“Fun New Products” from Apple

No big surprises today. Most sites accurately predicted that Apple would announce an Intel Mac mini and an iPod “Boom Box” at this morning’s special event. And that is exactly what we got.

Mac mini

The form factor is unchanged, but what is inside is significantly faster. For $599 ($100 more than the mini it replaces) you get a 1.5 GHz Intel Core Solo processor, DVD/CD-RW optical drive and a 60GB hard drive. $799 gives you a 1.66 GHZ Core Duo, as well as a SuperDrive and 80 GB hard drive. Apple claims that the Core Duo version is 4 times faster than the previous 1.42 GHz model. All units ship with a remote for the included Front Row software that now supports streaming audio, video and pictures from other computers on your network, via Bonjour.

Integrated graphics

A common technique used by Wintel manufacturers to cut manufacturing costs on their economy computers is to use an Intel motherboard with integrated graphics support rather than using a separate video card. This results in slower graphics as well as a decrease in the memory available to the CPU, since these integrated graphics units use the system memory.

Now that Apple is using Intel chips, they have adopted the same cost saving strategy. The Mac mini uses the Intel GMA950 graphics processor, which shares 64 MB of memory with the main memory. This actually translates to a minimum of 80 MB used for graphics, so the 512 MB of memory that ships standard on Macs is effectively 432 MB—sometimes less depending on the needs of the graphics processor.

I don’t know how this will affect performance. The claims on the Apple web site are pretty impressive. I use a Gateway laptop at work for checking web sites in IE6 that uses a similar set up and the graphics are extremely slow. Granted this is a much older unit with completely different chips, so comparisons are probably not fair. It’s still something to think about.

iPod HiFi

The iPod changed the way we listen to music. It also spawned a billion dollar a year industry for accessory makers. In an effort to change the way we listen to our iPods as well as grab a larger slice of the accessory pie, Apple also announced a new product today, the iPod Hi-Fi.

These are more than just $350 speakers for your iPod. Unless you plan to use them with an older iPod. If you have a nano or 5th generation iPod, the iPod Hi-Fi has been designed to allow you to control the tone and volume with the iPod. Tossing a bone to those of us with older iPods, all iPods with docks will be recharged by the iPod Hi-Fi.

It seems that all new hardware from Apple is shipping with a remote, and the iPod HiFi does not disappoint in this area. You can control volume and move around in your playlists with the included remote, so you can stay on the couch if you don’t like a particular song.

And you can take it with you. Five D batteries will last a couple of hours if you want to risk having this $350 item stolen from your beach party.

One more thing

Not too exciting, actually, but Apple is now offering leather cases for 5th generation iPods and nanos. The cases will set you back $99, and do not allow access to controls or the screen.

My take

I am clearly not the audience for these new products. I am sure they’ll make Apple a bundle of money, but I’ll be saving for an upgrade to a professional Mac and the requisite Intel software to replace my iMac in a couple of years.

About this post

In which Mark takes a look at Apple's new products...

February 28, 2006 | Apple | iPod

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