Mac mini mod suggestions...

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by danrel, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. danrel macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #1
    Hi everybody,

    I'm starting on a Mac mini modding project, and while I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm going to put in it(to an extent), I'd definitely appreciate some ideas of what else might be good to include.

    I'm going to make the case out of perforated, bent aluminum, like that of the mac pro. The case itself will roughly be about two and a half times the size of the normal mini case and in a rectangular prism shape.

    I intend to include:

    - liquid cooling for the CPU
    - 3.5" 10000RPM HDD(not sure which brand to go with yet)
    - 4GB of memory
    - multiple 120mm high CFM, low dBA case fans
    - proper GPU heat sink with devoted fan
    - ...possibly a Matrox DualHead2Go digital edition to be able to run dual displays


    I may end up upgrading the CPU if it starts to feel sluggish. Right now it's running the stock 1.83GHz C2D CPU with new Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste applied.

    Other than that I'm very open to suggestions.


    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2006
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #2
    You'll need a new processor and motherboard if you want to use 4GB of RAM, so why not just buy a PC?
     
  3. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #3
    Intel Mac minis(unofficially) support and recognize up to 3GB of memory.

    I'm actually running 4GB of memory in it right now. Only 3GBs are recognized, but it's faster than using a 1GB + 2GB stick array. Using the 2, 2GB chips is faster due to the memory being dual channel memory and being two sticks of the same capacity.

    So, you are correct that I'd need a new motherboard to actually utilize all 4GBs of memory. But I only said that I was using 4GBs, not that all would be used by the system. I had 2, 2GB chips lying around and decided to put them in. The speed boost is actually very noticeable.

    -danrel
     
  4. Tallest Skil macrumors P6

    Tallest Skil

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2006
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #4
    All right, then. Will you be going with something similar to the design of the "Mac Mini Pro" mod from way back when?
     
  5. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #5
    Not so much like the 'Mac mini Pro'(I think the casing was made of plastic). I feel that the Mac mini Pro was more about aesthetics rather than actual functionality, proper thermal management, etc. I intend to stretch this mini to it's limits, see what can really be done with that tiny motherboard.

    In all honesty, I used to buy the most expensive, fastest, Mac laptops/desktops available, but I never really seemed to push them to their limits. It just seemed like wasted money to me so I got rid of them and got some lower-spec'd Macs. Now I would like to mod them out and see how fast I can possibly make Apples lowest-end Mac.
     
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #6
    Why?

    How do you propose doing this?

    Have you found a better processor somewhere? You understand the bus speed limitation on the Mini? How are you going to deal with its weird power requirements?
     
  7. VoR macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    I think it would be more fun and require little outlay to drop the mini motherboard and start your 'new mini' with a different (mini itx?) one. You could squeeze two boards in a case that size!
     
  8. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #8
    Well for one: electronic equipment lasts longer the less it's exposed to extreme temperatures(the same reasoning for all of the aforementioned case fans) and I'd like to keep this mini mod as long as possible; and two: if money doesn't allow and I'm not able to buy a CPU upgrade, then maybe I'll try overclocking the stock CPU.

    ...By hooking a DVI to VGA cable from the mini to the Matrox DualHead2Go and then hooking two 20" cinema displays to the other side of the box(the cable going to the full sized DVI port would be internal, to an extent, which is where the Matrox DualHead2Go would be.) See for yourself: http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/products/gxm/dh2go/

    Yes I understand that the CPU can be quite the bottleneck in the system due to the FSB, etc. There are other CPUs of the same socket/FSB as the current stock mini CPUs. Many people have upgraded their minis to 2.16GHz C2Ds as well as 2.33GHz C2Ds(not to mention that Apples 'top of the line' mini has a 2.0GHz C2D, which is faster than my stock CPU...). They all have the same socket and FSB. They can be a bit pricey and hard to find though, which is why I might have to opt for the stock CPU overclocking route, if possible.

    There are some power supplies that can be 'hacked' to work in the mini, with a little re-wiring, I'd think. I'm still currently in the planning process, so anything could happen.

    I had initially thought about using an aluminum pre-made PC case, like this for example: http://www.virtual-hideout.net/reviews/lianli_pc800/images/v800image0.jpg

    It has all of the space that I need and then some. But, there is something that I just love about forging the shape of the case itself from raw material with my own hands. I really enjoy building misc. items from scratch(with an anal-retentive touch, of course) and since I have access to most of the equipment to do so, I might as well.

    I'll post pictures as things progress.
     
  9. VoR macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2008
    Location:
    UK
    #9
    My board switching comment was just about being able to use the latest and greatest parts (a custom system I mean, not just the case), nothing to do with buying a premade enclosure (lots of nice ones about though) - If you've got the tools and knowledge to make your own case like you said, I could imagine that being great fun!

