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Questions about Mac Mini-How much power do I need?

Message #1 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. The problem is the cost was higher than we wanted and we later realized he didn't need the portability since he has a computer in his classroom. He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured. Anyway, this takes us to which one to get. I know there's a Mac Pro or something like that that is a 2 chip dual core system for $2400 or so. That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac. Honestly I have to say both me and my wife kind of got hooked on the mac after seeing our son use it and since we both are heavily into graphics work we're thinking it may be worth switching from Windows to Mac. The thing is because we have Windows PC's which we have so much software for we will use both the Windows and Mac's at the same time. We decided to stay away from the boot camp windows/mac option at this time. The Mac Mini seems like a cheap solution, especially considering for $70 we can get a keyboard/mouse combo and then just use the 19 inch LCD monitors we already have. The Mac Mini is nice and compact. I like the power of the imac more but with the monitors and computers we have we really don't want to deal with th etwo monitors and I'm sure you can't buy a imac and then sell the monitor since it's built into one unit.
I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite for uses such as email, internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough? That's my only concern. how much ram would I need? I know it comes with 512 and I'd upgrade it to at least 1 gig if not 2 gigs. As for hard drive space, I'd likely take the 80 gig to at least 100 if not 120 gigs. Like I said I know the imac would have more power but it wouldn't work well in the situation I have.
That leads me to another question. I know some of these options are cheaper if done outside of Apple such as buying it with 512megs and then buying the memory on my own. What type of memory do I have to buy for the mac mini? Also, how hard is it to upgrade the hard drive. I was wondering if it's possible to get the 80 gig version and then buy a 120 gig separately and then set it up for the mac. Are the applications/restore DVD's included and is it easy to set up the new hard drive or is this a hard procedure?
Next, I know these intel macs are new but are there any new macs comin out just around the corner? I just like the idea of the mac mini but want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.
Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard. Is the mac mini capable of handling the jolts of traveling though? For use outside of a hotel room are there power options with a battery that would supply power to it? I have a adaptor for my laptop that takes the vga output and puts it onto standard rca plugs for a TV.
Since we are getting potentially 3 machines other than educational discounts does anyone sell in volume discounts?
I know this is many questions. This is a whole new frontier for me but I feel with timeI may be using the mac more than 50% of the time. This is just all so new to me and thanks for all the help.

Message #2 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. The problem is the cost was higher than we wanted and we later realized he didn't need the portability since he has a computer in his classroom. He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured. Anyway, this takes us to which one to get. I know there's a Mac Pro or something like that that is a 2 chip dual core system for $2400 or so. That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac. Honestly I have to say both me and my wife kind of got hooked on the mac after seeing our son use it and since we both are heavily into graphics work we're thinking it may be worth switching from Windows to Mac. The thing is because we have Windows PC's which we have so much software for we will use both the Windows and Mac's at the same time. We decided to stay away from the boot camp windows/mac option at this time. The Mac Mini seems like a cheap solution, especially considering for $70 we can get a keyboard/mouse combo and then just use the 19 inch LCD monitors we already have. The Mac Mini is nice and compact. I like the power of the imac more but with the monitors and computers we have we really don't want to deal with th etwo monitors and I'm sure you can't buy a imac and then sell the monitor since it's built into one unit.
I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite for uses such as email, internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough? That's my only concern. how much ram would I need? I know it comes with 512 and I'd upgrade it to at least 1 gig if not 2 gigs. As for hard drive space, I'd likely take the 80 gig to at least 100 if not 120 gigs. Like I said I know the imac would have more power but it wouldn't work well in the situation I have.
That leads me to another question. I know some of these options are cheaper if done outside of Apple such as buying it with 512megs and then buying the memory on my own. What type of memory do I have to buy for the mac mini? Also, how hard is it to upgrade the hard drive. I was wondering if it's possible to get the 80 gig version and then buy a 120 gig separately and then set it up for the mac. Are the applications/restore DVD's included and is it easy to set up the new hard drive or is this a hard procedure?
Next, I know these intel macs are new but are there any new macs comin out just around the corner? I just like the idea of the mac mini but want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.
Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard. Is the mac mini capable of handling the jolts of traveling though? For use outside of a hotel room are there power options with a battery that would supply power to it? I have a adaptor for my laptop that takes the vga output and puts it onto standard rca plugs for a TV.
Since we are getting potentially 3 machines other than educational discounts does anyone sell in volume discounts?
I know this is many questions. This is a whole new frontier for me but I feel with timeI may be using the mac more than 50% of the time. This is just all so new to me and thanks for all the help.

