Mac News Review

$699 Mac mini G4 Blowout, Intel Graphics Substandard for Gaming, Mac mini Core Solo Lags, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.03.24

If you've been thinking about picking up a G4-based Mac mini, Costco is blowing them out in their retail stores (not online) while supplies last - the 1.42 GHz SuperDrive model with AppleCare, a wireless mouse (not Mighty Mouse), and a wireless keyboard for $699.99 - the retail price of the discontinued Mac mini G4 alone.

On the Intel side, the Mac mini Core Duo continues to get rave reviews except among gamers - not the typical audience for an entry-level computer. And the Mac mini Core Solo isn't getting raves either. We still wish Apple offered a Core Duo version with a Combo drive and without all the unnecessary wireless stuff at US$599....

On the non-Apple front, VisiKey has a "large print" keyboard for the Mac, OWS has trimmed miniStack V2 prices, and PaperToolsPro has a program to help students take research notes, handle sources, and avoid plagiarism. Best of all, the US$55 program is available for both Macs and Windows and can be run from an iPod or flash drive.

PowerBook, iBook, iPod, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. News about Apple's transition to Intel CPUs and other Intel developments is covered in The Macintel Report. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Mac mini G4 Blowout at Costco

More Mac mini News & Opinion

Tips

Reviews

Products

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

Mac mini G4 Blowout at Costco

Apple Dumps G4 Mac minis at Costco

SvenOnTech reports:

"Looks like you can pick up a good deal on the old and 'dated' Mac minis with the legacy IBM-based CPU in them. For $699.99, you'll get 1.43 GHz PowerPC G4, 512 MB SDRAM, 80 GB hard drive, SuperDrive (DVD+/-RW/CD-RW), wireless keyboard and mouse (single button with no scroll wheel) and thrown in for good measure, a three year AppleCare warranty."

Link: Apple Dumps G4 Mac minis at Costco

Got a Yen for a Mac mini Classic Bundle? Head to Costco

O'Reilly.net's Todd Ogasawara writes:

"Dropped by Costco on my way home tonight and noticed someone cabling a Mac mini to a shelf. If you want to get a Mac mini classic (G4) bundle, head to Costco. $700 gets you a mini, keyboard/mouse (wireless I think), and 3 year AppleCare."

Link: Got a Yen for a Mac mini Classic Bundle? Head to Costco

More Mac mini News & Opinion

BusinessWeek Looking for Mac mini Users

BusinessWeek's Peter Burrows says:

"I'm doing an article for the magazine, and could use some help. I'm hoping to hear from anyone that owns a Mac mini - particularly the new Bonjour-equipped, Intel-based models - and are using it as a way to get media into their living room. Could be to play music, or to watch videos, or whatever.

"Let me hear from you - and quickly, if you don't mind. I'm trying to file the story today, so I don't have to work on it while in Disneyland with the family next week. You can send comments to this post, or email me at peter_burrows@businessweek.com"

Link: Hey, Any Mac mini Users Out There?

Mac mini Fills out the Living Room

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro says:

"Decades ago, a home computer was often expected to use a television as its monitor. With Apple's newly revised Mac mini, we've come full circle - only now the computer costs as much as some late-1970s TVs, while many of today's high-definition TVs sell for as much as home computers did back in the day.

"This tiny white box of a machine represents Apple's first serious stab at a goal Microsoft began pursuing in 2002 with its Media Center Edition of Windows XP. The idea is to make the computer at home in the living room, not just the office, by giving it an interface and a remote control that invite people to play their music, view their photos and watch their videos from the couch."

Link: Apple's Mac mini, Filling Out the Living Room

Mac mini's Intel Graphics Substandard for Gaming

macblast's ashmadux says:

"10-12fps on Unreal Tournament 2k4? Pathetic, even by pathetically low standards. Why don't they ask Apple's senior director of desktops, Tom Boger, if anyone should be interested in such marginal graphics ability. And soon enough ATI and already Nvidia will have hardware acceleration for MPEG4, so that's a wash as well. Sigh.

"You know, if I see one more link to Macworld's 'breakdown' of the [Intel-based] Mini's graphics abilities I'm going to go hurl - so many sites, including IMG [Inside Mac Games] has referenced it. Not to attack an established Mac entity, but the article once again just takes a nice easy glance over the true problem here (they tend to glance over a lot of things - no guts, no opinion). The original post on this topic was to address the greater situation of the entire Mac graphics market. Attempting to be a gamer on your Mac you learn really quick what you limitations are - and they outweigh the strengths by an order of magnitude. Limited performance is likely to change with the Intel platform, but by how much? Again, we really need to help Inside Mac Games get some traffic, there isn't a new game in sight on them pages. The benefit of no choices? You don't have to 'worry' about it. But what if I want to, huh Apple?"

