Steve Jobs pulled the wraps off the long-expected and eagerly awaited Intel-based Mac mini. With a few surprises.
Apple’s easy-to-use version of the living room media center is here, and carries everything you want. And more. And less.
First, speed. The new Intel-based Mac mini comes in two configurations. An Intel Core Solo CPU in the base model for $599 ($100 more than the previous PowerPC Mac mini), and the $799 Mac mini with a Core Duo CPU and SuperDrive (to burn DVDs).
Apple claims the benchmark speed increases are up to 5.5 times the previous PowerPC Mac mini. Obviously, your mileage may vary. The real news is elsewhere.
The Mac mini with Intel chips will look and feel pretty much like the older Mac mini, except it should run a little faster with the 1.5Ghz Core Solo or 1.66Ghz Core Duo processors.
The internal architecture has been modified substantially, and the Intel-based Mac mini will handle up to 2 gigbytes of RAM, and can be ordered with up to 120 gigabyte hard drive.
Also included is analog and digital audio ports, six USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 400, a DVI connector, and the Apple infrared remote control.
Built in to both models is gigabit ethernet, Airport Extreme wireless (802.11g standard), and Bluetooth 2.0. A 56k modem is optional.
On the software side, Apple provides Mac OS X for Intel, iLife (runs native on Intel Macs), and Front Row (same version as the Intel iMac).
As with the first generation of Mac mini, it’s BYODKM. Bring your own display, keyboard and mouse.
Frankly, there’s little surprise in the package, except for what’s missing.
Apple claims the Mac mini will connect to a TV so you can display Front Row and stream iTunes music, iPhoto pictures, and movies. But how?
The DVI connector is standard, but Apple isn’t making it easy to figure out which connector connects to DVI and your television (easier if you have a new flat panel with multiple connectors).
The Mac mini is also not a personal digitial video recorder. You’ll have to add software and a capture device for that.
In the final analysis, the new Mac mini is a lot like the old Mac mini.
That’s especially true as far as the living room is concerned.
The addition of Front Row lets you pull media (music, video, photos) from other Macs on the household network.
The new Mac mini is faster and does more. Does it do enough? Is Apple really getting into the living room, or is this a tip-toe event?
I’m convinced it’s a tip-toe event. A ho hum event. A near non-event as even the rumors were true this time. New Mac mini, new iPod boom box, wait ‘til later for more goodies.
What’s also missing from this announcement is movies. Movies from the iTunes Music Store. Movies from Disney.
As a living room media center, the new Mac mini inches forward, but doesn’t get there yet.
Maybe we’ll see a video capture device in the same form factor as a Mac mini. That’ll be an extra $299. Tricked out, a Mac mini media center could be an expensive setup.