Apple has updated the Mac mini with impressive new specs, and added a new server option that targets small-to-medium-sized businesses (the "SMB" market, as it's called).
The entry-level Mac mini remains $599, but now includes 2 GB of RAM and a 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up from the 2.0 GHz CPU found in the previous update in March 2009. The built-in hard drive was bumped from 120 GB to 160 GB, as well. For $799, you get a 2.53 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB hard drive. (See "Mac mini Receives Multiple Performance Boosts," 3 March 2009.)
Apple's twist on the Mac mini this time around is adding a $999 model that comes with Snow Leopard Server preinstalled, along with dual 500 GB hard drives, one of which replaces the SuperDrive found on the two less-expensive models. The processor speed on this model is 2.53 GHz, and it sports 4 GB of RAM. As with other Macs lacking an optical drive, this Mac mini can use the networked drive option; an external SuperDrive is available for $99.
These specifications turn the Mac mini into a server powerhouse for a small network, with enough performance to drive email and spam filtering, internal Web service, file sharing, and a host of other tasks. It lacks only a second Ethernet port to act as a firewalled gateway for a network. (Computers used in that configuration use one Ethernet connection to face the Internet, while the other is connected to a local network.)
The Mac mini's relatively slow 5400-rpm drives may cramp some tasks that demand fast disk access, and so Apple is offering as a notable add-on the $799 Promise SmartStor DS4600 RAID, a four-bay enclosure configured with 1 TB drives. The SmartStor has both FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 interfaces, and arrives configured as RAID 5, which gives it 3 TB of total storage (1 TB is consumed in error-correcting redundancy). Over FireWire 800, performance may exceed that of the internal drives. The unit can also be configured as RAID 0, 1, or 10 to emphasize speed or redundancy.
Mac OS X Server licensing was rejiggered between 10.5 and 10.6. Previously and for several releases, Apple offered an unlimited license for $999, and a 10-user license for $499. That 10-user limit applied only to certain simultaneous logins, and unlimited accounts could be created. The new standalone pricing (for unlimited users) is $499.
Other specs for the Mac mini remain unchanged from the previous model, such as the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256 MB of RAM (shared with main memory), built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and gigabit Ethernet. The unit still has a single FireWire 800 port, five USB 2.0 ports, and support for two monitors via a mini-DVI port and a Mini DisplayPort.
Apple doesn't include a keyboard or mouse with the Mac mini, aiming it as always at the swap-out market in which the machine replaces an older desktop Mac or a Windows system that already has a display, keyboard, and mouse.
The entry-level configuration can be separately built to order with the 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 320 GB, or 500 GB (either) hard drives, or 4 GB RAM. All versions are available immediately.