28 February 2006

Quick Word on the new Mac mini

The new Mac mini announced today is a solid improvement on the previous model. But then again, so it should be given the price has also increased. Nevertheless, this is now an even better value machine next to competition such as from Aopen and Evesham.

I think it fixes most of the weaknesses of the old version - higher potential RAM (up to 2GB) and shipping with 512MB; 4 USB ports (2 was ridiculous unless you used a BT keyboard/mouse); 5400rpm drives with up to 120GB available. Digital audio out is a smart move to for those wishing to use it connected to their tv's (digital audio out makes Dolby Digital/DTS playback much simpler at no extra cost). I think the Core Duo machine would clearly be the one to go for if planning to use it as a serious part of a home theatre system. It should also massively improve the time to encode video material for the iPod.

What I think is still lacking on this model for the serious home theatre person is an easy way to incorporate both a faster/larger hard drive and of course bringing in tv tuners. It seems some form of expansion slot (like Expresscard) would have been useful in that regard, as it will lead to extra boxes plugged into the USB ports. Still, with a large 7200rpm disk connected to the (still there) firewire port, you've got plenty of storage space in a package that is still very neat and very quiet. Apple's approach to home media is different from Microsoft's with an emphasis more on the whole iLife suite and music integration rather than the number of tv tuners on board. But it's pricing is arguably more attractive too.

I'm sure some will be disappointed by the scale of this announcement. But what did you expect really? It's only 7 weeks since MacWorld. In that time Apple has announced and shipped 3 different Intel-based products, with only the iBook and Powermac (from the mainstream products) left to do, and some fill-in with the MacBook Pro range (eg 17"). Theoretically we shouldn't have been expecting ANY until sometime mid-year! Perhaps some expected more announcements on the movie download front or DVR front? But I think these will come as future announcements on a grander scale - this was a relatively low-key event. Some newer features are also more dependent upon the next generation 802.11 technology becoming properly available as a standard. The next Airport revision will be the enabler for many of these next generation features.

No comments: