Apple released the Intel Core-based Mac mini systems today. Overall, I’m underwhelmed, and glad I bought the 20″ Core Duo iMac instead of waiting for the Intel mini as I’d originally planned.
Apple no longer offers a sub-$500 computer. You’re forced to pay $100 more for a system with built-in wireless (802.11b/g and Bluetooth) even if you don’t need it, and Intel GMA950 integrated graphics. While the new integrated graphics chipset is a performance improvement over the older Radeon 9200, it “steals” system memory (according to Apple, a minimum of 80M) to use as graphics memory. As a result, instead of a 512M system out-of-the-box you’ve got a 432M system. Other changes include two DDR2 SODIMM slots instead of a single DDR DIMM slot, four USB2 ports (up from two), gigabit Ethernet, and analog/optical audio in (finally) and out. Prices start at $599, but I’ll pass. If they’d released a version without the built-in wireless for the original $499, I would have thought about picking one up.
(I’m sure the reason that wireless is not an option is that its built into the Intel system chipset and isn’t a “piggyback” board as it was on previous models.)
I find it highly ironic to look at Apple’s original web page about the G4-based Mac mini graphics:
“Go ahead, just try to play Halo on a budget PC. Most say they’re good for 2D games only. That’s because an “integrated Intel graphics” chip steals power from the CPU and siphons off memory from system-level RAM. You’d have to buy an extra card to get the graphics performance of Mac mini, and some cheaper PCs don’t even have an open slot to let you add one.”