Mac Musings

How Soon Will the Mac mini Go Core 2?

Dan Knight - 2006.11.09 - Tip Jar

It's been quite a year, and Apple finished the Intel transition much more quickly than we would have guessed a year ago. Here's the timeline:

  1. iMac Core Duo, 2006.01.10
  2. 15" MacBook Pro Core Duo, 2006.02.14
  3. Mac mini Core Solo and Duo, 2006.02.28
  4. 17" MacBook Pro Core Duo, 2006.04.24
  5. MacBook Core Duo, 2006.05.16
  6. MacPro Dual Core 2 Duo, 2006.08.07
  7. Xserve Xeon, announced 2006.08.07

Not content to merely move the entire product line to Intel Core processors, Apple has also updated the following models this year:

  1. iMac Core 2 Duo, 2006.09.06
  2. Mac mini Core Duo (speed bump), 2006.09.06
  3. 15" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, 2006.10.24
  4. 17" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, 2006.10.24
  5. MacBook Core 2 Duo, 2006.11.08

At this point, all Macs have dual-core processors. (The 1.5 GHz Mac mini Core Solo was the only Intel-based Mac to ever use a single-core CPU.) And every model but one has Core 2 Duo.

All but one. All but the Mac mini, which was just speed bumped on September. It's just a matter of time before the Mac mini goes Core 2 Duo, and based on Apple's track record (Core 2 Duo models sell for the same price as the Core Duo models they replace), there should be no change in price.

What will we gain when the Mac mini gains a Core 2 CPU? First, a more efficient CPU - 10% on average and potentially 25-40% for some processes. And also a chip that runs cooler, which is always nice inside a small enclosure. Finally, the marketing advantage of having all Macs running Core 2 CPUs.

When will we see the Core 2 mini? My guess is at Macworld Expo in January, along with speed bumped Mac Pro computers. (My guess is a 3.0 GHz base model with 2.33 GHz and 3.33 GHz options.)

Musings

I'm pretty content with my 1 GHz dual Power Mac G4 Mirrored Drive Doors. It's got a 250 GB hard drive, a 16x dual-layer SuperDrive, and 1.75 GB of RAM. I've added a USB 2.0 card. It runs OS X beautifully and classic very nicely.

The only drawbacks: it's big, loud, doesn't have enough USB ports (does any computer?), and is no speed demon when it comes to converting video from one format to another.

My 400 MHz PowerBook G4 gave up the ghost earlier this year and has since been parted out. I've been debating what to replace it with for over a year, and with the Macworld Expo in January, it's time to make a decision.

The Mac mini Core Duo will undoubtedly outperform my Power Mac G4/1 GHz dual when it comes to video - the only thing I do that really taxes the CPU. And with a NewerTech miniStack, I could work from a big, fast, 3.5" hard drive and gain some much-needed FireWire and USB ports.

I've heard good things about SheepShaver, and vMac mini might even be enough for my limited need for Classic apps (I still use Claris Home Page, and I often run Photoshop 5.5 as well).

Tempting. I'd love to see Apple introduce a "Mac midi" in January - basically a double-height Mac mini with a 3.5" hard drive, more RAM slots, more USB 2.0 and FireWire ports, and maybe Core 2 Duo as well. (Any manufacturer want to build a $150 enclosure that would accept a Mac mini motherboard and optical drive while letting you add your own 3.5" hard drive? I think a lot of Mac lovers would bite!)

A Mac mini with 2 GB of RAM and a SuperDrive would set me back US$1,049 - ouch. Then add the miniStack, and it looks like I'll continue using the Power Mac G4 for some time yet. (Refurb would trim $100, but then I'd have to install my own RAM. The mini's case is not conducive to upgrades....)

3D graphics isn't something that matters to me, so the US$999 17" iMac Core 2 is another consideration. More speed. 1440 x 900 display (my current one is 1280 x 1024). And it's probably easier to install your own RAM. And it comes with a 3.5" 160 GB hard drive. Probably good enough, and I can save $100 with a refurb.

Then there's the other 17" iMac that already comes with 1 GB of RAM. But that starts as US$1,199. I'm really hesitant to spend over $1,000 for a desktop computer.

On the portable front, the 13" 2.0 GHz MacBook is mighty tempting. That 1280 x 800 display is more than my PowerBook had (1152 x 768). The size and shape are just about perfect. The keyboard seems quite nice, based on my limited exposure to it.

Still, US$1,299 sounds like a lot of money - even if it is half what I paid for my TiBook five years ago. Maybe Apple will have the new Core 2 iBooks available refurbished in time for the Expo - that should save me $200.

No easy decisions. I'm going to bide my time.... LEM

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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