Apple unveils Intel-powered Mac minis

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The Mac mini became the latest Apple offering to make the transition to Intel-built processors Tuesday, as Apple announced two new versions of the slimmed-down desktop. Apple claims the new systems deliver performance up to four times faster than predecessors.

The entry-level Mac mini features a 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo chip—making it the first Intel-based Mac to ship without a dual-core processor. Other specs in the entry-level mini include 512MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, and a Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) drive. This configuration will sell for $599, a $100 increase over the PowerPC-based Mac mini with a 1.25GHz G4 chip.

The other Intel-based Mac mini runs on a 1.67GHz Core Duo processor. It also features 512MB of memory along with an 80GB hard drive and an 8x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW). It sells for $799.

Both Mac mini models include 10/100/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, built-in AirPort Extreme wireless connectivity, built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, one FireWire 400 port and four USB 2.0 ports. Audio and video connections include a DVI interface and a VGA-out adapter and both digital and analog audio outputs for connecting to a home stereo.

The new Mac minis both have Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 chips integrated on the motherboard. The GMA 950 replaces the ATI Radeon 9200 graphics chip found on previous-generation Mac mini models. The GMA 950 allocates 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM that it shares with main memory — twice the VRAM used by the Radeon 9200 used by previous Mac minis. While the presence of “integrated” Intel graphics may displease users expecting radically better graphics performance, it’s worth noting that Intel cites moderately faster fill rate and more robust pixel shading capabilities for the GMA 950 compared to the Radeon 9200.

The new Mac mini also features a new infrared port designed to work with the Apple Remote and support an enhanced version of Front Row, the multimedia management application introduced last year. The new version of Front Row allows customers to access shared iTunes and iPhoto libraries and video throughout their home via Bonjour.

The Mac minis become the third Apple hardware offering to receive Intel chips, following the release of the iMac Core Duo and the MacBook Pro laptop.

Peter Cohen contributed to this article.

Updated 4:56PM Feb 28, 2006: Added FireWire 400 info.
Updated 2:56PM Feb. 28, 2006: Added details about graphics chip.

This story, "Apple unveils Intel-powered Mac minis" was originally published by PCWorld.

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