Rumor: Mac Mini to Move to Nvidia's Ion platform

Apple's Mac mini
Apple's Mac mini

Apple is going to move the Mac mini to Nvidia's Ion platform, a combination of Nvidia's 9400M integrated graphics solution coupled with Intel's Atom line of low-power processors, according to a report by PC-oriented Tom's Hardware. The site said that an unnamed third-party Nvidia partner had confirmed the news, and that the product will likely debut in March of this year.

If the story is true, the change would allow Mac minis to properly decode and display full HD video, including the highest resolution 1080p HD video used by today's best HD-capable TVs.

Ion is a previously announced GPU+CPU solution from Nvidia that uses Intel's Atom processor for central processing duties and the 9400M for graphics and other GPU duties. Many Atoms are used in Netbooks due to their lower power consumption and heat generation. The 9400M GPU is already used in Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, and is similarly low-powered, which has been part of the selling point from Nvidia for the utility of the Ion platform.

There remains some confusion, however, over whether Apple would move the Mac mini away from the Core 2 Duo processor to the slower Atom line, as noted by CNet's Brooke Crothers. The Atom 330, for instance, runs at 1.6 GHz on a 533 MHz front side bus, while the current, waiting to be updated Mac mini ships with either a 1.83 GHz or 2 GHz Core 2 Duo.

The task of selling a "new, slower" Mac mini could be a difficult task even for Steve Jobs, who will still be on leave when the product will supposedly debut.

The Apple TV, however, could well benefit from the Ion platform, as its processing needs are meager, while the ability to push full 1080p HD video could be key in moving it into more living rooms. Tom's Hardware's unnamed third party source insists that it's the Mac mini that will see Ion.