back to article The new Mac mini eviscerated with ease

Apple's new Mac mini has been torn apart by the parts 'n' tools 'n' repair-advice folks at iFixit, who pronounce it highly repairable – a rare reversal of Apple's increasing tendency to create kit that's locked down tighter than Mitt Romney's tax records. The new mini scored an impressive eight on iFixit's one-to-10 …

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  1. pardonme
    Coat

    What's all this then? Fresh from your SI units fail, you've decided to colour everything specifically to confuse your mostly male/colour-blind readership?

    Please could we have a girly->primary colour conversion chart.

    Mines the white one in the green corner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, for the rest of us that see in a maximum of sixteen colours that'd be a bonus.... and the distinguishing light/dark variants.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Agreed, conversion chart needed

      Especially as Rik clearly can't tell hollyhock from heliotrope. Hell if he mistook it for orchid or fuchsia I'd understand but there's just no explaining a mistake of this magnitude.

      Paris as she's clearly trying to decide if tonight's shoes will be cerise or persian rose.

    3. Marvin the Martian
      Holmes

      Finally, a legitimate link to XKCD

      The best research done after people's understanding of colour is here, http://blog.xkcd.com/2010/05/03/color-survey-results/ with typical thoroughness.

      The basic difference between men & women is the number of colours they recognize: anyone recognising more than 8 named colours clearly misses a "WHY!?" chromosome.

    4. Seanie Ryan
      Trollface

      nice try Reg

      Mauve !!! , a if we would ever believe that a colour called "Mauve" existed !! ha

      Good one !

      1. Sloppy Crapmonster
        Happy

        Our DB server is named mauve because "mauve has the most ram": http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1995-11-17/

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bad thing is...

      I could tell the difference.

      1. I am male.

      2. I used to work in a paint store.

      This is pitiful.

    6. Godwhacker
      Stop

      Oh, lighten up.

      It's Saturday. The day for having a sense of humour failure and an inability to use Google is Tuesday.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Oh, lighten up.

        ".....The day for having a sense of humour failure and an inability to use Google is Tuesday." Due to the current economic climate, we have moved that day forward to Mondays. We apologise if you find that unduly inconvenient.

    7. martin burns
      Boffin

      Girly->Bloke colour conversion

      Better yet - label them in Pantone colours. That's fine for any bloke who can then look them up on an empirical scale.

      1. Radelix

        Re: Girly->Bloke colour conversion

        Ahh yes just like Adult swim used to do(possibly still does, i don't have cable) for their schedule info

  2. JEDIDIAH
    Linux

    You kid...

    You kid, but it's dramatically easier to get an M-16 apart and back together again. The comparison is like night and day with the rifle being much more like a PC than this Mini that everyone seems to be gushing over.

    There are any of a number of PCs and PC form factors that run circles around this thing including low profile machines from Asrock.

    Maintainable is a normal person being able to break down a machine rather than it being something relegated only to gunsmiths (like the Mk-19).

    Like with many other things, Apple fans are redefining basic terms (like geek and maintainable).

    1. JaimieV
      FAIL

      Re: You kid...

      Eh? An M-16 you need to strip, clean, and reassemble on a regular basis or it might kill you.

      A Mini might get a RAM upgrade (40 seconds) or a storage upgrade (5 minutes) once or twice in its life, or it might... be a bit slower than it would be otherwise.

      It's like the difference between automatic weaponry and computers...

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: You kid...

        Yet wtih an M-16 can be maintained by it's user. A Mac cannot.

        This is an important detail that you are trying to obscure with nosense and flimflam.

        A Mac storage upgrade is NOT a "5 minute" thing. It is not a simple thing. It's not even a simple thing for specialists with special tools.

        There is no "ease" here. A machine that can be "eviscerated with ease" would be something that you could do the 6 rubes test with.

        Like I said before: Apple fanboys love to redefine terms. "ease" here is one of them.

  3. Joseph Lord

    Not sure the purpose is lockdown

    The Retina MBPs and MB Airs are highly integrated and built in very space efficient manners. They do seem very hard to repair or upgrade but for many that is a worthwhile trade off for a smaller/lighter product. It seems a completely reasonable decision to me as (although I would personally prefer a slightly larger product that made RAM/storage upgrades possible) a vast majority of people don't upgrade so the tighter integration is nearly a pure win for them.

    The mini while small has slightly looser requirements needing no battery so the tradeoff is rightfully different.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

      If the purpose wasn't lockdown they wouldn't use screws that require specialist tools to remove.

