I actually really like the new Mini. I caved and finally got one as I got a good deal that brought the UK price in line with the US price. Like I say, the UK price is £100 too much. At £550 ($730 without tax vs $700 in the US), this machine is a great buy and gives you room to upgrade the RAM to 4GB.
I would have liked the hard drive to have been easier to replace - this time you need to use torx (6 and 10) screwdrivers to get to it and apparently there isn't much glue on the thermal sensor unlike last time. Anyway, I benchmarked the 5400RPM drive in it vs the 7200RPM in my old one and there really wasn't a great deal of difference so I didn't bother upgrading mine. In some areas, it's 25-30% faster but direct file writes came out the same and the 7200RPM was noisier.
In terms of everyday use, I don't actually notice the difference between my old 7200 RPM and the new 5400 RPM. Bootups and application launch times are quick. Snow Leopard is one snappy OS. Maybe when SSDs become affordable I'll give it a go.
Graphics performance is impressive under Windows. It plays the high end games on medium quality as I expected and they play at very smooth framerates. Crysis you have to set to medium without anti-aliasing but it still looks great and the machine makes absolutely no noise whatsoever while playing it for hours despite very smooth FPS and it doesn't get excessively hot.
The HDMI to DVI adaptor is much better than Mini-DVI as it sits more firmly in the slot as does the power supply. The power cable is a little shorter but it's a standard plug so you can pick up a longer one cheap:http://www.specialtech.co.uk/spshop/...cat=175&page=1
It's so much nicer not having an external PSU. The boxed weight of the machine is much lower - it's about 1.5kg vs 3kg for the old one. The box is half the width and the machine is half the height too. This makes accessing the USB ports much easier than before as you had to fumble down past the fan vents. Plugging things in from the front is really easy now.
I miss the extra USB port for the SD slot I don't use but it's not a huge deal. 4 USB ports is ok.
The new Mini also greatly improves sound quality. Old ones were so quiet you could barely hear them at maximum volume. It's not quite iMac quality but certainly much better than before.
The optical drive mechanism is much quieter too. You don't get the loud drive head slamming into everything before it starts reading the disc. Some types of disc still make the usual buzzing but most discs spin far more quietly.
Wifi performance seems to be improved too.
I'm a little disappointed by the Core 2 Duo chips. The P8600 is the same price as the entry Core i5 but the i5 is 50% faster. It's unlikely you'd be doing much raw encoding on these things anyway but 50% would have boosted the odd video render by a decent amount.
There's still the chance they can accelerate this using the GPU though eventually and I'm happier that Apple opted for a fast GPU with a Core 2 Duo than an i5 with Intel HD graphics.
If you live in the US, I would highly recommend this machine at this price. It may still seem a bit pricey if you buy it for a media centre but think of it like a computer that will easily handle most tasks, a great console alternative, a very quiet and power efficient media centre (despite the lack of Blu-Ray - you can get USB BDR drives or a cheap player anyway) all wrapped up in a very attractive little aluminium case.
When I see the Mini developing like this, I know that this box has a great future and mark my words, it will win out over the iMac one day because there is no way that Apple can sell an iMac that allows you to hook it up to your TV, projector, Cinema display and so on in any feasible way. Versatility will always be more cost-effective and suitable for a variety of people.
This is the kind of upgrade that I wanted to see in the Mac Pro. It clearly shows they've put a lot of thought into improving pretty much every aspect of the machine to make it excel in its class. With an easily accessible HDD like the original Macbooks, newer 4 thread CPUs, USB 3, this machine would get a 5/5 rating so perhaps next year's model will get there. AMD Fusion would allow a quad core with a Radeon 5000 series GPU and they are supporting USB 3 in 2011 so it's a definite possibility.
For now, the Mini is a very solid 4/5 but a highly recommended purchase if you get it at a good price.