back to article Mac mini said to get Ion innards

Courtesy of Tom's Hardware comes the "confirmation" from "an Nvidia partner" that the long-awaited Mac mini upgrade is coming as soon as March, but that it won't be powered by either an Intel Core 2 Duo or a low-power Core i7. And no, it won't be an AMD chip. Instead, according to the rumor du jour, the Mac mini will be based …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I hope not....

    I was hoping for a upgrade for the mini - not a downgrade. Whatever they do I hope they do something by March. I've been holding of a mini purchase because of all these rumours....

  2. Dave Silver badge
    Jobs Halo

    And the point is...

    Umm so... if I'm understanding this article right, we don't know if the new mac mini will be any faster than the old one- will this mean that it will be cheaper, sold on green / power efficiency credentials, smaller form factor or all of the above?

    Or will it out-perform the current Mac mini due to Snow Leopard GPU as CPU support, current Adobe (traditional Mac strength) GPU support or have market placement as a media centre thingy (in which the GPU will be handy?)

    Who knows. I don't.

    There were a lot of 'or's in what I've just written, I'm still recovering from the Reg's mention-by-proxy of the Cheeky Girls (that Lempik Opik story).

    Haloed Jobs because I hope he isn't due to join the celestial choir yet.

  3. David Simpson
    Jobs Halo

    Apple TV ?

    Where does Apple TV fit in to this ? The present models use old pentium m CPUs (or maybe core solos now) Could this be a low cost mac mini/ Apple tv in one ? Could be a great little media center if you are willing to pay for iTunes movie rentals and snow leopard will have a refreshed front row they maybe be a bit more functional the present version and apple tv, the 9400 is bound to be able to playback HD, several atom netbooks can manage 720p maybe Nvidias new platform can manage 1080p.

    Hope the price is right which with Apple it usually isn't.

  4. E_Nigma
    Thumb Down

    I Can't Resist Being Mean

    The current Mac mini is affordable, it's got a nice form factor, it comes with a pretty good software bundle and, when it debuted in 2007, thanks to it's Core 2 Duo processor it was a decent performer. Overall, it offered very decent value for money. That was so unlike Apple (and I suppose that's why they didn't update it in over a year).

    This, on the other hand, will be much more like it. Yes, it will be pretty, yes, it will be able to show the desktop environment without too many hiccoughs and yes, it will do as a media center (it's not like you'll be watching Blue-ray on it, remember, we don't wants it and we don't needs it, the future is in the downloads from iTunes store, lower bitrate than Blue-Ray, but who cares) and yes, it will be slower even than the three years old Mac Mini with Core Duo (not Core 2 Duo) processors, but who needs a real computer when one can have an oversized, stationary iPod instead?! Huzzah for inovation and progress!

  5. Pavlovs well trained dog

    or, more likely

    Apple have a new secret squirrel product that they're quite happy to let Partners believe is a mac mini refresh.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The Atom 330 Sounds OK to me

    As you say, the Atom and Core2 are rather different pocessors.

    I built a test machine with an Atom 230 when they first came out, that had the standard Intel chipset with on-chip graphics and the overall system seemed far more restricted by the graphics than the CPU capability.

    The Diamondville chip may not have out-of-order execution, but it does support hyperthreading - this also allows those spare cycles to be used, if another thread is waiting.

    From what I've read about the Atom 330 elsewhere, it has two complete CPU dies in a single package, so the only shared resource is the bus. I don't know about the Core2 but that again sounds like a plus point.

    Overall, unless you want a mega gaming system, it appears to be a pretty good setup and almost certainly will be nice & quiet with the CPU only pulling 8W max. How much does a Core2 take?

  7. wsm


    Great, another set of predictions for Mac products that don't make any sense. A giant leap backwards in product usability for the lowliest Apple? Is Jobs really that sick?

  8. Dave K Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    Great :-(

    I've been holding on for a replacement of my current Mac Mini (1.46GHz G4, 1GB RAM) for a while now as it does run a bit sluggishly once you fire up Azureus and Firefox. Now a Core 2 Duo one might have been a nice replacement, but an Atom? That'll barely out-perform my existing Mac Mini. And at the end of the day, the Mac Mini runs from the mains, not a battery. Hence the low power draw of the Atom is less of an advantage than in a netbook.

    Looks like I'll need to upgrade fairly quickly before Apple go and downgrade the Mac Mini to something a damn sight slower.

  9. Colin MacLean

    Grand Central showcase?

    I'm guessing the seriously-underpowered processor may be viable as 10.6's Grand Central distributed processing feature will be used to share out any meaty tasks to the GPU.

