Apple Debuts Intel Mini, iPod Hi-Fi

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At a special press event in Cupertino today, Apple Computer took the wraps off a new Intel-based Mac mini plus the new iPod Hi-Fi, a high-quality portable stereo for iPods.

The new Mac minis will be available in two configurations based around the Intel Core Solo or Intel Core Duo processors the Intel Core Duo processor running at speeds of 1.5 to 1.66 GHz, with an Intel GMA950 graphics processor with 64 MB of video memory, support for up to 2 GB of RAM, a slot loading optical drive, four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400 port, and built-in gigabit Ethernet, Airport Extreme (802.11g) wireless networking, and Bluetooth 2.0+ER. The Mac mini also offers DVI video output, a VGA output, plus S-video and composite video out, along with combined optical digital audio input and outputs using minijacks (the output also doubles as a headphone jack. The Mac mini’s tiny form factor has not changed: users still need to bring their own keyboards, mice, and monitors, but the Mac mini itself is still under 3 pounds, two inches high, and six and a half inches wide and deep.

Along with the iLife ’06 application package, the Mac mini will also feature a new version of Apple’s Front Row media software, now enabled with Bonjour instant networking, so the Mac mini can automatically find and play music, videos, and photos stored on other computers on the home network, all from the comfort of your couch using the included Apple Remote.

Apple says the Intel-equipped Mac minis are as much as 4 times faster than previous Mac minis (2.5 times faster for the Intel Core Solo configuration), but all these additions come at a cost: Apple’s increased the base price for the Mac mini from $499 to $599, with the Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz unit starting at $799. Both models are available immediately.

Apple also took the wraps off its new iPod Hi-Fi, available today for $349, which Apple is billing as the “home stereo, reinvented.” The iPod Hi-Fi is essentially a high quality portable stereo system for iPods, complete with a three-driver speaker system (two 80mm mid-range speakers and a 130mm dual voice coil woofer with a ported bass reflex design). Any iPod with a dock connector can be attached to the top of the unit using dock adapters, and an audio port on the back enables connectivity with iPod Shuffles or older iPods which didn’t have Dock connectors. The unit has an integrated power supply (no wall wart), but can also be run on six D batteries and has handles on the sides for easy portability. (No word yet on third-party carrying cases, covers, or gig bags!) An iPod software update will add a new Speakers item in the main menu to enable iPod users to control speaker settings, and folks can control the iPod Hi-Fi with the included Apple Remote. The audio input port accepts either analog or SPDIF digital miniplugs.

Apple is touting the audio quality offered by the iPod Hi-Fi, which claimed to offer frequency response from 53 Hz to 16KHz with +/- 3 db of harmonic distortion, which puts it comfortably in the mid-range of consumer audio products, although short of audiophile specs.