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UPDATE: Apple Mac Mini Based on Nvidia Ion

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 40 comments

A large portion of the Apple Mac community is waiting for Apple to refresh the Mac Mini line. We learned today that the next generation of Mac Mini computers will be based on Nvidia's Ion platform.

An Nvidia partner confirmed to us that Apple was the first to receive samples of Nvidia's Ion platform, which we covered extensively during CES. In fact, Apple received prototype units long before Nvidia partners who opted to work on Ion. We're told that some partners still only have blue prints of Ion.

Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro unibody notebooks already use Nvidia's 9400M GPU for graphics duties, and this GPU is precisely what Ion uses. The GPU is capable of full HD video decoding and also supports Nvidia's CUDA technology for more general purpose computing. Pairing up with the 9400M is Intel Atom 330 processor. The Atom 330 runs at a clock speed of 1.6 GHz on a 533 MHz front side bus and has two times the execution resources and L2 cache as the Atom 230.

Because of the size of the Ion platform, we can expect the new Mac Mini to be even smaller than the current generation unit. Our source also informed us that Apple will be launching the new Mac Mini sometime in March of this year, around the same time that CeBit happens.

At this time, no pricing information has been confirmed. But judging from Apple's release patterns, we can expect the new Mac Mini to cost roughly the same as the current generation of Mac Mini when they initially launched in the $500 to $700 range. Nvidia itself stated previously that it expected Ion products to start at roughly $400.

Update: We had a discussion with Kasper at AppleInsider on this detail, and according to Kasper, Apple may be using Nvidia's Ion platform for an updated Apple TV. This seems highly plausable. At this time however, neither we nor AppleInsider are absolutely sure where Apple will be using Ion, but an Nvidia partner explicitly said Apple has Ion for Mac Mini.

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  • 0 Hide
    Nik_I , January 15, 2009 6:16 PM
    this is great news. i wanted to buy a mac mini to get a taste of the mac world but i didnt wanna pay almost $700 for a really slow computer. hopefully the ion platform will also reduce the production costs.
  • 0 Hide
    tipoo , January 15, 2009 6:18 PM
    Wait...wouldn't moving to an atom processor be a huge step BACKWARDS in performance?

    p.s the comments are screwed up, im logged in but i still have to comment as anonymous?
  • 0 Hide
    tipoo , January 15, 2009 6:19 PM

    Wait...wouldn't moving to an atom processor be a huge step BACKWARDS in performance?!

    p.s the comment system is screwed up. im logged in, but down at the comment field i still have to comment as anon.
  • Display all 40 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Tekkamanraiden , January 15, 2009 6:24 PM
    So a mac mini might actually not be pathetically underpowered anymore. Interesting.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 15, 2009 6:31 PM
    I just bought a mac mini with 2GHz core2duo and it's cool.

    I most certainly would NOT buy a mac mini with an Atom inside. What are Apple thinking?

    Netbook without a screen?
  • 0 Hide
    kodamakage , January 15, 2009 6:46 PM
    I agree with Tipoo and Dude2000, Taking the atom into the mini would be step back in performance of the system. But if they do this, then the system would/could be smaller and use less power. I personally think that its a dumb idea, but for the time being, people(at least some) seem to think that they don't want or need a full computer, and just need something like a thin client. Now, for a lot of people they really don't need a full computer. E-mail and web would be fine. But for the rest of us, we would like the mini to work well as desktop, home server, security server, etc
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 15, 2009 6:47 PM
    Yeah, I don't get it. Wouldn't using an Atom CPU be a huge step down in performance from a Core 2 Duo?

    So better GPU, worse CPU?
  • 1 Hide
    kodamakage , January 15, 2009 6:48 PM
    Oh, and I forgot."An Nvidia partner confirmed to us that Apple was the first to receive samples of Nvidia's Ion platform," that does not mean "Confirmed: Apple Mac Mini Based on Nvidia Ion." Those are two different things. It could happen, but its not Confirmed.
  • 0 Hide
    Roland00 , January 15, 2009 7:24 PM
    The atom 330 intel sells for $43 dollars to oem in a thousand chip shipments.
    The intel dual core e5200 soon (Jan 18, 09) will be sold for $67 dollars to oems in thousand chips shipments.

    Now the atom is a little bit cheaper, will require less power, can do a smaller case, etc but I think Mac is sacrificing too much for a mac mini by putting an atom in it at the $500 to $700 price point. Seriously for $25 more dollars Apple can have a cpu that is 3 times faster.


    Now if the new mac mini is $499 it is a different story.
  • 0 Hide
    fancarolina , January 15, 2009 7:51 PM
    Yea I compleatly agree the choice to switch to the Atom processor is the wrong one here. I do like seeing improved graphics out of the Mac Mini the Intel 945 sucks. I can barley output 720p video on a Mac Mini despite having the horsepower to do it. I also don't see this as a logical step in terms of 64-bit compatibility. As far as I knew the Atom chips didn't support 64-bit instructions. So what will a Mac Mini with 4gb on memory do now?
  • 0 Hide
    Master Exon , January 15, 2009 8:10 PM
    Maybe Apple plans on using CUDA on the GeForce 9400 to get back some of the performance lost by using an atom instead of the C2D?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 15, 2009 8:57 PM
    I heard it is for a Netbook not the Mini.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 15, 2009 8:58 PM
    FFS, Change the title of the article.

    This in no way confirms the ion in the mac mini, I highly doubt they would take the mini and drastically reduce the performance. If anything it points to a mac netbook, or a new model altogether, perhaps a 'Mac Nano' or something in a smaller case with a lower price tag.
    More likely that the mini will get a revamp later this year and keep the Core2 and gain the 9400M to bring it in line with the rest of the range.
  • 0 Hide
    tuannguyen , January 15, 2009 9:32 PM
    intelno1fan - are you paying them to write? Why are you so angry anyway that you gotta say FFS?
  • 0 Hide
    deredita , January 16, 2009 2:04 AM
    Disappointing, I was hoping for an option for a low power quad core, and a motherboard capable of taking up to 8GB (2x4GB) of (aftermarket) ram.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 16, 2009 6:37 AM
    > I also don't see this as a logical step in terms of 64-bit compatibility.
    > As far as I knew the Atom chips didn't support 64-bit instructions.

    The 230 and 330 atom desktop models actually do support x86-64 instructions, so it will run 64-bit just fine. Since a lot of the horsepower of the old mini would have been used to play catch-up to the weak graphics chipset I think we'll see the benchmarks indicating that this machine is overall a quicker device.

    Yes the CPU benchmarks will say otherwise though. I for one look forward to seeing these new minis.
  • -1 Hide
    nukemaster , January 16, 2009 11:17 AM
    Did Apple not say they wanted to start using the GPU for general use computing? maybe this will bring it into line.

    This thing "may" be faster then the specs lead on. Not that I would ever buy one without seeing benchmarks.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , January 16, 2009 12:11 PM
    Why don't they put the Atom on some thing like this:

    It should reduce costs ALOT. Also the Ion platform is MUCH better performance for the power.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 16, 2009 12:14 PM
    I'd definitely love to see some benchmarks of the ion vs Atom230/330!!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 16, 2009 12:19 PM
    and a newer atom (was it 250 or 280?) equipped platform too!
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