Message #3 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. The problem is the cost was higher than we wanted and we later realized he didn't need the portability since he has a computer in his classroom. He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured. Anyway, this takes us to which one to get. I know there's a Mac Pro or something like that that is a 2 chip dual core system for $2400 or so. That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac. Honestly I have to say both me and my wife kind of got hooked on the mac after seeing our son use it and since we both are heavily into graphics work we're thinking it may be worth switching from Windows to Mac. The thing is because we have Windows PC's which we have so much software for we will use both the Windows and Mac's at the same time. We decided to stay away from the boot camp windows/mac option at this time. The Mac Mini seems like a cheap solution, especially considering for $70 we can get a keyboard/mouse combo and then just use the 19 inch LCD monitors we already have. The Mac Mini is nice and compact. I like the power of the imac more but with the monitors and computers we have we really don't want to deal with th etwo monitors and I'm sure you can't buy a imac and then sell the monitor since it's built into one unit.
I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite for uses such as email, internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough? That's my only concern. how much ram would I need? I know it comes with 512 and I'd upgrade it to at least 1 gig if not 2 gigs. As for hard drive space, I'd likely take the 80 gig to at least 100 if not 120 gigs. Like I said I know the imac would have more power but it wouldn't work well in the situation I have.
That leads me to another question. I know some of these options are cheaper if done outside of Apple such as buying it with 512megs and then buying the memory on my own. What type of memory do I have to buy for the mac mini? Also, how hard is it to upgrade the hard drive. I was wondering if it's possible to get the 80 gig version and then buy a 120 gig separately and then set it up for the mac. Are the applications/restore DVD's included and is it easy to set up the new hard drive or is this a hard procedure?
Next, I know these intel macs are new but are there any new macs comin out just around the corner? I just like the idea of the mac mini but want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.
Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard. Is the mac mini capable of handling the jolts of traveling though? For use outside of a hotel room are there power options with a battery that would supply power to it? I have a adaptor for my laptop that takes the vga output and puts it onto standard rca plugs for a TV.
Since we are getting potentially 3 machines other than educational discounts does anyone sell in volume discounts?
I know this is many questions. This is a whole new frontier for me but I feel with timeI may be using the mac more than 50% of the time. This is just all so new to me and thanks for all the help.

Message #4 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I forgot to post this in the earlier message. I realized the graphics processor is different in the imac vs. the mac mini. We won't do any gaming on these machines. Yet we will do work with Adobe, Desktop Publishing, Video Editing, Photo Editing, and Office applications. Will the graphics processing of the mini handle this?

Message #5 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I forgot to post this in the earlier message. I realized the graphics processor is different in the imac vs. the mac mini. We won't do any gaming on these machines. Yet we will do work with Adobe, Desktop Publishing, Video Editing, Photo Editing, and Office applications. Will the graphics processing of the mini handle this?

Message #6 - Posted 2006/08/22 - MarkW

I forgot to post this in the earlier message. I realized the graphics processor is different in the imac vs. the mac mini. We won't do any gaming on these machines. Yet we will do work with Adobe, Desktop Publishing, Video Editing, Photo Editing, and Office applications. Will the graphics processing of the mini handle this?

Message #7 - Posted 2006/08/22 - Dave Balderstone

Previously, MarkW wrote:

Has
anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard.

Which means it's just as easy to steal as a laptop, of course...

Message #8 - Posted 2006/08/22 - patrick j

On Tue, 22 Aug 2006 22:08:09 +0100, MarkW wrote (in a previous article):

I forgot to post this in the earlier message. I realized the graphics processor is different in the imac vs. the mac mini. We won't do any gaming on these machines. Yet we will do work with Adobe, Desktop Publishing, Video Editing, Photo Editing, and Office applications. Will the graphics processing of the mini handle this?

To be honest I have very little knowledge of the Mac Mini but I will suggest something which I'm sure you already know which is to max out the RAM for using the applications you've mentioned.

In the post preceding this you mention that you already have a screen (I think) which I would imagine makes the Mac Mini very attractive.

