Apple Updates Mac Mini, Inside and Out

There are times when Apple does things with great aplomb, such as the last week’s grand debut of the iPhone. Then there are times like today, when it introduced a new Mac mini with little more than a press release. (Apple spells mini with a lowercase m).

That doesn’t diminish the mini, which is barely bigger than a CD-ROM drive. Judging by the changes, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) put quite an effort into redesigning its smallest and lowest-cost computer. It shares an all-aluminum unibody enclosure similar to Apple’s MacBooks while the internals have been upgraded to bring its performance in line with the laptop product line as well.

The Mac mini lives up to its name, measuring 7.7 inches square and 1.4 inches tall, with an integrated power supply instead of the power “brick” taking up space on the floor or desk. Apple says this will reduce the overall space occupied by the mini by 20 percent.

Under the hood, the Mac mini sports a 2.4 GHz Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core 2 Duo processor, 320GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM and an Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) GeForce 320M graphics processor, which doubles the performance of the CPU in the prior generation of Mac mini. But that extra performance comes at a cost — the new mini is $699 — that’s $100 more than the previous generation of the line.

On the outside, the Mac mini has an expansion port for adding more memory, plus a new HDMI output to connect the mini to an HDTV. A new SD card slot enables easy transfer of photos and videos from a digital camera. It has four USB 2.0 slots, a Gigabit Ethernet adapter, one FireWire 800 port, and support for 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

“The sleek, aluminum Mac mini packs great features, versatility and value into an elegant, amazingly compact design,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. “With twice the graphics performance, HDMI support and industry-leading energy efficiency, customers are going to love the new Mac mini.”

The basic configuration has a retail price of $699. Customers can get up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 500GB hard drive, Apple Remote, Aperture 3, Final Cut Express 4, Logic Express, an Apple Wireless Keyboard, the Magic Mouse, an Apple 24 inch LED Cinema Display and the AppleCare Protection Plan.

The new Mac mini reduces power consumption by 25 percent over the previous version, reducing the idle power draw to less than 10 watts, earning the mini Energy Star 5.0 and EPEAT Gold status. The new aluminum enclosure is recyclable and the computer is free of non-recyclable materials, something Apple has been promoting in all of its other products.

Mac mini comes with Mac OS X 10.6 plus Apple’s software suite, which includes iLife, iMovie and GarageBand — the latter introduces a new way to help you learn to play piano and guitar.

Mac Mini as a Workgroup Server

A second model, called Mac mini with Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server, can act as the server for a small workgroup or home office. It does basic server tasks like acting as an email server, calendar server and a file server. It does Time Machine backups, hosts a Wiki, and includes Podcast Producer software. The server has a 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, two 500GB hard drives and supports unlimited clients. Selling price is $999.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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