Today, Apple updated the littlest Mac ever, giving the Mac Mini a much-needed performance boost. The new update really puts the Mac Mini into a class of its own in terms of offering a mix of power efficiency, performance, and size – though you do end up paying a slight price premium at the higher end of the lineup.
Like the previous generation, the new Mac Minis feature a single Thunderbolt port, Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, and an SDXC card slot. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz) built in.
In terms of performance, this update finally brings Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs to the Mini line, though you’re unsurprisingly stuck with dual-core chips at the low-end. Similarly, graphics are provided by integrated Intel HD 4000 on-die GPUs. The days of the discrete Mac Mini GPU are behind us, at least for this iteration.
There are three main Mini configurations this time around. The entry-level model comes with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU. It also features 4GB of RAM, which can be easily upgraded to a max of 16GB after purchase, as well as a 500GB hard drive, for $599. Stepping up to a quad-core i7 CPU and a 1TB hard drive bumps the price to $799.
A slightly beefer version comes with an Intel quad-core Core i7 Ivy Bridge CPU running at 2.3GHz, the same upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but dual 1TB hard drives. It also comes with Mountain Lion’s OS X Server packages pre-installed, which are normally a premium extra that get downloaded from the Mac App Store. All told, this model will retail for $999.
Optional upgrades include a 256GB SSD as well as Apple’s new Fusion Drive, which blend SSD and HDD together for the advantages of both. Apple maintains that the new Mac Minis are Energy Star 5.2 and EPEAT Gold certified, as well as remain BFR and PFC, achieving a whopping 11W idle power draw.