Last week’s WWDC keynote may have been all iPhone all the time, but there’s a new Mac this week–a heavily revised version of the Mac Mini, Apple’s teeny-tiny desktop machine.
The new Mac Mini looks a bit like a 13-inch MacBook Pro that’s morphed into a squarish shape and lost its screen and keyboard. It has a “unibody” aluminum case with an integrated power supply, so the power cord is just a cord. It’s a SD slot for memory cards. And it finally has HDTV output for easy hookups to HDTVs. Processor choices include 2.4-GHz and 2.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chips, and you get Nvidia’s GeForce 320M integrated graphics. As before, it doesn’t come with a keyboard or mouse.
Some of us remember when it was big news that Apple had finally released a $499 Mac. But as Apple has bumped up the Mac Mini’s capabilities and design, it’s also bumped up the pricetag: The Mini now starts at $699, for a version with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard disk. As usual, it competes with less elegant base-model Windows PCs that start at far lower prices (such as Dell’s $250 Zino HD–more on it in another post soon). And with the new starting price, it doesn’t qualify as a cheap computer.
Is there any particular significance to the Mini’s upscale, costlier redesign? A conspiracy theorist might conclude that Apple is making room for a whizbang all-new Apple TV box of some sort. But it’s probably pretty simple: The company likes making refined computers and caters to customers who aren’t very price sensitive and are willing to pay more for niceties like an aluminum case.
For what seems like forever, I’ve toyed with the idea of putting a Mini or Mini-like Windows PC in my living-room entertainment center (and maybe dumping Comcast at the same time). But I need to confess something: After years of sneering at Blu-ray, I’m sort of interested in it. Enough so, at least, that the Mini’s lack of it finally feels like a downside. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to whether Apple will eventually offer it, or manage to bypass it until nobody cares about shiny discs anymore?