    Sounds great on paper, but existing apps would probably need to be rebuilt to take advantage.

  10. Gulfie
    Thumb Down


    I have two Mac Minis and they are excellent. All they needed was the 9400 GPU and a rev in processor and memory.

    There's a great potential market for a small (and I mean very small) box like this, they make great dedicated web site hosts for small companies because of their functionality (fantastic), cost (low) and power consumption (less than 100W, the Mac Mini PSU is rated at 120W maximum).

    Hell, I may even order a couple of spares while they are still in stock.

  11. David Haworth

    Mini - no, appletv - perhaps

    This would seem a foolish move. The mac mini has traditionally been built on ibook/macbook innards and it seems a sensible way of doing it.

    the atom just doesn't have the guts., and would be significantly slower than the current mini.

    now I could believe them using an atom to power a new appletv perhaps? but no t the mini (I hope)


  12. Dave Wilkinson


    Mac Mini the size of an classic iPod?

    Thy've already got the air without an optical drive with a funky way of connecting a shared drive off another computer. Drop the optical drive and the Mini could be very very small.

  13. Robert Hart


    Im currently a PC user and have been looking at a Mac mini mainly for i life and mainly for the size of the system. i only want to edit home movies etc but would an ion really be able to handle that. I was/am planning to hold out until the new Mac Mini is released but if this is whats going to be replacing the current model then i think ill just stick to my PC's. Come on Apple, do it right!!!

  14. Stephen Moll

    I reckon...

    that this isn't about the Mac Mini at all, and is more likely an update to the Apple TV.

  15. jamie

    OSX on atom

    I've been running OSX on my eeePC 901 with a not so powerful 1.6Ghz N270 Atom chip, and it's fairly responsive, particuarly with 2Gb of RAM in there. Having graphics with Quartz Extreme support offloads most of the fancy eye candy from the CPU. I can watch avi's streaming over wifi with no problems.

    I've also got a 2.0 Core2 duo mac mini, and that does me fine as well, so perhaps the Atom 330 (64bit, IIRC) will do a decent enough job, any maybe help to slim down the mini even further.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    AppleTV Does not fit in anywhere

    As can be seen by the ten's of users.

  17. Robin

    Hang on a min...

    Wait a minute... "confirmation" ... "an Nvidia partner"?

    Aren't we getting all overexcited about the poor specs of a glorified rumour?

    Just sayin' like.

  18. Anton Ivanov

    Re: I Can't Resist Being Mean

    You can watch BR on it. As many Linux afficionados have proven the dual core Atom can provide enough grunt to show HD on a decent OS even with the hideous Intel Graphics chipset. With an Nvidia chipset which offloads most decoding into hardware it will have no problem doing that. In fact it will have some resource to spare.

  19. John


    Sounds like a dog for anything other than video playback, and the current mac mini does that fine at the moment.

    Oh well I may as well get the current one now.

  20. Peter Kay

    Won't be buying that one

    I am looking at buying at a Mac at some point, and a future Mac Mini might fit the bill (iMac - integrated shite - I already have monitors , Mac Pro is too expensive). Intel Atom, though? No thanks.

    It's a desktop, not a laptop or a netbook, so start using higher performance components.

    Whilst they're at it, regardless of what they produce, I hope it's multimonitor enabled. It is an utter disgrace this can't be done on the existing Mac Mini without extra hardware.

  21. Joe Montana

    Only option?

    The Mac Mini was always meant as the lowest end model of Apple's lineup... So putting a cheap low power CPU in it seems a logical action.

    That said, what's to stop the atom based model being the lowest end, with core2 based minis being available at a higher cost? Or hopefully, the atom based model being cheaper, and slightly updated core2 minis costing the same as the current models.

    I wouldn't call out of order execution particularly modern... It's a hack to improve performance of code that was written for older processors... It's useful on general purpose computers because they run a lot of old code that was precompiled for much older processors, and therefore knows nothing about the latencies and superscalar abilities of modern processors.

    But where code can be specifically compiled for an in-order processor it makes a lot of sense... The PS3 and Xbox 360 both use in-order processors for instance. It massively reduces complexity of the chip, making it use less power, produce less heat and cost less.

    Apple should be able to compile their code to take advantage of the atom cpu...

  22. jason

    Way to clear old stock?

    The current model has a middling spec that has hampered sales. You then are on the verge of releasing a new model but have tons of old stock still that isnt shifting.

    What to do?

    Start a rumour that the new one is less of a deal then the existing one. Folks then panic buy existing one. As per some of the posts already.

