contemplatiing a 'not so mini Mac mini'

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by absynth, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. absynth, Apr 17, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017

    absynth macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    #1
    The latest (and first mac mini rumor in ages...) got me thinking about the mac mini's current design.

    For some reason, Apple seems unwilling to update it with powerful hardware in spite of the availability of low TDP options form Intel. The i7-7700T is a 4/8 core/thread processor with 2.9/3.8 GHz base/turbo and a TDP of 35W that would fit the Mac mini. So what's stopping Apple? Is the current design too thermally limited even for 35W processors?

    Then there is the aspect of silicon development / advancement. For the last 10 years Intel made its most aggressive advancements in processor performance around the 10-25W range. They tuned their process nodes to perform optimally around this TDP. This enabled Apple to have its cake and eat it too: they could downsize their chips from say 45W to 35W or in case of the macBook, from 15-17W to 4.5W and maintain the same or even slightly better (single threaded) performance. But once optimised for a certain range you can't get much more out of it.
    Same goes for IPC performance and clock frequencies, which havent gone up much the last 5 years either.

    For laptops, your options beyond CPU advancements are limited. You cannot increase the TDP headroom without making the device any thicker and heavier. And a larger TDP would need a larger battery. But for a desktop, what does it matter if the mac mini is 3cms tall, or 6cm? Nothing at all, yet it would more than double the thermal headroom and increase your flexibility what to do in that space.

    So what if, alongside the Mac Pro, Apple came to the same conclusion regarding the Mac mini? That it boxed itself into a thermal corner?

    What if they doubled the height of the Mac mini?

    I've done enough SFF builds to know you can run a 35W processor completely passive in such a double height enclosure by making use of natural convection. You could run that i7-7700T in a completely silent, and still very small enclosure.

    But, you'd also have the option to put active cooling into such a device, and make it suitable for 65W CPU's like the regular i7-7700.

    This way you could offer consumers a choice: either a completely silent, somewhat less powerful computer, or one that is a 'tiny beast'.

    They would remove their own self-imposed constraints that literally make no sense on a desktop computer, offer way more performance, choice and all this in still a very sexy slim body.

    Arguably, I would prefer it to be a bit more boxy as it's current dimensions are weird to me, like a pancake computer... Mac-Mini-3.jpg Your thoughts?

    PS: this post is made on the premise that Apple would stop their current practice of forcing both entry consumers on a limited budget, or professionals to either their iMac or laptop offerings. This post is made on the assumption that Apple realises they need to actually have every product line serve the need for what it was intended for, in the best possible way.

    I kindly request people that think: "this would eat into iMac sales", to take their salt somewhere else.
     
  2. sorcery macrumors regular

    sorcery

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  3. DaakuMaujii macrumors member

    DaakuMaujii

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2015
    #3
    Love the idea of a slightly taller Mac Mini if the additional cooling capacity allows for a much more powerful system, especially with regard to gaming. And it certainly is possible! Personally, I'm waiting for the Zotac EN1070K to be officially released; it's like a Mac Mini with a 7500T CPU and a GTX1070 graphics (laptop version, but almost as powerful as the desktop version), but no MacOS. The previous iteration of the system, the EN1070 with 6400T instead of 7500T cpu, has been reviewed to run hot but quiet. It's proof of what custom SFF system can achieve! I'm confident that Apple's engineers are capable of designing a system on par if not better than the EN1070K, especially if they can integrate the power supply into the system. The clock is ticking Apple, I'm not holding my breath much longer...
     
  4. absynth thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    #4
    The HP Elite Slice is another example of what the current Mac mini could already be. It uses the previous gen Core i7-6700T which is a 35W 4c/8t 2.8/3.6 GHz little beast. With great modular options to go alongside it.

    I dont expect Apple to go the modular route but it shows what can already be done in its current form factor, let alone if they'd enlarge the thing a bit.
     
  5. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

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    Jul 27, 2011
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    Lucky Country
    #5
    I agree with all of the above - unless it's all soldered! If that's the case, they can shove it!
     
  6. treekram macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2015
    Location:
    Honolulu HI
    #6
    I disagree with the basic premise of the OP. Intel has faster mobile CPU's at 45W TDP, which is same as the 2012 quad-core Mini's. I don't think the power supply design changed in 2014 Mini and if it did, they could bring back the 2012 power supply. So you wouldn't need a bigger case for a quad-core just below 3.0 Ghz. If you want to use a 65W or 91W CPU, there would need to be a re-design - would it require a bigger case even if you moved the power supply to an external brick? That, I don't know.

    I think the bigger issue is the GPU. Maybe the "modular" design for the next Mac Pro will be able to be used with a possible future Mini. If the next Mini uses Kaby Lake, with the processors they have right now, the best iGPU available with a quad-core hyper-threading processor is the HD630, and this is both for the desktop and mobile processors. At one of the benchmarking sites, the Iris Pro 580 is 80% faster than the HD630 and the Iris 5100, the iGPU in the mid-level 2014 Mini, is only 11% slower than the HD 630. So the options open to Apple is 1) use Skylake, which has more iGPU options, but if a new Mini comes out late this year, it will be 2 generations behind Coffee Lake, which is supposed to be introduced later this year; 2) use Kaby Lake, but don't have a quad-core since there are higher-end iGPU options with the dual-core Kaby Lake's or 3) Put a dGPU in the Mini or 4) Go the modular route. I think Apple would most likely forego the quad-core and use a dual-core Kaby Lake with Iris 640 or 650.
     
