Benchmarks: New 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini

Apple recently released a redesigned version of its entry-level desktop computer, the Mac mini. Macworld's own Dan Frakes gave us his initial hands-on impressions as well as a photo tour of the $699 desktop computer. And though the biggest changes may be external, there are a few under-the-hood improvements that helped boost the system's performance in our Speedmark 6 test suite.

The new Mac mini comes in one standard configuration featuring a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 320GB hard drive, and new nVidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics.

This single configuration replaces two previous models, a $599 system ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) with 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 160GB hard drive, and nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics; and a $799 model ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) with the same 9400M graphics, but with a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and a 320GB hard drive.

(Also, a new $999 Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server is offered with two 500GB hard drives. The new server replaces the previous Mac mini server ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) that also had a pair of 500GB hard drives. We don't have a new Mac mini server yet, but we will do a full review once we get one.)

In our tests of the new standard 2.4GHz Mac mini, we found it performed as well as the specs would suggest, with most of its test results falling in between the results of the previous 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz models in nine of our 16 tests.

The new 2.4GHz Mac mini's Speedmark score was nearly identical to the older, 2.53GHz model, but that can be attributed almost entirely to the improved graphics, which helped to nearly double the number of frames per second the new system was able to display in our Call of Duty 4 tests.

Aperture was 12 percent faster on the new 2.4GHz Mac mini, while the iMovie tests export test results were 8 percent faster, and the iMovie import results were about 5 percent faster than the 2.53GHz model. The new Mac mini was also faster in our file duplication tests.

Curiously, the new Mac mini's Handbrake H.264 test results were quite a bit slower than the older 2.53GHz Mac mini's; the new Mac mini's scores were on par with the MacBook Air with a USB optical drive. The results were strange but repeatable, even with three different DVDs, throwing out Handbrake preferences and reinstalling the application. We'll work on an explanation as we continue our testing.

The new 2.4GHz Mac mini is about 13.5 percent faster overall than that older 2.26GHz Mac mini model. Again, the new nVidia GeForce 320M graphics helped the 2.4GHz Mac mini display about twice as many frames per second as the 2.26GHz model. The 2.4GHz mini was 18 percent faster than the 2.26GHz mini in our Aperture tests and 14 percent faster in the iMovie export test.

Performance as compared to the latest 2.4GHz MacBook ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) is very similar, with the MacBook scoring just one point higher in our Speedmark 6 test suite, and most tests just a few seconds off from each other.

Compared to the entry-level $1199 iMac ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), the 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo 21.5-inch model with nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive, the iMac was about 27 percent faster overall, with much faster times in processor intensive tasks. The new Mac mini did beat out the iMac in our Call of Duty tests, displaying 65 percent more frames per second. iMovie import tests were slow on the iMac, something we saw when we ran the tests for that system's review.

Check back soon for Macworld's full review of both the new Mac mini and the new Mac mini server.

[James Galbraith is Macworld's lab director.]

This story, "Benchmarks: New 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo Mac mini" was originally published by MacCentral.

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