iPod Hi-Fi and more

by Giles Turnbull

Sorry, kids: no "true" video iPod, no Macbook, no tablet. But...


An iPod Hi-Fi, with "room-filling power without distortion." It's portable, mains or battery powered, has built-in carry handles, and connects to every iPod. You can control it with an Apple Remote, or via a Software Update for your iPod. Price: $349, available now.

Also, as we noted earlier, a new Mac mini: in all but name, it's the media center that a lot of people have been begging for. Same size, same shape, but Intel powered. There are two models, 1.5GHz Core Solo and 1.66GHz Core Duo, priced at $599 and $799 (which means prices have gone up a little with this update). The new machines are available now. They come with Front Row and Apple Remote, gigabit ethernet, four USB ports, analogue and SPDIF audio outs. They are, says Apple, between 2.5 and 5.5 times faster than previous models, depending on the processor.

Included with them is the new Front Row software. It can stream TV shows in iTunes across your network and show them on your TV. It can tune into shared iTunes and iPhoto libraries. Streaming over Bonjour is important here: "Media from any other Mac or Windows computer running iTunes will be piped over to the Mac mini hooked up to your television set." Bonjour is coming into its own with this release.


2006-02-28 12:57:24
"new Mac mini: in all but name, it's the media center that a lot of people have been begging for" -- I wouldn't say so. The thing it HAS TO HAVE is a DVR app. I can't justify one until it can replace both my DVD player AND my TiVo.

My theory is that the long-rumored "Asteroid" box is an external MPEG encoder that will sit on/under the Mac mini and connect by FireWire. I hope so, anyway. Because Front Row (even with Bonjour, as cool as that is) doesn't cut it yet.

2006-02-28 14:20:00
I have to say that I was a little let down that the new minis only come with 512MB of RAM by default though. I understand that these aren't meant to be top-of-line PC gaming rigs, but to be any sort of media center, I'd want a minimum of a gig.

For the price to upgrade to something that functions closer to my needs I've already customized something that's as much as a low-end intel iMac. Considering those have a built-in monitor and more processing power, I think I'll stick with one of those.

2006-02-28 14:30:16
The problem with PVR/TiVo products is that they're not international, whereas Apple have done a lot of work on making sure the base configuration of their machines are (auto-switching power supplies).
2006-02-28 15:31:35
@ Steven: You're right, forgive me that oversight, I was writing in haste. Then again, a DVR *app* is a software issue; perhaps it will appear in Software Update later this year...

@ FiZ: It doesn't feel like decent RAM, does it? But I think upping the default to a gig would have tipped the price higher still, and for the time being 512 is sufficient for most mini-oriented tasks, imho.

2006-02-28 18:11:10
Well, There was really nothing earth shaking here. The boombox is too expense at $350 bucks. Do we really need that. The market will say yes, I know there are plenty of rich kids that will like it, but I think Apple is really moving in the wrong direction here. I would have liked for the computer to have been a part of this, not some stand alone boombox. Also, it is not Wi-Fi. I would have liked something that could have been used with the computer at least. Apple should just spin off the iPod line, so they can return to making great computers.

Ok, so they did come out with an Intel Mac Mini and it may be a great computer. I already have the first Mini, so I will have to try the Intel line when I buy another laptop or iMac. I am just concerned the focus keeps shifting away from computers. IPods are great and all, but how much music and video can you listen and watch before you need to get some actual work done. Apple, give us a new and better spreadsheet program, give us an intel ibook, give us a tablet. Thanks.

2006-03-01 00:58:24
So far, all reviews of the HiFi have stated that it works with all iPod models. This is clearly not the case. All 1G iPods are not really supported, as is the Shuffle. Sure, you can connect them using an audio cable. Without remote control and depending on its built in power cell. Don't get me wrong, the HiFi is nice as it is, and maybe it's time to finally get a new iPod. But still, saying it works with all models is at least misleading.
2006-03-01 01:49:40
@ Georg: Fair point. Another instance of the famous Reality Distortion Field, I think; you can indeed connect all iPods to the HiFi in some way or another, but some will be easier and more convenient to connect than others...
Ian Betteridge
2006-03-01 02:55:14
The problem with the Mac mini as media centre isn't the lack of a DVR. That's just software, so it can be fixed anytime Apple (or a third party) chooses to do it. The problem is the measly hard drive. My old Mac mini filled up very quickly just with audio tracks, let alone video. 160GB is the absolute minimum for a media centre, with 250 and beyond preferred. We current have half a terabyte in our media PC - and that's probably getting upgraded soon :)
2006-03-01 04:08:11
I'm with you on that one, Ian. While the RAM is a little disappointing, the disk space is actually *limiting* for anyone who wanted to use a mini as a DVR.

Which makes me wonder if Apple is planning an entirely *separate* DVR device; that the mini isn't supposed to be one at all.

2006-03-01 07:28:13
I completely agree that the DVR issue could be solved in software, and that's the one component that Front Row (otherwise a great front end to Apple's other media apps) is missing. And, yeah, the small hard drive is an issue, of course. That can be somewhat remedied by a big FireWire drive, but that's not ideal. That being said, my TiVo has a 40GB HD in it, and we can record enough TV to keep our family busy most of the time.