Mac mini - the starter Apple Macintosh - is now more attractive than ever

See also: Apple Mac mini review (mid 2010)

To lower the entry price for Mac ownership, Apple introduced the Mac mini in 2005, with a price starting at £339. It was a basic desktop PC, measuring just 6.5in square and 2in high, running a modest 1.25GHz G4 processor. All you needed to make a working system was to bring your own keyboard, display and mouse.

Apple was keenly preying on Windows ‘switchers' to make a cheap yet cheerful Macintosh available to a wider audience. Perhaps inadvertently, it also created a popular and highly capable home media centre, ideal for siting in the lounge alongside a television and home entertainment system

Four years after introduction, with all Macs now run Intel processors, Apple has upgraded the little Apple Mac mini after 19 months of stasis, this time adding new ports as well as faster processors and a more worthy graphics card. The form factor is essentially unchanged, with an aluminium extrusion squaring off the Apple Mac mini's white plastic top. At front we have a slim aperture for the slot-load DVD drive; at the rear an exhaust vent from the near-silent cooling fan, and a host of port options.

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There's now five USB 2.0 ports lined up in a row on the Apple Mac mini, up from two on the original PPC model, and four on the previous Intel minis. Out goes a regular FireWire 400 port, in favour of FireWire 800. (An adaptor allows legacy FW 400 devices to be used on the faster interface).

There are two standard configurations of Apple Mac mini on offer, the cheapest at £499 with 1GB RAM and 120GB hard drive; the second with 2GB RAM and 320GB storage. Apple could be accused of being parsimonious with its 1GB RAM offering, but the fact is that Mac OS X will run on this amount of RAM, in stark contrast to Windows Vista in whichever of its lame versions, which cannot.

Where the previous Apple Mac mini was available at 1.83GHz or 2.0GHz speeds, both versions of the Mac mini (Early 2009) - as Apple identifies it - include an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 at 2.0GHz. Alternatively, there is a built-to-order option which allows for a 2.26GHz CPU. Importantly, the new processors have a faster bus to run DDR3 RAM.

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