Spin the mini

Apple has done away with conventional feet and instead the mini rests on a circular pedestal. The circular base doubles as an access port to the internals of the mini.

The removable cover has two indentions that you put your fingers in. A counter clock-wise twist (about 1/16th of a rotation) will unlock the cover. Removing it reveals the only easily user replaceable components in the mini: the DDR3 SO-DIMMs.

The $699 configuration comes with two 1GB DDR3-1066 sticks. Woefully inadequate for today’s workloads, particularly since the mini only comes with a 5400RPM 2.5” HDD so any swapping to disk is painfully slow.


The 2.5" Hitachi 5K500 5400RPM HDD

Replacing memory is as easy as can be on the Mac mini, just remove the cover, pop out the sticks and install new ones. It’s just like a notebook, but easier.

Upgrading the hard drive is much more complicated unfortunately. To get it out you have to remove the motherboard, which isn’t hard but definitely not easy. iFixit has a guide here.

Start by removing the four screws that hold the WiFi antenna in place. Don’t forget to disconnect the antenna cable once you’ve done so.

The entire system is cooled by a single fan that channels air through a shroud over a heatsink with a pair of heatpipes. Remove the fan screws, remove the shroud, remove the heatsink screws and then unscrew everything you see on the motherboard and you’re half way there.

Disconnect all of the temperature sensors and cable connectors from the back of the board and you can finally slide the board out. Unfortunately there’s no easy way to grab onto the motherboard itself so you’re better off sticking two thin screwdrivers through the two open holes in the motherboard and using them to pull the board out of the chassis.


The mini minus a motherboard and HDD

When you’ve done that you can pry the HDD out of its resting spot, unplug its cable and replace it. Ugh.

With the motherboard out we can remove its heatsink and get a bit more personal. Down to the screws in the system, the Mac mini is very much a headless notebook:


These spring loaded screws are common on notebook heatsinks

Underneath the heatsink we have the two chips that make up the Mac mini: Intel's Core 2 Duo P8600 (right) and NVIDIA's GeForce 320M (left):

The 320M has the graphics, memory controller, SATA controller, PCIe and USB interfaces. Looking at the size of the die you can see how highly Apple values the GPU over the CPU in a system like this. Ten years ago you'd be looking at a four-chip solution (CPU, North Bridge, South Bridge, GPU), today we're down to two. Soon enough we'll be able to have a single SoC that delivers the functionality and performance of these two discrete chips.

Styling and Use General Performance
POST A COMMENT

93 Comments

View All Comments

  • iwodo - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    By end of 2012, we should be able fit Sandy Bridge, 4GB Ram, SSD, and a much faster GFX within the same size. Reply
  • james.jwb - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    We will never get to the end of 2012 :) Reply
  • tech6 - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    The Apple box is nice but its too bad Apple feels the same way about Blue Ray than they do about Flash (and SSDs apparently).

    The ASRock i3 based box reviewed earlier is much better value for those seeking an HTPC. For around $700 it delivers i3 performance, a remote as well as BD.
    Reply
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link


    Is the CPU soldered in place? No chance of diy CPU upgrades?
    Reply
  • futurepastnow - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    Yes, it is. Can't you tell just by looking at it? Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    It's almost as if they scoured their parts bins for the parts that were obsolete and would otherwise be thrown out and stuck them in a white plastic box and slapped a $699 price tag on it. It may be the cheapest way to get a new OS X system - but it seems to me like Apple has lost it's way with this product. If the goal were to lure new OS X users, I suppose I could see this if it were priced at about $300.

    I know Apple people hate price comparisons with Windows PC's but since the hardware is basically identical these days, the comparisons are inescapable. I recently bought my wife a new HP laptop at Best Buy. It has an i3 330M (which blows away the 2.4 GHZ core 2 duo in my Dell laptop by the way), has 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB 7200 RPM hard drive. And of course the laptop has to include a screen as well. It cost $649.00 + tax. Given spare parts bin components being used, there is just no way that the Mini should cost more.

    Like I said, you have to really want OS X to buy this.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    I forgot to mention that this thing comes with absolutely no input devices so if you want Apple stuff the real price is $819. And unlike a laptop it doesn't even need a battery. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    While I couldn't care less about Apple's mouse and keyboard, upgrading the mini (via Newegg, not Apple) to 2x2GB of RAM and a 7200 RPM drive increases the total to nearly $840. That's completely unacceptable. Reply
  • fic2 - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    My laptop doesn't need a battery unless I want to use it on the go. It is usually plugged into a wall sitting on my desk at work with the battery laying next to it. Reply
  • v12v12 - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    Haha I 2nd these comments of common-sense! This is nothing but another overpriced Apple rehash of old-technology into a small, shiny, sleek, box. Profiteering for "Apple" is merely how to out fox the fanatical, tech-obsessed "Mac-phile" user base, out of their snidely earned cash.

    It's way out of date, comes with sub-standard parts, no BR, "mini" crap ports, sub-par full HDMI port blah blah. Oh and the PRICE? I know the editors have to give Apple a soft, white pillow to slam them down on, but come on... Take a look at these quotes right here;

    "The user experience of the Mac mini is noticeably diminished by only having 2GB of memory."

    “There are actually no input devices included in the purchase price, so expect to add another $120 if you want an Apple keyboard and Magic Mouse ($140 if you want them to both be wireless). There’s no remote included either, although Apple’s IR remotes do work with the mini.”

    That's a very polite way of saying something (honest) such as, "Apple is again cutting corners in the hardware department, yet making it seem 'adequate' for most users." Is 2GB "fine" for 8/10 “users” (highly ambiguous!?) YEP sure is. I work with a huge Win/OSX client base and NOBODY is screaming about needing 4GB of ram, but the industry standard IS 4GB now. 2 is "acceptable," but not up to pace. It's per user's demands, but (in general) anyone with experience dealing with "Apple" knows they've cut corners again. You just softened the blow.

    Let’s recap; SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS ($820*) for:

    -No peripherals*---WTF?
    --Dated CPU
    ---Sub-par Ram (should I bother asking about timings/quality of the Dimms, lol?)
    ----Sketchy Vid-output connections (HDMI 1900x1200!)
    -----Sub-par GPU vs a laptop (all it is stuffed in a small box)
    ----Sub-par 5400rpm HD. (Is this a joke?)
    ---No SSD???
    --PRICE! (Overpriced KB/M?)
    -No IR remote (this IS marketed as an HTPC?!)

    And lastly... dealing with "Apple" is nothing but a PITA if you're not blindly "appeased" with what they've attempted to brainwash you into buying, and then spoon-fed to you. Oh BTW... it's up to YOU to provide your own bib and paper towel to wipe off all that drool. That is until you use the thing and realize; OMFG I shoulda gotten a smaller LAPTOP instead.
    __Apple MARKETING is very, very keen on deception and mental-washing and this is how; SMALL FORM FACTORING (SFF). SFF'ing is nothing but a MARKETING ploy.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now