I feel that someone who actually knows something about the Mac Mini will come along and answer you questions more thoroughly :)

Patrick
Brighton, UK

Message #9 - Posted 2006/08/23 - Gregory Weston

Previously, Dave Balderstone wrote:

Previously, MarkW wrote:

Has
anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard.

Which means it's just as easy to steal as a laptop, of course...

But easier to secure. In theory, security options are about the same, but since there's much less incentive for a student to move a mini it's more likely to actually be locked down at any given time.

What I write is what I mean. I request that anyone who decides to respond please refrain from "disagreeing" with something I didn't write in the first place.

Message #10 - Posted 2006/08/23 - Dylan C

MarkW wrote:

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. The problem is the cost was higher than we wanted and we later realized he didn't need the portability since he has a computer in his classroom. He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured. Anyway, this takes us to which one to get. I know there's a Mac Pro or something like that that is a 2 chip dual core system for $2400 or so. That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac. Honestly I have to say both me and my wife kind of got hooked on the mac after seeing our son use it and since we both are heavily into graphics work we're thinking it may be worth switching from Windows to Mac. The thing is because we have Windows PC's which we have so much software for we will use both the Windows and Mac's at the same time. We decided to stay away from the boot camp windows/mac option at this time. The Mac Mini seems like a cheap solution, especially considering for $70 we can get a keyboard/mouse combo and then just use the 19 inch LCD monitors we already have. The Mac Mini is nice and compact. I like the power of the imac more but with the monitors and computers we have we really don't want to deal with th etwo monitors and I'm sure you can't buy a imac and then sell the monitor since it's built into one unit.
I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite for uses such as email, internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough? That's my only concern. how much ram would I need? I know it comes with 512 and I'd upgrade it to at least 1 gig if not 2 gigs. As for hard drive space, I'd likely take the 80 gig to at least 100 if not 120 gigs. Like I said I know the imac would have more power but it wouldn't work well in the situation I have.
That leads me to another question. I know some of these options are cheaper if done outside of Apple such as buying it with 512megs and then buying the memory on my own. What type of memory do I have to buy for the mac mini? Also, how hard is it to upgrade the hard drive. I was wondering if it's possible to get the 80 gig version and then buy a 120 gig separately and then set it up for the mac. Are the applications/restore DVD's included and is it easy to set up the new hard drive or is this a hard procedure?
Next, I know these intel macs are new but are there any new macs comin out just around the corner? I just like the idea of the mac mini but want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.
Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard. Is the mac mini capable of handling the jolts of traveling though? For use outside of a hotel room are there power options with a battery that would supply power to it? I have a adaptor for my laptop that takes the vga output and puts it onto standard rca plugs for a TV.
Since we are getting potentially 3 machines other than educational discounts does anyone sell in volume discounts?
I know this is many questions. This is a whole new frontier for me but I feel with timeI may be using the mac more than 50% of the time. This is just all so new to me and thanks for all the help.

I agree with a previous poster that suggests maxing out the memory. For photoshop, 1Gb is almost a minimum for working with large files. I use it with 512Mb of RAM on my PC and I can feel an obvious bottleneck there. As far as CPU, I've heard that Intel Core Duo processors are quite impressive. Based on the a photoshop benchmark at tomshardware.com, I'd expect the dual core 1.66GHz to perform roughly the same as a P4 3.2GHz. This is just a guess, but check out the charts for yourself:

http://www23.tomshardware.com/cpu.html?modelx=33&model1=434&model2=445&chart=186

-Dylan C

Message #11 - Posted 2006/08/23 - Martin

Only you can judge how intensive your usage will be, but perhaps it might help to give my own experience for comparison.

I run a Macbook 1.83 GHz, with 2 GB RAM and a 60 GB disk. Generally I am well chuffed with it as a convert from Windows and Linux. Speed-wise it's perfectly adequate for everyday tasks - pleasingly quick to boot up and so on. However, I will soon need to upgrade the disk as it's pretty full now (an MP3 collection, DarwinPorts and a copy of Windows XP under Parallels with some large legacy apps). But I digress...

Suggestions for you:

1. Whatever you get, fit 2 GB of third-party RAM. Apple's memory prices are silly.

2. Don't worry about CPU speed unless you're running really CPU-intensive stuff. My MacBook's Core Duo 1.83 GHz seems fine to me, so the Mac Mini's 1.67 Core Duo won't be far behind.

