How the Mac Mini Works

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces a new Mac mini with Intel Core Duo processor during a special Apple event in California in 2006.
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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.