Thursday, November 13, 2014

The apple Mac mini

The Mac Mini is a machine I half expected Apple to quietly drop. The decline of the desktop personal computer business in general, and the fact that you’ll never see a Mac Mini as a prominent piece of product placement, means this miniature micro is unlikely to ever to hold a place in Apple's heart like the iMac.
A safe pair of hands? Apple's Mac Mini late 2014 edition
Indeed, it’s been a full two years since Apple last revised the Mini, leaving many of its fans fearful that it might be on its way out, victim of changing tastes in computing products.
But no, just when you’ve given up waiting for the bus and ready to plod your weary way home, along come three — units Apple would once have labelled Good, Better and Best. The year-long wait for Intel’s impressive Haswell processor to come to the Mini is over, and that’s very welcome. Ditto the addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The quid pro quo is the loss of upgradeable RAM.
Let’s be clear: the Mini was never an easy upgrade. Getting the hard drive out involves removing all of the machine’s internals. It still does. But at least it used to be a doddle to expand the previous incarnation’s memory: rotate the base, unclip the Wi-Fi card’s antenna, unscrew a metal plate, and there’s your RAM slot.
Easy upgrade? Depends what you want to change
No longer. The base is clipped in place, and beneath the metal plate ... soldered memory. Apple’s build-to-order memory is less expensive than it used to be — £80 for a 4GB upgrade from the base 4GB isn’t as daunting as £80 was two years ago – but it’s still a darn sight less cost-effective than buying memory from someone like Crucial and fitting it yourself. Doubly so if you want 16GB.
Moreover, being able to upgrade your system as you need — rather than investing all at the start – is half the point of buying a desktop rather than a laptop. The other half is better performance, though with the Mini that’s perhaps less of a concern thanks to its laptop-derived parts and ultra-compact form-factor. This is not a computer for customisation.
Of course, that’s probably why Apple felt it could get away with its margin-enhancing plan to solder down the RAM; it’s why it stopped bundling an HDMI-DVI adaptor too. No one will upgrade the Mini, it thought; you can’t replace the CPU, and the graphics core is integrated so that can’t be swapped out either.
The soldered on-board RAM highlighted in red isn't exactly enticing on desktop machine
OK, so that’s not an unreasonable assumption but it’s nonetheless very disappointing for those of us who like Macs for more than their consumer convenience. You can add RAM to the iMac, for instance, so why penalise Mini buyers, especially when you already have an elegantly engineered mechanism for memory upgrades?

Soldering on

Mac OS X isn’t quite the RAM gobbler that Windows is, but since the Mini uses integrated graphics, that’s a big chunk of RAM nabbed before you’ve even started running applications, especially if you’re using multiple displays or even a single screen with a greater-than-HD resolution.
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

Just how much RAM do you need to run a bunch of music plug-ins smoothly?

The Mini I have here has 8GB of RAM and I would‘t take anything less. Mac OS X Yosemite, pre-installed on the new Mini, demands rather more memory than its predecessors did — more daemons, more backgrounded apps, more memory leaks. Even with only a handful of basic applications open, this Mini is already consuming just under 7GB of the installed eight.
Trouble is, I can't do anything about that. I can’t assess my memory usage on a new platform and then expand the memory as necessary. Who cares if no other Mini user wants to do this. I do. For the sake of perhaps five dollars for the memory slot and the tooling for the removable base, Apple has made its little machines far less attractive for anyone not seeking an appliance. And surely those people are among the iMac’s natural constituency, not the Mini’s?
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

The Fusion drive option sees the SSD position on top of the HDD housing 

If you do open up a 2014 Mac Mini, it’s still an engineering marvel. All kitted out in silver and black, it’s as attractive on the inside as it is on the outside, as the iFixit disassembly pics on here reveal. Better than anything I can take, these shots will show you exactly how accessible the new Mini isn’t. Getting to the 5400rpm 500GB hard drive (in the base model; others have bigger drives and even a Fusion Drive SSD cache) is a chore, but doable.
In use, this box, based on a 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5-based 4260U CPU feels fluid, and unlikely to trouble any but the most power-hungry users. As I say, it’s the lack of memory expansion that’s the problem here.
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

