The Power User’s Apple TV: Mac Mini Updated for 2011
When the orginal Mac Mini was announced back in 2005, it immediately became my model of what an HTPC should look like. I’ve completed two HTPC upgrades since then, and each time I have tried my darndest to justify the extra expense to go with a Mac Mini instead of my usual homebrew. Not as fun, but way sexy.
This year’s models make the leap to Sandy Bridge and for the first time since the Mac Mini went Intel there will be an option for a discrete GPU in the form of the AMD Radeon HD 6630M. The entry-level model, starting at $599, will use a 2.3GHz Core i5 while the high-end model, starting at $799, will use a 2.5GHz Core i5 and the AMD GPU. Both models will be using processors that support Turboclock. There is also a $999 server version of the Mac Mini.
The new Mac Mini also does away with the Superdrive. A bit of a downer if you use your HTPC for watching DVDs, but it evidently gives the Mac Mini a bit more expansion space as the high-end model comes with an option for both a 256GB SSD and a 750GB hard drive. Now if only Apple would offer a matching Blu-Ray drive add-on.
All in all, the 2011 Mac mini update is a good one. There are several welcome additions to the lineup, such as a discrete GPU. The prices are a lot more reasonable now too. Before, it made very little sense to buy Mini because a few hundred more got you an iMac with better specs and IPS panel. At $599, the Mac mini makes sense and is a great option for a first time Mac buyer.