      1. Annihilator
        Thumb Down

        Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

        "If the purpose wasn't lockdown they wouldn't use screws that require specialist tools to remove."

        Those screws being Torx screws? Hardly specialist, you need one to change the bulbs in my car.

        1. AJ MacLeod

          Re: Quite sure the purpose is lockdown

          Amongst other deliberately obscure fasteners no doubt, Apple use things like tri-wing screw heads for holding in things that non-genius mortals should never attempt to remove... like batteries.

        2. Kar98

          Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

          No, those silly pentalobe screws Apple is using in their laptops nowadays.

        3. TheRealRoland

          Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

          Psh. Change lightbulbs yourself? I just drive to my local dealership and have them replace the whole sealed headlight unit on my Nissan! Ha!

          Oh, wait...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

      Eh, one of the reasons I bought my 11" MacBook air is because it seems pretty repairable. Undo some screws and the bottom comes off, and from there you just unfasten one connector and you can replace the battery. Similarly, the SSD is easy to remove and replace. Not completely sure about the fan. But overall pretty easy to maintain.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

        Since Apple sell a 2 x HDD Mac Mini as their small office server solution, it has to allow admins to get inside to change the HDDs. A set of Torx costs about a £5. Shit, I've spent more than that on a few PoziDrive heads from a builder's merchants.

        The Mac Pro shows that Apple can design stuff to be very easy too maintain when they want to.

        I'm not sure what the griping is about not being able to get inside a Macbook... when I have laptops from other brands go belly up, there has been nothing I can do to fix them. Since Macbooks use Time Machine to update disk images every day, there is no need to whip out the HDD to recover data, and according to independent surveys, they are pretty damned reliable anyway:

        http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9230019/Macs_stuck_in_4th_place_on_reliability_support_ranking

        The waste that I see across all brands of laptop is not being able to reuse the laptop screen as a monitor once the laptop is dead... though people seem to have enjoyed some success with using the following controller (about £20):

        http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5451-Audio-LCD-Controller-logic-Board-AD-ConverterLVDS-DVI-VGA-DIY-1920x1200max-/280996490585?pt=US_Server_Boards&hash=item416cb22d59

        1. JEDIDIAH
          Linux

          Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

          > The Mac Pro shows that Apple can design stuff to be very easy too maintain when they want to.

          Kind of sort of. My approach to the "storage" problem would be hot swap bays. Although those probably aren't pretty enough for Apple fashionistas. They are terribly convenient and very easy to use though.

          The fact that Dell may be doing something stupid is no reason to excuse Apple for it.

    3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: Not sure the purpose is lockdown

      But I am. The purpose is lockdown. Jobs is gone now, but he made a point -- all the way back to the original Macs -- of keeping them locked down. People nearly got fired when he found out the PDS slot was NOT just some kind of debug slot but was for potential expansion. He chose to use unusual type screws SPECIFICALLY because he wanted people to treat machines as a sealed appliance, not an expandable computer. Note, the Mac II had loads of slots (like 8 or so Nubus and tons of RAM slots), but it was originally designed for a joint venture with Apollo Computers so they were dictating it being expandable. During the years of fairly generic beige PCI-bus systems, Jobs was not at Apple. When he came back it was all sealed up Imacs and such again as much as possible (some got used to shoving extra hard disks, memory, and expansion cards into their systems so I must admit some towers continued to be built).

      Why did Jobs want non-expandability so much? I have no idea, it's just one of those things. I *DON'T* think it was something cynical like "Oh, if they can't work on their own Mac they'll buy more service from Apple and replace that Mac earlier".

      Straight-up, the purpose is lockdown. Small machines can be hard to work on, but Apple at worst makes it intentionally hard to work on, and at best just doesn't make maintainability or upgradeability enter their mind when they design a system.

      Will this change in the future? Hopefully. I don't know how long Apple works on chassis designs before they are released, so the current models could still be heavily Jobs-influenced.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. jestersbro
    FAIL

    Well Done Reg!

    WTF! Describing colours using names of birds, flowers and building materials! How in Hells' teeth is a normal man supposed to make head nor tail of that!

    Pffftttt!

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Well Done Reg!

      Indeed.... Even after googling "Hollyhock" I was still bemused! Possibly not the best choice for colour identification!

      1. TheRealRoland

        Re: Well Done Reg!

        At least they didn't use puce... Not the color one would expect. Or, maybe one would.

