the Mac Mini to any computer screen with a VGA port. The Mac Mini ships with a HDMI-to-DVI adapter but it’s only really Apple monitors which use DVI, so for a regular monitor you may need a HDMI-to-VGA or mini displayport-to-VGA connector instead.
How do you turn on a Mac mini?
Simply press the power button on the Mac mini box.
Can you use any keyboard with a Mac mini?
Most keyboards and mouses can be used with the Mac mini by connecting them using the USB port. For Bluetooth devices, connect the USB dongle to the Mac mini using the USB port.
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The Mac mini is a tiny computer with enormous capabilities. Measuring just 7.7 inches (19.7 centimeters) square and 1.4 inches (3.6 centimeters) high, this small machine can be connected to almost any large display screen and numerous peripheral devices. Introduced by Apple in 2005, the Mac mini was marketed towards people switching over from PCs to Macs. The upgraded 2011 model, priced at $599 for the most basic version, is the perfect computer for a budget-conscious computer buyer who wants to move on from PCs but who also doesn't want to splurge on an iMac [source: Apple].
Because the targeted audience is former PC users, the Mac mini is sold without a mouse, keyboard or screen. PC users can use all of their old accessories with their new Mac mini while enjoying a new easy-to-use software package. Because of its small size and multiple ports, many Mac mini customers use the system as the hub of their home media center. It's nearly silent when running, stores easily and is less susceptible to viruses than a PC.
The 2011 Mac mini includes a new innovation, Thunderbolt. This upgraded display port supports both video and data connections and is capable of transferring data at 10 gigabits per second [source: Apple].
One possible downside to the Mac mini is its lack of an optical drive, a cut that might be a deal- breaker for people who frequently use their computers to read CDs or DVDs. Although this move cuts down on Apple's costs in production, and CDs and DVDs might soon become the next floppy disk (replaced by streaming data), the lack of a CD drive may isolate customers who primarily want to use the Mac mini as a part of a media center. On the upside, you can use the DVD or CD sharing feature of the Mac mini's operating system to wirelessly borrow the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC. In other words, you can install applications from CDs or DVDs without having an optical drive in the Mac mini.
Read on to learn more about Mac mini specs.
The Mac mini is available in three versions, and these specs are for the most basic computer. The Mac mini is 1.4 inches (3.6 centimeters) in height, 7.7 inches (19.7 centimeters) wide, 7.7 inches (19.7 centimeters) deep and weighs 2.7 pounds (1.22 kilograms). Onedrive for business for mac. It is equipped with a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3MB on-chip shared L3 cache processor and has 2GB of memory and a dual 500GB hard drive [source: Apple].
In terms of available storage space, the Mac mini is configurable to dual 750GB hard drives, single or dual 256GB solid-state drives or 256GB solid-state drive and 750GB hard drive. It features Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 288MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory [source: Apple].
What sets the latest Mac minis apart from other home computing options is the addition of Thunderbolt port, which Apple says is 12 times faster than the previous FireWire 800, can handle several peripherals at the same time and allow 10 Gbps of throughput in both directions. There is also an HDMI port to connect your big screen HDTV, an HDMI to DVI adapter, and support for dual display and video mirroring [source: Apple].
The Mac mini also has a FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps), four USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps), a SDXC card slot, a gigabit Ethernet port and audio in/out connections [source: Apple].
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On the next page, we'll discuss Mac mini software.
The Mac mini comes equipped with all of the software included in the OS X Lion bundle, Apple's newest operating system released in July 2011. We'll take a look at just a few of the highlights.
If you're already familiar with Macs, you'll recognize many of the features of OS X Lion and catch some new additions to Apple's newest operating system. The OS X Lion software bundle includes all of your favorite Apple applications. You can access your iTunes library, talk with friends on iChat, make video calls on FaceTime, take pictures in Photo Booth, play GarageBand, make an iMovie and view a QuickTime video [source: Apple].
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The package also includes all of your communication and organizational applications such as Mail, iCal and Address Book. The Mac mini comes equipped with Time Machine, an app that allows you to back up all of your data. You can access the Mac App Store to purchase and download additional apps for your Mac mini. You also can surf the internet through the Safari web browser. All of your apps are stored on your Launchpad start screen, giving you quick and easy access to them. Some new features and upgrades to the Mac mini include AirDrop, a Lion-to-Lion sharing feature that uses a WiFi connection, vertical text displays to support East Asian languages and multiuser screen sharing [source: Apple].
Even though the variety of apps might seem overwhelming, OS X Lion is user-friendly and intuitive. Its simple design and interface should make the switch from a PC to a Mac mini pretty effortless. In general, reviews for the operating system are very positive: MacWorld gave the system a 4.5 out of 5 rating [source: Snell].
Although the Mac mini is significantly less expensive than an iMac, you have to provide all peripherals and accessories. If you don't already have a screen, keyboard or mouse, you'll have to buy them to operate your Mac mini, and you might end up spending more than you would if you bought an iMac. The 2011 iMac comes with a camera, more powerful processor and hard drive, speakers, keyboard and other accessories for $1,199 [source:Apple] .
Depending on how and where you plan to use your Mac mini, you might need a mounting kit. For instance, if your Mac mini is going to be mainly used as part of a home media center, you could mount the computer on a wall or ceiling. You could also choose from a variety of Mac mini table mounts. These mounting systems will securely affix your Mac mini to the surface that you choose so that you can easily access your device and not worry about it falling and breaking. When choosing a mounting system, keep in mind that you won't want the mount to cover important ports that you frequently use.
Although the Mac mini comes with four USB ports, an extra USB hub might come in handy if you're connecting multiple devices to the computer. Once you plug in your mouse and keyboard, you've used up two ports already and you haven't added your printer or other peripherals yet, so this could be useful.
Finally, since the Mac mini does not come with an optical drive, a good accessory to have on hand is the MacBook Air SuperDrive [source: Frakes]. Although it's designed to be used with a MacBook, it's compatible to the Mac mini and is a good option if you plan to play CDs or DVDs on your computer.
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- Elliot, Matt. 'Battle of the Cheap.' CNET. (August 16, 2011). http://reviews.cnet.com/1990-3118_7-5690541-1.html
- EPEAT. (August 30, 2011). http://www.epeat.net/
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- H-Squared. 'Mini Mount.' (August 20, 2011). http://store.h-sq.com/HSQ-MINI+MOUNT-X.html
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- Wipro Green Tech. 'FAQ on PVC/BFR Productions. (August 30, 2011). http://www.wiprogreentech.com/pvc_bfr_faqs.html