Although Apple set a conservative deadline that it would only be done updating all its Macintosh computers with Intel dual-core processor by the end of 2006, the reality is that the entire lineup is more or less refreshed – all with the exception of PowerMac. Among the updated Apple machines, the new Mac mini and MacBook are two that caught our fancy, of which the MacBook was created to succeed the Apple iBook series. The new Mac mini and MacBook are more than just superficial rejuvenations of their respective predecessors. Where performance comes to numbers, each is about five times faster than the model they replace and the good news is they are both affordably priced. The price factor alone should give PC users one less excuse not to consider an Apple computing machine, but did we also mention that they are capable of running Windows OS and applications as well? Yes, the day of a Mac-Window has finally arrived.
One of the most affirming reasons why veteran PC users would invest in a Mac today is clearly because of the new dual boot (Windows and OSX) capability. The new Intel-based Macs are currently the only platform that general consumers can purchase off the shelves to harness the best applications of both Windows and Mac without the need to overcome any tricky boot managing software. Windows applications such as Microsoft Office suite can now be ran natively on a Mac. Consumers can simply pick up a copy of Microsoft Office suite that is programmed for Windows and have it installed in the new generation of Mac computers that can run both Windows and Mac OSX operating systems. Also, instead of using Boot Camp, there are interesting third party applications such as 'Parallels' that lets you run both Windows and OSX at the same time through virtualization technology.
The Mac mini is the smallest Apple computer to date and is designed to be instantly deployed out of the box. Nothing has changed with this refreshment of the petite Mac machine, so much so that it is impossible to separate between the old and the new by appearance alone. Though the processor has been upgraded, the same cannot be said about its graphics specification, as the ATI Radeon 9200 chip installed in previous generation of Mac mini is now replaced by integrated Intel GMA950 graphics instead. Though the "downgrade" is not going to affect gaming experience for titles such as Unreal Tournament 2004, newer games such as Half Life 2 – Episode 1 will very likely slow the Mac mini down to a crawl. As such, we wouldn't recommend playing any of the newer games on the new Mac mini – it wasn't designed to be a gaming machine to begin with.
A fresh sight on the new Mac mini is the 'Front Row' software that first appeared on the iMac. Bundled with the Apple Remote, users can access all multimedia contents (video, photos, music and DVD) through a single interface, and as per Mac mini purchase, consumers are required to purchase a monitor, keyboard and mouse because these are not included.
With a thickness of just one inch; the MacBook is a completely new notebook altogether. Apart from being available in two colors: black and white, there are many new add-ons on the MacBook that owners of older iBook could only envy. Items such as the built-in iSight camera, MagSafe Power Adapter, Sudden Motion Sensor (designed to protect the hard drive) and a smaller 13-inch glossy widescreen display (the most significant change boasted by MacBook) are what Apple has added to inject appeal into its new MacBook series. In contrast to the iBook, the LCD screen of the MacBook is much brighter - although some might find the glossy screen irritating to a certain extent because of its highly reflective nature.
Like the Mac mini, the MacBook also uses integrated Intel GMA950 graphics, which inadvertently tells the same inadequacy story of the MacBook where powering the latest gaming titles is concerned. Also new to the MacBook is the use of a magnetic latch over traditional locking latches. This gives the MacBook a contemporary feel that was lacking in the old iBook and also makes it easier to use because there are no spring levers to operate anymore. Keyboard isn't great; we had to spend some time adjusting to the raised and somewhat unconventionally designed keys.
Both the Mac mini and MacBook are the best entry-level computers Apple has had to offer right now. If you have been wondering exactly what the appeal of Apple computers really is, you need only look at the user-friendly OSX (currently 10.4, Tiger) and the pricing in comparison to a similar PC equivalent to appreciate the value proposition of Apple machines. If somehow you fear you might regret your decision to switch over to either of the two mentioned computers, fret not as Apple has now provided 'Boot Camp' to lets you run familiar Windows OS and applications easily (though we don't see why anyone would dislike the ease of use of Apple OSX operating system and the bundled iLife'06 applications that lets you easily manage/edit/create video, photos and music).
Both Macs discussed in this article are fine machines that not only look the part but also more than adequate to handle your run-of-the-mill usage. Expect RRP of about US$599 and US$1,099 for the basic Mac mini and MacBook respectively.