Editor's note: For non-gamers, the new mini's graphics are just fine. dk

Link: Mac mini's Graphics: Substandard to Say the Least

Display Rotation, AirPort Reception, HD Playback, and Other Mac mini Issues

Macworld's Rob Griffiths says:

"After last week's overdose of mini-related topics, here's one final wrap-up, addressing a few open questions that were posted in the forum discussions.

  • Display rotation
  • AirPort reception
  • HD playback at high resolutions
  • HDTV connectivity
  • Overall wrap-up"
Link: Mac mini Series: HD Playback Issues

Digital Living Room Articles on Mini Ture_MacJournal

What awaits us for the Digital Living Room in new accessories and appliances from Apple?

Tips

OS X Versions/Builds Included with Intel-based Macs

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Learn the version(s) of Mac OS X included with Intel-based Macs.

"Important: You cannot normally use a Mac OS version earlier than the one included with the computer.

  • iMac (Early 2006) Jan 2006 10.4.4 - 8G1165, 8G1171, 8G1172
  • MacBook Pro Feb 2006 10.4.5 - 8G1453
  • Mac mini (Early 2006) Mar 2006 10.4.5 - 8H1619"
Link: Mac OS: Versions, Builds Included with Intel-based Macs

Reviews

Intel Mac mini Good at What It Does

Macsimum News' Dennis Sellers says:

"Nope, the first Intel Mac mini hasn't added digital video recording capabilities (and, according to Apple's Phil Schiller, may never), it's still a good Mac at a decent price for those needing an entry-level system. Keep the phrase 'entry level system' in mind when you read this review because it's the key to putting everything in perspective. I've played around with the Core Duo version a bit, and here's what I've found.

"First, let me note that I have mixed feelings about the Intel Mac mini's price point. On the one hand, the dual-core Mac mini's US$799 price tag seems to be a bit steep. On the other hand, it does have a dual core processor, something pretty impressive in an entry-level system.

"The Intel Mac mini is the first mini to utilize Intel integrated graphics versus the ATI Radeon graphics processor used in the previous Mac mini design. It sports an Intel GMA 950 graphics processor with 64 MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory. There's quite a bit of debate about this, but it seems to me to be a step down from the previous PowerPC Mac minis."

Link: Intel Mac mini Good at What It Does

First Impressions: Mini Core Solo

macsupport.ca's Craig Reidel reports:

"This past week I had the opportunity to check out the three new Intel Macs at the local Apple reseller, Carbon Computers. I've read all the reviews and interpretations of how Rosetta works but I wanted to see first hand what these new Intel chips have to offer.

"First up the Mac mini Core Solo. I really wanted to like this machine. I think it's a fantastic size, and it's so quiet, but the performance was really lacking. It'd played 720p video alright, but it just felt slow overall and hooked up to a 20" Apple Display didn't help things. I owned a 1.42 Mac mini for over 8 months so I know what that machine had to offer. I found Rosetta's performance to be really disappointing as Word bounced in the dock 10-15 times before finally opening. I really think that the value just isn't there for the new Intel minis. The main reason is that when you price out a mini with 1 GB RAM, you are really starting to get close to the price of the 17" iMac. If the mini had some different features such as TV recording capabilities or something else to set it apart from the iMac so that the cost could be justified, then I could see a place for it."

Link: First Impressions: Mini Core Solo

1.66 GHz Mac mini Core Duo vs. 2 GHz 20" iMac Core Duo

The 2.0 GHz iMac is 20% faster than the Mac mini Core Duo on CPU intensive tasks and a lot faster for graphics, gaming, and copying files. You can check out the details at MacSpeedZone's Mac Performance In The Raw.

Link: Mac mini 1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo versus iMac Intel Core Duo 2 GHz 20" - Performance, Reviews & Prices

Products

VisiKey's Large Print Keyboards Fully Macintosh Compatible

VisiKeyPR: VisiKey, the maker of the first consumer-oriented, full-featured large-print keyboard, has just released its new and improved visually enhanced keyboards. VisiKey keyboards feature high contrast large print that is four times larger than standard keyboards. Customers span all age groups and range from the visually impaired to the average computer user. Seniors and users that wear glasses indicate that they are particularly happy with their VisiKey products.

The idea behind the keyboard is extremely simple: Larger lettering + high contrast = increased visibility for a more comfortable use. Today, 136 million Americans wear prescription lenses and large computer monitor sales are up by an amazing 70% over the past two years. VisiKey's Enhanced Visibility Keyboard has filled the gap for the 50% of computer users that are not touch typists.

