Macworld: for simple tasks, a decked out Mini beats a base iMac handily (or SSDs rule)

Macworld decided to put a decked out Mac Mini Mid-2011 against a current baseline iMac 2.5GHz to see what kind of performance could be gotten from Apple’s diminutive little machine when an SSD is added.

When we say “decked out”, we’re referring to the $100 2.5->2.7GHz CPU improvement + $600 SSD upgrade which almost doubles the price of the $799 ($769) high end Mini and pushes it above the price of the base model iMac. Minis start out at around $568.

The results are pretty apparent: when running simple tests, especially ones that rely only on CPU and disk access, the Mini beat the iMac handily (above). That’s almost entirely due to the added speed of the SSD compared with the iMac’s 3.5-inch HDD. When doing more graphics intensive tests (below), the iMac and its more powerful GPU took over.

The takeaway on this however is that a HDD to SSD upgrade can make a heck of a lot of difference in performance. For those handy out there, adding an SSD to a Mac Mini doesn’t have to be a $600 proposition either. Reasonable SSDs can start out at $100 and can be added to the new Minis’ hard drive configuration (not swapped) with a simple kit.

Another important tweak not detailled in these tests is adding 8GB of RAM to the Mini which will run you somewhere south of $40. Added RAM really improves performance when lots of windows or applications are open at the same time.

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Apple to release sub-$1000 21.5-inch iMac geared at education customers (Update: Released!)

Update (Aug. 8th): Following our report, Apple has gone ahead and released it!. Interestingly, no Thunderbolt and RAM not upgradable?!

Apple is gearing up to launch a new addition to the iMac lineup later this month that appears to be geared towards education/volume customers. The new iMac has less power than the current line of all-in-one Apple desktop computers and also has less storage space. The computer packs a last generation 3.1 GHz dual-core processor (3.06 GHz rounded up), 2 GB of DDR3 RAM, 250 GB of hard drive storage space, and the AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor with 256 MB of dedicated memory.

This lower-end iMac obviously has much less horsepower than the current iMac line and should be priced as such. For comparison, the entry level 21.5-inch iMac features a 2.5 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, and the same AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor but with double the dedicated memory at 512 MB. This entry level 21.5-inch iMac is priced at $1,199, so don’t be surprised to see this less-powerful machine with a sub-$1000 price tag. For reference, Apple’s last education-geared iMac was priced at $899. A similar (more RAM, worse graphics) refurbished model is currently priced at $929 (pictured below).

Apple is expected to silently release this new machine later this month. As always, thanks Mr. X.

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Kingston 256GB Internal 2.5″ SSD: $280

From 9to5Toys.com

Amazon offers the Kingston SSDNow V-Series 256GB Serial ATA 3Gbp/s 2.5″ Internal Solid State Drive (SSD), model no. SV100S2/256GZ, for $299.99. The $20 mail-in rebate cuts it to $279.99. With free shipping, that’s $1.09/GB, and the lowest total price we could find by $128. (It’s also the best price we’ve seen for an SSD of this size since Black Friday) Rebate expires July 31.  Reviews here and here.


AnandTech benchmarks
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Speed Test: Lion vs. Snow Leopard

Lifehacker has conducted a series of tests to see which is faster: Lion or Snow Leopard. As you can see in the video above, the two operating systems do about the same in almost every category tested, but Snow Leopard weasels out the win almost every time. To be fair, most categories were won by a very small margin. Lifehacker summarizes:

Boot 1:32 1:25
Compress a ~900MB File 0:51 0:59
Decompress a ~900MB File 0:10 0:09
Duplicate a ~900MB File 0:09 0:09
Encoder a Movie for iPhone in Quicktime X 0:56 0:53
Launch 9 Applications 0:59 0:37
Open 10 Tabs in Safari 0:15 0:17
Total Time 4:43+ 4:29

Snow Leopard was built for speed and Lion was built to add functionality. It’s great to see Lion isn’t exactly slipping away on the speed end of things. How’s the speed on your end?

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Upgrade your MacBook Pro, iMac to 8GB of RAM for $45

From 9to5toys.com:

Amazon offers the Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) PC3-10666 DDR3-1333 SO-DIMM 204-Pin Dual Channel Notebook Memory Kit, model no. CMSO8GX3M2A1333C9, for $54.99.99 with free shipping. The $10 mail-in rebate cuts it to $44.99.

The 8GB (2 X 4GB) DDR3 Laptop Memory Kit  is 1333MHz Unbuffered CL 9 SODIMM Memory 9-9-9-24 1.5V which matches recent iMac and MacBook Pro Specs.  Commenters at Amazon concur.

Got a 2009-2010 model?  Even better, save an additional $5

Apple charges 4X that for an 8GB upgrade:

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New Mac Pros and MacBook Airs to launch this week with OS X Lion (updated)

Update: New MacBooks and Mac minis, not Mac Pros (yet). Full story here.

We have been expecting new MacBook Airs this week and now it appears that the ultra-thin notebooks won’t be the only new Macs this week. According to our source Mr. X, part numbers for an upgraded Mac Pro line have appeared, hinting at a release for the new line of professional-minded desktop Macs in the coming days. Here are the new MacBook Airs:

As you can see from the Apple-internal part numbers above, Apple will be releasing four new MacBook Air models. This includes two 11 inch models and two 13 inch models; both screen sizes will come in entry level and upgraded configurations. Built-to-order options (BTO) will be available as well. We expect some RAM and processor upgrades. Our sources who handled the new MacBook Air told us earlier this month to not expect any noticeable exterior changes. Speedy Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt I/O are this model’s main upgrades.

Surprisingly, it also looks like new Mac Pros are coming as early as this week. The new line was rumored to be launching in the last week of July or the first week of August, but it looks like Apple is getting them out earlier (or we just got the part numbers super early, which is unlikely). The new Mac Pros are may feature a re-designed enclosure that is both narrower and rack-mountable. A faster, 16 core model is also a possibility and Thunderbolt is an obvious addition. As expected, a new Mac Pro Server model will also debut. Here are the new Mac Pros:

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