The new Mac mini is here

Thinner, more powerful, more features and user upgradeable

APPLE SURPRISED US TODAY by launching its new, completely overhauled Mac mini. The actual hardware specs haven’t been given a huge boost, but the rest of the system isn’t the Mac mini as you know it. Apple has somehow managed to shrink it down to a mere 1.4-inches (3.6cm) tall, compared to 2-inches (5.1cm) for the previous model. However, this is a small feat compared to the rest of the changes.

The new Mac mini actually grew slightly in terms of with and depth, to 7.7-inches (19.7cm) per side, compared to 6.5-inches (16.5cm) of the older version. There’s a benefit to the extra size, as it allowed Apple to add a few new extra ports that many have wanted on the Mac mini. Most importantly, Apple has added an HDMI port, but there’s also an SD card reader located around the back on the new model.

Features that were kept from the older model include the mini DisplayPort connector, FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and the two 3.5mm audio jacks with optical S/PDIF in and out. The new model gets one USB 2.0 port less for a total of four and the mini DVI port is missing altogether.

Surprisingly Apple has done away with the power brick, as the new Mac mini has a built in power supply which is no mean feat in a system this small. You have to give it to Apple’s engineers when it comes to thinking up the internal workings of Apple’s hardware, as there are very few companies that come close to Apple when it comes to the actual internal workings.

Another unexpected surprise is the removable bottom panel which simply twists off to reveal the memory slots. This is the first Mac mini to feature easily accessible memory slots. With current memory pricing it doesn’t make a huge difference if you get the DDR3 SO-DIMMs from Apple or from a third party, especially as you can’t specify the Mac mini to ship with a single memory module.

The ability to open the Mac mini also gives us a glimpse of the internal workings as there’s still a blower fan in place which exhausts the hot air out the back of the system through a small vent. One of the Wi-Fi antennas is also located here and the second one is most likely located in the Apple logo on the top.

Same as the previous model Apple is fitting a slot-loaded DVD writer in the Mac mini, although you could also go for the dual hard drive model which lacks the optical drive. The choice of hard drive sizes is limited to 320 or 500GB, where the dual drive version comes with a pair of 500GB drives

The rest of the spec appears to be similar to that of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, with a 2.4 or 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor and the Nvidia GeForce 320M chipset with integrated graphics. The Wi-Fi includes support for 802.11a/b/g/n and there’s of course also built in support for Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR. Apple also kindly includes an HDMI to DVI adapter in the box.

At $699, the new Mac mini is $100 more expensive than the older version which is a fairly steep jump and this only includes 2GB of memory. The “server” version with dual drives, 4GB of RAM and the 2.66GHz processor will set you back a not insignificant $999, although this includes the server versions of Snow Leopard.S|A

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