updated 04:35 pm EST, Thu January 15, 2009
Mac mini NVIDIA Ion Rumor
Apple's Mac mini desktop will switch to NVIDIA's Ion platform and Intel's Atom chip as a result, an alleged confirmation by an NVIDIA partner asserts. The Cupertino company is believed to be using the combination graphics and system chipset in an updated computer that would also use the 1.6GHz, dual-core Atom 330. While slower in processing power than the existing Core 2 Duo, the mini system would have video performance close to if not exactly like the GeForce 9400M currently found in all aluminum MacBooks.
The chipset is primarily designed to overcome the characteristically slow visual performance of netbooks and nettops, and supports full hardware decoding of H.264 up to 1080p as well as casual 3D gaming and general-purpose computing tasks. It already supports NVIDIA's proprietary CUDA language for general code but should also support OpenCL when the standard is fully ratified and implemented into drivers or to whole operating systems, such as Mac OS X Snow Leopard.
The switch would reduce the physical size and power consumption of the Mac mini but would also potentially reduce the cost of the system as the bulk price of an Atom 330 for PC builders is just $43. NVIDIA itself officially expects many Ion-based systems to cost about $400 if they use standard hardware, though Apple is known to deviate from reference designs. Company chief Steve Jobs has publicly stated that he doesn't believe Apple can make a $500 system that maintains the Mac's quality standards.
Regardless, Apple claimed by the unnamed sources to have been one of those most interested in Ion and purportedly received samples of working chipsets before any other firm, including some who have yet to receive more than blueprints. The Mac mini could be ready as early as March and would ship sometime near Germany's CeBIT expo, which takes place between the 3rd and 8th of the month.
If accurate, the jump to Ion would represent Apple's first-ever Atom-based Mac but only a partial change in philosophy for the Mac mini, which has regularly been positioned as Apple's entry-level computer for switching users and which has regularly been repurposed as a media server or for industrial purposes. Other rumors have claimed Apple may also make changes that involve dual hard drive options and dual display support.
Apple itself has provided no clues of an Atom switch but has recently leaked that the next Mac mini would use NVIDIA's MCP79, which is the general platform at the root of the GeForce 9400M.