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Rumored Mac Mini: I Don’t Think It’s Fake

macminiSeems nearly everybody believes the rumored Mac mini is fake. At least, that’s what I see in most of the comments to the published rumors.

Predicting what Apple (s aapl) will do next is nearly impossible, and I usually don’t bother going there. But today, what the heck. I think these rumors are valid. My issue with a lot of the comments saying “Fake!” are that they don’t pass any reasonable test I apply to them.

No New Form Factor

A lot of people seem to think this can’t be the new mini because it’s been so long since it was updated it needs to be a new design. Some even speculate it coming in black or white, or at least with a new (black) plastic top. They all seem to agree it should be smaller.

The mini, at only 6.5″ square and 2″ high, in silver, is still a beautiful machine if you ask me. How much smaller can it be made? There are thermal considerations, and I don’t think it can shrink much further and still run a decent-speed modern processor. Sure, Apple TV is thinner (though also wider and deeper), but it runs a processor that’d choke on the general purpose computing expected of a “real” Mac.

And, yes, I know processors run cooler now than when the mini first appeared, but rather than take advantage of that by making the mini smaller, Apple would prefer (rightfully so, in my opinion) to simply run more powerful processors instead. In this case, it’s also likely they’re adding much better graphics. Indeed, a question I have is if they’ll “clock down” the 9400M graphics in this thing like they did for the MacBook Air.

Too Many USB Ports

Five USB ports? The iMac doesn’t have that many, and the argument goes that Apple would not allow that many on a Mac.

Setting aside that the Mac Pro has that many, this makes sense to me anyway. Comparisons to the iMac don’t. While the iMacs only have three, Apple knows your keyboard on that system is a two-port USB hub. With the mini, however, you bring your own keyboard, so Apple can make no such assumption. It makes sense to put extra on. They had four before, but perhaps have more room (or more thermal “breathing room”) so adding another was not that big of a deal.

Two Video Ports? No Way.

This one is trickier, in that having two video ports seems odd. I wonder if they could both be used at the same time (i.e., will there be dual monitor support?). It wouldn’t surprise me if it was only one port or the other.

I suspect this is a case where they included mini-DVI because it’s well-known and supported; for someone buying a budget machine they shouldn’t have to fish around for something that uses the “new” mini-Display Port. However, they included Display Port because it’s the direction Apple’s moving in, and there was no sense leaving an upgraded mini out of the loop.

FireWire 800

They left FireWire out of the MacBook, it can’t be on the mini!

Really? Why not? Being a laptop, more choices had to be made on the unibody MacBook than the mini. I mean, the MacBook doesn’t sport five USB ports, either.

From a cost perspective, since I suspect Apple has long since recovered the cost of developing FireWire years ago, an 800 port is likely similar to the 400 port. Since 800 can also run 400, it made sense to use it.

Why didn’t they drop FW completely? Because, despite the small size, the mini is still a desktop system and they have more room to work with. Yet another argument for not making it smaller.

Still, the above being said, I admit this tends to emphasize the MacBook as the “odd man out” in Apple’s lineup. I use FW only for my 8-year old video camera, and am moving to a USB model when I get a new one. I don’t think the MacBook or the overwhelming majority of its target market was hurt by the lack of FireWire, but I’m not sure the mini would be either.

Summary

To me, this seems like an expected and reasonable upgrade to the mini. The only surprises, in my opinion, are the existence of mini-DVI (we knew Display Port was coming) and the retention of FireWire. But those are the “good” kind of surprises. I’ll take those.

A better surprise would be a cost reduction. I know Apple typically keeps prices the same when upgrading, choosing instead to let the added value speak for itself. I actually agree with that, but that’s because I feel their products — for what you get — are usually pretty well priced.

Not so for the mini. I believe the low-end mini at $599 is simply too much, and the above upgrades don’t change that. They simply make it more modern (long overdue) but its value is still questionable. Apple should lower the price on both models.

And just to be clear, I’m not suggesting they lower the price because of the economy, I’m suggesting it because, at the dog-eat-dog low end, the mini does not compete very well.

16 Responses to “Rumored Mac Mini: I Don’t Think It’s Fake”

  1. Still using the Mac Mini a friend for whom I was doing some webwork sent me from California, unasked, four or five years ago. I think it’s a hell of a value. True, there is no keyboard or monitor, but most of us has those; why not use them instead of adding them to the local landfill. It’s served me well, handling large image and 3D files (when I dabble in my former vocation) and demanding sound programs and files while I was taking keyboard lessons. The mini was so small I could take my whole computer with my own musical program (Reason) sample sounds and files to my music teacher each week. And it handled everything I needed for three years of school in a medical field. I’m hoping to come by a beefier Mac for my occasional graphics work, but I’ll probably keep the Mini for a dedicated music computer. I think the Mini is as much computer as most people need, and comes with most of the software they’ll need pre-loaded.

    Yours truly,
    John Mayer

  2. Trust me the Mac Mini is worth every cent you pay for it…

    If you don’t take my word for it, try one out that the Apple Store, I am not surprise the 2ghz core 2 duo ones are as good as the latest Macbook pros if not better.

  3. My prediction is that they will release a new Mac Mini, and reduce the price, AND use it to replace Apple TV, merging the two products.

    That would mean this photo can’t be right, though, since it appears to lack a TV output.

  4. spark0919

    I think the recent photo is fake but that an un-revised form factor is coming. Two things: the vent issue (9 vents instead of 10…means SOMEONE is wrong). Also, I don’t remember a desktop box ever coming shrink-wrapped….that just seems odd. In addition, the laptops AND the mac Mini (at least as far as I know) retail boxes had handles for easy carrying. But there’s no disputing part #’s…or HardMac for that matter.

  5. Why FireWire? Because many people connect external drives to the Mini. Some would MUCH RATHER use really large fast 3.5″ drives as the boot drive for the Mini than the limited 2.5″ drives the Mini handles natively. Connecting those drives to the Mini via USB 2.0 is not fully exploiting their speeds, while FW 800 comes MUCH closer to utilizing fully the speeds of those external drives,

  6. Mark,

    I was going to write a section on the dubious analysis of the photo, but elected not to.

    Look at the current MacBook and MacBook Pro, you’ll see the ports don’t line up on the bottom. the Ethernet ports (and FW on the MBP) dip below the rest. They look more like they’re aligned on their centers than bottoms. That’s also how the mini photo looks.

  7. Mark Alexander

    The reason why many assume the image is fake is that the bottom of the ports do no line up. If the ports are on the logic board, as they have been for most Apple products, then the bottom of each port would be level with each other. But in the image the DisplayPort is higher then the DVI port which is also higher than the USB ports. That is why the image is assumed to be a fake. As for a new mini revision having the same case and the new ports as outlined, that is not the issue. The issue is the lack of alignment of the ports in the image.