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Intel Atom-Based Mac Mini Due in March?

Tom's Hardware reports that the expected Mac mini refresh will be coming in March and will be based on NVIDIA's new Ion platform utilizing Intel's dual-core 1.6 GHz Atom 330 processor. The Ion platform, announced in mid-December, also utilizes the GeForce 9400M integrated graphics found in the current MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

An Nvidia partner confirmed to us that Apple was the first to receive samples of Nvidia's Ion platform, which we covered extensively during CES. In fact, Apple received prototype units long before Nvidia partners who opted to work on Ion. We're told that some partners still only have blue prints of Ion.

The source also revealed that the new Mac mini should be released around the time of the CeBIT computer expo beginning March 3rd in Hanover, Germany. No pricing information has been revealed, but Tom's Hardware believes that the new Mac mini will be priced in the same $500-$700 range as the current model. They also believe that the use of this platform will enable Apple to reduce the size of the already-diminutive Mac mini.

Evidence found in OS X configuration files in mid-December has pointed to the use of NVIDIA chipsets in upcoming Mac mini and iMac revisions, but this is the first indication that Apple plans to use Intel's low-power Atom processor instead of the larger Core 2 processors found in Apple's notebook computers and the current Mac mini.

Related roundup: Mac mini