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


View All Comments

  • AssBall - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    Yeah, that 45 fps at 800x600 in WoW is killer, Dude.

  • Tros - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link


    19 fps on an overclocked Intel integrated GPU (i3 generation). I'd say going with NVidia's GPU was the better choice by at least two-fold for gaming.
  • thunng8 - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    Thats right, a standard clocked Intel GPU gets approx 12.5-15fps or less than 1/3rd the performance of the Nvidia 320M Reply
  • retrospooty - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    "Apple calls the new Mac mini the world’s most energy-efficient desktop computer"

    Nice thing to call it, considering its really a laptop with no LCD. Gotta love Job's spin. ROFL
  • thunng8 - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    Why is it spin if it is correct? Reply
  • jihe - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    Ridiculously overpriced. Might as well get a laptop and hack off the lcd. Any one care to compare this to a laptop at the same price level? Reply
  • Tros - Monday, August 09, 2010 - link

    1) NVidia chipset laptops are hard to find. I imagine this is something like when AMD-powered Dell machines were non-existent.
    2) Compare it and realize what? Power consumption on the Mac-mini is already lower than it's low-voltage netbook counterpart. Would you compare a T8600 to a T8600?

    And yeah, the initial cost is a lot more. But have you considered the cost over time? Even if the ION system was cheaper, the cost-over-time curve has a higher slope because of power consumption and build quality. The Mac-Mini is the better investment for the long-run. Well, unless you replace your HTPC every year, but who has that kind of money?
  • jihe - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    1) NVidia chipset laptops are everywhere.

    2) Turn off the screen of your laptop and see how much power it consumes.

    The mac mini is half an outdated laptop, for much more than the price of one.
  • name99 - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - link

    A laptop that runs MacOS X?

    If you are not in the market for such a machine, fine, but don't pretend you're making deep philosophical points by ignoring this issue.
    I don't give a damn about motorbikes. The difference between you and me is that I don't feel a compulsive need to read articles on motorbikes and then offer up my opinion on devices that I have never owned and will never own.

    20% or so of the US market feels the overall value of Apple products, from the OS to the generally higher reliability to the much better resale value (or, if you prefer, longer usable lifetime) make them worth buying. If you're not in that group, fine, but is your life really so empty that, rather than going door to door asking people if they have heard the word of god, you feel a need to engage in the equivalent behavior wrt a commercial purchase? "Excuse me, ma'am, but have you heard the words of Bill Gates, and how they can save your dollars and the dollars of your loved ones?"
  • ManjyomeThunder - Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - link

    20%? I hope you're talking about iPhones and not Macintoshes, Considering OS X (all versions) hold around a total of MAYBE 10% of the US market. Reply

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