Desktops

Benchmarks: New 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini

Apple recently released a redesigned version of its entry-level desktop computer, the Mac mini. Macworld’s own Dan Frakes gave us his initial hands-on impressions as well as a photo tour of the $699 desktop computer. And though the biggest changes may be external, there are a few under-the-hood improvements that helped boost the system’s performance in our Speedmark 6 test suite.

The new Mac mini comes in one standard configuration featuring a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 320GB hard drive, and new nVidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics.

This single configuration replaces two previous models, a $599 system ( ) with 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 160GB hard drive, and nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics; and a $799 model ( ) with the same 9400M graphics, but with a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and a 320GB hard drive.

(Also, a new $999 Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server is offered with two 500GB hard drives. The new server replaces the previous Mac mini server ( ) that also had a pair of 500GB hard drives. We don’t have a new Mac mini server yet, but we will do a full review once we get one.)

In our tests of the new standard 2.4GHz Mac mini, we found it performed as well as the specs would suggest, with most of its test results falling in between the results of the previous 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz models in nine of our 16 tests.

The new 2.4GHz Mac mini’s Speedmark score was nearly identical to the older, 2.53GHz model, but that can be attributed almost entirely to the improved graphics, which helped to nearly double the number of frames per second the new system was able to display in our Call of Duty 4 tests.

Aperture was 12 percent faster on the new 2.4GHz Mac mini, while the iMovie tests export test results were 8 percent faster, and the iMovie import results were about 5 percent faster than the 2.53GHz model. The new Mac mini was also faster in our file duplication tests.

Curiously, the new Mac mini’s Handbrake H.264 test results were quite a bit slower than the older 2.53GHz Mac mini’s; the new Mac mini’s scores were on par with the MacBook Air with a USB optical drive. The results were strange but repeatable, even with three different DVDs, throwing out Handbrake preferences and reinstalling the application. We’ll work on an explanation as we continue our testing.

The new 2.4GHz Mac mini is about 13.5 percent faster overall than that older 2.26GHz Mac mini model. Again, the new nVidia GeForce 320M graphics helped the 2.4GHz Mac mini display about twice as many frames per second as the 2.26GHz model. The 2.4GHz mini was 18 percent faster than the 2.26GHz mini in our Aperture tests and 14 percent faster in the iMovie export test.

New Mac mini 2.4GHz Speedmark scores

Speedmark
6
Adobe
Photoshop
CS4
Cinebench
R10
Mathemetica-
Mark 7
Compressor
3.0.4
Aperture
2.1.4
iMovie
’09
iMovie
’09
iTunes
9
Call of
Duty 4
Finder Finder Finder Parallels
WorldBench
6
Handbrake
0.9.3
iPhoto
’09
Pages
’09
OVERALL
SCORE
SUITE RENDER SCORE MPEG
ENCODE
IMPORT IMPORT
ARCHIVE
EXPORT MP3
ENCODE
FRAME
RATE
DUPLICATE
1GB FOLDER
ZIP
ARCHIVE
UNZIP
ARCHIVE
MULTI-TASK
TEST
RIP DVD
CHAPTER
IMPORT OPEN WORD
DOCUMENT
Mac mini 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(2GB RAM)
117 0:50 2:58 3.3 10:25 3:13 1:44 1:58 1:35 36.1 0:31 4:04 1:09 6:34 4:10 0:54 2:21
Mac mini 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo
(4GB RAM; late 2009)
118 0:50 2:44 3.57 10:14 3:28 1:49 2:08 1:34 18.3 0:39 3:56 1:01 6:31 2:43 0:47 1:54
Mac mini 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo
(2GB; late 2009)
104 0:55 3:04 3.2 10:55 3:55 2:08 2:17 1:43 18.3 0:45 4:34 1:28 7:14 2:49 1:05 2:28
Mac mini 2.GHz Core 2 Duo
(2GB; early 2009)
100 0:59 3:29 2.98 12:01 4:08 2:07 2:33 1:53 18.4 0:39 4:50 1:19 8:12 3:08 1:03 2:36

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics.

Performance as compared to the latest 2.4GHz MacBook ( ) is very similar, with the MacBook scoring just one point higher in our Speedmark 6 test suite, and most tests just a few seconds off from each other.

Compared to the entry-level $1199 iMac ( ), the 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo 21.5-inch model with nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive, the iMac was about 27 percent faster overall, with much faster times in processor intensive tasks. The new Mac mini did beat out the iMac in our Call of Duty tests, displaying 65 percent more frames per second. iMovie import tests were slow on the iMac, something we saw when we ran the tests for that system’s review.

New Mac mini 2.4GHz Speedmark scores

Speedmark
6
Adobe
Photoshop
CS4
Cinebench
R10
Mathemetica-
Mark 7
Compressor
3.0.4
Aperture
2.1.4
iMovie
’09
iMovie
’09
iTunes
9
Call of
Duty 4
Finder Finder Finder Parallels
WorldBench
6
Handbrake
0.9.3
iPhoto
’09
Pages
’09
OVERALL
SCORE
SUITE RENDER SCORE MPEG
ENCODE
IMPORT IMPORT
ARCHIVE
EXPORT MP3
ENCODE
FRAME
RATE
DUPLICATE
1GB FOLDER
ZIP
ARCHIVE
UNZIP
ARCHIVE
MULTI-TASK
TEST
RIP DVD
CHAPTER
IMPORT OPEN WORD
DOCUMENT
Mac mini 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(2GB RAM)
117 0:50 2:58 3.3 10:25 3:13 1:44 1:58 1:35 36.1 0:31 4:04 1:09 6:34 4:10 0:54 2:21
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
(2GB RAM)
118 0:48 2:58 3.39 10:20 3:38 1:47 1:58 1:37 35.6 0:35 4:07 1:18 6:21 3:15 0:55 2:05
iMac 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo
(4GB RAM)
148 0:44 2:16 4.23 8:09 2:28 2:14 1:41 1:11 21.9 0:21 2:54 0:46 5:26 2:09 0:32 1:32

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics.

How we tested. Call of Duty score is in frames per second (higher is better). Speedmark and MathematicaMark are performance scores (higher scores are better). All others are in minutes:seconds (lower is better). The new Mac mini was tested with OSX 10.6.4, the MacBook was tested with OS X 10.6.3 and the the rest were tested with 10.6. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We recorded how long it took to render a scene with mulitprocessors in CinemaBench. We used Compressor to encode a MOV file to the application’s H.264 for video podcast setting. We timed the import and thumbnail/preview creation time for 150 photos. In iMovie, we imported a camera archive and exported it to iTunes for Mobile Devices setting. We converted 90 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. We Unzipped a 2GB archive in the Finder. We ran WorldBench 6 multitasking test on a Parallels VM. We imported 150 JPEGs into iPhoto. We used HandBrake to rip a DVD chapter to the hard drive. We opened a 500-page Word document in Pages ’09.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and McKinley Noble

Check back soon for Macworld’s full review of both the new Mac mini and the new Mac mini server.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

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