Alas, no FireWire but you do get two Thunderbolt 2 ports now

There’s a problem for users with Firewire peripherals too: Apple has dropped the Firewire 800 port it had placed on the back of the 2012 model. In its place is a second Thunderbolt port which will come in handy if you’re driving your monitor off the other one. The new Mini, like the old, has HDMI, but that limits you to 1920 x 1080. Thunderbolt drives my 2560 x 1440 Dell display very well.
The Mini still has a useful four USB 3.0 ports and the SD card slot. Once again, the PSU is built in; no brick hanging off the back here. Gigabit Ethernet rounds off the new Mini’s port array; the internal Wi-Fi has been upgraded from 802.11scores
The CPU may have altered, but the performance hasn’t. Geekbench 3 yields 64-bit single-core and dual-core ratings of 2800 and 5382, respectively. The 2012 Mini El Reg reviewed had a 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M, based on Intel’s third-gen Core architecture.
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

Out-of-the-box the only accessory provided now is a power cable

Its clock speed was almost twice that of the Haswell CPU in the new model and with a slightly higher (3.0GHz to 2.7GHz) Turbo Boost speed. The previous Mini was tested with Geekbench 2 which generated results not directly comparable with those of Geekbench 3, but numbers from the database of the benchmark’s developer, Primate Labs, put the old model on averages of 2630 (single core) and 5418 (multi-core).
So the new model, with a lower average clock speed, is delivering very slightly better performance. But it’s not a stellar increase, and certainly no reason to sell off your 2012 Mini for a new one. Indeed, given the upgradeability of 2012’s model, you might even prefer to seek one out second-hand and spend the difference getting yourself an SSD and a big memory boost.
The former, in particular, will be a noticeable improvement as you reduce the ‘lag’ of the 5400rpm HDD thanks to faster start-up times and application loads.
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

Lower price, but fewer user upgrade options

The one piece of good news here is that Apple has knocked £100 off the price tag. The base 2012 model would have set you back £499; today’s entry level Mini is £399. Price reductions are nice, but in this instance it’s small compensation for the loss of a memory slot: most of that £100 will go on a measly 4GB build-to-order upgrade.
Spending £170 more than the base price gets you the 2.5GHz Core i5 version, 8GB of memory and a 1TB HDD if you need the space. A further £230 (total: £799) buys you a 2.8GHz Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 1TB of HDD plus a 256GB SSD. Both the latter versions include Intel’s Iris Graphics; the baseline model has Intel HD Graphics 5000.
The cores are the same; the Iris just has a higher clock speed than the 5000. It’s more a nice-to-have than a must-have, especially if you’re not gaming. Two years on, my ageing copy of Doom 3 steps from 44fps to 54fps at 1920 x 1080.
Apple Mac Mini late 2014

Use your old peripherals and spend the savings on RAM

The Reg Verdict

The Mac Mini remains a stylish, very compact desktop with the ability to drive greater-than-HD displays. It’s no games machine, but it does make for a very nice general productivity box. Thanks to OS X’s foundations, it’s a great Unix machine too thanks to wide access to both open source and commercial software.
I’m going to get one to keep in the office, to save me carrying a laptop back and forth. I just think I might see if I can find a discounted 2012 model, its initially wobbly HDMI output now long fixed, rather than the current one and grab some extra memory for it. 

The late 2014 Apple Mac Mini: The best (and worst) of both worlds

Lollipop rollout for nexus devises

Google officially introduced Android 5.0 Lollipop mid-October and, for the time being, the update has yet to roll out. The release is imminent and according to Sprint the Nexus 5 Android 5.0 Lollipop update will be pushed to users later today.

According US carrier’s post on their community page, the Android 5.0 Lollipop update for Nexus 5 will roll out later today. The date checks out with previous rumors that were suggesting that the new update will be pushed to devices on November 12. If the reports are accurate, the release has been delayed over battery issues that were fixed in the meantime.

