Update (Post-Ars): Arstechnica has done a thorough review of the Intel Mac Mini with the Core Solo processor; the entry level machine.. As usual, their analysis includes lots and lots and benchmarks (starting on page 4 of the review).
Update #3: I’m sticking this up at the top. A cup of has cinebench benchmarks comparing the G4 Mac Mini with an Intel Core Solo based mini. Significantly faster across the boards, save for the Hard GL metric, which is about 20% slower. However, the Soft GL metric is slightly more than twice as fast (and faster than the G4′s Hard GL).
For the obvious impaired: This update does not claim that the Mini is a smokin’ fast graphics engine. Not at all. It is a significant upgrade over the prior G4 based model. That combined with the interesting graphics capabilities of the GMA950 make for a lot of interesting potential.
And, before anyone asks, I have no idea as to how Mac OS X leverages the GMA950, nor the details of how the chipset is wired into the system.
I was a bit surprised to see the video chip listed as Intel GMA950 graphics processor with 64MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory with a footnote indicating that the GPU will potentially consume more main memory as graphics demands are increased.
Wait. On-board video? That seems kind of lame.
So, I had a look at Intel’s GMA950 chipset overview.
It is, however, designed to deliver absolutely smokin’ video playback to displays more traditionally found in the home; TVs, home theaters, etc…
The marketing materials have a relatively lengthy session devoted to connecting the Mac Mini to various kinds of TVs. It also implies that the whole thing can take a bit of futzing to get right.
The chipset includes support for regular and HD playback, with the ability to up/down scale video content, as necessary. And it isn’t limited to a single stream of HD as it can simultaneously decode and display two streams. It can also handle pretty much any standard HD resolution in both interlaced and progressive scan mode (including 1080p) and it also natively supports both 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio displays.
Neat. I really hope the DVD player on my entertainment center finally stops playing discs soon as the mac mini would now make a perfect replacement.
Minor update: Let me restate a couple of obvious points. (1) I know that the chipset is not well suited for rippin’ 3D gaming action. (2) The features I describe are in the chipset that the mac mini uses. The potential is there, I have no idea to exactly what degree Tiger and/or the Mini leverages said features. (3) Yes, it is on-board video. It uses system resources. It is all about the cost proposition!
Update: KCD was kind enough to chime in with some very specific details about the system’s GPU capabilities in the comments. Read it — I learned quite a bit from it!