The Mac Mini^h^h^h^h Maybe
January 15, 2005
Apple came out with the Mac Mini on Tuesday. I’ve been busier than hell this week, so I haven’t had time to do much more than go out to apple.com, read the features, and oooh and aaah about the packaging. It’s another brilliantly packaged piece of Apple techno-pr0n, of course. I completely missed the stupidity angle, at first blush.
An old friend of mine has been e-mailing me for a day or two about it. He’s kind of caught the bug, and since I’m the kind of person who thinks that everybody’s life would be enriched to a substantial degree by spending more time on OS X and less on XP, I’ve been offering some advice.
His first e-mail was about the price—he ran it through the configurator, and blanched a bit when he found out what the cost was with a reasonable amount of RAM. I told him that that was no real surprise, since Apple has been charging insane+10% for RAM for awhile now; just buy it with the base amount, and get decent RAM from a vendor later (I’ve had great luck with Crucial for PowerBook RAM, at typically less than half Apple’s price).
I also told him he might as well buy it with the airport card and the bluetooth, since airport cards are basically never discounted and Apple typically doesn’t sell internal bluetooth unless you order a custom configured unit (which is stupid, but there you have it.)
Tonight I finally came up for air for a few minutes, and caught up on just a wee bit of commentary on the keynote and the mini, and now I’ve got to tell him to put on the brakes. This is starting to smell like another example of a great Apple product crapped up by a little excess Apple greed.
Problem number one, with a bullet. This thing is supposedly designed with “no user serviceable parts inside.” In other words, you can’t even add your own memory or airport card—it has to go to a service center to have it done, no doubt with “genuine Apple parts”.
You can’t tell me it was harder to package this so a user can install RAM and an airport card than it is to package a PowerBook or iBook so that they can do so, and Apple notebook users have been doing both for a long time. This certainly reads like “we’ll get them in cheap, but we’ll stick it to them on the RAM.” (Never mind the Airport, we’re used to getting stuck there)
This kind of horseshit is a major problem with Apple products all around. I know someone who would have bought a 12” G4 iBook two damn months ago if it wasn’t for the fact that the base configuration comes with an absurdly small drive, and if you want a larger one, you have to buy a “custom” one from Apple direct—and pay sales tax, and not get the $100 rebate that you can get from Amazon on the same unit—which amounts to about a $185 penalty if you want a machine that can actually do some work.
Changing drives yourself in the current models of iBook or PowerBook isn’t an option for most users (or any who want to retain their warranty). So, instead of making a bit of extra profit, that’s an iBook they just haven’t sold. And there’s no reason except for a bit of greed on their part.
This looks like more of the same. There are people who I’d be fine recommending that 256 meg base unit to (my eldest’s buddy, who basically needs a machine to run iTunes on to load his iPod, for instance.) My buddy who e-mailed me isn’t one of them. Sure, it’ll run, but if you want to do more than one thing at a time, the experience is far better with 512meg – 1gig or more, just like any other modern computer. If you have to have genuine Apple people add specially blessed and marked up genuine Apple RAM, you might as well not buy the damn thing.
Either spring for an iMac G5 (which defeats the purpose of a headless unit—he wanted to stick it on a KVM, as I do mine, and my kid does his, etc.), or better yet, go buy a used 1GHz or so G4 PowerMac. You can probably buy one cheaper than you could buy this thing fully loaded with Apple-installed options, and you can stuff drives and RAM in it to your heart’s content. It won’t be small and cute and cuddly and quiet, but you won’t wince as bad when you sit down on your overly thin billfold, either.
My guess is that when all’s said and done, he just won’t be buying a Mac at all.
Why is it that Apple can’t introduce something like this without shooting it in the foot on the way out the door? Sheesh.
Update—Apparently “once you get the case open” it’s easy to replace the RAM. This picture would seem to bear that out.
Also this, from Macintouch:
“Apple Ã¢â‚¬Å“does not recommendÃ¢â‚¬Â that users upgrade the memory themselves Ã¢â‚¬â€ youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re supposed to have a service provider do it if you want to add more after purchase Ã¢â‚¬â€ but doing it yourself does not void the warranty unless you damage something. A booth person told me the memory slot is easily accessible once you get the case open.”
If this is official Apple policy (that it does not void the warranty), then that removes most of my concerns.