Mac mini: Hello Thunderbolt, Goodbye SuperDrive

| Product News

Apple introduced an updated Mac mini on Wednesday following the release of OS X Lion. The new Mac mini adds Thunderbolt support, and for the first time ships without a built-in optical drive on the non-server model.

Mac mini with ThunderboltMac mini, sans optical drive

New Mac minis ship with OS X Lion preinstalled, AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics instead of the integrated graphics chips used in previous models, a Thunderbolt port, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, an SD camera card slot, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. They retain the same unibody design as the previous Mac mini.

Mac mini Thunderbolt portPlenty of ports, including Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt was introduced earlier this year on the MacBook Pro, and later was added to the iMac. It uses the same Mini DisplayPort connector as Apple’s displays, offers up to 10Gbps data transfer speeds, and can support six devices at the same time.

The 2.3GHz Core i5 model includes 2GB RAM and 500GB hard drive for US$599, and the 2.5GHz Core i5 model ships with 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive for $799. The new computers will be available on Thursday, July 21.

Comments

Intruder

Glad I picked up the previous model. Steve may be done with DVDs, but I’m not.

A shame that Lion kills Front Row. I’ll have to find a good replacement for that, or go through the process of pulling the Front Row files out of SL and installing on Lion.

Lee Dronick

A shame that Lion kills Front Row. I?ll have to find a good replacement for that, or go through the process of pulling the Front Row files out of SL and installing on Lion.

I like Front Row. It makes it easy to surf movies without the hassle of going to themovie.com and wrestle with their horrid Flash navigation. Not to mention movies in your iTunes library.

Is there something in Lion to replace it?

Ross Edwards

Steve may be done with DVDs, but I?m not.

Hear hear.  This is STUPID.  Last refresh, they add HDMI to position the Mini as a great media box for users who want more than the rudiments the AppleTV offers, and this refresh they take away the Mini’s media capability?  Whose abortion of an idea was this?  It should have gone in the other direction—the Superdrive should have been replaced by a BD-R blu-ray drive.  But at the very least the DVD drive needed to stay.

“Hey, Mom and Dad, check out my new media drive!  One box for everything we need!”
“Where do you put in the DVD?”
“You can’t!”

I’m not going to attach a damn USB optical disk player.  The whole point of going Mini was to have everything under your TV in ONE BOX.  I can just use an ATV2 and a blu-ray player MADE BY SOMEONE ELSE.

Stupid, Apple.  Stupid.  Baffling considering how right most of your other moves are.

Stupid.

Dean Lewis

Hmmm.. So they got rid of the Superdrive, but they’re including a discrete AMD Radeon HD graphics processor? So, that could be user (or techie user at least) replaceable? Considering Apple’s push for downloading content, the superdrive move doesn’t surprise me, but a replaceable graphic card does and seems a good tradeoff—at least for the uses I make of my Mini.

It would have been nice to lower the price since people will have to spend extra for a superdrive if they want it. Did they lower the price? I can’t remember if the current low end model had gone up to $699 and now it’s back to $599?

brett_x

Stupid, Apple.  Stupid.

At one point, people were calling Apple stupid for not including a 56K modem standard, too. Just because it doesn’t fit with your usage doesn’t make Apple’s move stupid.

You aren’t considering that Apple is able to provide you with better-than-DVD quality via streaming rentals. I’m sure that’s part of the rationale of nixing the built-in. I’m not saying I support that idea, it’s just part of the equation, so I certainly wouldn’t call it stupid.

I only use mine occasionally for a Netflix movie. Soon, I won’t use it at all.

As for Front Row.. I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally accessed it (which stops EVERYTHING else), before I disabled it.

ctopher

The AMD graphics processor is only available on the high-end model (2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5) starting at $799.

The $599 model has “Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 288MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory.”

Also, I agree with @brett_x the loss of the drive is NOT stupid. It sucks to be Mr. Edwards, but I don’t think most people view the Mini as a home theater component, however good it may be as one.

Ross Edwards

It sucks to be Mr. Edwards, but I don?t think most people view the Mini as a home theater component, however good it may be as one.

Then why did Apple add HDMI in the 2010 refresh?  The use of Mac Minis as home theater boxes is not exactly a secret.  It is among the best-known uses of them.  Apple could scarcely have conjured up a clearer way to convey that it was a use the device was designed for.  It isn’t about *my* usage, it’s about one of the most obvious markets the device was designed and incrementally honed to serve!

And no, Apple’s streaming video is not at the quality level of blu-ray—not to mention the simple fact of a media box being able to play the most common and ubiquitous media out there, the DVD—so an optical drive of SOME sort is still current and ongoing utility, and not legacy support.

