23 Comments

Summary:

The Mac Mini desktop sees a hardware upgrade today, along with a price boost. It’s still the cheapest Mac desktop at $699, but with new Nvidia graphics and HDMI output, might it be your next Apple TV while Boxee and Google sit on the sidelines?

Apple has updated the Mac Mini, beefing up the processor to a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, allowing for up to 8 GB of self-installed memory thanks to a removable panel and providing a graphical boost with Nvidia’s GeForce 320M chipset. A single cord connection for audio and video output to a monitor or HDTV set has also been added, and the small desktop computer is now housed in a larger aluminum case.

Aside from the new look, the updated video capabilities stand out as rumors have swirled around the Mini becoming the new Apple TV of the future. Recent talk indicated that the company might leverage the rebadged iOS4 platform for an Apple TV device, which would add tens of thousands of software apps to the living room. But with the new hardware, notably Nvidia’s graphics solution and the new HDMI port, the Mac Mini could easily function like an Apple TV through the use of iTunes and Front Row — two pieces of software that provide simple playback controls when paired with a wireless Apple remote.

The price tag has also changed — at $699, it’s $100 more expensive than the previous version. And as far as set-top boxes go, that’s expensive. But one that also functions as a full computer may appeal. Plus the quieter, lower-powered Boxee box has been delayed until at least November and Google is just getting started with Google TV, so Apple’s timing is fortuitous. While Boxee grapples with getting Adobe Flash 10.1 to work atop the ARM-based Nvidia Tegra 2 application processor, the x86-powered Mac Mini faces no such challenges. And Google TV won’t be available until the fall at the earliest, at which point we should begin to see television makers integrate it within HDTV sets. So the question is: Do you want a limited-function Apple TV or a high-powered desktop in your living room that can play easily play rich media now, or to wait for Boxee or Google TV?

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  1. Graham Anderson Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Apple Remote dropped – looking at the tech specs of the new Mini, there is no IR sensor for the Apple Remote. Looking at the specs of the MacBook Pro and the iMac, similarly there is no mention of an IR sensor to work with Apple Remote. So they’ve just launched a fantastic media server product and dropped a key feature – bizarre! So I guess you’d have to use third party apps like a Keyspan remote, Air Mouse on the iPhone (great product when it works, which is not always…) or a bluetooth keyboard+mouse. Sucky.

    1. There is a new remote, it’s a $19 add-on option. It’s IR.

      1. Kevin C. Tofel Brian Tuesday, June 15, 2010

        Indeed the remote is separate, but if I recall, that didn’t just start. I believe Apple stopped including a remote with their iMacs earlier this year or perhaps last year.

    2. Just use a bluetooth keyboard, mouse or get the amazing air mouse pro for your ios device. Then get the mac mini hook it up and use the plex app on the mac mini to enjoy a rich customizable media experience right from your couch.

  2. Boxee’s interface is a real turn off for me. I am still not understanding Google’s vision for TV. Honestly, I don’t want to mix web video and my own media and I may be a minority on that, but I really want my media experience to be sans-commercials and skips or overly compressed video. I use Plex and XBMC though as I don’t care for Frontrow or iTunes. I want my audio and video options integrated with access to metadata and Frontrow just doesn’t offer that. Plex also has some plugins that allow that web video experience. I’ve viewed Hulu and some other content on it which I doubt AppleTV will ever allow.

    I already use my previous gen Mini as an HTPC, but this version looks better with the HDMI, easily upgradeable memory, and presumably better graphics performance. OTOH, moving to an all aluminum enclosure makes me think wireless throughput will diminish and I have had to have the optical drive replaced on 4 of my last 5 macs.

    I will admit that some of the nettops with low power consumption and better discrete graphic options is also attractive. They’re much cheaper and offer better options for those who really want to tailor their viewing experience with features like Blu playback and DVR functionality.

    I’m beginning to think AppleTV will become a software tool. It could better focus on A/V compared to the rarely updated Frontrow and iTunes (which is becoming fragmented from an interface perspective).

  3. The Mini was great at $499 but $699 it’s getting a little steep.

  4. sean nileson Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    So cool.. The future is here.

    Sean

  5. This is simple – it’s too expensive! I have the last release of the mac mini hooked up to my tv and I’m not upgrading -At least not yet.

  6. one word for this:

    P L E X

    RIP Appple TV

  7. Somethings up with apple and TV. The lack of a included remote in the new Mini and neglect of front row seem to hint at Take 3 coming up soon. I imagine some form of integration with iOS is near. Patently Apple has some information regarding this. Steve Jobs contrarian comments at D8 also indicate he has done a lot of thinking about the “TV” problem.

  8. Kevin, Apple should have married the TV + Mini couple of years back, but they didn’t. Google TV thing put them under pressure. I tend to agree with you that this might be preparation work for the “Real Deal”. I can imagine Steve on stage explaining how ridiculously simple and elegant the new iTv will be. Google for all its brainy engineers needs to know a thing or two about simplifying the UI. Marrying the iOS4 is not a bad idea too.

  9. Add the in-air Loop pointer and the Kylo browser and you have a great TV system.

  10. I had an Apple TV and though I liked it’s UI I found the lack of direct backup-drive connectivity limiting and impractical (file transfers and maintenance does not make for easy or casual entertainment.) I now have a Mac Mini connected to my TV and love it. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. are all available plus I have almost limitless backup storage options.

    Even at $699 it’s a deal compared to how much you spend per year on cable/satellite to serve you the exact same content. Even with buying a few shows on iTunes (like stuff from HBO and AMC) I’m still saving money. Why pay for internet AND tv when it all comes in on the same cord anyway?

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