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$699 and Up
Macs

Apple Mac mini + Mac Pro (Mid-2011) Expectations

If you were thinking of buying a Mac mini ($699 and up) or Mac Pro ($2499 and up), now would probably be a good time to wait. Following the successful transitions of the MacBook Pro and iMac to Intel’s latest lineup of Sandy Bridge processors—and the impending similar update of the MacBook Air—Apple plans to refresh its other desktop machines with new processors and ports over the next couple of months. As of this week, Cnet is claiming the new machines are coming in late July or early August. Read on for the details of what’s expected to change.

The current-generation Mac mini body design was unveiled one year ago this week, bringing an all-new aluminum and black plastic enclosure to the product originally introduced in 2005. Dramatic changes to the body are not expected for this generation of the mini, which will see its rear Mini DisplayPort become a Thunderbolt port, and updates to the Core 2 Duo processor to become a Sandy Bridge Core i5.

By comparison, rumors of a major body update to the Mac Pro have suggested that a considerably different enclosure could debut this year, potentially enabling Apple’s most expensive desktop machine to double as a rack-mounted server. These rumors have suggested that the Mac Pro would be redesigned to fit in a 2U rack, while continuing to offer Intel Xeon CPUs. Some have speculated that Apple will be an early adopter of Intel’s new Xeon E5 processors, which will be based upon the Sandy Bridge architecture and use a 32-nanometer manufacturing process. Others believe that the Xeon E5 will not be available in time for the Mac Pro launch, and that Apple will initially launch with the lower-powered Xeon E3 instead. In either case, the Mac Pro will certainly gain Thunderbolt ports—most likely four, with some replacing FireWire 800 ports on the new machine’s front and back. And both the Mac mini and Mac Pro will ship with the new OS X Lion operating system, too.

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