The Apple Mac mini has received a much wanted overhaul, adding crucial connectivity, in the form of an SD card slot and an HDMI port, to the device's rear. Better still, the chassis has been reduced in size to 19.7cm square by 3.6cm tall, using the unibody construction technique debuted by the MacBook Air.
The power supply has been moved inside the Mac mini, leaving the overall footprint much reduced, and there's now a removable plastic cover on the bottom which when detached reveals user-upgradeable RAM. 2GB of DDR3 RAM will come as standard, with processor options comprising a 2.4GHz or 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo.
The graphics chip is also an improvement on the outgoing Mac mini model. The nVidia 320M - which shares 256MB of the system's memory - is purportedly twice as fast as the previous 9400M - a useful upgrade with the recent launch of Steam on OSX. A 320GB hard drive is standard, upgradeable to 500GB, though alas not by the end user as that particular component is buried deep in the bowels of the Mac mini (Apple has to make its margin somewhere).
There's now only one 'standard' configuration available, as opposed to the two previously offered, priced at £649. While the redesigned chassis, improved graphics grunt and welcome addition of an HDMI port and an SD card reader are nice, this model does have half the RAM (down from 4GB to 2GB) offered by the previous same-priced Mac mini.
Personally, that doesn't strike as too big an issue in terms of performance - OSX isn't a particularly memory hungry operating system - but it's a little galling. Nonetheless, most would-be buyers will probably be wooed by the snazzier chassis and, particularly, the HDMI port which make the Mac mini an even more compelling under-TV media PC.
The Mac mini isn't cheap, but it is the cheapest Mac and, yes, it is a lovely thing to look at - an important consideration in a computer, obviously.
The Mac mini with OSX Snow Leopard Server (a mouthful if one was ever swallowed) also benefits from this update. That system now comes in at £949, with a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and two 500Gb, 7200rpm hard drives. But in trade-off for that increased capacity the Mac mini Server forgoes an optical drive.
Both systems are available right now, so sally forth!