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Summary:

Apple’s new Mac mini has a number of great new features including an updated case, an HDMI port and a speed bump in specs, but what’s not so great is its value proposition when compared to an iMac or MacBook.

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Apple’s release of the new Mac mini on Tuesday was partly overshadowed by pre-ordering of iPhone 4. It’s refreshing to see a Mac update in the middle of all the iOS devices and apps that were the center of WWDC.

What’s great about the update is the new case design, the HDMI port, and the speed bump in specs. The new mini lives in a smaller, brushed aluminum case with a twist off bottom that gives easy access to the RAM. No more pulling off the case with a putty knife. Apple has shown once again that it cares intensely about its products, and put its brilliant design into everything it does. Moving the power brick inside the case is another example of small moves that translate to a better user experience. The new mini is sharp and sleek.

Small Size, Small Value

But what’s not so great about the new mini is its value proposition when compared to an iMac or MacBook. The mini is now technically equal to a MacBook, with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 1066MHz front side bus, and 2GB of RAM. They both also use the same graphics card: an NVIDIA GeForce 320M.

The Mac mini used to be the affordable Mac, not cheap, but affordable, when it debuted at $499. Now at $699, it is a mere $300 away from a MacBook, and $500 less than an iMac. Once you throw in an Apple wireless keyboard ($70), a new Magic Mouse ($70), and a new 21-inch monitor ($190 from Dell), the difference between an iMac and a Mac mini is down to around $210.

Still, $210 is a decent amount of money, especially if you are on a budget… and really, who is not on a budget these days.

Specific Audience

The Mac mini appeals to a very specific audience. It was originally designed as a drop-in replacement for a desktop PC. Simply pull out your old PC, and plug your keyboard, monitor, and mouse into the new mini, and you are off and running. Home theater enthusiasts recognized the mini’s value as the digital hub, and began plugging it into their TVs. Technologists then started using it as a home server, a headless Mac to share their iTunes library and act as a file server. Apple’s done a great job paying attention to its customers, and has updated the mini to appeal to each of these groups. The mini is not for me, but I can appreciate how versatile it is. If you are in the market for an upgrade, the new mini looks solid.

Are you going to be buying the new Mac mini? More excited about the mini than iPhone 4? Sound off in the comments!

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  1. The price jump did give me pause, but I know I will be replacing my existing mini with another when it dies. I like the form factor. The HDMI port is a big improvement, though I am not making plans to use one as some kind of TV device.

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  2. I’m a bit upset about the price hike, however I stll plan on buying one as a replacement for my HP PC next year. Still a decent value and quite portable.

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  3. It sucks that they raised the price, HOWEVER they did keep the price of the $999 Mac mini server the same. THAT’S where the real value is, because you get a $499 copy of Mac OS X Server thrown in for free with that one.

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  4. Apple doesn’t really know its limits, the new mini may be sleek, but at over €800 this computer doesn’t have half the appeal of the last model. Insignificant hardware update with a significant price bump.
    Very very disappointing.

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  5. Horrible value. One you spec out the mac mini to try to match the base imac, you really see how overpriced this mini is.

    mimi bumped to base imac specs = $1,187 WITHOUT MONITOR and a slower processor.

    +$150 for 2.66 ghz,
    +$100 for extra 2gb memory
    + $100 for 500gb hard drive
    +$69 magic mouse

    + $69 bluetooth keyboard

    $1,187!!!!

    21.5″ inch imac with a 3.06 processor is only $1,199

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  6. I bought a mini a year ago and the upgrade in specs is not enough to make me replace it so soon. But when the time comes, I’ll buy another mini, as I really like it. Apple rocks.

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  7. “The Mac mini used to be the affordable Mac, not cheap, but affordable, when it debuted at $499. Now at $699, it is a mere $300 away from a MacBook, and $500 less than an iMac. Once you throw in an Apple wireless keyboard ($70), a new Magic Mouse ($70), and a new 21-inch monitor ($190 from Dell), the difference between an iMac and a Mac mini is down to around $210.”

    One problem with this entire paragraph, THAT IS NOT THE POINT OF THE MAC MINI.

    If you are getting a Mini, I am sure you had a computer prior to owning one and you already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse that you are perfectly happy with. That is why it’s an affordable computer. 95% of the people that get the mini WILL NOT have to buy the things you mentioned, nor are they required to buy the Mac versions of them. You can get cheaper hardware elsewhere and it all works with the mini.

    So stop reaching so hard to try to back up your already incredibly weak argument. It’s pathetic.

    The price jump is justified with the increase in graphics, RAM, and HD space. Why are you so baffled by this?

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  8. “Brushed aluminum” has parallel streaks or “BRUSH marks” in its surface (like the title bars on Tiger’s Finder windows). Apple has never made anything with this finish.

    I agree with on the price though, $699 is absurd.

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    1. Thanks, that’s an error on my part.

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  9. Hands down, the iPhone 4 is the real news.
    With that said, I was happy to see the update in technology for the mac mini. I could not agree more with the pricing concerns. I would be very interested in plugging it in to my HDTV for managing preso’s and other media. However, at the updated price point, the money will go to something else.
    I can’t help but wonder if the issue on the price point is related to the lack of a clearly defined target market for this product? As you mention, is it a headless media server, desktop replacement, etc? Those markets have distinctly different price points and the confusion may be in trying to juggle those market targets?

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  10. Why do you have to buy a mouse, keyboard, and monitor? I don’t necessarily know that it’s fair to include them, given in the case of an iMac you may already have all these things from an old machine you’re replacing and you don’t WANT to pay for them again.

    I know I don’t buy a new monitor every time I upgrade my computer, so throwing it in there for comparisons doesn’t always make sense.

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