Everything about Apple design, from the Dieter Rams roots to the Jonathan Ive present day, is about clean, elegant, minimalist, effective implementations.  A Mac Mini with a DVD drive achieves 90% of this, and if they had added a blu-ray drive, that would have been 100%: ONE BOX beside your TV that gets it done.  The new Mini is a step back from that, and that is, as I said, stupid.

ibuck

I’ve got hundreds of films on DVDs that I still want to play, and except for iMac, Apple doesn’t seem to have a simple strategy to play them on their products.

Perhaps when I replace my old Mac mini, that will have to serve that purpose, if I can get the necessary adapters to connect to a TV.

webjprgm

ctopher said:

It sucks to be Mr. Edwards, but I don?t think most people view the Mini as a home theater component, however good it may be as one.

Then why did Apple add HDMI in the 2010 refresh?? The use of Mac Minis as home theater boxes is not exactly a secret.? It is among the best-known uses of them.? Apple could scarcely have conjured up a clearer way to convey that it was a use the device was designed for.? It isn?t about *my* usage, it?s about one of the most obvious markets the device was designed and incrementally honed to serve!

And no, Apple?s streaming video is not at the quality level of blu-ray?not to mention the simple fact of a media box being able to play the most common and ubiquitous media out there, the DVD?so an optical drive of SOME sort is still current and ongoing utility, and not legacy support.

Everything about Apple design, from the Dieter Rams roots to the Jonathan Ive present day, is about clean, elegant, minimalist, effective implementations.? A Mac Mini with a DVD drive achieves 90% of this, and if they had added a blu-ray drive, that would have been 100%: ONE BOX beside your TV that gets it done.? The new Mini is a step back from that, and that is, as I said, stupid.

I totally agree.

I?ve got hundreds of films on DVDs that I still want to play

And this is the other point I was going to make.  There’s no way I want to buy a massive HD and spend time copying my movies to it, and there’s definitely no way I’m going to re-buy all those movies.

I suppose in 10 years when I can’t buy a DVD player from anybody, then I’ll get around to batch-copying my movie content.  People with large VHS libraries are being forced to do this now, or buy DVDs.  In the VHS vs. DVD case, usually the VHS tapes have degraded so it’s better to buy the DVD.  But DVD vs. Bluray vs. streaming hidef content, DVDs haven’t lost quality (unless they are badly scratched) so it’s more worth-while to keep them available. I don’t really care that Bluray has more pixels.

... I really don’t want to spend time sticking DVDs on a hard disk. That does not sound like fun.  Will I be forced to?  When will I be forced to?

Dean Lewis

“Then why did Apple add HDMI in the 2010 refresh?”

That’s easy: to show movies on your HDTV as long as those movies come from files on the hard drive (bought from iTunes or whatever service) or streams from Netflix and the like.

The MacMini may no longer be what you need. Maybe an IMac in another room streaming your DVDs to your TV via AppleTV or other networking device. (Can be done through xBox,Playstation 3, and among others). You can control the iMac from the TV room with your iPad—all except for sticking the DVD in the slot.

Hmm, maybe they’ll have an iRobot soon that will run to the other room and put the DVD in for you. Unless you have a kid. Just get the kid to do it. When I was a kid, I was the remote control for the TV before remotes were common. And I liked it, because I was helping daddy and didn’t know any better. By the time I did know better, remotes were pretty common Something similar could happen by the time your kid figures out he/she’s just your DVD puppet.

ilikeimac

I use the Mac Mini (currently last year’s model) as a home theater PC, so the lack of a DVD drive is a minus for me, but not a complete deal breaker since I have other computers I can use to rip DVDs to my media library. Until I can get DRM-free digital movies online or DRM-free/easily-rippable Blurays I’m sticking with DVDs.

Maybe someone will make an attractive, matching DVD/Bluray drive that can stack with the Mini.

ilikeimac

New topic: could Apple make one concession to practicality and put the SD card slot and a USB port on the front or top of the machine? I like the clean smooth look but thumb drives and SD cards are the new floppies and trying to blindly insert them into the back of the system is a pain.

ilikeimac

Is there something in Lion to replace it?

