The Mighty Mini, Now with Front Row

With a special media event this afternoon, Apple released information on its  new products.  The first order of business was to update the Mac Mini.  Now sporting Intel processors, the Mini is available in both single core and dual core versions.

The single core Mini sells for $599 and will run at 1.5GHz.  It is dubbed the Core Solo.  The dual core version will sell for $799 and sports a dual core 1.67GHz chip, a.k.a. the Core Duo.  Both come with Front Row, a remote control, AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth, four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400, GigaBit Ethernet, DVI out, and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as analog audio in and out.  Jobs claims the slower Mini is 2.5x – 3.2x faster while the dual core is up to 5x faster.

The new Mini’s also come with iLife 06, as well as Front Row.  An update to Front Row now makes it easy for the application to find music, photos, and movies on the local network.  Now that media will be available via Front Row, regardless of what computer the media is stored on.  And, according to Jobs, the Mini can be plugged directly into a television.

But there is a major down side to the new configurations.  Apple has opted to use an integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics processor.  This means that the graphics chip shares memory with the system.  There is no dedicated video RAM!  So what does that do to video performance?  Extremetech.com has some sample benchmarks online using the GMA 950… And they really, really suck!  Keep in mind that these benchmarks were run on a PC system, but the hardware is the same so the numbers should hold up.

If you want to use the Mini as a media computer, odds are it will fit the bill.  If you want to use it for email and web surfing, you will be happy there too.  But if you have any delusions of playing 3D games you will be sorely disappointed.

All things considered, the Mini is a very nice computer.  It is a shame that the price has gone up, but we do get more for our money (in most cases).  It also makes sense for Apple to neuter the video in the Mini.  Anyone looking for a consumer targeted Mac with video performance should look at the iMac.  Everyone else will like the Mini.

The new Mini’s ship today.  We should see real world benchmarks in the very near future.  Until then, consider what we know about the computer.  It’s fast, and it packs a lot of punch for its small size.  Video performance will be fine for day to day use, but 3D games will be another story.  The new Mini’s are more expensive than their predecessors, but in time, the systems will likely match the prices of the previous line.  But until some real world performance benchmarks hit the web, I would hold off on a new Mini.


Steve

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