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Honey, I shrunk the Mac: Enthusiast makes the Mac mini more mini

Honey, I shrunk the Mac: Enthusiast makes the Mac mini more mini

 March 4, 2022 at 6:25 am   |     Author:   |     Technology  

mac mini mod on top of the original mac miin
Enlarge / Mac Mini mod on top of the original Mac Mini.

At 7.7×7.7×1.4 inches, the Mac mini is a tiny desktop. When the form factor debuted in 2010, it was pretty impressive. But 12 years later, with mini PCs like the Intel NUC measuring 4.6×4.4×1.5 inches, the Mac mini doesn’t feel all that mini anymore.

As it turns out, the PC is packing some extra baggage, and by getting rid of some of those parts—like an overly powerful internal power supply unit (PSU)—an enthusiast has been able to rebuild the system with a 28 percent reduction in volume while allegedly keeping the same performance as the original machine.

YouTube channel Snazzy Labs shared its miniature Mac mini mod in a video called “We made the Mac mini ACTUALLY mini!” on Tuesday. The idea stemmed from the M1-based Mac mini’s reliance on a dated design built around more power-hungry Intel chips. Part of that design included a large fan. Snazzy Labs removed the blower fan, certain that a fanless Mac mini would work because of the M1’s performance in the fanless Macbook Air laptop.

Getting rid of this fan allowed for a smaller footprint.
Enlarge / Getting rid of this fan allowed for a smaller footprint.

The current Mac mini also uses an excessive 150 W internal PSU. Snazzy Labs found that the computer maxes out at just 67.5 W, even with all ports pushed to their limits. Before moving to Apple’s M1 silicon, the company offered the Mac mini with an Intel Core i7 chip with a 70 W TDP.

150 W power supply.
Enlarge / 150 W power supply.

Snazzy Labs rebuilt the Mac mini to use an external power brick, enabling an even greater reduction of the chassis’ footprint. The new power supply is really a 65 W Microsoft Surface power adapter combined with an Apple MagSafe 2 board from a 2015 MacBook Pro. The board can support up to 87 W and ends in a MagSafe 2 connector.

External power supply.
Enlarge / External power supply.

Snazzy Labs noted that it couldn’t use an official Apple adapter because it “establish[es] a fairly elaborate handshake with the actual MacBook before beginning to charge.” The enthusiast claimed the fix is “quite safe,” though, “because the Microsoft Surface charger has smarts of its own.” If the pins short out, the charger will kick on its internal circuit protection, Snazzy Labs said.

Snazzy Labs also unscrewed the Mac mini’s three wireless antennas and used a soldering iron to take off the plastic-welded power button, followed by its ribbon cable. This let the PC ditch its wider I/O shield for a trimmer 3D-printed design.

Snazzy Labs said the mini Mac mini “benchmarks just as well as the original,” as long as it still employs its integrated heat spreader and heatsink. The small PC is also “dead-silent,” according to Snazzy Labs.

Snazzy Labs shared CAD files for the project online. If you’d rather watch someone else do the work, Snazzy Labs’ video is below:

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