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Mac mini Updated and Given Server Configuration

Apple has updated the Mac mini with impressive new specs, and added a new server option that targets small-to-medium-sized businesses (the "SMB" market, as it's called).

The entry-level Mac mini remains $599, but now includes 2 GB of RAM and a 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up from the 2.0 GHz CPU found in the previous update in March 2009. The built-in hard drive was bumped from 120 GB to 160 GB, as well. For $799, you get a 2.53 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB hard drive. (See "Mac mini Receives Multiple Performance Boosts," 3 March 2009.)

Apple's twist on the Mac mini this time around is adding a $999 model that comes with Snow Leopard Server preinstalled, along with dual 500 GB hard drives, one of which replaces the SuperDrive found on the two less-expensive models. The processor speed on this model is 2.53 GHz, and it sports 4 GB of RAM. As with other Macs lacking an optical drive, this Mac mini can use the networked drive option; an external SuperDrive is available for $99.

These specifications turn the Mac mini into a server powerhouse for a small network, with enough performance to drive email and spam filtering, internal Web service, file sharing, and a host of other tasks. It lacks only a second Ethernet port to act as a firewalled gateway for a network. (Computers used in that configuration use one Ethernet connection to face the Internet, while the other is connected to a local network.)

The Mac mini's relatively slow 5400-rpm drives may cramp some tasks that demand fast disk access, and so Apple is offering as a notable add-on the $799 Promise SmartStor DS4600 RAID, a four-bay enclosure configured with 1 TB drives. The SmartStor has both FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 interfaces, and arrives configured as RAID 5, which gives it 3 TB of total storage (1 TB is consumed in error-correcting redundancy). Over FireWire 800, performance may exceed that of the internal drives. The unit can also be configured as RAID 0, 1, or 10 to emphasize speed or redundancy.

Mac OS X Server licensing was rejiggered between 10.5 and 10.6. Previously and for several releases, Apple offered an unlimited license for $999, and a 10-user license for $499. That 10-user limit applied only to certain simultaneous logins, and unlimited accounts could be created. The new standalone pricing (for unlimited users) is $499.

Other specs for the Mac mini remain unchanged from the previous model, such as the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256 MB of RAM (shared with main memory), built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and gigabit Ethernet. The unit still has a single FireWire 800 port, five USB 2.0 ports, and support for two monitors via a mini-DVI port and a Mini DisplayPort.

Apple doesn't include a keyboard or mouse with the Mac mini, aiming it as always at the swap-out market in which the machine replaces an older desktop Mac or a Windows system that already has a display, keyboard, and mouse.

The entry-level configuration can be separately built to order with the 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 320 GB, or 500 GB (either) hard drives, or 4 GB RAM. All versions are available immediately.


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Comments about Mac mini Updated and Given Server Configuration
(Comments are closed.)

Would the Drobo or Drobo Pro be a viable and even superior alternative to the SmartStor RAID?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2009-10-21 11:45
It depends a little on what you're trying to achieve. Drobos offer a slightly different approach from that of a traditional RAID, with an emphasis on ease of use and the capability to use drives of different sizes. If that's important to you, the Drobo would probably be fine.
Kevin OBoyle  2009-10-24 20:28

I have the same question as the guy above and I didn't find your answer helpful. What are the trade-offs between the two enclosures?
Glenn Fleishman  2009-10-25 20:15
Drobo isn't a RAID; that is, it doesn't precisely mirror, use parity, or stripe drives, Rather, Drobo has its own proprietary method.

That approach is more flexible, in that you can replace any given drive with a higher capacity with no additional work to expand your set. On the flip side, you don't precisely know what's going on, and it can take a long time to rebuilt and regain redundancy after a drive dies or you swap in a new one.

With a RAID with good tools, results are typically more predictable and more discrete, like, you can pull that one drive and pop in another, or whatever.

The short answer? RAIDs are more predictable, less flexible; Drobos more flexible, but may not precisely meet your size, speed, or redundancy needs if you have specific needs.
Note that there is one other improvement in the $799 Mac Mini 'high-end'. Besides the extra RAM and larger HD, it comes pre-configured with the faster 2.53 GHz processor.
Glenn Fleishman  2009-10-26 20:24
Thank you! The article has been updated. It look like the $599 model can be updated with CPU, RAM, or hard drive selectively; the only option for the $799 standard configuration is a 500 GB hard drive.