3. Consider dumping your old Windows boxes and using Parallels on the iMac. If I was starting from scratch and didn't need to go on the road, I'd be looking at the larger iMac for its lovely screen and all-in-one convenience.

I can thoroughly recommend Parallels: my Windows XP boots up a lot quicker in Parallels on my Mac than it ever did on my PCs. I haven't regretted dumping the Windows PC as I always have Parallels to fall back on. And despite the low-spec graphics card and the penalty of virtualisation, I still get decent graphics performance dragging map tiles around in Tracklogs for Windows. A nice feature is the private (local) shared folders facility: you can tell Parallels to share a Mac folder you specify so that it appears in Windows file explorer, even if external networking is turned off (i.e. you don't need to plug in a loopback cable to make that work - unlike one of my colleague's Vmware installations!).

Don't forget backups. Personally I would budget for a copy of SuperDuper! and a Lacie D2 USB2/Firewire drive. I have three of them for different applications, and they're rock solid. 300 GB seems to be a good size.

Hope this helps. It is nice, but somewhat confusing, to have so many options.

- Martin.

Message #12 - Posted 2006/08/24 - Eric Lindsay

Previously, MarkW wrote:

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. ... He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured.

You could consider the MacBook (not the MacBook Pro), as this has many (most?) of the capabilities of the higher priced MacBook Pro. Personally I anticipate the MacBook Pro being upgraded with a new chip well before the MacBook, so I would hang back on buying it even it it fitted my purposes exactly.

That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac.

Back about 18 months I figured optioning a Mac mini closer to an iMac brought the prices rather close together. Plus the iMac can take far larger hard drives than the Mac mini (although you can use external drives with either). Against this, the Mac mini is obviously designed for the classroom.

Regarding security and theft, you will notice most Macintosh have a security slot, for connection of a security cable. In a dorm situation, that would be a first line of defence (if used consistently). Adding one of the "call home" software protections would be another. Plus checking whether your insurance can cover it.

I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite

Microsoft and Adobe have not as yet converted Office nor the Adobe and Macromedia products into a form that runs on the Intel based Macintosh. I wouldn't expect them to manage this until at least next year. If you run Windows PCs, you probably do not already own copies of the Macintosh versions of these products. If you did own them, they would need to run under Apple's Rosetta emulation, and the performance would be much slower. If these specific products are essential for courses, and going to be in heavy use, you probably shouldn't consider a Macintosh until the Microsoft and Adobe software have been converted to Universal.

for uses such as email,
internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough?

If using Universal applications (and the Apple ones that come with a Macintosh are all Intel capable) the speed will probably be fine. Most of the tasks you mention are handled by applications that are included with the Macintosh.

Getting more memory would be worthwhile. On the other hand, an external hard drive is likely to be cheaper than upgrading the internal one. Plus you could use an external for backing up. I wouldn't even think about upgrading the internal hard drive myself. The Mac mini isn't intended to be opened. Think of it as an appliance. Buy, plug it in, it works, never touch it again (except via keyboard).

want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.

There are reports that the Mac mini CPU is in a socket, and there are reports of it being upgraded by others. That said, the Mac mini (and the iMac) are NOT designed like regular desktop PC. They are not designed to be opened. They are not designed to be upgraded. They are totally unlike the open plug in architecture of a desktop PC. If you think of both the iMac and the Mac mini are being laptops packaged in a different manner you are closer to their design philosophy. The only Macintosh designed to be opened is the Mac Pro (which is really easy to upgrade).

The fact that you have built a PC isn't sufficient experience to deal with laptop style construction. Anyone with a screwdriver can learn to assemble a desktop PC. If you haven't disassembled and assembled again a few laptops, I would forget doing your own upgrades. That said, there are lots of sites on the web that provide the instructions, and it isn't rocket science, just tedious, painstaking and delicate.

Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard.

Mac mini is fine as a travelling computer, especially if there is a monitor available at the other end. The power pack is separate (like a giant laptop power pack). However the MacBook laptop is even better as a portable. If I were moving between a couple of offices (home and work maybe) I'd think a Mac mini would be fine. But for business travel to hotels, I'd do it the way other travellers do, and use a laptop. Your time is almost surely worth the difference in cost.

