Mac mini (mid 2011) and 24 inch Cinema Display

July 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm Leave a comment

After Lion went GM last month, I decided that I wanted to try it out.  I was using a 2009 era iMac (Core2Duo 3.06 Ghz) at the time, paired with my svelte 24 inch Cinema Display.  I quickly came to realize that I really didn’t need a secondary screen.  With Mission Control, I think one screen is quite enough, especially if it were my 24 inch ACD.

I had been thinking of replacing my iMac eventually with a Mac Pro, but with the speed at which hardware is getting faster and cheaper, swapping out my machine for a speedy new Mini makes sense.  I mean, according to the Geekbench scores, this new Mini is about 40-50% faster than my iMac.  I also have an original Intel CoreDuo iMac the kids use that can’t run Lion, so I can hand my iMac down to my wife, and pass her Mini to the kids.  My wife’s been needing more than the 4 GB of ram in that Mini anyhow, so the 8 GB in my old iMac should work for a few years.

First, let me say that I like the new Mini, a lot.  A Core i5 processor isn’t what I expected to be in this generation of Minis.  It’s only dual core, but they are hyperthreaded, so it looks like 4 to the OS.  The model I picked up has ATI graphics.  The graphics chip in this unit isn’t as powerful as the ones in the recently updated Macbook Pro units, but it’s a major step up from the Integrated graphics in my iMac.  I could only manage to play Civ V in Bootcamp on my iMac, but it fires right up on my Mini and looks great at all the default settings.  This mini has 4 USB ports, a FW 800 port, a Thunderbolt port, and HDMI out.

Now, the bad.  When I booted up my mini attached to my 24 inch Cinema Display it was a thing of beauty.  Right up until I noticed some horizontal graphical glitches.  And then came the screen blanking, where the entire display goes black for a second or two.  It reminds me of what a Windows computer does when you install new video drivers.  Except, this happens at random.  Sometimes, 20-30 minutes goes by and everything is great.  Other times, it will blank multiple times within the same minute.  Sometimes it happens, comes back, then happens again within seconds.  It’s highly annoying.  In looking on the forums, I see that this has been a problem with this display attached to the new thunderbolt equipped Macbook Pros that came out a few months ago.  There are over 30 pages of replies about it on the Apple forum.  I was the first to reply that the problem affects the new Mini models as well.

The problem appears to be with how the display handles the new Thunderbolt ports.  It’s not clear if it’s an issue with Thunderbolt, or with the display, but Apple is saying that it is the display.  A “firmware update” is supposedly right around the corner to address these problems.  Whatever the fix is, it can’t get here soon enough as far as I’m concerned.  Now with this affecting more and more buyers, perhaps that will put some added pressure on Apple to fix it.

Now, sometimes Apple gets a bad rap.  People speak out, and sometimes even sue, over the most minor things.  But, when spending the kind of money they ask for new durable hardware like this display, customers expect that it will last for many years, even many iterations of desktops.  They don’t expect it to be “obsoleted” via compatibility issues.

Apple:  Fix this ASAP.  This is hurting your reputation.  I’m in no hurry to drop another grand on your new “Thunderbolt” displays when I one just two years ago.  If this doesn’t get fixed relatively quickly, I’ll start researching some other brand of monitor to give me 24+ inches of screen real estate, and probably won’t bother buying another Apple monitor ever again.

Now, my beautiful 24 inch Cinema Display is sitting on the floor, unplugged.  Attached to my new speedy Mini now?  The same 20 inch Cinema Display that I bought about 6 years ago, shortly after I got my first Mac, a G4 Mini.  It’s still a very nice display, but I’m used to the 24 inch size now…

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Entry filed under: Mac.

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