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UPDATE: Apple Mac Mini Based on Nvidia Ion

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.

  • Nik_I
    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.
    Reply
  • tipoo
    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?
    Reply
  • tipoo
    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.
    Reply
  • Tekkamanraiden
    So a mac mini might actually not be pathetically underpowered anymore. Interesting.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • kodamakage
    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
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • kodamakage
    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.
    Reply
  • Roland00
    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.
    Reply
  • fancarolina
    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?
    Reply