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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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  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.

  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?

  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.

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

  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?

  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.

  11. My guess is that Apple saw that a lot of people were upgrading features in their orders and that a lot of people were using their Mac Minis as media devices and decided to re-tool the machine for those uses.

  12. Whitney Evans Thursday, June 17, 2010

    I bought a mac mini previously and hooked it up to my HDTV. Best idea ever. I now watch the majority if my tv over the Internet. Also, I use my iPhone as a wireless mouse and keyboard. As a laptop user, I did not have any peripherals, and had to borrow a USB keyboard from a friend.

    That being said: Im not upgrading any time soon

  13. Howie Isaacks Thursday, June 17, 2010

    A monitor from Dell? That’s vulgar.

    1. True, but the Apple displays start at $900.

  14. Got mine on order. It will replace my current ATV, have been waiting for this for some time. Couple it with the blue tooth capability of the iphone/itouch and I’m in HD heaven!!

    My old mac min will be relegated back to DVR responsibility and once I get it, streaming video/live tv to my ipad.

    This is not a good time for my bank account :P

  15. At the moment, I don’t really need another computer. It’s pretty cool nonetheless, I like it. But I agree that the Mini could be cheaper though.

  16. I think the Snow Leopard Server version with 2x 500GB and external DVD is the more interesting configuration.

    1. I do too. You can bet that if I ever get one I will post a detailed review here.

  17. I was thinking about the new mac mini and the thought came to me. Is the new mac mini a desktop or a notebook without a screen and a keyboard. This doesn’t appeal to people who use their notebooks on the go but it does to people like me who use their notebooks or dektops at home and the office, for example.

    compared with a notebook, the new mac mini is smaller, lighter, doesn’t heat as much, supports a screen with more definiton and if you use your notebook with a large screen it will cost you less. there are many other pluses compared with a notebook. what’s missing is the screen and the keyboard.

    so, my question is: can we treat the mac mini as a notebook?

    1. Maybe like a notebook in a docking station that you never take out?

      1. Is that supposed to be arch? Failure.

  18. This isn’t really a desktop, in fact one can hardly consider it a Mac.

    Think of it as the Apple TV2. Many Mini owners already used it as a media device, with the addition of more ports (including HDMI) it suddenly becomes many times better at that exact task. This is the perfect media-center computer now, with good processing power, storage, form factor, and port options for your home theatre.

    I think the point isn’t to compare this to something like the iMac, but to use it with your home theatre setup as a media center computer.

  19. The Mac Mini is going to be the perfect solution for me. I have a 2.5 year old MacBook, and was thinking about upgrading to an MBP. Now I’ll get the Mac Mini Server for $999 and an iPad! The Mini will house all my media, be connected to my HDTV and always be on. I can break out the MB when necessary, but the iPad will then become my main computer around the house and on the go. Once Apple incorporates Lala’s media streaming goodies into it’s offerings, I’ll be even happier. So I can pick up 2 great devices for less than what I would’ve paid for an MBP. That’s a value proposition I’ll gladly take.

  20. Wow, something new with he Mac. Heh Apple, remember the Mac! Who knows, maybe we will get an update for the Mac pro in a decade or so…

  21. Seven hundred bucks? Big deal. I have friends who pay more than that every month on a stupid car payment. This is an investment that will last for years.

    This whole industry fascination with a few hundred bucks one way or another is idiotic. It’s like my in-laws being fascinated with gas being a penny cheaper in the next town. But then they’ll drop fifty bucks at a lousy chain restaurant without thinking about it.

    Well, if seven hundred bucks gets your dander up, you probably ought to be worrying about how to make a real living instead of sitting in your parents’ basement writing on web sites.

  22. but now it takes up more space on your desk. I would rather they kept it the same foot print and made it taller. I imagine someone will come up with a stand for it to be kept on edge. that would be cool, in so many ways!

  23. I’ve never known anyone who uses a Mac Mini as their media device to say anything other than how happy they are with it. I know plenty of people to who hate their ATV or are annoyed with the other options.

    However, with a Boxee unit coming out later this year at a fraction of the price, and Google TV making some interesting promises, it’s becoming harder to justify $699 for a media device, even though I’m very tempted to get one.

    Normally, Apple has given small speed bumps along with a LOWER price. (see macbook air). After a year or two, most tech gets cheaper and faster. The Mini getting slightly faster but more expensive seems disingenuous.

  24. The new mac mini server is on it’s way to me as we speak, to replace my old 2007 mac mini. What for? I’m glad you asked.

    The mac mini has been and will be the centre of my digital entertainment universe. Connected to it are two RAID arrays, the home theatre, and an airport extreme with dedicated DNS address. This mac mini serves out all my media using upnp, air server (for streaming to iDevices over 3G) and iTunes, and also acts as a time machine server for my mac pro. It acts as my transmission server, my eyeTV server to serve HD TV content over wifi and 3G and further, I use front row to watch my HD content, and now with the addition of HDMI, the possibilities are endless. I own a lot of mac computers, and by far, this dedicated home server gets the most use for me. It has changed my digital life, I can watch what I want, when i want, no matter where in the world I am. Finally, this all sounds awfully complicated doesn’t it? Well, Before I got my first mac mini as a home media PC in 2007, I knew nothing about computers and was able to get all that working on my own. If people saw the power combined with sheer ease of use, Microsoft and linux would cease to exist.

    1. Note to “The Monkey” –

      Wow, that’s exactly what I’m intending to do with the Mac Mini Server. Though I’m a novice and appreciate any tips you have on using this as PVR to replace Tivo. I will get EyeTV but have not found a free EPG service I can hook into and not keen on paying for ICETV subscriptions. How did you get yours working?

    2. Interested to know if you are using the mac mini or the mac mini server os. Not computer sauve. Want to replace unreliable pc with mac book pro and mac mini. Wondering if it is necessary to get the mac mini with the server os to use it as a media hub. Thanks Lee

    3. Hi there Monkey. Any chances of getting info of the way you’ve configured your system? I ‘m looking forward to changing my home media configuration and I’m pretty lost. Ty

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