Apple's Best Kept Secret for Home Learning

As discussed in "Technology and Learning," some people may find Apple computers to be the right choice for their learning, but might be at a loss for where to start. Although Apple's product lines are relatively simple, a first look at them can be like venturing into a new culture. Their machines have good design and features which could be useful for learning, so it could be easy to get carried away. And if one has the budget, why not?

But really, the best practice would be to consider ones' purposes and match them to a machine which fits those needs. That is, prior to all-out buying that 27" iMac Pro and realizing it is too big to fit in your car or something.

If you are looking for realistic, low-impact access to the Apple user experience, iPads could be a likely option. But some people need a real computer. In that case, you might look at the low-end MacBook Air, though it is a laptop. But wait. Wandering through the Apple shop, you likely missed something. Absent from most Apple shops, but there on the online store is the Mac Mini. This is the candidate which might fit home learning best.

The first reason the Mini could be the right choice is its flexibility. The Mini is like Apple's VW Van of computers. Buying this unit gets you a baseline computer with solid design, which serves well in many different situations and purposes. The other Macs are often bulky complete systems: display, keyboard, pointing device. The Mini is simply the computer itself, ready to use with various types of accessories. So you can use it with the equipment you have available. One example is that it has an HDMI port, which can use most up-to-date tv's as a display.

I have a 2010 model, which was purchased for use as a server. It has slugged away day and night in two different places, both of which are known internationally for their torturous humidity and heat, not to mention high particulate matter in the air. All mortal enemies of computer longevity. After seven years of uninviting environments, it has had its disk upgraded to a solid state drive and the machine is working away at learning projects.

The Mac Mini is configured and built to give reliable performance in varying situations which are likely to be part of home learning. Working through changing equipment, locations and uses are part of its reason for being.

Similar to the Mini's flexibility is its mobility. Besides being equipped to work in a variety of situations, it fits its name. This is the little box that could. The Mac Mini is rugged, small and light. With a solid aluminum construction, the Mini can handle being tousled about (although avoiding it is suggested). It occupies a minimum of desk space, so family trips, learning trips or simply moving from one workspace to the next around the house is no challenge. And it is willing to share with the other books and equipment needed for work.

The final strength of the Mini is its amiability. When talking about loving a product, the first thing to come to mind is probably price. This too, is well suited to family learning. Apart from its other strengths, the Mac Mini can be up to $500 (U.S.) lower than the price of low end MacBooks. Of course it doesn't include keyboard, display, etc., but if you already have the other necessary components, there is no argument. Besides this, it is easy to love simply moving the Mini into place, hooking it up with minimal effort, and being up and running.

To be truthful, a review does need to take into account potential drawbacks, and the Mac Mini does have some limitations. As mentioned, it does not come as a complete package. If you do not have the keyboard, display, and pointing device, they are things you will have to get. Also, though non-Mac equipment works with the Mini, it is not always convenient. Keyboards without the Mac OS shortcut keys can make managing the system awkward. Finally, expansion options for the machine are limited. RAM is actually convenient to access and replace, but the quantity it accepts is limited. Replacing the hard disk is not for the faint at heart however.

Though most Mac computers would do well, the Mac Mini is especially well suited for learning at home. Others like the iMac are certainly nice and have features that could be desirable. In the case that a higher end station would be needed for special kinds of work, the iMac or Mac Pro would be in order. But the Mini provides a platform for general functionality, which, along with flexibility, mobility and amiability uniquely fits the needs that would be encountered in regular learning activities.

Apple's Best Kept Secret for Home Learning original article at learningwilds.net

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