    Look forward to seeing the pictures whatever you do :)
     
  10. jzuena macrumors 6502a

    jzuena

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2007
    Location:
    Lexington, MA, USA
    #10
    I would probably start with the CPU. 1.83 GHz isn't even the top speed officially offered by Apple. I swapped out a 1.66 GHz Core Duo for a 1.83 GHz C2D because the 2.0 was hard to get when I was ready to upgrade (which was the day after Leopard came out and I wanted a 64 bit CPU) and the next higher speed would have cost more than what I originally paid for the Mini. That particular line of C2D CPUs go even higher than 2.0 GHz, so you could push even higher (especially if you are going water cooled and/or a larger case with a good heatsink.

    Then maybe shape it like the fabled xMac mini tower :eek:
     
  11. ADent macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2007
    #11
    Don't forget a full size/full speed optical drive.

    I did the Centis 610 mod and have a 1TB 3.5" SATA drive, full size DVD-RW, and upgraded to the 4GB or RAM.

    Why DualHead2Go? Just get a 24" monitor - you can't show any more pixels than with a 24" monitor (well besides those slow USB video adapters).
     
  12. TrapOx macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Location:
    Denver
    #12
    Yeah, that 1.83 ghz cpu really runs hot! :rolleyes:
    Air cooling will keep that slow CPU just as cool.

    Unless you intend on building your own chipset, thats not possible.

    Which makes liquid cooling kind of pointless.

    Better keep that blazing fast Intel GMA950 cool!

    Buy a computer worth doing all that to.
     
  13. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #13
    I may upgrade the CPU, if I can find a decent deal on one...If not, I may have to go the 'overclocking' route, if that's even possible on an Intel mini...

    I think I'd rather go with a little older styling than the fabled xMac. I was thinking of using some pictures of older Braun appliances as a reference point(John Ives is a big fan of old Braun design, which is where the designs for the Mac Pro, PowerMac G5 and MacBook Pro come from...)

    http://www.radiosanciennes.com/images/braun-b.jpg

    ***Not necessarily as old-fashioned as the pic in the link above, but I would like to take some design elements from it.

    I was thinking about upgrading to the optical drive to a full sized one, but I may just leave the stock optical in, due to size restraints and I never really burn DVDs anyway...I already have a full 4GB of memory in the min i currently. I was thinking of going with a lower capacity, higher speed HDD for the internal drive. I don't need that much internal space as I have a nice G-Tech external drive that has all of the space that I need

    I wanted to go with the DualHead2Go(digital edition) because it'll allow me to run two 20" Cinema Displays with no problem. I cannot use the analog version, but their site specifically states that I could use up to two 1920x1200 resolution displays on the Mac mini with the digital edition. Although I've heard that you cannot run two of those without sacrificing some image quality. But that only pertains to WUXGA diaplays, which the 20 inchers are not. It should be able to run two 20's just fine.
     
  14. ADent macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2007
    #14
    Where does it say that? This site ( http://www.matrox.com/graphics/en/support/compatibility/gxm/ ) says 2x1024x768 (15" LCD) is the max for an intel mini.
     
  15. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #15
    Erm.....It's looks as though I've misread. My apologies ADent. Well, scratch the DualHead idea...

    ADent, do you know of any external graphics cards? Similar to this one but sans the $900 price tag for the case and the card? I might be able to hack something like this to work...

    Thanks,

    -danrel
     
  16. Mactagonist macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    Location:
    NYC - Manhattan
    #16
    You could save some space and go with the 2.5" Velociraptor 10k HDD rather then a 3.5.
     
  17. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #17
    I looked for those, but the only ones that I found were server-grade(size) HDD, even thought they were 2.5" HDD... I guess the height in mm is no problem since I had planned on using 3.5" HDD's anyways... The only problem that I've seen pertaining to these drives is that I've heard that the connection is somewhat different that the usual SATA connection that the mini uses.

    Other than what is mentioned above, I can't help but to be a skeptical of the life expectancy of the 2.5" drives. I always associate smaller HDD's with lower quality, regardless of the brand, which WD doesn't do too well in...(quality-wise. My personal experience)

    Still, those 2.5" Raptors are pretty tempting though... choices choices...


    Thank you for your suggestion BryanHarig!

    I appreciate every suggestion.

    Take care,

    - danrel
     
  18. StealthRider macrumors 65816

    StealthRider

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2002
    Location:
    Yokosuka, Japan
    #18
    The Velociraptors aren't at all meant for SFF desktops - there's a reason that they ship in 3.5" factory heatsinks. The mini doesn't have the cooling required to deal with the heat.
     
  19. danrel thread starter macrumors member

    danrel

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #19
    I know that the stock mini case isn't meant for the heat produced by Raptors, but I intend on building a custom mini case(about 1/4 of the way there, currently) out of aluminum that is approx 2.5 times the size of the stock mini case. I also intend to use liquid cooling as well as four 120mm low dBA, high CFM fans... that coupled with some custom heat sinks should do all of the cooling that a Raptor would require. I've seen the 3.5(2.5) Raptors with the 3.5" heatsink 'cradle' but that seems a little much with the thermal setup that I had in mind...
     

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