Just when you think Apple’s about to do the obvious, our favorite Mac maker turns the tables and thinks different. Again. Take the Mac mini. Please.
Some rumors had Apple dumping the Mac mini. Others had news of the mini’s upcoming update. I don’t recall reading anything about the Mac mini facelift, but that’s what happened. The Mac mini is new again. And different. Again.
What’s Old Is New Again
What’s new about the old Mac mini? It’s still a mini, of course. In additional to a bunch of expected inside improvements, the Mac mini received a much-needed, and somewhat unexpected, facelift.
Yes, the mini looks like a mini—only different.
As expected, Apple upgraded and updated what’s inside the mini making it more of a classy $699 work horse than the previous versions of the mini. This mini is, well, sleek looking. At least, it’s as sleek as a mini can look.
Think of what would happen if a television cartoon super hero sat on top of the old Mac mini and squished it flatter and sleeker. It’s barely 1.4 inches high, and it’s not like the previous mini was a tower. It’s also about a pounder lighter than the last mini model.
The new mini is aluminum and the plastic top is left to nowheresville. It’s gone. Somehow Apple made the mini smaller, lighter, faster, and more sturdy.
Mac mini Outside and Inside
On the outside, the mini has all the basics and a few surprises. There’s FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, a MiniDisplayPort connector, the standard audio input and output ports, four USB ports (down from five in yesteryear’s model), an SD card slot (but stuck in the back, not the front).
Gone is the old mini-DVI port replaced by the new HDMI port—a perfect companion to plug the mini’s output into a big flat screen TV.
Life inside the new 2010 Mac mini has changed, too. Apple makes it easy for users to open up the Mac mini from the bottom. Flip it over, turn the bottom panel, and it opens. Is there a Mac anywhere that’s easier to open up? Alright, maybe the Mac Pro, but there’s a difference in price tag.
Of course, there’s not much you can do inside the Mac mini but look and swap out memory chips (up to 8 gigabytes), but still. Replacing RAM is easy, replacing hard drives is not, so order your Mac mini carefully.
Also inside are the regular expectations. Dual wireless antennas. Bluetooth, WiFi, an 85-watt power supply, RAM, a cooling fan. The latest mini comes with a 320 gigabyte hard disk drive with an option to 500 gigabytes.
Also gone from the 2010 mini is the basic model with the $599 price tag and the $799 price tag with more features. Instead, there are two models which start at $699 as described above. Two gigabytes of RAM, 320 gigabyte hard disk drive, an 8X SuperDrive, an Intel Inside 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and better graphics.
This time graphics are supplied by NVidia GeForce 320 integrated graphics chip now optimized for HD video. Attach an Elgato EyeTV to this Mac and you’ve got that Apple-like TiVo you’ve been dreaming about.
The second model 2010 mini is the Snow Leopard Server model. For $999, only $300 more than the base model, you get Snow Leopard Server, 4 gigabytes of RAM, and dual—as in two—500 gigabyte hard disk drives, both running at 7200 RPM.
That’s a sweet deal for server requirements that include small space and low power requirements. Of course, all those server racks that stuffed multi Mac mini’s in a rack will have to be reconfigured for the new Mac mini’s flatter shape.
This is the Mac mini that serves three major Mac users—the user who needs an inexpensive or second Mac. The user who needs a low power, high performance, inexpensive Mac server.
And the user who’s dreaming of a Mac morphing into a powerful and overly expensive DVR that’s also a Mac. It’s a sweet upgrade.
Speaking of upgrades, when is Apple going to upgrade the design of the Mac Pro case—long in the tooth outside, and changed seemingly on an annual basis on the inside?