Sprint also says that the Nexus 5 Android 5.0 Lillipop update has build number LRX21O. The build number lines up with builds we’ve seen for Nexus 9 and Nexus Player – LRX21L and LRX21M, respectively – and even with the leaked Nexys 7 2012 build (LRX21P).

As usual, the Nexus 5 Android 5.0 Lollipop update will be rolled out in phases, which means that some of you might not be able to download and install it right away. You probably know already that once your device becomes eligible to receive the new firmware you should be able to notice a system update message in the notifications bar. You know the drill, tap on it, choose ‘Download now’, wait until the download is completed, then select ‘Install now’. Your smartphone should reboot and install the new firmware. In case the system update notification failed to appear you would also want to perform a manual check under Settings > About phone > Software updates > Check now.

Android 5.0 Lollipop is the most major update Android has seen since its debut. It brings a new design philosophy called Material Design, revamped notification bar and quick settings, lock screen notifications, multi-user support for phones, improved battery life and security, support for 64-bit processors, and Android Runtime (ART) instead of Dalvik.

Have you received the Android 5.0 Lollipop update on your Nexus 5? Have fun abusing that ‘Check now’ button.

Nexus 5 Android 5.0 Lollipop Update to Roll out Today


Reviewing a Nexus phone is always a daunting task. It’s one of the most important devices of the year for much of the Android community, and it represents - in theory - the very best of what Google has to offer on phones for the respective update period.

I’ll start by saying the Nexus 6 is a great phone, albeit huge. It’s also different from previous Nexus phones in a number of key ways, which I’ll try to cover as faithfully as possible in this review.

Besides just being a great phone, though, the Nexus 6 represents a shift for Google’s Nexus strategy. The device is priced like a regular phone, and competes more evenly with similarly priced phones. Gone are the qualifications of “it lacks X but that’s okay because it’s inexpensive.” Google has managed to create what I consider a top-level phone that carries a normal phone price, and will actually be available from all the major carriers in the US. That’s a big deal.

That out of the way, where do we begin? Let’s take a look at some of the general ups and downs, and then we’ll get into the deeper review.

Nexus 6 Specifications
Price: $649/$699 from Google PlaySoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805CPU: Quad-core 2.7GHz
GPU: Adreno 420
Display: 1440x2560 5.96",493ppi
Memory: 3GB RAM, 32/64GB Storage
Cameras: 13MP/2MP
Battery: 3220mAh
NFC: Yes
Ports/Expandable Storage: MicroUSB, 3.5mm / None
Thickness: 10.1mm
Weight: 184g

The Good
The Display: The Nexus 6’s QHD display is impressive, bright, and vibrant, despite its two main faults.The Speakers: Both of them produce sound! This sounds like a small victory but it’s actually great. Before HTC introduced BoomSound, I never realized how great it would be to have two front-facing speakers on a phone. The Nexus 6 has this (unlike the Moto X, which only fires out of one speaker), and it sounds good.Everyday Performance: Coming from the Nexus 5 and Moto X, I didn’t think much of this at first, but the Nexus 6 is smooth. It performs really well in everyday use without any noticeable stutters or hangs. This came into sharp focus after I got the Nexus 9, which itself suffers a lot of random performance drags. Lollipop gliding smoothly all day is really a great experience.Lollipop: I won't rehash everything we've learned about the OS in this review, but Lollipop is so much more than a facelift for Android, and running Lollipop on the Nexus 6 is great.

The Not So Good
Optimization: As I said before, performance is great, but there are a few areas where the software could stand tweaking to make it perfect. One of these areas is ambient display, which is sometimes too slow to activate.Video capture: The camera still wants to refocus itself in a noticeable way during capture, and digital zoom is choppy, but what you actually capture still makes a decent end product.Size (maybe): This is a plus for some people and a minus for others. I am neutral on the subject for the most part, but the size of the Nexus 6 does objectively preclude the “one-handed use” standard most have for smartphones.Removable battery and SD slot: This is another minus that will likely not apply to everyone reading. These are two features people love about other devices, but features we likely won't see in a Nexus device any time soon.

