Mac mini 2011 Model... a leap to code.

Hello all, and long time no talk. I seem to remember I had this here website that I posted schtuff on many times. Today I think I will make a post on the Mac mini 2011 model. Why? Well put simply, because I purchase one! So lets look at this device from a certain perspective, mine! When I was considering the purchase of this machine, there were a couple factors that guided me to it:

  • Xcode
  • Lion
  • Desire to develop for iOS devices
  • Simplicity of the machine as an alternative platform, while keeping my Dell workhorse as my primary desktop.

Yes I am a Windows guy, and that pays my bills. However I have been working for the past year to two years, to try and learn iOS development. And after a long time of finagling my way around not having one, it became obvious that for me to make any headway in the field I would need a true Mac for that purpose.

So, considering my purpose was to develop for iOS devices, my needs were limited to the lower end machines. Specifically I had my eyes on the Mac mini and the MacBook Air. These models were on the lowest end of the price point, and would accomplish my needs. So then I set out to narrow that down further, did I really need another laptop? Was I going to be annoyed by the small screens on the laptop? Well finally the nail in those decisions came in the form of the 2011 models. The Mac mini having dropped $100 from the previous year made the decision for me.

Now lets keep in mind that I am not using this device for a home theatre PC, and I do not plan to. This is because I already own an Apple TV and with it linked to my vast 380GB iTunes library, it does exactly what I need in that arena.

So from a pure hardware perspective, the base Mac mini carries the following specs:

Processor 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3MB on-chip shared L3 cache

Memory 2GB of 1333MHz DDR3 memory

Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 288MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory

Storage

500GB (5400-rpm) hard drive

Ok so right out the gate I ordered 8GB of memory from NewEgg.com. And after receiving the unit, but not the memory… I had a good chance to feel the difference. Without the memory, the system is taxed, and at times quite sluggish when you have multiple applications open. Including when those apps are just Safari and Xcode. However, after I replaced the memory, it is like a different machine. I no longer have those sluggish moments.

The system has a single drive, and no DVD (SuperDrive). However for me that is not a problem. I don’t have anything I would use it for that would need that since I still have my other machines. Additionally, if for some reason I do need to use a DVD drive, I can use the “Remote DVD” feature where I share it off my desktop.

Additionally, I have not replaced the HD in it yet since 500GB is enough for me in the interim. And long term, it appears to have the room so I should be able to add a drive instead of replacing it assuming I can locate the hard drive wrap and cable.

Additionally, I don’t so far have a need to use OpenCL, since this particular model does not support it. However that doesn’t stop this unit from playing games. I have tested it with World of Warcraft on max settings, and Half-Life 2 Episode 2 on max settings, and it just hums along.

So how would I rate my experience with this device? Well I would give it a 9/10. The device performs above my expectations once the system has been upgraded to 8GB of memory. And my coding experience is very smooth and unabated by the device itself. Apple has done an amazing job with this little device, and I’m sure that if anyone else out there is looking for a coding machine to step into the field, this device is the perfect item!

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