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How fast are the "Mid-2007" Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" models compared to the systems each replaced?
Please note that all Mac mini models mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Mid-2007" Mac mini was replaced by the "Early 2009" Mac mini on March 3, 2009.
Apple declared that the "Mid-2007" Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" models -- the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 1.83 and the "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 -- "can do everything up to 39% faster" than the Mac mini "Core Duo" models that these systems replaced using iPhoto '08 "common application tasks" as a benchmark.
The "Core 2 Duo" models, which Apple formally refers to as the "Mid-2007" line, have processors with faster clock speeds and the "Core 2 Duo" processor design also is modestly more efficient. The higher-end model -- the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 -- additionally has twice the amount of level 2 cache (4 MB instead of 2 MB), which can substantially enhance performance.
You might be interested in reading through the details of both the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo processors from Intel's website, but in particular Intel promotes that the Core 2 Duo offers "wide dynamic execution" that enables "delivery of more instructions per clock cycle to improve execution time and energy efficiency" along with "smart memory access" that optimizes "the use of the available data bandwidth" and a "more efficient cache subsystem" among other improvements.
In "synthetic" benchmark testing, Primate Labs compared the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" models using their "Geekbench" test suite and found that the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 reported a score of 2668 and the Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 1.83 reported a score of 2473. By comparison, their predecessors -- the Mac mini "Core Duo" 1.66 and "Core Duo" 1.83 -- turned in scores of 2157 and 2334, respectively.
The new 2 GHz model was 24-percent faster than the old 1.83GHz Mac mini in our Photoshop test. More significantly the new 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo model was 19-percent faster in that test than the old high-end Mac mini, despite having the exact same clock speed. (The new 1.83 GHz mini was 20-percent faster than the old 1.66 GHz model.)
MacWorld also found that the high-end Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 was about "8-percent faster in our overall system benchmark" than the entry-level Mac mini "Core 2 Duo" 1.83, but was unsure how much of the performance boost could be attributed to the faster clock speed and how much could be attributed to the larger level 2 cache. No doubt both have a substantial impact on overall performance.
Ultimately, the improvement in real-world performance between the "Core 2 Duo" and earlier "Core Duo" models is substantial and roughly in line with Apple's claims.