My overall opinion of the Nexus 6 so far is a positive one. It’s a well-built phone with great performance, a good display, above average speakers, a good camera, and a decent (though not mind-boggling) battery. I’m not sure that any major pillar is missing or severely lacking here (unless you count availability). All of that said, let’s get into the details.

Design and Hardware

As I said in my initial hands-on, the Nexus 6 is not built like a typical Nexus device. In fact, instead of going over every detail, it would be easier simply to say that the Nexus 6 is like a giant Moto X plus a Nexus logo and the old-style Moto dimple on the back. That’s it.

One theory behind this is that the Nexus 6 may have previously been the Moto S, Motorola’s rumored silver device that would have ostensibly been scrapped when the project’s lead left Google and the Nexus program was confirmed to still be alive.

Whatever the case, it breaks with the Nexus design language we’ve seen since the original Nexus 7 - a flat back that curves at the edges, an inward-angled frame, and a flat top.

The N6 has a curved back that tapers at the edges, a curved display, and a straight metal frame.

Meanwhile the Nexus 9 picks up on the typical Nexus shape perfectly.

From the top: Moto X, Nexus 6, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 9

Regardless of whether it looks like a Nexus, the N6 feels good to hold. Moto’s design language is excellent for phones. The curved back rests comfortably in my palm, and the rounded screen is great for side-navigation and other gestures.

The phone is big, though (as if you didn’t know). Its 5.96” display is massive, but its bezels are not. It seems Moto did its best to eliminate bulk here, but there’s no denying that the N6 is huge. It takes some adjustment to get used to.

The phone sticks out of my back pocket, and can rest comfortably (if snugly) in most of my front pockets. Adjusting to putting it in your pocket is actually a thing that will happen, if you’re coming from a smaller device. But it gets much easier after a few days of carrying the phone around.

Next to the Moto X 2014

Thankfully, the speaker grills on the front are flat (not textured) and black, rather than serrated and silver like on the Moto X. This helps them stay discreet, though they do still protrude over the surface of the screen which may or may not cause you anxiety.

Speaking of the screen, the Nexus 6 has a great display. Its 493ppi resolution shows an incredible amount of detail, even making obvious the difference in stroke-widths between lowercase L and uppercase I in sans serif fonts. As I said in the initial hands-on, there are green and magenta shifts at the edge of some graphics (likely due to the sub-pixel layout), but these aren't noticeable at normal viewing distance. Also, while the screen is a little warmer than the Nexus 5, it also benefits from the AMOLED panel's saturation - there's no shortage of color on the Nexus 6.

Battery Life

This, of course, is a big deal. Nexus phones of the past haven’t exactly been known for stellar battery life.

Before we dig in to the Nexus 6’s battery life, I want to qualify the battery portion of the review. Battery life is my least favorite part of the review because - no matter what - it won’t be truly accurate to every reader’s real-world use. Scientific screen-on tests may make a good benchmark, but they don’t reflect real world use, while telling readers about my real world use won’t reflect thereader's use patterns, signal strength, etc.

That said, I have found the Nexus 6 to have respectable battery life. Here’s a look at an average day with the N6. While using the Nexus 6, my brightness was almost always at maximum, and I was connected to mobile data exclusively.


On a day with heavy navigation use, the battery did suffer considerably.


On the whole, the first set of shots is what I experienced most days, which comfortably got me through an entire day and evening. The phone definitely still needs to be charged every single day, but that’s what I expect until a breakthrough in battery tech actually materializes in production devices. One aspect of the battery that really impresses me is Lollipop's battery saver mode, which squeezes every last drop out of the battery, though the fact that it eliminates animations can make the overall user experience a little jerky.

Speaking of charging, the Nexus 6 has wireless charging (something sadly lacking on the Nexus 9). There are some magnets in the back so presumably it will stick to the square charging mat by Google, but I don’t personally own one so I can’t speak to its stability specifically.

The Nexus 6 comes with a turbo charger from Motorola, which is an amazing benefit. The charger is able to take the Nexus 6 battery from 7% to 100% in about half the time it took to charge using a regular adapter (just over an hour vs about 2 hours). The length of time the phone takes to charge either way will, of course, depend on what you're doing with the phone at the time. While testing it out, I left the phone basically untouched, except to check its progress.

