By WALTER S. MOSSBERG
This is a review of an interesting new entertainment-center component
that happens to also be a personal computer -- a computer fully
capable of, say, creating a spreadsheet, but one you might never use
that way. This new product also happens to be a new Macintosh model
from Apple Computer, but, in its entertainment-system role, it works
perfectly with Windows computers.
The new gadget is the latest version of Apple's tiny Mac Mini desktop
computer -- a petite silver and white box that's just 6.5 inches
square and stands just two inches tall, small enough to tuck away on a
shelf near a TV. This Mini costs $599 and doesn't include a monitor,
keyboard or mouse.
The most important thing about the new Mac Mini is that it comes with
Front Row, Apple's handsome software for controlling a computer from
across a room, and with the tiny, simple remote control Apple designed
to work with Front Row. You can just plug it into your TV and home
audio system, fire up Front Row, and watch any videos stored on its
hard disk, listen to any songs it holds, or view any photos it
contains. It also plays DVDs.
Even better, this new Mini can automatically find -- and stream to
your home entertainment system -- all music and videos stored on any
other computer on your home network, whether Windows or Mac. All
that's required is that the other computers be running Apple's free
iTunes software. The Mini can't stream photos from a Windows PC, but
it can do so from another Mac.
In my tests, all of this worked fine, and I can recommend the new Mini
with Front Row for anyone who wants to play back, on a home
entertainment system, media stored on a computer or multiple
computers. But there are a few caveats.