Mac Mini Gets Ready for the Living Room

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At a Glance
  • Apple Mac mini/1.5GHz

The Intel-powered Mac Mini costs a bit more than the prior version but is now much closer to a real media-center machine.
The Intel-powered Mac Mini costs a bit more than the prior version but is now much closer to a real media-center machine.
Apple's latest Mac Mini brings a $100 price jump, a new processor from Intel, and some slick new entertainment features designed to bridge the gap between the home office and the home theater. The $649 shipping unit I tested included Intel's 1.5-MHz Intel Core Solo processor, 512MB of memory, a 60GB hard drive, and an 8X SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW). (The standard $599 configuration has a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.) Among the machine's new elements are built-in gigabit ethernet, 802.11g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, two extra USB 2.0 ports (for a total of four), and optical digital input/output ports; the most significant additions to the system are an infrared remote control and Front Row media software. I was able to connect the unit to my home analog television via a composite/S-Video adapter, and then to my 5.1-channel surround-sound amplifier via a digital optical audio cable. One disappointment: I had to purchase Apple's video adapter and optical cables separately (at a total cost of $49). Unfortunately, the company still doesn't provide an internal TV tuner as an option.

Our friends at Macworld ran tests on the single-core Mac Mini and the $799 dual-core version (running Intel's 1.66-GHz Core Duo processor). The numbers were unsurprising: The Mac Mini is less powerful than the Intel-based iMac and MacBook Pro, each of which feature faster processors. However, the dual-core version outperformed the previous top-of-the-line model--the 1.42-GHz G4 Mac Mini--in most tests, and the single-core system did better in about half the tests. That said, most prospective Mac Mini buyers aren't looking for raw power, and as an entry-level home system this newest version shines both in its features and in its bundled applications.

Apple Computer Mac Mini

Entry-level Mac with Intel inside costs a bit more but adds several worthwhile multimedia features.
Price when reviewed: List: $649
Current prices (if available)

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Analog- and digital-audio input and output
    • Four USB 2.0 ports
    • Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0
    • Front Row software with Apple Remote
    • Improved performance in many native applications
    • Gigabit Ethernet


    • RAM is difficult to upgrade
    • Improvements over G4 Mac mini not as dramatic as Core Duo model
    • Unable to play HD video without dropping frames
    • Integrated graphics reduces available RAM
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