New Mac Mini Small in Size and in Value

Apple’s (s aapl) release of the new Mac mini on Tuesday was partly overshadowed by pre-ordering of iPhone 4. It’s refreshing to see a Mac update in the middle of all the iOS devices and apps that were the center of WWDC.

What’s great about the update is the new case design, the HDMI port, and the speed bump in specs. The new mini lives in a smaller, brushed aluminum case with a twist off bottom that gives easy access to the RAM. No more pulling off the case with a putty knife. Apple has shown once again that it cares intensely about its products, and put its brilliant design into everything it does. Moving the power brick inside the case is another example of small moves that translate to a better user experience. The new mini is sharp and sleek.

Small Size, Small Value

But what’s not so great about the new mini is its value proposition when compared to an iMac or MacBook. The mini is now technically equal to a MacBook, with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo, 1066MHz front side bus, and 2GB of RAM. They both also use the same graphics card: an NVIDIA GeForce 320M.

The Mac mini used to be the affordable Mac, not cheap, but affordable, when it debuted at $499. Now at $699, it is a mere $300 away from a MacBook, and $500 less than an iMac. Once you throw in an Apple wireless keyboard ($70), a new Magic Mouse ($70), and a new 21-inch monitor ($190 from Dell), the difference between an iMac and a Mac mini is down to around $210.

Still, $210 is a decent amount of money, especially if you are on a budget… and really, who is not on a budget these days.

Specific Audience

The Mac mini appeals to a very specific audience. It was originally designed as a drop-in replacement for a desktop PC. Simply pull out your old PC, and plug your keyboard, monitor, and mouse into the new mini, and you are off and running. Home theater enthusiasts recognized the mini’s value as the digital hub, and began plugging it into their TVs. Technologists then started using it as a home server, a headless Mac to share their iTunes library and act as a file server. Apple’s done a great job paying attention to its customers, and has updated the mini to appeal to each of these groups. The mini is not for me, but I can appreciate how versatile it is. If you are in the market for an upgrade, the new mini looks solid.

Are you going to be buying the new Mac mini? More excited about the mini than iPhone 4? Sound off in the comments!