Message #13 - Posted 2006/08/24 - Bill

Previously, Eric Lindsay wrote:

Previously, MarkW wrote:

I was earlier looking at a MacBook Pro for my son. ... He lives in a dorm and we're worried about theft. A laptop is just so easy to steal and with a desktop it can be more easily secured.

You could consider the MacBook (not the MacBook Pro), as this has many (most?) of the capabilities of the higher priced MacBook Pro. Personally I anticipate the MacBook Pro being upgraded with a new chip well before the MacBook, so I would hang back on buying it even it it fitted my purposes exactly.

That's more than we want. It seems that leaves me with the mac mini or the imac.

Back about 18 months I figured optioning a Mac mini closer to an iMac brought the prices rather close together. Plus the iMac can take far larger hard drives than the Mac mini (although you can use external drives with either). Against this, the Mac mini is obviously designed for the classroom.

Regarding security and theft, you will notice most Macintosh have a security slot, for connection of a security cable. In a dorm situation, that would be a first line of defence (if used consistently). Adding one of the "call home" software protections would be another. Plus checking whether your insurance can cover it.

I guess one of my questions, if we get a mac mini we'd go with the dual core option which is 1.66 ghz. is this enough power? It seems I'd want closer to 2.0ghz. most of the software will be the Office Suite, Adobe Suite and the Macromedia Suite

Microsoft and Adobe have not as yet converted Office nor the Adobe and Macromedia products into a form that runs on the Intel based Macintosh. I wouldn't expect them to manage this until at least next year. If you run Windows PCs, you probably do not already own copies of the Macintosh versions of these products. If you did own them, they would need to run under Apple's Rosetta emulation, and the performance would be much slower. If these specific products are essential for courses, and going to be in heavy use, you probably shouldn't consider a Macintosh until the Microsoft and Adobe software have been converted to Universal.

Not sure they run so much slower that it will bother you. That's a matter of personal impression. Might want to go to an Apple store and try it out.

for uses such as email,
internet browsing, word processing, some desktop publishing, graphic editing, web page development, and even some editing of digital video so I know I need power. Is 1.66ghz dual core enough?

If using Universal applications (and the Apple ones that come with a Macintosh are all Intel capable) the speed will probably be fine. Most of the tasks you mention are handled by applications that are included with the Macintosh.

Getting more memory would be worthwhile. On the other hand, an external hard drive is likely to be cheaper than upgrading the internal one. Plus you could use an external for backing up. I wouldn't even think about upgrading the internal hard drive myself. The Mac mini isn't intended to be opened. Think of it as an appliance. Buy, plug it in, it works, never touch it again (except via keyboard).

want more power. Is it in any way possible to upgrade the CPU in the mac mini? I know this is a lot of upgrades but I've done a lot of work with PC's including building my own. of course this is PC, not Mac but I'm familiar with computer hardware.

There are reports that the Mac mini CPU is in a socket, and there are reports of it being upgraded by others. That said, the Mac mini (and the iMac) are NOT designed like regular desktop PC. They are not designed to be opened. They are not designed to be upgraded. They are totally unlike the open plug in architecture of a desktop PC. If you think of both the iMac and the Mac mini are being laptops packaged in a different manner you are closer to their design philosophy. The only Macintosh designed to be opened is the Mac Pro (which is really easy to upgrade).

Actually the iMac is easy to open and components are readily accessible. However, there are no spare expansion slots or bays. Anyway, upgrade is probably not a worthwhile consideration for the iMac, other than putting in more RAM or a bigger HD.

The fact that you have built a PC isn't sufficient experience to deal with laptop style construction. Anyone with a screwdriver can learn to assemble a desktop PC. If you haven't disassembled and assembled again a few laptops, I would forget doing your own upgrades. That said, there are lots of sites on the web that provide the instructions, and it isn't rocket science, just tedious, painstaking and delicate.

Also, me and my wife have to travel on business frequently. Has anyone used a mac mini as a portable? It's so small that it seems it could be taken in a small carry bag with a portable sized mouse and keyboard.

Mac mini is fine as a travelling computer, especially if there is a monitor available at the other end. The power pack is separate (like a giant laptop power pack). However the MacBook laptop is even better as a portable. If I were moving between a couple of offices (home and work maybe) I'd think a Mac mini would be fine. But for business travel to hotels, I'd do it the way other travellers do, and use a laptop. Your time is almost surely worth the difference in cost.

For email, change <fake> to <earthlink>
Bill Collins

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