Opinion: Too bad the new Mac mini is overpriced

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Old 15-Jan-2011
Opinion: Too bad the new Mac mini is overpriced

Apple’s newly redesigned unibody Mac mini has immediately grabbed our attention with its slick design and bumped up hardware. It could become a huge success if it wasn’t for a $100 premium. Do the new features–namely an improved design, faster CPU/GPU, doubled storage, HDMI, and SD card port–justify the asking price?
Let’s see what seven hundred dollars buys you over the previous-generation last refreshed in October 2009. The new Mac mini looks absolutely stunning yet it manages to squeeze a power brick and better hardware inside a slimmer aluminum unibody casing that’s just 1.4-inches thin and takes 20 percent less space. It also added an SD card slot and an HDMI port – the first-ever on any Mac.
You also get a faster 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (2.26GHz CPU on the entry-level Mac mini from the previous genearation) and the brand new Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics. Basically the same chip as on the latest MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s twice as fast as the Nvidia GeForce 9400M GPU from the previous Mac mini. Apple also doubled the storage with a 320GB hard drive while reducing the number of USB 2.0 ports to four, one less than before. The ability to run extended desktop and video mirroring across both DVI and HDMI ports and the removable bottom panel for easy access to RAM slots round up the list of new features.

Apple is known for keeping their pricing simple and then updating existing lineups with better features while keeping price points intact. iPhone 4 costs $199 or $299, just like iPhone 3GS before it. Today’s iMacs are even cheaper than previous generations even though they run much improved hardware. iPod nanos come with more storage and video recording for less money than previous models. Similarly, second-generation iPad with webcam, higher-density display, and more storage is practically guaranteed to cost the same as today’s lineup.
But look at the new Mac mini. Apple replaced the $600 and $800 Mac minis with a single $700 unit–conveniently placed halfway between $600 and $800. If I want the cheapest Mac available today, I’m forced to fork a $100 more than yesterday because Apple says so and there’s only one model to choose from. It’s Apple’s way or the highway.

Criticized for lacking a competitively-priced Mac desktop to compete with cheap Windows boxes, Apple debuted the Mac mini five and a half years ago. Although billed as the cheapest Mac available at just $499, Apple failed to push the Mac mini. Tucked away as a side-product on its website, Mac mini has been getting little love and almost no air time at Apple’s public event. We’ve never seen any kind of snazzy marketing blitz around the Mac mini and Apple has been updating it so rarely that people thought it was phased out at times.
Sure, Apple’s hefty margin means more profit on higher-priced systems but that doesn’t mean they should push people towards their above-$1000 offerings. By doing so, Apple is only antagonizing would-be Mac mini buyers who cannot afford a $1,000 computer. Here’s my advice to Apple: Bring down today’s Mac mini to $499 (its original price), back this with aggressive advertising, and the computer will sell like hotcakes. I’m only speculating now, but seems to me that any possible cannibalization on entry-level iMac and MacBook models due to the cheaper Mac mini could be offset through increased Mac mini sales.
Apparently, I’m not the only one disappointed, even the most faithful of Mac analysts are calling out Apple for the unexpected Mac mini price increase. What’s your take? Is the new Mac mini really worth the asking price?

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