  7. twalk macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2009
    #7
    1) Neither the Mini nor the Pro make enough money for Apple to justify spending scarce development resources on them. Unfortunately for Apple, not making them kind of "breaks" the Mac ecosystem
    2) Get rid of mobile processors, custom board design, custom cases, everything custom. For this kind of stuff, go completely industry standard to save lots of money (not to mention development resources because you now outsource the whole thing)
    3) Sell new ones only on Apple's website and stores for more profit margin
    4) Kill both the current Mini and Pro lines. Replace them with a new line that's low/mid/high of:
    a) Mini-STX with T series processors (going all the way down to the Pentium)
    b) Mini-ITX with S series processors
    c) ATX Xeon, single cpu only

    Yes, they are not necessarily in the "Apple style", but they fill the niches, have a really high profit margin, and give customers what they need
     
  8. sublunar macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    #8
    It's mentioned by others that the sticking point here will be GPU, especially since the HD630 graphics alone seems to be not enough for Apple who'd rather use Iris Graphics which is Intel's Premium solution. For this reason, Apple won't be using any desktop or mobile solution that comes with that.

    In the current lineup of Macs since the Macbook Pros got updated last October the only Mac that uses Iris Pro is the 4k iMac but while there's a Skylake desktop CPU with 65w TDP that comes with Iris Pro 580 graphics there's no indication that there will be a Kaby Lake version or even if Intel are developing it for Coffee Lake onwards. One big point is that Intel be adding logical cores instead because of the threat from AMD Ryzen.

    Apple in response didn't even offer any 15" Macbook Pro with just the Iris Pro GPU despite the fact that the Skylake part was available. They instead stuck an AMD RX 450 onto the base level Macbook Pro. When it comes to refresh time for the iMac 4k 21.5" models Apple have 2 logical choices going forward:

    a. Use Skylake part with Iris Pro 580 GPU in a 65w TDP, keep the same case design, add USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports.
    b. Do something radical with the 65w budget - adding an AMD RX 450 GPU plus a T-series Intel desktop CPU.
    c. Redesign the 21.5" iMac to take in some other combination of CPU and GPU.

    Choice 1 is most likely in my opinion. Apple only use the Iris Pro 6200 Intel parts in the 21.5" iMac so assuming they are keeping the model ticking over until a revolutionary redesign next year then the Skylake Iris Pro 580 parts seem logical.

    Back to the Mini though:

    The stated reason for not developing a quad core Mini was the different socket (and therefore development budget) between the dual core and quad more models after the 2012 Ivy Bridge model. This conveniently removes possible cannibalising of the iMac but we can let that pass.

    The existing Mac Mini case that's been around since 2012 is designed for a 45w TDP CPU. Apple prefer Iris Graphics for better performance because 4k and 5k screens are around these days. Apple are interested in the dual core 28w parts with Iris Graphics. One extra note is that the 15w parts come with Iris Graphics too and the 2014 Haswell Mini is so old that I bet that benchmarks from a 15w Kaby Lake with Iris Graphics would give the old 28w Haswell parts a run for their money.

    If Apple are saving money, especially before next year, they'd just put 15w parts into the Mac Mini and add USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. They'll do it at the same time as the Macbook refresh later this year too.

    The main reason for this is because I am expecting a modular Mac Pro to come in base form with integrated graphics for Quicksync. This should make a Pro a more affordable option for the people who would want a top spec Mini otherwise.
     
  9. ribbonthecat macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 23, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #9
    Build a new cube with the aluminum and black industrial design. Make everything inside accessible, with multiple drive bays. Build a series of screens on articulated arms that plug into the new Mac, like the G4 iMac.
     
  10. Donewithit macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    #10
    @absynth, I would have bought your Mac mini in a heartbeat. I believe that I will be buying a PC with similar specs in a few weeks to replace my Mac mini. I had a 2009 Mac mini at the office that was used mostly for productivity apps. It ran dual Apple 23" Cinema Displays 24/7 for 7 years like a champ. Unfortunately, I snapped the bluetooth antenna while replacing the fan last year. I could still use bluetooth devices, but it became wonky, and the USB bluetooth adapters were never as robust as the internal, especially at the cost of a USB port. The monitors were also showing their ages (11 and 12 years). So, I decided that maybe it was time for a replacement.

    To replace the monitors, I bought a 34" ultrawide LG. I toyed with the idea of dual 4k displays, but I like the monitor being centered in my field of vision with no bezel breaks. I find that I am extremely productive when I have three full sized documents on screen.