  6. the spectacularly refined chap

    "Aelta" is a misreading of the Delta logo - kind of understandable given the D is stylised. The LFE8904C is an Ethernet isolation transformer, i.e. not a silicon chip at all. The packaging and marking information from the datasheet correlate precisely with the photo, as does the placement by the Ethernet jack.

    Interestingly however the datasheet describes it as a part for 100Mbit operation. That isn't a problem per se since the signalling rate is unchanged between 100Mbit and gigabit, but it does mean that it only isolates two pairs, as opposed to the four gigabit needs. Presumably this is why they've doubled them up, one on each side.

    1. JohnG

      FYI, The datasheet for the Delta LFE8904C is here:

      http://www.delta.com.tw/product/cp/networking/download/pdf/LFE8904C.pdf

  7. Eric Hood

    It's refreshing to see an Apple product with user replaceable/upgradeable RAM,"

    What an absolute load of rubbish. Every iMac from the 15" CRT model to now has been able to have memory installed by the user and the Mac Pro too.

    Granted the new 21" iMac does not but with the new memory spec requiring soldered memory soon enough everyone else will be similar.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This itteration

    I like that term as in some situations it makes sence to have slotted components instead of soldered directly onto the motherboard and for a cost reason. If you have memory volatile price wise then you are locking yourself in earlier on the chip price from a production standpoint as apposed to adding at assembly time when even a month or two if a item is volatile price wise to that extent, becomes cheaper and safer approach.

    That may or may not be the case here, but it is something to be mindful of. That all said the standard of replacing screws and fixing with various types of glue is not as forthcomming as some might of expected and in all a cute little bit of kit. Certainly past models have boded well as cheap alternatives as mini servers in power limited situations.

  9. url
    Thumb Up

    I'm sure it was me that guffawed at:

    carmine

    pumpkin

    seafoam

    hollyhock

    etc

    stellar work.

  10. tempemeaty

    Abandonment, is a two way street

    I find Apples abandonment of optical drives a sad form over function thing. When it comes to software, the really expensive stuff I buy on CD/DVD. I've lost to many programs to hard drives failures to take it for granted like so many do. So if a company abandons the optical drive then I abandon them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Abandonment, is a two way street

      You can't afford a $25-$30 external optical drive?

      In my experience the optical drive is the first thing to fail in a computer, so the sooner they start shipping without them, the better. I have my external drive and if it breaks, I'll buy a new one. No big deal.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: Abandonment, is a two way street

        er, so the solution to possibly having something break and not be available is to definitely make it unavailable?

        It's not the cost that's the issue, its the ugly extra lump on my previously clear desk. It's no longer an all-in-one I can use to rip music from my CD's to my iphone.

    2. JaimieV
      WTF?

      Re: Abandonment, is a two way street

      "I've lost to many programs to hard drives failures"

      ... then you should probably investigate this recent innovation called "backups".

      1. tempemeaty

        Re: Abandonment, is a two way street

        Heh, the backup failed while transferring data back. I seriously thought I was covered. And people say bad things don't happen...

        1. JaimieV

          Re: Abandonment, is a two way street

          Ouch - not lucky, Tempemeaty! But sometimes you make your own luck...

          I keep my (hourly) backups on a NAS. Which gets cloned (daily) to another NAS. And the important stuff gets Crashplan.com'ed off to a relative's nearby house over t'Internet. I've not lost any data for about 15 years despite losing half a dozen disks in that time, mostly solitary rather than in resilient RAID sets.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have to say it...

    ... not a bad price for the entry level version, considering the specs.

    If anyone can point out alternative products with the same spec at a lower price, that would be great.

    After 10 minutes of searching, I can't find anything comparable with such a small and attractive form factor.

    Yep, not much of search, but there ya go.

    Tempting.

    1. Cody

      Re: Have to say it...

      "After 10 minutes of searching, I can't find anything comparable with such a small and attractive form factor."

      Yes, agreed. You can put something very nice together using a silverstone small itx case, maybe gigabyte board, but its going to be huge by comparison with a large fan in front. And its not going to be a lot cheaper by the time you get it loaded up with memory and hard drive. The only problem with the mini is OSX, but given a bit of trouble you can jailbreak it. If they would just sell the thing with a barebones discount it would be very attractive. Its really nice that you can still open it up. They are probably right to take out the optical drive from it, having a dedicated one makes less and less sense nowadays when you can have one portable usb powered one for when you really need it.

