Developing apps for Apple’s mobile devices is an enticing opportunity for software developers, and rightfully so: Apps like Tiny Tower, GeoDefense, and GoodReader show that there is potential for huge return on time investment. If you are one of those people that wants to try your hand at making an iOS App, then you are probably trying to figure out what the most cost effective solution for getting started is. Unfortunately many software developers do not have Apple systems at their disposal, and to develop and ship an iOS App one must have an Apple computer. In this post I will review the Mid 2011 Mac Mini (priced at $599) with a focus on iOS development.
- Processor: Sandy Bridge Intel i5-2410M (2.3GHz)
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD 3000 (see the processor link for more specs)
- Ram: 2GB 1333MHz DDR3 Optional upgrade to 4 or 8GB
- Hard Drive: 500 GB 5400-RPM
- 1x Thunderbolt port
- 4x USB 2.0 ports
- 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigabit Ethernet port
- 1x HDMI Port (Includes HDMI to DVI Adapter)
- 1x SDXC card slot
- 1x FireWire 800 port
- 1x 3.5mm LineOut, and 1x 3.5mm LineIn
- *No optical drive*
Some Things to Consider
If $599 for a Sandy Bridge based Mac seems too good to be true, then you should probably consider these points:
- It has no optical drive, DVD or otherwise
- It has no keyboard
- It has no mouse
- It has no monitor
Is it Good Enough For iOS Development?
The answer is Yes, and No… but mostly Yes.
If your primary use for the Mac Mini will be iOS application development, then you will likely be running Safari/Chrome, Xcode, iOS Simulator, Instruments, Finder, and maybe one or two other apps simultaneously. My experience in doing this with the Mid 2011 Mac Mini has shown that the 2GB of RAM is NOT ENOUGH to handle Lion and all of those apps open at once. If you stick with just the default 2GB configuration, you will experience hangs when switching between applications and opening new xibs in Interface Builder.
To upgrade your Mac Mini’s RAM to 4GB, Apple is charging 90$! To upgrade to 8GB, Apple wants 270$!!! That is way to steep for someone who is just buying the system to have a go at making iOS apps. Luckily there is another way to upgrade your memory…
According to Apple’s website, you can install and RAM modules that conform to these specifications:
- 204-pin SO-DIMM
- PC3-10600 DDR3
- 1333 MHz
I’ve ordered 2x 4GB modules from Newegg for something like 50 bucks. The RAM will arrive today, and I anticipate that it will minimize the hangs I experience while working on my Mac Mini.
EDIT: The ram has arrived, and has been installed without issue. No more hangs when switching between applications on the Mini.
Besides the lack of adequate ram, there have been a few other tweaks I have had to make to my Mac, so that it feels more natural to me, a Windows 7 user.
Other than the RAM and the tweaks, the Mac Mini Mid 2011 works great for iOS development, and, short of borrowing someone else’s Mac, it appears to be the most cost effective way for a software developer to try out iOS development.