After announcing virtually no news on the Macintosh front at last week’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple has rolled out a surprise update to its diminutive Mac mini entry-level computer, spiffing up the unit’s graphic capability and adding an HDMI output for pushing video to a big screen, as well as giving the system an aluminum unibody design that helps it slide in neatly alongside other Apple hardware.
“The sleek, aluminum Mac mini packs great features, versatility, and value into an elegant, amazingly compact design,” said Apple senior VP for worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller, in a statement. “With twice the graphics performance, HDMI support, and industry-leading energy efficiency, customers are going to love the new Mac mini.”
The new Mac mini is still tiny—just 7.7 inches square and less than an inch and a half tall, and that includes an integrated power supply so there’s no ugly wall wart hanging around somewhere. The new unibody design may also help customers overcome one point of frustration with the Mac mini: getting at the guys. The new design features a removable panel on the bottom for easy memory expansion—and the Mac mini will support up to 8 GB of RAM. The minis continue to sip power, consuming just 10 watts at idle (that’s down from about 13 watts in the previous model).
The updated Mac mini also features Nvidia 320M graphics with 256 MB of video memory, which Apple claims offer twice the performance of the predecessor model; they also provide the oomph to push high-definition video out an HDMI port at up to 1,920 by 1080 resolution. The minis are available with 2.4 GHz or 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors, have a mini DisplayPort output that can support monitors up to 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, DVI and VGA output (via adapter), 802.11N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, gigabit Ethernet, an 8× slot-loading DVD±RW drive, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, an SD card slot, and either a 320 or 500 GB hard drive.
Pricing on the new Mac mini starts at $699; Apple also makes a $999 version with Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server installed for handling workgroup needs of small businesses: it sports a 2.66 GHz processor and two 500 GB 7,200 rpm hard drives.