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Mac mini gains Ivy Bridge CPU, up to 16GB of RAM with Apple's latest update

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Apple's smallest desktop, the Mac mini, received a respectable bump in specs on Tuesday, adding Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors while starting at the same $599 price.

Although Apple's high-profile products like the iPad mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display stole the show, the refreshed Mac mini was the recipient of significant internal upgrades, doubling the small footprint desktop's power and speed.

The model released on Tuesday is the first update to Apple's small ITX design since mid-2011, when the company axed the computer's built-in optical drive in lieu of the then-new Thunderbolt connector and fast Wi-Fi protocols.

With Tuesday's refresh, the $599 base Mac mini model starts out with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel i5 processor with 4 gigabytes of RAM, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 500 gigabyte hard drive. Besides a boost in RAM that tops out at 16GB, not much else can be configured for the entry-level device.

Moving up to the $799 model, Apple is offering a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel i7 chip with a standard 4GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics and 1TB HDD. The unit can be configured with a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM and either a 1TB Fusion Drive or 256GB SSD.

Mac mini

The most expensive Mac mini is the $999 2.3GHz quad-core i7 server model that comes with 4GB of RAM and two 1-terabyte hard drives. As with the client version, the chip can be upgraded to a 2.6GHz version, with memory expansion limited to 16GB, but most notably is the lack of compatibility with Apple's Fusion Drive. Instead, the Mac mini server can be outfitted with one or two 256GB SSDs

All models of the Mac mini are available to order today, with build-to-order versions trailing at two to four days.