    Then I had to make a choice of which Mac to buy. There is nothing in Apple's current desktop lineup that I feel offers good value. With the 34" monitor, I was not going to buy an iMac. Even without the 34" monitor, I would not buy the iMac, because I don't like losing a perfectly good screen when updating the other components. My old monitors started with a G5 Power Mac, then they were on a 2006 Mac Pro, and then the Mac mini. For my current day to day use, a Mac Pro would be overkill, and the current Mac Pro is not a machine that I would even consider buying in 2017 for it's specs and price. I don't like using laptops for desktop use when they will be docked at the monitor in clamshell mode 99.9% of the time. Begrudgingly, I bought a 2014 Mac mini to replace the 2009, and it is the straw that has broken the camel's back. Even though I got a pretty good deal (15% off the 2.8 GHz i5 model). I find it appalling that Apple finds selling a 4308U CPU in a 2017 desktop acceptable. I will grant you that it is much faster than the 2009 Mac mini's core 2 duo, but in 2017, what isn't.

    It is also extremely frustrating that the 2014 Mac mini thinks the 34" ultrawide monitor is a television. It is ridiculous that I have to disable SIP and run third party ruby scripts to configure a Mac into a proper color space with proper subpixel rendering to make fonts readable. I could maybe understand this consumer hostile setting if Mac minis were only ever used for home theaters or if Apple sold monitors, but we know how that went. Good luck ever getting a Mac mini that will be able to drive the 8k display on the roadmap for two years from now. The current Mac mini can't even drive 4k at a usable refresh rate. That is a solved problem Apple. Update your kit.

    Thankfully, Apple weaned me off of iWork in 2012. I went first to LibreOffice, but I have been testing Office 365 to get editing access on phones and iPads. Since I am no longer tied to iWork, that opens up a choice of OS. I have been experimenting with various software replacements for my other software, and the only software that I find is better on Windows is Office. Everything else will be a downgrade. I will miss iaWriter, Ulysses, Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander, BB Edit, and especially nvAlt. I will not miss Preview or iWork, both of which used to be great and now just grate my nerves daily. There is no comparison between third party software on the Mac and what's available on Windows or linux. I have yet to find a single piece of software on Windows or linux that i felt was as polished design-wise as what I expect from software on the Mac. I know that there are very capable programs for Windows and linux, but I have not found many well designed ones.

    I hate that it has come to this, but unless Apple pulls a new Mac mini from their not innovating on Mac desktop hardware asses within the next few weeks, I will be switching to an HP Elitedesk 800 G3 for my desktop. Its physical dimensions are not far from the Mac mini, but its power brick is external. I do not care about that, because the power brick will go behind a desk on the floor just as it was for the 2009 Mac mini. I can get a 4 core/8 thread 2.9 GHz i7 7700T CPU, 16 GBs of RAM, 512 GB PCIe SSD, USB C 3.0, 3 displayports, and 6 USB A 3.0 ports. I would immediately buy these specs in a Mac, but I doubt that is ever going to happen. I would pay Apple $200.00 to run Mac OS on that machine in a heartbeat, but that also is not going to happen. I am not going to build a hackintosh or rely on one to run my business.

    I fear that Apple truly believes that the desktops that they offer are good enough for what they perceive is desktop use. I think their desire to control the whole system has worked against the Mac mini and Mac Pro from the start. If an iMac works for you, then you are in great shape. If not, then better start looking elsewhere. The fact that it will take Apple at least a year from now to update the 2013 Mac Pro is mind boggling. I doubt the Mac mini will be updated any sooner. Stagnation is not innovation, and complacency does not bode well in this business. The Mac mini and Mac Pro have suffered from both.

    I don't think the Mac is doomed, but I would prefer to purchase computer hardware from a company that offers value, useful innovation, and different models to suit different needs. I do not feel that Apple offers any of that right now, and I need a desktop now-not maybe next year. I have been using Macs since 1985, and it pains me to have to make this choice.

    I did not expect this post to run this long. Apparently I had something that I needed to get off my chest, and now I'm done with it.
     
  11. absynth thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    #11
    Sad to hear you feel the need to leave the Mac platform.

    I'm thinking a speed bump might be in the works this year, with a redesign - if it's going to come - to align with the Mac Pro and its new screens somewhere late next year.

    That Elitedesk 800 looks really nice and it's amazing they are able to fit a powerful 65W Quad in such a small envelope. The Mac mini is truely a disgrace compared to this PC, or the HP Elite Slice.

    I dont think Apple would ever go for Ryzen with the Mac pro or even the iMac, but the Ryzen APU with powerful integrated VEGA graphics would be a perfect match for the Mac mini.
     
  12. hvfsl macrumors 68000

    hvfsl

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    London, UK
    #12
    I guess Ryzen could be possible as Apple is meant to have been testing the latest AMD cpus. But I doubt we will see more than 4 core versions as the 6 core version could end up being faster than the lowend MacPro.

    Most likely they will just include a i7 in there and mobile AMD GPU. I was personally set to build a hackintosh this summer (probably based on a Xeon), but I will probably hold off and wait to see what Apple come up with in the new mini before deciding. If they release one which has a decent cpu (needs to be a desktop cpu really), then I would probably get one instead and then get an external GPU.
     

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