Connection and Call Quality

I'll get through this part quickly and painlessly - WiFi performance on the N6 has been great in my experience, Bluetooth is exactly as I'd expect, and mobile data connection (despite a colorful indicator in my battery stats) has been serviceable on T-Mobile's network. As I sit at home writing this review, my signal strength is at -99 dBm, ranging up to -150dBm as I drive around town.

Call quality is also what I'd expect given the quality of the Nexus 6 speakers. The quality is clear and volume goes way past the level I'm comfortable with. Using the phone on speaker is a night-and-day difference from the Nexus 5's single, bottom-firing speaker.

Audio and Speaker

Speaking of speakers, the Nexus 6 has two that face forward. As I’ve already said a few times, I’m loving the audio on the Nexus 6. With previous phones, I’ve never actually listened to music from the speakers for any real length of time, but I have a few times since having the Nexus 6.

In the initial hands-on I noted that I am in no way, shape, or form an audio expert, so my experiences and statements on audio should be taken for what they’re worth. 

The speakers get as loud as I want them to (filling a medium-sized room without being too loud), and sound pretty good. As I said in the initial hands-on, they aren’t perfect - there’s still distortion at top volumes on certain tones, but they perform admirably.


This is another hot topic for Nexus users. And, as with the battery, I have some thoughts about how to properly gauge performance. I feel that camera performance can be best characterized in a review based on its average performance in a variety of categories - how sharp is the lens, how good is the sensor, how is the processing, how does the camera handle low light, and how are the videos?

But in the end, how a user feels about a mobile camera will depend on preference. Few are looking to mobile cameras to be the paragon of control and accuracy (though heightened controls and accuracy would be great), so while judgments can be made on those topics, I'd prefer to let readers take a look for themselves. As I've said in previous reviews, mobiles cameras are a different beast from "real" cameras. The way that people expect and are expected to interact with them is different. Mobile cameras need to be smarter, faster, and - ideally - just as good. We still aren't that much closer to that goal than we were last year, but baby steps are being taken.

As for my impressions? So far they are positive. The camera compares well against the Moto X and Nexus 5, both devices not particularly known for their photographic prowess. While there is still a little work that could be done to improve the camera, it's already pretty good in my experience.

As with any phone camera I’ve dealt with though, the cracks begin to show at full resolution. The cracks on the Nexus 6’s camera are fewer and smaller than those on the Nexus 5, though. It seems to this reviewer that the Nexus 6’s image processing is attempting to aggressively eliminate noise, which causes some details to look like mosaic pieces, smooth but perhaps wedged into place, whereas the Nexus 5 is less prone to this, but suffers from lower resolution and ostensibly less favorable processing overall. In low-light situations, this effect is particularly evident on the Nexus 6. In some ways it is preferable to the alternative, but it’s not perfect.

Objectively, the Nexus 6’s photos are not terribly strong at 100%, and the camera is prone to the occasional blown-out highlight, but the colors are true, the clarity is there, and HDR+ really shines on the device. In general, the Nexus 6's HDR+ photos had color truer to the actual scene than its Nexus 5 or Moto X counterparts, but still picked up the (high dynamic) range of light necessary to make a compelling image.

My opinions out of the way, here are some comparisons between the Nexus 6, Moto X, and Nexus 5, with some HDR comparisons thrown in too.


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X

Top: Normal Exposure, Bottom: HDR/+


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X

Top: Normal Exposure, Bottom: HDR/+


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X

Top: Normal Exposure, Bottom: HDR/+


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X

Top: Normal Exposure, Bottom: HDR/+


Left: Nexus 6, Middle: Nexus 5, Right: Moto X

Top: Normal Exposure, Middle: HDR/+ Bottom: With Flash

Below is a quick video sample. Audio capture isn't perfect, but the phone does do a good job of blocking out irrelevant noise, providing good enough sound for what I'm looking for in a smartphone camera. The camera does want to re-focus itself during capture, though, and digital zoom is still choppier than it should be.

