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Is Apple's Mac Mini a MacBook inside?

Apple's latest Mac Mini desktop uses parts designed for mobile PCs, according to iSuppli.

The premium pricing of Apple's Mac Mini desktop is due to its laptop lineage, according to a teardown analysis by iSuppli.

Apple Mac Mini
Apple Mac Mini Apple

Though probably not a surprise to Mac Mini connoisseurs, the diminutive desktop bears higher component costs due to its use of parts designed for mobile PCs, iSuppli said in a report released Friday. In short, inside the Mini is a virtual laptop.

The entry-level version of the new-generation Mac Mini carries a bill of materials (BOM) of $376.20, which increases to $387.14 when manufacturing costs are added, iSuppli said. The low-end model in the Mac Mini lineup is priced at $599, "reflecting the relatively thin BOM/manufacturing margins" of Apple's PCs in relation to its lower-cost consumer items, specifically the iPod line, according to iSuppli.

"Unlike most desktop computers from other brands, the Mac Mini and, indeed, Apple's entire Mac line make extensive use of components designed for notebook computers," said Andrew Rassweiler, director and principal analyst for iSuppli. "Apple knows how to make computers better, smaller, and more attractive," he said. "Such an achievement, however, comes at a premium."

This sentiment is echoed in a CNET Reviews write-up of the Mac Mini. "While we're still impressed with the Mac Mini's ability to pack so much into a tight package, Apple can't get away from its PC competitors that offer more features for less money," CNET Reviews said.

That said, mobile components abound. The main Intel processor in the lower-end model is the 2GHz Core 2 Duo P7350 microprocessor, a mobile chip rated at only 25 watts, less than half of the typical 65-watt desktop Intel chip. The chip carries an iSuppli estimated price of $118.35. The higher-end Mac Mini model uses a 2.26GHz version of the processor, available from Apple at a $150 premium.

Another mobile chip of note is the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics and I/O controller hub. This is also used in designs like the ultrathin Apple MacBook Air laptop. The chipset also appears in tiny notebooks like the Lenovo Ideapad S12 and pint-sized desktops like the Acer Aspire Revo--the latter is similar in size to the Mini. The Nvidia GeForce 9400M costs an estimated $65.16, according to iSuppli.

Other relatively costly mobile components in the Mac Mini include the 2.5-inch hard disk drive (HDD) and the slim optical disk drive (ODD). The Hitachi 120GB 2.5-inch-format HDD is priced at $46, while the Mac Mini's ODD--a DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW 8 x speed drive--is priced at $32.

The Mac Mini uses a 110-watt external power supply--and this is where it parts ways from most laptops that have lesser power requirements. This power requirement is also greater than the 85-watt rating of the previous-generation Mini. "The new Mac Mini is a more powerful computer than the first-generation model, causing its peak power requirements to rise," said iSuppi's Rassweiler. On the other hand, the Mac Mini has a green designation as it consumes less than 13 watts in idle mode, he said.