First Look: Apple Mac Mini (hands-on)
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First Look: Apple Mac Mini (hands-on)

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Apple has improved the value of the Mac Mini as well as its general appeal thanks to its faster performance. The Fusion Drive is also a nice touch for the enthusiast who might want it.

Hi. I'm Rich Brown of CNET. Today, we're gonna look at Apple's new Mac Mini. So, this is the 799 Mac Mini config but it also has $250 upgrade to Apple's new Fusion Drive. That means this is a quad-core Core i7 Mac, with 4 gigs of RAM and a Terabyte hard drive, as well as 128GB Solid State Drive. Now, aside from the Fusion Drive, there's actually not that much different about this new Mac from the last version. It does have Intel's most recent Ivy Bridge CPUs in here, so that's nice. You get a good speed benefit and Apple has also brought Core i7 down here when before you could only get Core i5, at least on the non-server models. Otherwise though, the system is basically identical on the outside. There's still no optical drive so Apple's sticking with that, no surprise there. And on the back, the ports are exactly the same. You got power, Ethernet, FireWire 800, HDMI, thunderbolt, four USB ports, audio in and headphone out. You also have the SDXC card slot. Now, there are actually some interesting things, you know, these are USB 3.0 ports not USB 2.0, so it's a lot faster than the previous version and that's nice. The Mac Mini also now have some ports that you won't find on the new iMacs, specifically the FireWire 800 and the 2 audio ports. There's only a single audio port in the new iMac. But the big technical difference of the system really is the Fusion Drive. So, what that is essentially is a way to give you all the speed benefits of the solid-state hard drive as well as all the big storage line benefits of the standard drive. Now, there are some other similar hybrid hard drives out there that work in a similar way, but the way Apple has it set up is that it's really kind of a seamless process with Fusion. [unk] that Fusion will automatically speed up access to your files that you use most frequently. I found in our testing that it actually works pretty well especially with file RET. File reads are a little bit harder to tell. Apps like Photoshop and certain games have characteristics that get in a way of the file system and make it more than just about load speed or CPU calculations stuff that goes on with the background. So, Fusion can't always be as effective as maybe you want it to. So, it was a kind of a pricey upgrade. It costs 250 bucks and it pushes the 799 config up to $1,049. That's pretty expensive for Mac that's generally considered we have budget priced option. Overall though, I know that there's a passionate niche of Mac Mini fans out there and they tend to find out tons of creative uses for the system and I expect they will certainly appreciate faster drive access. Even if you don't opt for Fusion, the Core i7 chip provides a nice speed boost. It makes this actually pretty competitive compared to Windows PCs in the same price range. Of course, it also has Apple's Hallmark attention to design, and this is still one most attractive PCs out there. So, overall, Apple's improved the value to Mac Mini as well as the general appeal, thanks to it's fast performance. Fusion Drive is also a nice touch for the enthusiast who might want it. So, I'm Rich Brown. This is Apple's new Mac Mini.

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