Apple surprised many at Macworld Expo New York by introducing an all-new desktop Mac – to join its current Power Mac and iMac ranges. The Power Mac G4 Cube lives up to Apple’s claim that it is "an entirely new class of computer". The G4 Cube delivers the performance of a Power Mac G4 in an eight-inch cub-shaped case that is suspended in a stunning Jonathan Ive-designed crystal-clear enclosure. It is less than one fourth the size of most PCs, yet houses a 450MHz PowerPC G4 processor, as well as all the USB and FireWire input ports of a Power Mac.

"The G4 Cube is simply the coolest computer ever," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, during hisExpo keynote speech. "An entirely new class of computer, it marries the Pentium-crushing performance of the Power Mac G4 with the miniaturization, silent operation and elegant desktop design of the iMac," he added.

"It is an amazing engineering and design feat, and we’re thrilled to finally unveil it to our customers," Job told the stunned audience.

Cool in more ways than one The Power Mac G4 Cube uses a revolutionary cooling design that does not require a fan, so it runs in virtual silence, according to Apple. Cooling is provided by the air flowing through the Cube’s central vertical cooling channel.

Just like its towering big brother, the Power Mac G4, the Cube features easy-to-get-at innards. Its entire electronics assembly can be lifted out of its tiny enclosure by simply pulling a handle on its base. Access to every major component is gained, allowing the easy addition of memory or an AirPort card, for example.

Explaining why it was so important for the Cube to be "virtually silent" and elegant in looks, its British designer, Jonathan Ive, said that "it was crucial to remove all the audio and visual clutter".

Ive also designed the award-winning iMac and Power Mac for Apple.

So much in so small a space The G4 Cube includes either a 450MHz or 500MH PowerPC G4 processor; 64MB of memory (expandable to 1.5GB); 20GB of hard-disk storage (configurable up to 40GB); a top-mounted slot-loading DVD drive; two FireWire and two USB ports; 10/100BaseT ethernet and a 56K V.90 modem.

Apple seems to have pulled off another coup in the world of computer design, following the worldwide success of its iMac computers. To stuff so much power and expandability into such as a small space is certainly unheard of today.

"Apple’s engineers and designers did brilliant work," said Jobs. "I’m so proud to be working with them."

"The G4 Cube is quite possibly the most beautiful product that we’ve ever produced," he added.

Harmonious family Jobs showed a video of interviews of plaudits for the Cube from leading analysts and members of the computing industry, as well as Apple staff. All agreed that it is "the coolest computer in the world".

Phil Schiller, Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing, said that all other computer manufacturers would have said that compressing so much into such a small enclosure was "impossible". "Only Apple can do this stuff," he added.

Ive said that the top-slot DVD "adds a nice element of surprise… just like magic".

He added that he was thrilled that, although very different, the Cube and other desktop Macs "relate as one harmonious family".

New input beauties The Power Mac G4 Cube comes complete with Apple’s new optical mouse and pro keyboard, as well as a pair of spherical, Apple-designed Harman Kardon speakers. Like all of Apple’s new desktop Macs, it also comes preinstalled with Apple’s iMovie 2 digital video-editing software.

Of course, the eight-inch Cube does not include a screen. So, Apple also unveiled a completely new family of displays to complement to the it.

Availabilty The 450MHz Power Mac G4 Cube will be available in early August through the Apple Store and Apple Authorized Resellers for £1,299 (excluding VAT). A 500MHz model – featuring 128MB of RAM and a 30GB hard drive - will be available through the Apple Store for £1,599.