For the first time since the G4 Mac mini was introduced in January 2005, there’s no optical drive in the Mac mini, which also lets Apple trim $100 from its base price – and $200 from the faster version. The 2011 Mac mini can use the same $79 USB SuperDrive as the MacBook Air. Also for the first time, there are two different graphics processors – the entry-level model uses integrated Intel HD 3000 Graphics while the top-end Mac mini has an AMD Radeon HD 6630M GPU with dedicated video memory.
This is the first Mac mini to go beyond Intel Core 2 Duo. It uses a dual-core Intel Core i5 running at 2.3 GHz or 2.5 GHz, and the faster model also has a 2.7 Ghz i7 build-to-order option for $100 additional. Apple claims twice the performance of last year’s Core 2 Duo model.
For power users, the faster model can be ordered with a 256 GB SSD instead of the 500 GB hard drive for $600 extra – or with the SSD and a 750 GB hard drive (to allow for a lot more storage) at $750 extra.
A server version is available with a 2.0 GHz quad-core i7 CPU, two 7200 rpm 500 GB hard drives, and the server version of OS X 10.7 Lion.
As with the 2010 model, there are four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 800 remains (FireWire 400 devices can be used with a FireWire 800-to-400 cable or adapter), and there’s the addition of Thunderbolt, which can be used to connect monitors, drives, or other peripherals. The Mini also includes an HDMI port, the industry standard for high definition TVs, and it supports two displays. Completing the back panel are a power button plus audio in and out ports.
The base configurations runs at 2.3 GHz, and 2 GB of RAM is standard, and Apple officially supports memory expansion to 8 GB. The faster model ships with 4 GB of memory.
There are two memory sockets, both are filled with matching modules. The official maximum memory spec is 8 GB, but OWC has found that with the right modules, you can go to 16 GB.
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Mac mini (Mid 2011).