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Mac Mini Wants a Spot in Your Home Theater

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Mac Mini pictured alongside the Mac Pro

Mac Mini pictured alongside the Mac Pro

Summary

  • Product Name: Mac Mini
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Date: June 16, 2010 18:53
  • MSRP: $$699
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting

Processor and memory

  • 2.4GHz or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 3MB shared L2 cache on-chip
  • 1066MHz frontside bus
  • 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; with two SO-DIMM slots that support up to 8GB 

 

Graphics and video support

  • NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics processor, including 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM (shared with main memory)
  • Mini DisplayPort with support for up to 2560-by-1600 resolution
  • HDMI port with support for up to 1920-by-1200 resolution
  • DVI output using HDMI to DVI Adapter (included)
  • VGA output using Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (sold separately)
  • Support for extended desktop and video mirroring across both ports

Executive Overview

Apple’s new Mac Mini is a miniature desktop computer powered by Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Its stature, at only 1.4-inches tall and 7.5-inches square, makes it perfect for a crowded component AV system. The smallest member of the Mac family addresses a few concerns the Mac faithful have had with previous iterations of the device. This version has an HDMI port, an SD memory card slot and Wi-Fi courtesy Wireless N so you can stream HD video and multichannel audio to your home theater system.  

There’s something compelling about the ability to stream an HD movie from iTunes or Hulu.com and then switch over to a video game on the same piece of hardware. With roughly the same computing power of a MacBook, which costs $1200, the Mac Mini is the least expensive way to run Apple software.  

One troubling aspect to the Mac Mini is you won’t find a Blu-ray player on the device. It’s only natural the group behind iTunes should stands behind streaming video and not any disc format as the home entertainment wave of the future. But for any computer these days with HDMI, Blu-ray is a serious oversight. 

Graphics Power 

One aspect to the new Mac Mini that is very un-Apple in its consistency is a hatch in its underside that lets you upgrade memory. It comes stock with 2 GB of internal memory and that’s fine for the causal user. But if you really want to push the limits of graphics you’ll want to put that hatch to good use. 

Pixel pushing power is brought to Mac Mini via built-in NVIDIA GeForce 320M, a powerful laptop graphics processor. It used to be that Apple computers weren’t really for gaming – not much has changed. 

The NVIDIA GeForce 320M was designed especially for Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, according to Notebookcheck.net: The NVIDIA GeForce 320M has no graphics memory but instead requires graphics to share system memory, making it terribly second rate as a gaming machine.  

It’ll perform fine if you’re playing older games at full speed in high graphics detail. But the most demanding newer games like Cyrsis or Need for Speed: Shift will require a big downshift in detail settings.  

But Apple still isn’t a gaming platform, it’s difficult to imagine a gamer spending money on hardware that’s not prepared to run the upcoming Crysis 2 (to be released sometime in Q4).  

Apple Build 

Apple touts its environmentally friendly design. Although built-in environmental and social consciousness is a positive step for manufacturing, isn’t the idea that we can shop our way into social responsibility what got us into our environmental and fiscal danger in the first place? 

But for its part, Apple has created all new energy efficient components in its hardware and has the software to augment it. Energy efficiency and software shutoff features combine to create a computer with a smaller eco-footprint than ever. Apple even says its OS is optimized for energy savings between keystrokes. Unlike those dirty, dirty gaming consoles, the Mac Mini contains no PVC or BFR and of course, Apple is renowned for its recycling program that takes in your old Mac for free.  

Conclusion 

It’s a step in the right direction for the Apple faithful if you’re looking for something to perform double duty between an Apple monitor/keyboard and your HDTV.  

But for most home theater enthusiasts that just don’t get the Apple mystique, it’s just another overpriced AV component. Provided you’re not concerned with running Apple software, you can get all the media-extending capabilities the $699 Mac Mini gives you for much, much less out of a new Xbox 360 – including no Blu-ray player.

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About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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Recent Forum Posts:

malachi0420 posts on July 01, 2010 18:42
You could just build yourself a nice HTPC, that would be cheaper and faster all the way round!
jeffsg4mac posts on June 22, 2010 18:07
I don't mind Front Row for listening to music, but that is all I have ever used it for.
krzywica posts on June 22, 2010 16:14
BoredSysAdmin, post: 727908
Well, I was about to come back with snarky reply about how Apple remote is using proprietary RF protocol, but I checked before posting such remark, and thou I held it myself - I guess I wasn't paying attention….

Since it is IR - harmony and other universal remotes should be able to replace it as Jeff said…
:o

Thou I still don't consider FrontRow (without addons) to be adequate HTPC replacement.

Yeah Front Row looks like the default interface of my NMT's. Yuck.
BoredSysAdmin posts on June 22, 2010 15:44
jeffsg4mac, post: 727898
Jeesh Hopefully if anyone uses it with a remote they will be able to program by a code and not have to spend the $ for the apple remote.

Well, I was about to come back with snarky reply about how Apple remote is using proprietary RF protocol, but I checked before posting such remark, and thou I held it myself - I guess I wasn't paying attention….

Since it is IR - harmony and other universal remotes should be able to replace it as Jeff said…
:o

Thou I still don't consider FrontRow (without addons) to be adequate HTPC replacement.
jeffsg4mac posts on June 22, 2010 15:25
Wayde Robson, post: 727582
Agree Jeff. I'm just seeing it as a move in that direction with HDMI, that's all.

Maybe, they might be testing the waters. Not adding blu-ray as at least an option is kinda short sighted to say the least though.

Hey what the hell is this, I am ragging on Apple. Good grief I must be drunk Actually I have several beefs with Apples hardware. However, most of their software and of course their OS is great stuff.
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