The new VisiKey products offer:

  • New Drivers - Updated drivers with our new HotKey Manager© will allow users to further customize the 15 media keys to open any file or launch any program. Alternatively, if the user prefers, any or all buttons can be disabled.
  • Macintosh Compatibility - The new drivers make the VisiKey keyboard 100% Macintosh compatible and programmable.
  • New Layout - VisiKey keyboards are adopting a more traditional keyboard layout by standardizing the size of the enter key and increasing the size of the backspace key.
  • All of our plastics have been upgraded for a "heftier" feel, and extended product life. The "touch" of our new keyboard has been enhanced to give you that quiet and firm "clickless" typing experience.
  • New Look - VisiKey's packaging has received an extreme makeover. The new box design has a sleeker, more updated look.

VisiKey

The VisiKey Enhanced Visibility Internet Keyboard Model 110-EVIK is the first keyboard of it's kind, combining the visibility of large white on black print for increased visibility and contrast, with the Internet and media center functionality of today's best keyboards. The Enhanced Visibility lettering system is rated at 20/300 on the Snellen Visual Acuity Scale, most other keyboards are rated at 20/70.

  • USB and PS/2 compatibility insures that it can be used with almost any computer configuration.
  • Plug and play with Windows 2000 and XP (although we highly recommend use of our drivers), and compatible with Mac OS X 10.1-10.4x
  • The new HotKey Manager software allows you to customize the functions of all 15 of our X-keys, and provides compatibility for Windows and Macintosh users.
  • VisiKeyMac users will appreciate our Apple/option keys when using standard keyboard shortcuts.
  • *Power Center gives you fingertip control of sleep wake and powering you computer off, without ever moving your hands from the keyboard.

Price: $39.95

For more information, visit the VisiKey website or phone 1-866-683-2276

Link: VisiKey Enhanced Visibility Internet Keyboard

OWC Drops Prices on miniStack V2

PR: Up to 500 GB of high performance with a space saving FireWire/USB 2.0 hub.

miniStack V2Named the Mac mini "Accessory of the Year" by 123Macmini.com, the miniStack dramatically expands the hard drive capacity and the number of FireWire and USB ports of the Mac mini.

"The combination of the new miniStack V2 and the new Intel Mac mini creates the ideal media center for any home," said Jennifer Soule, sales manager for NewerTech.

  • Matches the sleek Mac mini look
  • Unique Cooling system, including Smart Fan
  • 2 FireWire and 3 USB ports available
  • Security slot and slots for internal cooling

High performance 3.5" ATA/6 7200 RPM Drive with 2 MB or 8 MB data buffer doesn't just give you more storage, it also provides far better performance than any internal Mac mini hard drive option as well. Use the NewerTech miniStack as your Startup Drive for an instant performance boost!

The new Intel-based Mac mini is available in two configurations, one incorporating Intel's Core Solo chip and a 60 gigabyte (GB) hard drive and the other equipped with the faster Core Duo chip and an 80 GB hard drive.

The miniStack V2 from NewerTech expands the hard drive capacity up to 500 GB.

When paired with the Mac mini, the NewerTech miniStack V2 allows ergonomic USB and FireWire port access on the side of the media center. This allows extremely easy access to download photos, music, and video. As a stand alone, the Mac mini does not allow side access.

"Apple's Mac mini and NewerTech's miniStack serve the same purpose: to bring the latest and greatest technology to the home at an appealing price. Paired together the Mac mini and the miniStack make the perfect home entertainment center. The mini provides the operation and the miniStack provides the muscle," said Larry O'Connor, president of NewerTech.

Fitting the same physical footprint and specifically designed to be aesthetically matched, the Mac mini and NewerTech miniStack V2 make a visually appealing, yet unobtrusive combination as a media center.

System Requirements

Mac Requirements:

  • FireWire 400 (1394a): Mac OS 9.2 or higher
  • USB 2.0: Mac OS 10.2 or higher
  • USB 1.1: Mac OS 9.2 or higher

Windows Requirements

  • FireWire 400 (1394a): Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
  • USB 2.0: Windows ME/2000/XP
  • USB 1.1: Windows ME/2000/XP

Prices

  • 0 GB 'Add Your Own HD' - $79.95
  • 80 GB 7200 RPM 2 MB $129.00
  • 160 GB 7200 RPM 8 MB $159.00
  • 250 GB 7200 RPM 8 MB $189.00
  • 320 GB 7200 RPM 8 MB $219.00
  • 400 GB 7200 RPM 8 MB $309.00
  • 500 GB 7200 RPM 8 MB $439.00

Models with a preinstalled hard drive include:

Dantz Retrospect Express 6.0

Designed for safety and security, Retrospect protects your desktop or notebook against loss due to viruses, newly installed software, user error, damaged hardware, hardware upgrades, hackers, and lost or stolen computers. Retrospect Express provides complete protection, ease of use, and fast backups with 100% accurate restores.

