New Mac Mini: Cheap Mac desktop or SOHO server

The latest release of the Mac Mini will find a good home in both your living room and your office.

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I've always liked Apple's Mac Mini. It was easily the most affordable desktop Mac around. Now, in its latest models, the new Mac Mini comes as both a desktop and Apple TV replacement and as a SOHO (small office/home office) server, I still see a lot to like.

While, it's not as cheap as it used to be, the desktop model comes in at $699, it's still not expensive considering the combination of Mac's ease of use and what you get in the box. The server will cost a cool $999 with Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server. Underneath the Mac OS X pretty exterior, you have, for all intents and purposes, a 64-bit Unix server with all the usual Unix server goodies.

Both models are smaller than ever at 1.4 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches HWD (Height, Width, Depth). Each also comes with 4GBs of memory, which can be upgraded to 8GBs. They also come with Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics. This new graphics package makes it much faster than before. While no serious gamer will ever mistake the new Mac Mini for a kick-rump and take names gaming PC, it does make it more than fast and powerful enough to easily output 1080p HDTV.

That last bit is important since each comes with an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port, which is commonly used for HDTV. It's this port that makes the Mac Mini a potential Apple TV replacement and competitor to Google TV. If you don't have an HDMI-compliant monitor, which is quite likely, Apple also bundles in an HDMI-DVI (Digital Visual Interface) converter.

That said, I still don't see Apple really getting the home TV market. You see, to really make it work with your HDTV, you'll need a little technical elbow-grease to get it set up properly with Front Row, Mac OS X's media server software. It's not hard, but it's also not as easy as most Mac users would expect. You'll also need to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or Apple Remote software to use it in your home theater.

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