June 16, 2010, 9:33 AM — Apple announced a major update to the Mac mini line Tuesday morning, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one. Here are our first impressions after a few hours of use. (You can also check out our slideshow on the new mini.)
The first thing you'll notice about the new Mac mini is its box. Or, more specifically, how small that box is--60% of the size of the previous container. Open the box, and you'll immediately see why: the new Mac mini, while wider than the previous model, is only 1.4 inches thick. And something else is missing--the power supply. Instead of the heavy, bulky, white power brick that's shipped with every mini since the line was introduced, the newest mini comes with only a thin power cord and a video adapter. In the process of redesigning the Mac mini's enclosure, Apple was able to shrink down the power supply and fit it inside the mini itself. (The new mini is actually slightly heavier than the previous model's enclosure, but the lack of an external power supply allows the new version to shed about a pound of weight overall.)
The mini's visual redesign takes its cues from two other Apple products. The new enclosure is made of a single piece of aluminum, a la Apple's unibody laptops--gone is the plastic top of previous models, making the new mini feel rock-solid. But the shape is closer to that of the Apple TV--thinner and wider than the previous Mac mini models. In fact, the new mini is almost exactly the same size as an Apple TV, just with rounder corners.
On the back of the new mini, you'll find all the mini's connections. As with the previous version, you get Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, a Mini DisplayPort connector, digital/analog audio input and output, and four USB ports served by two USB buses. But you also gain--at the expense of a USB port, which is why the new model has four instead of the old model's five--an SD-card slot. (Apple hasn't yet published the specs and compatibility for the slot.) This card reader is less accessible on the back than it would have been on the front, but in a briefing with Macworld, Apple conceded that the compact design of the new Mac mini does limit where ports and connections can be placed.