The beginning of March brought new Macintosh computers. On March 3, Apple updated its entire desktop line, which includes the Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini. The new Mac Pro is very impressive, but it is truly priced out of the range of all but the high-end Mac user, someone who uses it professionally. The iMac is just gorgeous. It relies on the original Mac design of an all-in-one computer. While I do love the look of the new iMac, the little Mac mini has a special place in my heart.
While many PC people may look at the little mini and think that something this small shouldn't be able to do much. The mini may be small, but it packs a good punch. Inside there is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at either 2 or 2.26GHz. Its size remains the same, 6.5x6.5x2 inches. On the back Apple added an extra USB port, a new mini Display Port, and the Firewire 400 is now a Firewire 800 port. In the March Mac update, Apple sweetened the deal on the lower-end mini. The previous model had a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, and a DVD player/CD burner (Combo) optical drive. The new mini has a slightly faster 2.0GHz processor, 120GB hard drive, DVD SuperDrive (burns both DVDs and CDs), and the much faster nVidia GeForce 9400M graphic processor. All for the exact same price as the previous Intel Mac mini, $599.
Now that the mini finally has some video power, thanks to the new GeForce 9400M chip, games are now playable. Before the 9400M, the mini used Intel's 950GMA chip set. This was built into the motherboard and used part of the mini's RAM for its video storage. The 9400M also shares main memory, but this chip has much better 3-D performance, up to 5 times, than the Intel chip. Games like Call of Duty 4 wouldn't even load if you had the Intel video. On the new mini it runs at a playable 35-40 FPS (frames per second). While this is nothing like what most PC gaming rigs can do, it is more than adequate for the average casual gamer.
Because of its size and power, the mini makes a very good first and even second computer. Paired with a good LCD monitor, the mini takes up practically the same amount of space as the iMac. Many buy the mini for use as a media machine. The mini can be easily connected to your television, especially in high def. The included Apple Remote plus iTunes and Front Row allows you to play video and audio files through your home theatre system. Add one of the new USB TV tuners and you have a pretty decent media center with DVR (Digital Video Recorder) capabilities.
The mini has even found a place in the computer room. Because of its small size and lower power requirements, plus the fact that it runs OS X an operating system based on BSD UNIX, the mini is often used as a server.
There's just something about the Mac mini that I love. Maybe it's the size or the look or maybe both. I have the previous model mini, the one with Intel graphics, so I'm longingly looking at the new ones. I think I'll wait until the next update to replace it, upgrading just for the video is not really worth it. If I had a PPC era Mac, then getting the latest Intel mini would make perfect sense.
If you are looking to get a second Mac, for the kids or family room, or if you have always been curious about the Mac operating system, then the Mac mini, the 'low-end' Mac, might be just what you are looking for. It is a great computer for the Internet and casual gaming, plus it makes an even better media center.
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