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Is Apple gearing up for gaming on Mac Mini?

mac mini intel core
mac mini intel core

mac_mini_intel_core.jpgThe new Mac Mini was unveiled by Apple Wednesday afternoon, updating the series with a host of new features, including the same Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor and Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz processor as standard as can be found in the new Macbook. Does this mean a move towards the gaming market?

Apple says that “the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M brings amazing graphics performance to MacBook, so you can enjoy your favorite 3D games – from Spore to Call of Duty – with fast, responsive game play,” also toting it as around 7 times faster running Quake 4 and Doom 3 as the previous Mac Mini.

While the iPhone has managed to do something the Nokia hasn’t by bringing gaming to smartphones, the same still cannot be said of the Macs. PC Gaming enthusiasts like gaming on Windows because they can easily upgrade graphics, memory and processors on their pimped-up rigs. The same cannot really be said of a Mac aside from adding a bit more memory or swapping out a hard disk from time to time. And if gamers enjoy gaming on a closed system, then the Xbox, PS3 and Wii all do that job just fine, thank you very much.

{mospagebreak}That said the new update also brings it in line with the new Macbooks, and their new graphics abilities, as well as the iMacs and Mac Pros released alongside, with the former featuring capacity for a massive 1TB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. While Mac laptops with improved graphics could rival PC laptops in the gaming stakes, there are far more titles available for Windows than Macs. Maybe a future Apple announcement could herald a new Mac gaming platform along the lines of what Microsoft has successfully done with its “Games for Windows” strategy.

Perhaps most interesting, Apple is also trying to prove their green credentials with the new Mac mini, after having previously come under fire for dangerous chemicals components and unsafe disposal methods with the iPod and iPhone; it advertises that it only consumes 13W when idle, 45 per cent that of the previous model. It is also PVC and BFR-free, with 31 per cent smaller packaging.

However, what remains to be seen is how consumers will react the the price hike, with the cheapest unit retailing for £499 with 1GB of RAM and 120GB HD, and the top end model for £649, upgraded to 2GB RAM and a 320GB HD. This leaves £499 as the cheapest price for any Mac computer, £100 more than the previous mini, which makes Apple seem a somewhat pricey option for prospective users. Perhaps Apple believes that the Mac range is impervious to recessions as it is seen by many in the media as “reassuringly expensive”.

But the price increase will, for some, make the decision to ‘go Mac’ harder. Other companies offer cut-price netbooks and cheap desktop packages but Apple resolutely remains firmly at the higher end of the market. With PC shipments at the lowest for nearly twenty years, one hopes that Apple still has the magic to entice punters to part cash for its aspirational machines.

And one cannot deny that virtually all Macs are aspirational. The Mac Mini is still a great machine, offering serious punch for a miniature, and beautifully designed, footprint. But will the increased graphics punch by enough to launch OSX into the mainstream gaming environment? That question will only be answered if Mac shipments increase or maintain against a backdrop of plummeting computer sales this year and whether games companies feel confident enough to produce an increased number of titles that run on the highly desirable Apple machines.