New Mac hardware: Nehalem debuts, everyone hates the Mac mini, and more

When Apple announced it was pulling out of future Macworld Expos, it may have been part of a larger strategy of abandoning dog-and-pony shows altogether when it comes to debuting products. Certainly the rash of updates that came yesterday -- new models in all of Apple's desktop computer lines, plus even a little speed bump to the Macbook Pro -- might have once been thought worthy of a keynote speech, or at least a press conference. But no, a press release and an update to the Apple Store were apparently considered to be enough.

The new Mac Pros are the first computers available for purchase with Intel's new Nehalem processor; Apple's transformation -- from the sole personal computer maker that didn't use x86 chips to an early adopter of Intel's latest -- is now complete. Interestingly, the first Mac to break the 3GHz barrier (remember when Steve Jobs was promising 3GHz G5s any day now?) is not the Mac Pro, but instead the top-end iMac. Still, the architecture of the Nehalem chips, plus the sheer number of cores available, keep the Mac Pro at the top of the performance heap among Macs.

And what about that long awaited Mac mini? My own enthusiasm for the computer as a potential media center has cooled somewhat, now that Hulu has been banished from Boxee; despite all the clamoring for an update to this machine, there is some disappointment in what is essentially a kind of pricey desktop, with the Apple Blog slamming it and David Coursey griping that, because it has only one network card, it can't serve as a true OS X Server. Ah, well, this is a fickle crowd.

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