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Early 2006 Mac mini Review

Apple introduced the new Intel-based Mac mini with Front Row software and an IR remote in January 2006.

What's disappointing is that there's no "TiVO Killer" DVR functionality involved. The new mini does feature VGA/DVI video out and both analog and digital (S/PDIF) audio out, but it's not quite a full-fledged media center. What's interesting is that the new mini is available today in both Intel Core Solo ($599) and Intel Core Duo ($799) processor configurations. The new iTunes "Share Music" feature is also nifty - built-in Bonjour technology allows devices to find themselves and share music over a network (as in iTunes sharing). The technology also allows for shared video content streamed from another computer (mac or windows) on your network. Hence the gigabit Ethernet port newly introduced to the mini.

So it's sort of like a media center -- or, at least, the beginnings of a home entertainment network, Apple-style. Front Row with Bonjour will also be available as an update to current Front Row users.

The new minis are cool, but they've also raised the price of entry to joining the Mac club. What was a sub-$500 computer is now $599, minimum. The education price is $579, which has got to be a blow to school Tech Directors who've been waiting to make purchasing plans for next year.

The $799 dual-core version is basically a headless iMac. Not a bad upgrade path to an Intel Mac, but somehow not quite the revelation that the original mini was. That being said, let's wait and see how fast these new boxes really are once the applications you rely on each day start shipping in Intel-native versions.