While Apple was stealing headlines with its latest iMac design, it also quietly upgraded the Mac mini with a Core 2 Duo processor, thereby completing the integration of the faster Intel chips across its whole Mac line-up.
The 1.66GHz and 1.83GHz Core Duo chips are now superseded by 1.83GHz and 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo processors. The 2.0GHz models have more L2 cache memory, too, up to 4MB, while the 1.83GHz minis stay on 2MB. Both models ship with 1GB RAM, up from 512MB, and the 2.0GHz mini costs £499.
The Core 2 Duo architecture can process twice the data per cycle than the older Core Duo chips. Correspondingly, it's the benchmarks that tell the story. The 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini scored 18% higher in Xbench than its 1.83GHz Core Duo predecessor. The 2.0GHz Mac mini scored 26% higher.
Sadly, Apple didn't upgrade the graphics card. It still carries the Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics card, which shares its 64MB memory with the rest of the system. The hard drive is also slow at 5,200rpm as opposed to the 7,200rpm drives in the iMacs.
And it seems stingy to us that the 1.83GHz model only comes with a Combo drive (the 2.0GHz model comes with a SuperDrive) - after all, an inability to burn DVD media in any 2007 desktop computer seems behind the curve.
The graphics performance of the Mac mini is too low to interest gamers, who will find three times the frame-rate on the entry-level iMac. In terms of handling, outside significant graphics-intensive work there is little to separate the 2GHz Mac mini from the 2GHz iMac in terms of raw computation.
Hard drive and RAM capacity have been increased: the 1.83GHz model comes with an 80GB drive, the 2.0GHz with a 120GB drive. Both have the option of upgrading to 160GB. RAM can be expanded up to 2GB in both Macs.
The Mac mini still ships without a display, keyboard or mouse. You get the standard Apple remote, Front Row and iLife '08 applications in the box. The price remains unchanged, despite the other upgrades.
But given the low cost of a Mac mini - and the fact Apple will launch Leopard in a month or two - it may be worth delaying the acquisition of your new Mac mini. After all, Leopard should cost around £100, a quarter of the price of a Mac mini, so why not wait until it comes bundled for free?