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$599-$999
Macs

Apple Mac mini (Mid 2011)

Okay, okay, we get it, Apple—optical drives are on the way out, at least, for users who don’t want Blu-Ray players or burners in their computers. The ultimate expression of this is the just-introduced mid-2011 Mac mini ($599 and up), a 7.7” rounded square of silver aluminum that has now completely dropped the prior version’s SuperDrive in favor of a completely solid face—only a pinhole power light and IR sensor are on the front. Of course, Mac mini makes up for the omission with some big changes: a lower $599 base price, Core i5 and Core i7 processors, some new Radeon HD GPUs, Thunderbolt, and Bluetooth 4.0. Click for more details.

While the switches to Thunderbolt and Core i5/i7 processors weren’t a huge surprise, the specifics are pretty interesting. The $599 model comes with a 2.3GHz i5 and 2GB of memory, upgradeable to 4GB or 8GB via Apple’s online store. This version comes with Intel HD Graphics 3000 and DDR3 SDRAM. By comparison, a $799 model has a 2.5GHz i5 and 4GB, with separate 2.7GHz and 8GB upgrade options. These Mac minis have AMD Radeon HD 6630M processors using GDDR5 memory. All of the versions have one 500GB hard disk, one Thunderbolt port, in addition to FireWire 800, USB 2.0, and Ethernet ports, plus an SDXC card slot. Then there’s the $999 Mac mini with Lion Server, which has a quad-core Core i7 processor running at 2.0GHz, twin 500GB drives, and Intel HDG3000 inside. Quad-core in a Mac mini? Yeah, it’s hard for us to believe, too, but very cool.

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