Isn't the big gain for HTPC use the new 9400m video?
yes, I think so...look, the complaints all along about the mini have been that Apple never really gave us a mini that was comparable to a Macbook--it was always a year or two behind or crippled in some artificial way. Not being able to fully address 4GB RAM, "g" wireless, the GMA 950, a crap Matshita combo drive, you name it. Finally, they've thrown us HTPC folks a nice bone--for the same $599 price you get:
1) the 9400M, with a 256MB option,
2) a superdrive (though whether it's a decent Pioneer or a crapshita, I guess we'll find out soon enough)
3) BOTH the mini-display port and mini-DVI (plus they throw the $19 mini-DVI to DVI adaptor in, which is very un-Apple-like) which just might mean real support for two displays,
4) "n" wireless finally
5) full 4GB RAM support plus
6) it gains FW800 rather than having firewire removed.
Really, there's nothing to complain about here--you still want to use your old HDTVs, just go mini-DVI out, you want to avoid mini-displayport for a while, go right ahead.
And built-in optical out has been just fine for us. After all, just how forward-thinking do you want Apple's $599 bait and switch upsell machine to be?