With its new Mac mini, Apple has introduced a Mac that’s just two inches tall, and around six-and-a-half inches square.

It’s also Apple’s first step into the traditionally commodity-driven low-cost PC markets, which most industry-watchers before the event described as a strong attempt to exercise the so-called ‘iPod halo factor’. From this month, curious consumers can pick up a powerful Mac for under £400 starting at £339 for the 40GB and £399 for the 80GB.

It’s being described as “the most affordable and compact Mac ever”, and with its Apple design aesthetic clear to see, Apple’s pushing the 2.9 pound Mac mini as, “the ideal desktop computer for anyone looking to get started with Mac OS X”. Like all new Macs from today, it includes iLife 05.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: “Starting at just $499, Mac mini is the most affordable way to enjoy Mac OS X and iLife. Just plug in your display, keyboard and mouse and you’ve got an incredibly compact Mac for a price that almost anyone can afford.”

And the new Mac mini doesn't just work with Apple displays and keyboards. Jobs introduced the BYODKM "bring your own display keyboard and mouse" concept in the keynote saying: "The new Mac mini will work with any industry displays and keyboards, not just Apple's."

Powerful features and attractive price

Describing it as "the most affordable Mac ever," Jobs joked that Apple "wanted to price this new Mac so people thinking about switching would have no more excuses".

The new desktop (?) offers good power for its price, either a 1.25Ghz or 1.42Ghz PowerPC G4 processor and an ATI Radeon 9200 graphic card with 32MB of dedicated DDR memory. Both models ship with a slot-loading Combo (DVD/CD-RW) drive and up to an 80GB hard drive. A SuperDrive is available as a build-to-order option (price unavailable at present).

Connectivity ports include a single FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports; and a DVI interface that also supports VGA so customers can connect to a variety of LCD or CRT displays. 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, a 56K V.92 and optional support for an AirPort Extreme card and an internal Bluetooth module complete the picture.

Mac mini will be available in the US on Saturday, January 22 and worldwide on Saturday, January 29. Jobs praised the team that made the Mac mini, saying: "Those guys worked really hard getting that really powerful Mac into that little box."

Product details

The 1.25 GHz Mac mini costs £339.00
(£288.51 ex VAT).
1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 processor;
256MB of 333 MHz DDR SDRAM, expandable to 1GB;
40GB Ultra ATA hard drive;
Internal support for AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth;
VI or VGA out (adapter included), composite/S-video out with optional adapter;
Built-in speaker and headphone/line out.

The 1.42 GHz Mac mini costs just £399
(£339.57 ex VAT).
1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 processor;
256MB of 333 MHz DDR SDRAM, expandable to 1GB;
80GB Ultra ATA hard drive;
Internal support for AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth;
DVI or VGA out (adapter included), composite/S-video out with optional adapter;
Built-in speaker and headphone/line out.

Build-to-order options and accessories (which cost extra, check the Apple Store) include up to 1GB of RAM, a SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW), which costs £70, an AirPort Extreme Card (£49), an internal Bluetooth module (£35), a wired or wireless Apple Keyboard and Apple Mouse and the AppleCare Protection Plan.

With additional reporting by Karen Haslam in San Francisco.
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