Desktops

First Look: A maximum look at a mini Mac, part one

Application launching tests: I wanted to see how quickly the mini would launch both Rosetta and Universal applications, and to then compare those figures to the launch times for the same apps on my PowerBook (the closest direct comparison machine I have here). The table below shows the initial launch time, from double-click to usable state, and an immediate subsequent “relaunch” time. Initial launches were run after a reboot on both the mini and the PowerBook. Note that the relaunch times figures aren’t indicative of real-world usage, unless you often relaunch apps immediately (or very quickly) after last using them. As more time goes by, OS X will have to essentially reload the applications from scratch, as the RAM will have been put to other purposes. But it’s still a good indication of how quickly the machine can reactivate a recently-used program.

Rob’s Launch Tests

Mac mini PowerBook Mac mini PowerBook
1st launch 1st launch 2nd launch 2nd launch
Excel 13 3.9 6.3 2.2
PS Elements 3 34.9 23.2 16.3 8.4
Google Earth 14.8 9.4 6.7 3.1
Photoshop CS2 55.3 26.4 22.8 6.7
Word 11.6 5.7 3.7 1.8
BBEdit 5.7 6.8 1 2.3
Camino 3.3 4.5 0.5 1.5
iChat 2.9 4.2 0.5 1.4
iTunes 3.1 3.8 0.5 2.2
Keynote 11.1 14.2 1.9 4.1
Pages 4.2 8.2 1.5 2.2
Safari 1.3 2.5 0.1 1.3

Rosetta applications in italics.

Testing by Rob Griffiths.

So what can we learn from this chart? Here’s what my tests seem to show:
  • First launch times for Rosetta apps was about twice that as for the same apps on the PowerBook.
  • Second launch times for Rosetta apps are between two and three times slower than those same apps’ second launch times on the PowerBook.
  • Universal applications load quickly. Every single universal application I tested loaded much quicker on the mini than it did on the PowerBook. As an extreme test, I also looked at Keynote ‘06 on my Dual G5. Its first-time load took about nine seconds, so it was still quicker than the mini—but then again, at roughly 5x the cost, I would hope it would be.
  • The second launch times for universal apps on the mini are astoundingly quick. The table really doesn’t do justice to the experience. Launch a universal app, quit it, and launch it again, and it’s back on the screen almost faster than you can double-click the mouse. And while this effect vanishes over time, if you aren’t opening a lot of other apps in the interim, you’ll still get the turbo-reload results later on. This is the one test that really demonstrates the advantages of the mini’s much faster RAM and motherboard speed; when it’s reading data from memory, it can do so at a very impressive rate. By way of comparison, the second launch time for Keynote on my Dual G5 was about 3.5 seconds, easily trounced by the mini.
Three takeaway points:
  1. Word and Excel will perform fine in Rosetta for the majority of ‘typical’ Office users.
  2. Universal applications open notably faster than their PowerPC cousins.
  3. The Universal Finder is amazingly speedy.

Although some of the applications I tested were quite impressive, nothing stunned me more than the speed of the Finder. It’s amazing to think it’s this fast on what is essentially Apple’s cheapest Mac. This bodes well for the high-end PowerMac replacements due out later this year.

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