Intech Speed Tools

Intech Speed Tools consists of a suite of utilities managed by an application which controls the launching, documentation and version control of each individual component utility, such as Disk Defrag and QuickBack. An easy-to-use installation and removal application is provided to make installation a snap, yet powerful enough to allow you to customize which utility component set you would like to create.

Link: miniStack V2, OWC
Link: NewerTech miniStack: A Great Drive Even if You Don't Own a Mac mini, LEM

Software

PaperToolsPro Makes Taking Notes and Avoiding Plagiarism Easy

PR: ePen&Inc. has released PaperToolsPro 2.0 making research and documentation easier and more efficient with the ability to save files containing graphics, sound recordings, and video clips for note taking and bibliography entries and a simplified search window. PaperToolsPro helps researchers in the fields of publishing, business, and education - from middle school to graduate school - simplify and organize note taking and avoid plagiarism.

PaperToolsPro is designed for professional or student writers to enter publication information for bibliography entries and citations and to take notes either as quotations or notes in their own words and identify that information with descriptors and keywords. This process is carried out right on their computer as they find information online or from a memory stick or iPod where PaperToolsPro can be installed and run. Writers may carry their well-used laptops in their book bags or brief cases, but they may not carry 3 x 5 note cards for note taking, bibliography entries, and genuine processing the information.

Some software permits users to collect information - web pages, images, sound clips, and text - by dragging it from the Internet into a page without creating an accurate bibliography entry and without reading, understanding, analyzing or synthesizing the information. Lacking a rigorous note taking structure, users may not take notes on this information or can confuse any annotations they make with the copied words, thus commit accidental plagiarism in the final paper. Citation management software creates citations and bibliographies in numerous styles, but has no provisions for taking notes.

Unlike Internet detection services like Turnitin.com that attempt to catch writers plagiarizing without distinguishing intentional cheating from simple documentation errors, PaperToolsPro is an educational tool to help writers learn good researching skills and ethics.

PaperToolsPro, helps writers:

  • Gather information - quotations, notes, and sources (text, audio, and video) - to create note cards
  • Read critically to put information in their own words
  • Accurately record sources and page numbers
  • Create bibliography and citation entries in correct MLA, APA, ACS, CBE, AAAS, and Chicago styles
  • Organize notes with a search query
  • Transfer notes with citations into a rough draft on a word processing page.

The new features of the PaperToolsPro 2.0 make research and documentation easier and more efficient than earlier versions - Access to all note taking and bibliography functions from tabs on the main page Files such as graphics, sound recordings, video clips, and web pages can be saved in a folder for supporting notes and bibliography entries Ideas Page available as a text editor on main page for continual view to list pre-reading research questions and main ideas found while note taking; used to create outline of paper Keywords entered are listed on main page Clicking a keyword from the keyword menu enters it on a new note card Search query window has been simplified.

Sources can be imported as citations and bibliography entries from citation management programs like Endnote. The physical act of writing note cards is tiring and tedious. Once students become disengaged, they will mechanically scan for main ideas only and copy words without realizing these words that will appear in their final papers are not in their vocabulary and sentence structure. Not only will plagiarism enter their papers and violate schools' academic honesty policies, but the students will have lost the opportunity to process the information they should be learning.

For students today who communicate digitally on a keyboard, typing their notes into PaperToolsPro makes this tiresome task easy, especially since the content of their notes will ultimately be typed into their papers. PaperToolsPro provides the means to type notes that clearly distinguish quotations and notes in the users' own words along with the source from which they came and then efficiently transfer that typed information into a draft. The source of all information will be cited with accuracy and in the correct format, a process students find cumbersome, boring, and even unnecessary.

Because conventional notes cards as well as highlighted text on printed copies are often produced without understanding the material, the final cursory information is difficult to organize. Because PaperToolsPro requests for each note card a descriptor and up to three keywords for each piece of information, the search query provided in the program promotes organizing the notes not by source but by clusters and a hierarchy of ideas. By following the tutorial within the program, students have discovered that they understand their researched information, made connections between ideas through keywords, and organized their notes into an outline so that the difficult part of writing their paper is accomplished before they begin their rough draft.

Available in Mac or PC, PaperToolsPro on a CD costs $55. Quantity prices and site licenses are also available. Copies can be purchased online.

A free, fully functional demo copy of both versions can be downloaded from the website.

Link: PaperToolsPro 2.0

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