New Mac mini gains Nvidia graphics

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Apple on Tuesday introduced a new version of its low-priced Mac mini desktop computer, featuring faster graphics, faster memory and other enhancements, but still priced starting at $599.

The refreshed Mac mini continues to sport a 6.5 x 6.5 x 2 inch footprint. On its backplane the Mac mini now sports two video interfaces, a Mini DisplayPort, for connecting to Apple’s 24-inch LED Cinema Display, and a mini-DVI connector, for attaching to industry-standard DVI displays. The system now has five USB 2.0 interfaces, up from three on the previous-generation model, along with a FireWire 800 jack, replacing the FireWire 400 interface. It also sports Gigabit Ethernet, audio line in and audio line out ports.

Under the hood, both the $599 and $799 Mac mini models sport 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors with 3MB shared L2 cache. Both systems feature Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics, the same graphics that are featured on Apple’s MacBook laptop line. Apple claims that this enables the Mac mini to produce 3D graphics at up to five times the rate of the model it’s replacing; the previous-generation Mac mini was the last Apple product to ship with Intel GMA 950 graphics. Both models also feature 8x slot-loading “SuperDrives” capable of burning DVD media. They have AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR built in, as well.

Apple also vaunts the energy-efficiency and “green” qualities of the revamped Mac mini. At idle, the new Mac mini uses less than 13 watts of power — 10 times less than a typical desktop PC, which makes it the most energy-efficient desktop computer in the world.

And like the MacBook line, refreshed late last year, and the revamped iMac, also unveiled today, the Mac mini exceeds current Energy Star 4.0 requirements, meeting Energy Star 5.0 requirements which won’t go into effect until later this year. The device also uses PVC-free internal components and cables and contains no brominated flame retardants; it has been manufactured and packaged using recycling materials, and has also received EPEAT Gold certification, all efforts Apple has also made on the laptop line.

"We’ve looked all over and we can’t find a desktop computer more energy efficient than a Mac mini," David Moody, Apple’s vice president of Mac hardware worldwide product marketing, told Macworld.

The $799 model steps up with 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM, twice the RAM as the base model. It also gains a larger Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drive — 320GB, versus 120GB on the $599 version.

Build-to-order options include a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up to 4GB RAM, 80GB, 250GB or 320GB hard disk drives.

This story was updated with more details about the specifications of the Mac mini and the system’s energy-efficiency and environmental changes.

Updated at 7:33 a.m. PT with information from an interview with Apple executives.

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