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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/1.83GHz

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. However, 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/1.66GHz

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.

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/1.83GHz

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.

17- and 20-inch iMacs Core 2 Duo

If you want a low-cost iMac to have around the house for everyday use, the 1.83GHz iMac is a nice system for the price. It also makes for an appealing system for many students, who can buy one for the same $899 price as the education iMac.

24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.16GHz

Some of the gap between the Mac Pro and iMac lines closes with this model, which comes equipped not only with a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo chip (upgradeable to 2.33GHz as a build-to-order option) but a FireWire 800 port in addition to a FireWire 400. (Other Core 2 Duo iMacs feature two FireWire 400 ports.) The resolution on this iMac's 24-inch display is the same as what you'd get with a 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display. With the exception of the Nvidia GeForce 7300GT graphics card, other specs match the 20-inch 2.16GHz iMac.

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.