    You then release the new (actually) improved model when old inventory has greatly reduced due to panic buying. Those that didnt panic or get a monk on over it buy this model.

    Well its what I'd do.

  23. Gordon Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Atom Bashing getting old

    The Reg's atom bashing is getting very old very quickly.

    Ok it is a downgrade for the Mini, but how many people are stretching the mini anyway?

    OS X runs happily on Atom - as all the people out there running it on their netbooks will attest, the graphics are the weak point (although even the netbooks can run Quartz Extreme). The ION components will sort any lack in the graphics department.

  24. Philip
    Thumb Down


    ...'integrated shite'? You obviously haven't tried one of the latest ones then. Unless you want to customise it an any major way (a minority sport), they are far very from that indeed.

    They didn't get 5* ratings from *PC* mags for nothing.

  25. Richard Cartledge


    If it is a downgrade with a suitable price downgrade, then I'm all for it.

  26. Frank Bough
    Jobs Halo

    Something's not right...

    I'm betting the Atom powered machine is, in fact, a revised AppleTV and the Mac Mini - if it gets upgraded at all - will be much more in line with the current MacBook specs. Mac Minis and Apple Tv look very similar to the uninitiated, so it'd be an easy mistake to make.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    AppleTV, maybe, seeing as most of the actual business of that device is graphical with the OS not really having that much hard work to do. The mini has always had performance parity with the lowest-end iBook/MacBook at launch (with some variations depending upon where each product was in its release cycle at the time) for precisely the sort of logical reasons that suggest a wholesale change to Atom is a non-starter.

  28. Ben
    Thumb Up

    Look a bit deeper

    Look into the details & performance of the new nVidia chipset for the Atom - this isn't going to be the slouch that most people seem to be assuming it's going to be:

  29. Thomas Silver badge

    The Atom... like the MSI Wind, etc?

    I'm rubbish at this stuff - are we essentially being told that, at least per the rumour, the next Mac Mini will feature hardware similar to all those netbooks that some people with no regard for intelectual property laws have been installing OS X on, but with a separate GPU? If so, surely somebody already has a reasonably informed opinion on how well OS X runs on broadly that sort of hardware? It'd certainly be more helpful than an apparently entirely speculative op-ed piece.

  30. Mike Groombridge

    oh well no mini for me

    was doing to buy one as a toy as to play with but now i won't was waiting for the new one before deciding will be an xbox instead (now thats an pair an Xbox or a mac mini hmm)

    or maybe a new laptop. oh well

  31. Anonymous Coward

    re: iMac

    "They didn't get 5* ratings from *PC* mags for nothing."

    Completely true - it cost a great deal of money!

  32. Dave
    Dead Vulture


    "The Atom was designed for low-end products such as netbooks"

    Which is almost exactly what the Mini is meant to be: a non-mobile netbook. A low cost, relatively low performance box for specific tasks. Never as a primary PC for a power-user, nor even as a primary PC for a kid.

    As many others have said, a few too many 'if's, 'but's and mistakes in this article to be taken seriously.

  33. Peter Kay

    @'integrated shite'

    Yes, 'integrated shite'. I.e. I can't choose what monitor is used. I already have decent monitors, a great keyboard and a good wireless mouse. I don't want (or need) to change any of those, regardless of what computer I'm using, and I refuse to pay for a monitor I don't actually want/need.

    I also want the option, should a large wodge of cash suddenly come my way and an existing monitor dies, to buy a 30" TFT without having to replace my existing system.

    I hold exactly the same opinion of the same sort of kit from HP and suchlike.

    Whilst I'm not overly fond of non expandable computers I could live with it. Make sure, however, that it has USB and firewire, a memory slot (or two), a hard drive bay, a full complement of audio inputs/outputs including optical, a graphics chipset that isn't completely inadequate (i.e. anything from Intel), twin dual DVI-I ports and preferably HDMI too. I'm not holding my breath.

  34. Brian Whittle
    Jobs Horns

    no atom thanks

    God help them if the new mac mini has an atom chip if anyone wants to do something as simple as watch a flash embedded video, its bad enough on my 2 Ghtz macbook

  35. Brian Whittle

    where is the cheap (ish) desktop mac

    An integrated PC whatever flavour of OS does not cut it with me. Surly there is a place in the MAC line up for a £500-$800 smallish desktop base unit that has expansion capabilities, having to go all the way upto a mac pro seems wrong to me

  36. mike lee
    Paris Hilton

    re: watch a flash embedded video

    Do you lot use a different Atom processor than me? I have a MSI Wind and it works really rather well. Sure modern games are out of the question but it places iPlayer and (SD) videos fine, even with a Eclipse and an ant build going off in the background.