Stability and Performance

As I've said a couple of times in this review, the Nexus 6 is fast. It's also reliable. If you've experienced performance issues and random stutters on the Nexus 9 as I have, the Nexus 6 will be a complete turnaround. If you're into benchmarks, here's a quick AnTuTu test:

Pretty good, right? The performance on the Nexus 6 is notable. Like its predecessor the Nexus 5, this phone is smooth, fast, and - again - performs reliably. It's a great experience.

Lollipop on the Nexus 6

We won't be diving into the intricacies of the latest version of Android in this review (I'll save that foranother post), but it is worth talking about what Lollipop has to offer specifically for the Nexus 6 (and what it doesn't).

The biggest thing separating the devices in Google's new lineup is their waking functionality. The Nexus 9 has tap-to-wake but no ambient display, while the Nexus 6 has ambient display but no tap-to-wake (the feature was actually explicitly turned off by Google in this commit). The second is a source of frustration, as the fluidity of the Nexus 9's tap-to-wake is a great benefit. It is possible that the feature was switched off because it may interfere with lift-to-wake or ambient display functionality, but lift-to-wake has its own issues.

The feature doesn't always work immediately - pulling the phone out of my pocket, the screen often took 2 or 3 seconds to enter ambient mode, when I could double-tap the screen instantly to wake it. Whether the feature was deemed too redundant to appear on the N6 is neither here nor there, but this user would personally appreciate some sort of option for waking features.

Speaking of ambient mode, I am actually more enthusiastic about the implementation Google's chosen for Lollipop than I am for the implementation on my Moto X. For example, the Moto X does not show Google+ notifications, but since Google's ambient mode shows a black-and-white version of the entire lock screen (minus the wallpaper), I can see every notification that comes in.

What's also great is that touching anything on the screen instantly brings it to life. There's no downtime between your touch and interaction with the elements on the screen. If you begin a swipe in ambient mode, it continues when the screen comes alive instantly.

Elsewhere, there aren't many notable optimizations made for the Nexus 6's massive screen on Lollipop. Apple chose to encourage developers to create alternate layouts for its giant iPhone 6 Plus, but Google is still taking a more holistic stance, encouraging developers to simply make interfaces that work well at every size, working more with scale than specific types of layouts. Frankly I am okay with this. In my opinion, even on an ample 5.9" display, a two-pane layout in one app may still feel cramped, even in landscape mode. That said, the Nexus 6 makes a good reference for developers for larger phones, and there are still some things to think about.

Whether the split-screen functionality explorations we took a look at (shown in our materials on a 4:3 display a la the N9) will make it to the Nexus 6 remains to be seen, but I'd be interested to see how much productivity it added.

Google's launcher does make fair use of the screen real estate. The launcher icons haven't shrunk, but the app grid in the drawer is 4x6, cutting down - at least marginally - on swiping when looking for an app. Additionally, the Nexus 6 is included in the supported hardware for Google's new always-listening feature in Lollipop, which allows users to trigger Google even when the screen is off and the phone isn't charging. This is something I'm accustomed to from my time with the Moto X, and makes a great addition to stock Android.

One more thing - as we've mentioned before, Google has introduced a new feature that - during initial setup - allows carrier bloat apps to be downloaded automatically. During setup, my review unit downloaded one T-Mobile app called "My Account." The app appeared automatically, but I was able to uninstall is just as easily as any other app, which is awesome.


As I said in the opening to this review, I generally really like the Nexus 6. Google has effectively removed the need to qualify its flaws with its price, and in fact there are very few flaws at all as far as I can tell.

The predictable lack of expandable storage or removable battery and the overall heft of the device may be deal breakers for some, especially with Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 floating around. But that doesn't negate my opinion that the Nexus 6 is a great device.

Personally, I've not toted a phone as big as the Nexus 6 before, and while it was an adjustment I've become accustomed to the size of the device. As I transition back, the Moto X 2014 feels absolutely tiny. If you're worried about size, you'd be well-advised to go check the phone out in person before making a final decision.

Nexus 6 Review: Google And Motorola Have Made A Great Big Phone At A Normal Price

Hi-Tech Talk © 2015 - Designed by