      Buy one now, before Apple realises what good value it is!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have to say it...

        You hardly need to "jailbreak" a Mac to run Windows on it. It can be done very easily with Bootcamp.

        1. Cody

          Re: Have to say it...

          You need to jump through some hoops to put Linux or BSD on it. Have to get Bootcamp off. But it can be done.

          1. Archibald Trumpetbeetle

            Re: Have to say it...

            Refit --->

          2. JaimieV

            Re: Have to say it...

            "You need to jump through some hoops to put Linux or BSD on it."

            Er... not really. Run BootCamp Assistant, or Install rEFIt, then reboot and install OS of choice.

            "Have to get Bootcamp off."

            This ... isn't even wrong.

            BootCamp Assistant arranges space for a non-OSX partition and adds faked up MBR for the Windows/other boot process to read. It also downloads Windows drivers. There's no Bootcamp to take off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have to say it...

        I'd leave OSX on it - and a very capable OS it is too.

        It would make a good replacement for my downstairs rig - currently dual booting ubuntu and mac - but taking up too much space, as it's a large cooler master case.

        If I had a spare £400 that is !

      3. Dana W
        Meh

        Re: Have to say it...

        Jailbreak? An OSX Mini? Seriously? Where did you get the idea you needed to? They make it absurdly easy to run Redmond's latest excrement, and Linux just takes a freeware third party bootloader. I've done it.

        One of the Mac advantages is easily running any OS you want.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Have to say it...

          Upvoted for injecting rationality into the discussion.

          If I was allowed two upvotes, you'd get another for "Redmond's latest excrement"

    2. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: Have to say it...

      > I can't find anything comparable with such a small and attractive form factor.

      It will cease to be small or attractive the moment you need to hook it to something else in order to overcome it's "smallness and attractiveness". Plus it will become a doorstop when tech moves on and there are things you can't upgrade or repair on it.

      "Pretty" and unmaintable with a disk replacement procedure straight from the Atari ST era.

  12. Cody

    Mini and ASRock

    In fact the interesting thing about the Mini is what good value it is. If you check out ASRock offerings on Amazon - which one poster suggests as an alternative - you find they are more expensive for similar features. If you try assembling one yourself, you will save minimal amounts if any, and you will have trouble getting an i5 into that small a space with adequate cooling.

    Few may actually want an i5 based machine which they can carry around in a coat pocket. If you do want an i5, this is not the cheapest way to get one, so there is a real premium to be paid for the form factor. But it really does very strangely seem that if this is what you want, Apple is the cheapest place to get it.

    Interesting. Of course, they make you jump through hoops to get the idiotic software it comes with off it, and get something sensible like Fedora on to it. But there you go, from a point of view of value for hardware, its surprisingly good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mini and ASRock

      Idiotic software?

      I'm no fanboi - anything but in fact - however OSX is damn good.

      It's unix based, what's not to like?

      Stable, secure, plenty of software, native development environment for apache/php/mysql (I'm a web dev)

      Although I'm a Linux user too, I consider OSX far superior to any Linux desktop offerings for many tasks.

      Not all, but definately better for things like graphics manipulation, sound creation - the arty stuff.

      For me, windows = gaming, linux = development, macos = creativity

      So, yeah, I use them all and diss none of them - they all have their respective strengths.

      Any self-respecting geek knows and applauds that fact!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is news, why?

    My two or three year old mac mini has exactly the same twist off cover on the bottom.

    ...and, having an optical drive, it even plays DVDs and CDs too!

    Quiet news day at Vulture Towers?

  14. Richard Lloyd
    Stop

    Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

    I've always wondered exactly what a Mac Mini's target market was. Apple now say it's the only server offering they have, but it's not really up to snuff for that surely (e.g. RAID 5 anyone?). Does it work as a media centre server? Well, yes, that would seem an obvious use, but there are cheaper nettop boxes to do that (you don't need an i5 - you want GPU acceleration primarily plus lots of connectivity/disk space) such as the Acer Revo, Lenovo or Shuttle.

    So at its price point, I see it as small form factor desktop PC, but yet again, there are cheaper alternatives (including all-in-ones) at the Mac Mini's price point. I'm completely baffled why you'd buy this rather than a cheaper rival machine + replace its HDD for an SSD for faster boot/app performance + and buy a big NAS for media storage for the same price as just a Mac Mini!

    1. Dana W
      Meh

      Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

      Because you don't want plastic Sleeve bearing fans? Or how about the evergreen classic. I don't want Windows, especially Windows 8!