I use Plex (plexapp.com) to manage and watch my digital movies (ripped DVDs) and TV shows, and it has plugins for accessing all kinds of online content, including trailers. Looks like “Trailer Unleashed” plugin might do what you want (Note to self: I should installed that). http://elan.plexapp.com/category/plug-ins/page/2/

This video shows you what Plex looks like and how to install plugins (PS there are skins too, so lots of other looks are possible):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMqcFymVkHs

webjprgm

I think the reason they drop the superdrive is partly because they see the MacMini as a server rather than a media center.  APpleTV is their media offering.  MacMini is an entry-level PC for some people, but it’s also a small box that can easily be a server for the average consumer.  They dropped the professional-grade xserve server.  An average consumer isn’t going to want to spend $$ on a MacPro, which is also a rather large box.  I think this is a rather interesting idea for them to push.

http://www.apple.com/macmini/server/

Note that the “server” version has quad-core (vs. dual core) and has two fast hard drives vs. just one 5400 rpm drive.  It also has the integrated graphics vs. external AMD graphics, since a server isn’t going to be used for it’s graphics capabilities much.

Slightly more pro version: configuration option to get the Thunderbolt raid hard drives!  Would this work as a server for graphics people? For a small business?

ibuck

ilikemike: Maybe someone will make an attractive, matching DVD/Bluray drive that can stack with the Mini.

Perhaps someone in Asia? Or they could combine the guts of an iPod Touch with a DVD / Blue-Ray player in a box like Newer Tech’s Mini Stack for a compact device.

ilikeimac

Would this work as a server for graphics people? For a small business?

My old Mac Mini (early 2008, non-server edition) is serving quite nicely as a file server and web server for my brother’s small non-profit (10-15 full time people). I would feel better if it had dual hard drives so I could mirror the boot disk, but at least it backs up to an external drive as well as offsite.

Ross Edwards

I use the Mac Mini (currently last year?s model) as a home theater PC, so the lack of a DVD drive is a minus for me, but not a complete deal breaker since I have other computers I can use to rip DVDs to my media library. Until I can get DRM-free digital movies online or DRM-free/easily-rippable Blurays I?m sticking with DVDs.

Maybe someone will make an attractive, matching DVD/Bluray drive that can stack with the Mini.

Here’s hoping.

I have long since ripped all my DVDs and stream them from the iMac in the other room, actually, as Dean Lewis suggested.  The originals went into the closet, and little fingers can’t damage or lose them.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  Netflix doesn’t stream everything—I still get mailed plenty of content on blu-ray (new stuff) or DVD (most music-based material, like band documentaries and concerts, are ONLY available in this format).  And if someone comes over and has media to put on, odds are pretty good it’s on a DVD.  That last won’t always be the case, but it’s ubiquitous now.  If you ask me, removing the DVD drive from the Mini right now TODAY is the same as if Apple had removed the USB ports with the introduction of Thunderbolt.  What, you need those USB ports?  Barsh, flimshaw!  USB is YESTERDAY, man.  Thunderbolt is where it’s at.  Get with the program!

As lousy as this is, right now Apple is making the best option the one with the most legal fog around it: rip blu-rays and encode at 1080p in Matroska format, or, um, “acquire” the files some other way, for playback via third-party utilities on a Mini. (Better subtitling and multistream options than MP4 AVC, which is otherwise good.)  Apple’s continuing lack of BR support only makes the problem worse, requiring you to void your warranty to install a drive or be content with an external peripheral box.

So here I am, money in hand, ready to give that money to Apple to buy a solution, and their response right now is, “No, but we can sell you a solution to other problems you don’t have and might not have for a while, and the solution won’t be as good as what you’re asking for, and in the meanwhile it will be less capable than the workaround you are using now.”

ctopher

I still think that Mr. Edwards et. al are the corner cases and not the norm. HDMI does not equal “Home Theater”. Yes, it can do that, but it’s also the default digital video interface to most monitors. (VGA be damned!) Also, it can be converted to DVI, another video standard. So if you wanted to make a little computer that could use PC peripherals then you’d default to HDMI, include a DVI adapter and let the VGA folks use a mini display port to VGA adapter if they are still stuck in the last century.

A mini is not a DVD player. USing a computer as a DVD player is sub-optimal. Apple knows this. You want to do it? Go ahead, but Apple would rather lose the drive, increase the disk and allow SSDs, increase the performance (as a computer) and lower the price!

Seems like a win-win for all except for those who want to use it for something that it’s not, a DVD player.

Lee Dronick

Maybe someone will make an attractive, matching DVD/Bluray drive that can stack with the Mini.

You could stack an external SuperDrive on top of MacMini. They are different dimensions though, 5.47x5.47 for the SuperDrive and 7.7x7.7 for the MacMini. Not an ideal setup for some people of course.

PilotBob

Seriously, with Plex who needs Front Row?

BOb

ilikeimac

Agreed @PilotBob. And to amend what I said earlier about movie trailer plugins, the Plex installer actually recommends the “Apple Movie Trailers” plugin, which gets you all the same trailers Front Row does. So there was no need for me to go hunting down other trailer plugins.

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