Mac mini said to get Ion innards
Courtesy of Tom's Hardware comes the "confirmation" from "an Nvidia partner" that the long-awaited Mac mini upgrade is coming as soon as March, but that it won't be powered by either an Intel Core 2 Duo or a low-power Core i7.
And no, it won't be an AMD chip.
Instead, according to the rumor du jour, the Mac mini will be based upon Nvidia's Ion platform, and will have at its heart an Intel Atom processor.
The Atom is no speedster - but, then again, the Mac mini hasn't lived its life in the fast lane. The Atom 330 runs at 1.6GHz, has a 1MB L2 cache, and sits on a 533MHz frontside bus (FSB). Compare those specs to those of the current Mac mini and you'll see what we mean: a 1.83GHz or 2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2MB or 4MB L2 cache, and a 667MHz FSB.
But comparing the dual-core Atom 330 to a dual-core Core 2 Duo involves much more than mere speeds and feeds. The architecture of the Core 2 Duo is far more sophisticated than that of the Atom. For one thing - one major thing - the Atom 330 (neé Dual Diamondville) is an in-order processor while the Core 2 Duo uses Out-of-Order (OoO) processing.
Simply put, OoO execution allows a processor to intelligently manage its workflow in a way that prevents precious processing cycles being wasted while instructions wait for data. In-order processors are too dumb to do this, so they can frequently twiddle their digital thumbs while waiting for something to do.
Again, Atom, in-order; Core 2 Duo, OoO. Or to put it another way, Atom, archaic; Core 2 Duo, modern.
That said, the Nvidia 9400M is no dog. What's more, Nvidia's CUDA technology allows the 9400M to unload some processing duties from the Atom in essentially the same way as will the OpenCL technology recently published by the Khronos Group and soon to appear in Apple's next operating system, Snow Leopard. That should help.
But would it help enough? Unlikely. CUDA and OpenCL aren't designed to replace a CPU with a GPU; they're designed to offload specifically highly parallel duties such as image and media processing.
The Atom was designed for low-end products such as netbooks, Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPC), Mobile Internet Devices (MID), and the like. Asking it to carry a Mac on its back would be like asking Verne Troyer to give Yao Ming a piggyback ride.
Not that it couldn't be done - it's just that it might be as unpleasant an experience as that ride would be for Mr. Troyer and Mr. Ming. ®
Don't see what everyone's so all-fired up about...
Okay, to everyone whinging about the "it's a non-mobile netbook" --first off, the Atom 330 is not a netbook processor. It is a low-power dual-core processor designed for low-power desktops (e.g., the ASUS Eee Box, or Dell's Optiplex 160).
It's not only dual-core, it supports Hyperthreading, which should lend to its usefulness. Add the discrete graphics chip in, and you offload video playback to the GPU, resolving any issues with HD playback.
This isn't intended for a power user; the Mac Mini never was. Even so, it should run OS X just fine for the people that want to surf, use iWork/NeoOfice/MS Office (Mac), and play a DVD here and there, and should be fine with plenty of basic tasks. I'd certainly pick one up to replace my Dad's aging 933MHz G4 tower, I'm sure it beats the pants off of that for Flash playback (which is horrible on the G4).
Mine's the one with the Atom 330 in it...
The Mac Geeg reported a couple of weeks ago (just catching up with the podcasts) that Intel will only sell the Atom for use with the Intel GPU, so the idea of a Mac Mini using Atom and NVidia 9400 would seem to be wide of the mark.
@Nexox Enigma: I've been running and supporting Mac Minis for about 18 months and I've never had a report of problems running Mail and Safari together. Hell, one mini runs a mail server and Tomcat server and is still used for mail and web browsing with no problems whatsoever. Yous set-up sounds suspect for me - these programs don't even interact in the way the equivalent MS products would.
you cant expect a mac mini to have dual hdmi, and a hard drive bay. what planet are you on?
if you want something expandable why get a mac mini?
Looks like Apple wants more profits
I wonder if many future Mac Mini purchasers will ever know that you can get a mini itx mobo with the atom 330 (no nVidia chipset, regretably) for under $100 US retail. Those Core2 Duo chips cost about that much by themselves, if purchased in volume. So obviously Apple is going to be upping their profit margin on the Minis, unless they lower the price (doubtful.)
Whatever Anon said that two seperate CPUs on the same package would be better than the Core2 Duo's shared die setup is quite wrong. Sure with the atom they just share the FSB, but it's also the only way for each of the cores to communicate with eachother. In any Core2 that is actually dual core, instead of dual die, they can commincate directly on the silicon at a far higher rate, plus most of them have shared cache and other neat things to help out. The dual die approach is more or less provably the Wrong Way to get 2 cores on a chip.
And to all of you that say the GPU offloading will make up for the slow CPU... it might, for certain applications. Out of the Mac Mini's intended uses, though, the only real advantage will be for watching videos, which has been mostly offloaded even to cheap Intel GPUs for quite some time. I really hope that most people don't buy a Mini to do video editing or anything like that, because they'll find out very fast that even with the GPU helping out, they'll hit storage and memory bandwidth bottlenecks.
I'm personally going to reccomend not buying any more Minis in our department until we've had a chance to see if they will actually work. We already had a huge problem with the first generation Intel versions, since they had trouble running a web browser and an email client at the same time. We really don't need any more of that crap.
Apple TV yes, Mac Mini no!
I know a lot of small and medium businesses in the graphics industry using Mac Minis for less demanding work. But they do use high end monitors, Eizos and. older, Sony Artisans. The current Minis are good enough for a lot of Indesign and even Photoshop work where a Mac Pro is overkill.
A Mini with a current C2D CPU, 4GB RAM and the NVidia chip would sell where an iMac doesn't.
Adobe CS4 does run on Vista, after all :-)