    2. Frank Bough
      Happy

      Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

      I use a Mac Mini as my home PC. It's basically a deconstructed iMac. Mine has been upgraded to 8GB of RAM and a 480GB SSD, I use a 9x12 wacom as input and it drives 2 HP monitors, A ZR22 and a ZR24. I suits me very nicely for the uses to which I put a home PC these days. I don't really get on with laptops, never have.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Colin Wilson 2

      Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

      You need to run Xcode (Apple's IDE) to develop software for iPhones & iPads. The Mac Mini is the cheapest computer that lets you do this.

      Write your killer app. Put it in the app store. Get your share of the $6 Billion that Apple have paid out to developers over the last 2 years. Profit!

      That's the theory anyway. YMMV

    5. martin burns
      Happy

      Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

      Enterprise class server? No.

      However, if your storage needs (scalability/robustness) are greater, then pair it with an external Drobo and it's lovely.

      And in that config (4TB or so capacity in mine, hot-expandable to 8TB), it makes a fantastic media centre server, either directly or as a backend to AppleTV (we have 2 AppleTVs plus a bunch of Airport Expresses).

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

      Why would I want GPU acceleration for a media centre **server** ? All the thing has to do is stream the files to other boxes that you use to view the videos.

      Or do you mean a HTPC?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Mac Mini - what's its main purpose?

        >Why would I want GPU acceleration for a media centre **server** ? All the thing has to do is stream the files to >other boxes that you use to view the videos.

        Some servers can transcode media files as they stream them... I don't know if this is something the GPU is called in to assist with?

        But yeah, my mate uses his Mac Mini as a HTPC, since it's nice and quiet. I was hoping that he would use it for his ongoing vinyl transcription project, since his FireWire soundcard just works with it and OSX's CoreAudio seems better behaved than Window's Sound Mapper (which keeps trying to displace ASIO, which in any case is limited to a few channels). Alas, he's a masochist and is attached to piece of software on his XP PC, and the differences in the OSX version confuse him. He's also a sadist, since it's me who gets called in to to troubleshoot problems...

  15. Dave Robinson
    FAIL

    Standardisation Please

    If you're going to resort to describing colours for the hard of hearing or whatever, you could at least use the universally accepted X11 colours...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X11_color_names

    Your mauve looks more like "hotpink" to me, and teal is definitely nearer "turquoise. Or, of course, you could use the RGB values, which would be clearly understood by at least 90% of the Reg readership.

  16. Volker Hett

    "The only problem with the mini is OSX, but given a bit of trouble you can jailbreak it."

    Something esoteric and hard to grasp like "sudo -i"?

  17. realistic_01
    Facepalm

    Don't you mean tighter than Obama's school records and passport application?

    Really? Political commentary in an Apple computer story? No wonder I read this site less and less.

  18. Interceptor
    Mushroom

    I'd love to smash it flat with a hammer but it looks like Apple's design folks are already there.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear...

    It's not an 'A'elta, it's a 'D'elta, and my guess is it's a DC motor controller. For a fan, f'rinctance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Oh dear...

      I'm all for freedom of speech...but which idiot downvoted me for this LOL

      1. mad physicist Fiona

        Re: Oh dear...

        I've just given you another one. If you'd read the comments you'd have seen someone had found the exact device around an hour after this went up. It's an ethernet transformer. You don't get a thumbs up for going to the Delta website and plumping for the first thing mentioned on the front page with a "that's close enough" attitude.

  20. CR

    prying tool

    is that 7/40$ tool actually a 1mm diameter steel wire, double bent? maybe some special sort of steel, not as that in an ordinary paper clip?

  21. Benchops

    It's so an error message can appear saying

    "I've just picked up a fault in the AELTA 8904C-F unit. It's going to go 100% failure within 72 hours."

  22. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Won't diss OSX too heavily

    Sorry, but although I won't diss OSX too heavily. But.... 1) It's kind of function over form. I just don't like the appearance of almost every aspect of it, and people are allowed to not like the same things you do. I'm thinking Cody doesn't either. 2) It's not UNIX-based, it's a BSD-Mach hybrid, which actually has pretty strong performance consequences.

    Apple's no monopolist (unlike Microsoft) so I'm not going to be all "Oh, Apple should be required to ship a blank system". Unlike the PC market, where... all I can say is I'm glad the State of Iowa kept their lawsuit against Microsoft up so I could get a $200 check from them for forced bundling and price fixing!

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