1.66GHz and 1.83GHz Core Duo Mac mini

1.66GHz and 1.83GHz Core Duo Mac mini

Still a li'l Mac, but just a li'l faster.


Both of the newest Mac mini models come with Intel Core Duo processors. The erstwhile Intel Core Solo model at the low end of the Mac mini line is now gone, which has some significance: All of Apple's Macs now have multicore processors. Why no Core 2 Duos in the Mac minis? Cost. The Mac mini is Apple's affordable Mac, and a Core 2 Duo processor pushes the price out of the range where Apple - and, quite likely, you - would like it.
From the outside, both Mac minis have not changed at all. On the back are a FireWire 400 port, four USB 2.0 ports, DVI output for your display (if your display has a VGA connector, you'll be happy to know that Apple includes a DVI-to-VGA adapter), Gigabit Ethernet, a combined optical digital audio input/audio line-in port, and a combined optical digital audio output/headphone-out jack.


The standard Mac mini configurations come with 512MB of memory, and the Mac minis use 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300) SO-DIMMs, not full-length standard DIMMs. If you think you might want to upgrade the Mac mini's memory later, be prepared for some handiwork. The Mac mini doesn't use any screws to keep itself closed; it's fitted together snugly, and has internal latches that snap into place to keep itself together. To open the Mac mini, you need to slide a putty knife between the seams of the case and gently pry it open. With an easy but firm touch, you can get it open. After that, you need to disconnect a few cable connectors and then remove four screws that attach the drive-bay structure to the Mac mini's base - the memory slots are underneath this assembly. If any of what we just described sounds even a bit daunting, then spend the extra money and get as much RAM as you can afford installed at the point of purchase.


The new $599 Mac mini used to reside on top of the Mac mini line. It's now the lower-end mini, with a sibling $799 mini that offers a slight speed improvement. The $799 mini was 7 percent faster than the $599 mini when creating a disc image in iDVD; 6 percent faster in our iMovie HD Sepia Tone Video FX test; 4 percent faster when importing JPEGs into iPhoto; and 5 percent faster in our iTunes WAV-to-AAC conversion test. In our GarageBand Send to iTunes test and our iMovie HD video-export test, the two Mac minis had similar speeds.


You'll be hurtin' for certain if you use a non-Intel-native application on a Mac mini on a regular basis. The old 1.42GHz Mac mini G4 was 20 percent faster than the $799 Mac mini and 43 percent faster than the $599 Mac mini when performing a Photoshop Action test that mimics real-world work.


You face an interesting choice if you're deciding between the $799 Mac mini and the $999 iMac. For the extra $200, the iMac provides a built-in display, a Core 2 Duo processor, and a bigger hard drive. The Mac mini, on the other hand, has a less powerful Core Duo processor and a smaller hard drive, but also has two features not found on the $999 iMac: a double-layer SuperDrive and Bluetooth. If you're an aspiring home videographer on a tight budget, you can save some money with the $799 Mac mini (the DVD-burning SuperDrive is key), though you'll have to provide your own display, keyboard, and mouse, and sacrifice some speed. The $999 iMac, on the other hand, is not only a great first computer, but could also play a supporting role as a second Mac you could put in your kitchen or living room.


The bottom line. If you plan to buy a Mac mini, get as much RAM as you can afford since both Mac minis share their memory between the video subsystem and the main processor. Remember the ol' saying: The more memory, the merrier.


CONTACT: 800-692-7753 or 408-996-1010, www.apple.com


1.66GHz Mac mini
PRICE: $599 base model, $674 as tested
SPECIFICATIONS: (as tested) 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2MB L2 cache, 667MHz frontside bus, 1GB RAM, 60GB Serial ATA hard drive, 24x Combo drive, AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth 2.0, Apple Remote
Difficult to upgrade memory. Rosetta speed still slower than native PowerPC performance.





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