I’ve recently got ahold of some new gear for office use. My boss gave me a mid-spec Late 2012 Mac Mini and a bit over $500 budget to spend on monitor, keyboard, and mouse since the Mac doesn’t come with any of those things. I’m going to do only a bit of writeup about each of these so if you have any questions please post them in the comments. Also, I’m breaking this review into 2 parts to decrease the TLDR factor.
2012 Mac Mini (Quad-core 2.6 Ghz i7, 8GB RAM, 1 TB Fusion Drive)
The first thing you realize when booting up the Mini is that it’s very fast. Bootup and starting programs takes very little time because of its 128GB SSD backed 1TB harddisk. Its quad core i7 will get you through most computing tasks with ease. In some respects it’s almost too powerful a machine.
Of course, PC gamers are probably used to seeing much more capable machinery. Therein lies the problem. The Mac Mini doesn’t have a discrete graphics card that is needed to play the more recent games in high resolutions, so from that perspective it’s as underpowered as Ivy Bridge ultrabooks. Yet when you take gaming out of the equation, then you’re left wondering what exactly can you do that will give a decent workout out of the i7 processor. I can’t think of any right now outside of encoding high resolution videos or running multiple virtual machines. You probably won’t do the former everyday and you’d opt for a server-class hardware for the latter.
The Mac mini as configured costs $1249 from the Apple website. Maybe it’s the PC guy in me but I definitely felt pangs of “I could get a really bitchin PC for that price”. However, I do have to concede that Apple’s build quality is through the roof. You cannot see the Mac mini as anything but an extremely solid, handsome piece of kit that runs very silent. Not many i7 PC builds can achieve the same level of silence as you’d find in the Mac mini. I want to say it’s perfect for an HTPC but it doesn’t have Blu-Ray, or indeed any kind of optical drive.
In summary it’s a very capable hardware, yet you get the feeling you’re not getting the most out of the system.
Dell 24-inch U2412M e-IPS LED Display
After a brief research I can safely say that this is the best display you can get below $400, if you value picture quality and resolution. Its e-IPS tech does not offer the same viewing angles and color gamut as its pricier siblings such as U2410M or the U2713HM but it’s still way better than the panels used in other monitors at this price. Add in an extra 120 pixels of vertical space (it’s 1920×1200) over its 1080p competitors and a highly adjustable stand (portrait mode, swivel, height adjust) and it’s a clear winner. If you have a bit more funds and in the market for IPS monitors I’d suggest the ASUS PA246Q. Can’t beat that in the 24 inch category.
On the gaming front I’ve tested it with a few rounds of FIFA 12. In very fast actions such as hoofing the ball halfway along the field there is some noticeable tearing. This could be due to my inadequate laptop video card instead of the failings of the monitor. However that has been my experience and some people say IPS monitors are not suited for fast paced video gaming. There are many 3D capable 120hz alternatives if you’re willing to sacrifice picture for quick response times.
Another advantage the monitor has over similarly priced monitors is the sheer adjustability of the stand. This is my first monitor with this capability and I find it amazing. With portrait mode you have full 1920 pixels of vertical space with which to read your favorite gaming blog (Takuchat!). Its horizontal rotation is useful for showing things to people without having to lift the display.
Overall I’m quite pleased with the display. The picture’s great and it feels a lot bigger than the LG 23 inch I use at home, if you can believe it. If I were to list a negative I’d say that it will make your second monitor look so crappy you can barely stand it.
That’s it for the first part of my reviews. In the next part I’ll review the Razer BlackWidow mechanical gaming keyboard and Razer Naga Hex MMO gaming mouse (as seen below!).
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