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Review: Mac mini Core 2 Duo

The latest Mac mini models have made some impressive gains in terms of performance, without gaining bulk or higher price tags. Still a great bargain, especially for those who already own a mouse, keyboard, and display, the Mac mini’s size and price allow it to fit into spaces and budgets that other Macs cannot.

Mac mini Core 2 Duo/2GHz

Apple made little noise about this update to its Mac mini line, which is highlighted by the addition of Intel Core 2 Duo chips to replace the older Core Duo processors. The minis also now ship with 1GB of RAM, up from 512MB, and more hard-drive capacity. The higher-end Mac mini also comes with 4MB of shared L2 cache, instead of 2MB on the 1.83GHz offering. The minis continue to use an integraged Intel graphics processor that shares memory with the system RAM, hampering performance in graphic-intensive applications.

20- and 24-inch Aluminum iMacs

With large displays, room for a lot of internal storage and RAM, and a striking new design, the latest iMacs are a nice step forward -- and a good value to boot. Performance gains are minimal over the last Core 2 Duo iMacs, but as computers that straddle the line between consumer and professional systems, they give enough to people on both ends of the spectrum to be worth serious consideration.

24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz

The most distinctive changes to the iMac line come on the outside -- the desktop now sports an aluminum enclosure that resembles what you might see from the Mac Pro or MacBook Pro. The 17-inch offerings are gone, replaced by a pair of 20-inch models and a 24-inch iMac, each with a glossy wide screen. Other changes are more modest -- processor speeds now top out at 2.4GHz, instead of 2.16GHz. But all iMacs now feature a FireWire 800 port and can support up to 4GB of RAM.

20-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz

The most distinctive changes to the iMac line come on the outside -- the desktop now sports an aluminum enclosure that resembles what you might see from the Mac Pro or MacBook Pro. The 17-inch offerings are gone, replaced by a pair of 20-inch models and a 24-inch iMac, each with a glossy wide screen. Other changes are more modest -- processor speeds now top out at 2.4GHz, instead of 2.16GHz. But all iMacs now feature a FireWire 800 port and can support up to 4GB of RAM.

20-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2GHz

The most distinctive changes to the iMac line come on the outside -- the desktop now sports an aluminum enclosure that resembles what you might see from the Mac Pro or MacBook Pro. The 17-inch offerings are gone, replaced by a pair of 20-inch models and a 24-inch iMac, each with a glossy wide screen. Other changes are more modest -- the low-end iMac now runs on a 2GHz processor, instead of 1.83GHz. But all iMacs now feature a FireWire 800 port and can support up to 4GB of RAM.

Mac Pro 3GHz 8-core

If time is money, upgrading to a Mac Pro from the last generation of PowerPC-based Mac towers probably makes good financial sense. But the eight-core 3GHz Mac Pro showed only very modest improvements in the majority of our testing over a standard configuration Mac Pro.

Mac mini/1.83GHz

As Apple introduces a dual-core chip to its entry level Mac mini, the $799 mini gets a speed bump of its own to a 1.83GHz Core Duo processor. Otherwise, the specifications for this model remain unchanged from the dual-core 1.66GHz mini Apple introduced in February 2006.

Mac mini Core Duo

Both of these new Mac mini models are good values, and Apple made an excellent choice in dropping the underpowered Core Solo-based model--the last single-core Mac in Apple's product line. As a budget Mac, a supplemental home computer, a server, or a home media set-top box, the Mac mini's price and size make it an impressively versatile system.

Mac mini/1.66GHz

Apple moves to an all dual-core hardware lineup with the introduction of this low-end mini. No longer equipped with a 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo chip, this model now runs on a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo -- without any change to its $599 price tag. Other specs -- the60GB hard drive, integrated Intel graphics, and 512MB of installed RAM -- remain unchanged from the previous entry-level Mac mini offering.

24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.16GHz

The 24-inch iMac occupies the vast stretch between the standard iMac and the Mac Pro. If you're looking for the ultimate iMac with a taste of the pro-level features the Mac Pro provides, you'll find the 24-inch iMac to be the perfect middle ground.

17-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2GHz

Part of the iMac overhaul that added next-generation Core 2 Duo processors to the product line, this 17-inch configuration features a faster 2GHz chip than the 1.83GHz model; it also has more L2 cache as well as dedicated graphics. Instead of the Combo Drive you'll find in the 1.83GHz iMac, this 17-inch model comes with a DVD-burning SuperDrive. It also features built-in Bluetooth wireless networking capabilities in addition to the standard AirPort Extreme card. Finally, this model ships with 1GB of RAM installed; you can put as much as 3GB of memory in the system.

17-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/1.83GHz

The iMac plunges below the $1,000 threshold with this model, whose specs bear a strong resemblance to the 1.83GHz iMac Core Duo that Apple sells to education institutions. The main difference: this iMac is powered by the next-generation of dual-core Intel chips, the Core 2 Duo. Otherwise, this 17-inch model has many of the same features, including integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics that share RAM with the main memory and no built-in support for Bluetooth. It's also worth noting that memory on this model tops out at 2GB, as opposed to 3GB on the other Core 2 Duo iMac configurations. Apple's remote is a build-to-order option for this iMac.