    The GC is a pile of turd, but the CPU is fine and dandy.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Brian Whittle

    "God help them if the new mac mini has an atom chip if anyone wants to do something as simple as watch a flash embedded video,"

    I think that says a lot more about Flash than it does about the Atom.

    I just bought an MSI Wind barebones box the other day ($140, with 1G of RAM!). I stuck Puppy Linux on a 2G thumb drive, and I was very impressed with the responsiveness of the system. (I was reminded why I still run Windows instead of Linux when I want to get any actual work done, but that's a totally different Flame war :-)

  38. Mathew White

    Sounds like AppleTV

    These sound more like the specs for the apple tv then the mac mini. Maybe the tipster is confusing the 2 products?

    Maybe they will merge, with the appleTV gaining a DVD/Blueray drive + more ports and bluetooth.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Brian Whittle "cheapish desktop Mac"

    that'll be the still-mythical xMac, then

  40. Volker Hett
    Thumb Down

    Apple TV yes, Mac Mini no!

    I know a lot of small and medium businesses in the graphics industry using Mac Minis for less demanding work. But they do use high end monitors, Eizos and. older, Sony Artisans. The current Minis are good enough for a lot of Indesign and even Photoshop work where a Mac Pro is overkill.

    A Mini with a current C2D CPU, 4GB RAM and the NVidia chip would sell where an iMac doesn't.

    Adobe CS4 does run on Vista, after all :-)

  41. Nexox Enigma

    Looks like Apple wants more profits

    I wonder if many future Mac Mini purchasers will ever know that you can get a mini itx mobo with the atom 330 (no nVidia chipset, regretably) for under $100 US retail. Those Core2 Duo chips cost about that much by themselves, if purchased in volume. So obviously Apple is going to be upping their profit margin on the Minis, unless they lower the price (doubtful.)

    Whatever Anon said that two seperate CPUs on the same package would be better than the Core2 Duo's shared die setup is quite wrong. Sure with the atom they just share the FSB, but it's also the only way for each of the cores to communicate with eachother. In any Core2 that is actually dual core, instead of dual die, they can commincate directly on the silicon at a far higher rate, plus most of them have shared cache and other neat things to help out. The dual die approach is more or less provably the Wrong Way to get 2 cores on a chip.

    And to all of you that say the GPU offloading will make up for the slow CPU... it might, for certain applications. Out of the Mac Mini's intended uses, though, the only real advantage will be for watching videos, which has been mostly offloaded even to cheap Intel GPUs for quite some time. I really hope that most people don't buy a Mini to do video editing or anything like that, because they'll find out very fast that even with the GPU helping out, they'll hit storage and memory bandwidth bottlenecks.

    I'm personally going to reccomend not buying any more Minis in our department until we've had a chance to see if they will actually work. We already had a huge problem with the first generation Intel versions, since they had trouble running a web browser and an email client at the same time. We really don't need any more of that crap.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Peter Kay

    you cant expect a mac mini to have dual hdmi, and a hard drive bay. what planet are you on?

    if you want something expandable why get a mac mini?

  43. Gulfie

    Red Herring?

    The Mac Geeg reported a couple of weeks ago (just catching up with the podcasts) that Intel will only sell the Atom for use with the Intel GPU, so the idea of a Mac Mini using Atom and NVidia 9400 would seem to be wide of the mark.

    @Nexox Enigma: I've been running and supporting Mac Minis for about 18 months and I've never had a report of problems running Mail and Safari together. Hell, one mini runs a mail server and Tomcat server and is still used for mail and web browsing with no problems whatsoever. Yous set-up sounds suspect for me - these programs don't even interact in the way the equivalent MS products would.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Don't see what everyone's so all-fired up about...

    Okay, to everyone whinging about the "it's a non-mobile netbook" --first off, the Atom 330 is not a netbook processor. It is a low-power dual-core processor designed for low-power desktops (e.g., the ASUS Eee Box, or Dell's Optiplex 160).

    It's not only dual-core, it supports Hyperthreading, which should lend to its usefulness. Add the discrete graphics chip in, and you offload video playback to the GPU, resolving any issues with HD playback.

    This isn't intended for a power user; the Mac Mini never was. Even so, it should run OS X just fine for the people that want to surf, use iWork/NeoOfice/MS Office (Mac), and play a DVD here and there, and should be fine with plenty of basic tasks. I'd certainly pick one up to replace my Dad's aging 933MHz G4 tower, I'm sure it beats the pants off of that for Flash playback (which is horrible on the G4).

    Mine's the one with the Atom 330 in it...

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