Mac Mini 2009 upgrade guide

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  • nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    I can confirm that the Seagate Momentus 7200.3 works, also Hynix RAM. I am finding the performance of this upgraded Mini a lot better than I expected.



    I kind of did the upgrade for a bit of fun (not much $), all the time thinking I would probably need an iMac. But so far (admittedly only 30-odd hours) this is looking good enough to be my main desktop.



    7200rpm drive, 4GB RAM and Core2Duo ... plus 9400M, yeah, except for more serious gaming, it can be pretty powerful.



    Get a 24" screen to go with your Mac Mini. Screen prices are dropping real fast right now...?
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    Tomb Raider Underworld works on full quality - the 9400M has higher shader support than the X1600. The resolution does need to be set down to 800 x 600 again and I'd recommend medium quality textures but besides that, it's pretty much on full.



    Half-Life 2 episode 2 is the same. Full quality but 1024 x 768. It sits pretty comfortably around 30 fps. HL2 can be played in Crossover but you only get DirectX 8 hardware support and it looks much different from DX9 support in Bootcamp.



    I'd avoid Ubisoft games. They don't seem to run so well. I tried Double Agent and GRAW 2 and they don't perform well at all. They are well known for making games that require the highest spec hardware. Part of the problem here though was not being able to lower the settings enough.



    I noticed an odd thing in Bootcamp, the Nvidia drivers take up over 1GB of space. I was originally planning on having a 15GB partition but went with 20GB and I'd recommend that as the minimum. High end games can take as much as 4GB of space each, sometimes more. 2GB for Windows, 2GB for VM swap file, 1GB for drivers, 1GB for misc installed programs leaves 14GB tops, which allows you to get about 3 high end games on at a time.



    I currently have Tomb Raider Underworld, Burnout Paradise and HL2 EP2. These are the only games I wanted to play on the XBox so it's saved me buying the console. The 360 versions would look nicer and be less hassle - I've already encountered a few game crashes and random errors - but I'm not really into gaming these days and it's good to be able to play the odd game here and there.
  • japtorjaptor Posts: 3member
    Are you using the boot camp Nvidia drivers or are there newer ones available? I remember one update on the desktop side that gave big performance boosts for some games ("Up to 80% performance increase in Lost Planet: Colonies") but I don't know if their laptop drivers have had any similar improvements.



    And if you don't mind downloading/playing demos, can you try out the Devil May Cry 4 one? It uses a newer version of Capcom's engine (MT Framework) and was supposedly a better port.
  • dhcdhc Posts: 1member
    Registered just to say Thanks! this is the guide I've been looking for...



    Wish me luck!
  • oldcodger73oldcodger73 Posts: 707member
    Marvin, thanks for a very interesting thread.



    You've done a good job of detailing how the mini performs as a game machine, but what are your thoughts as to how it might function using CS4? Will it be able to handle medium to heavy duty tasks?



    You've mentioned a heat problem. Do you think it's caused by overworking the processor or the 7200rpm HD or the 4GB RAM or ... ?
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by japtor View Post


    Are you using the boot camp Nvidia drivers or are there newer ones available? I remember one update on the desktop side that gave big performance boosts for some games ("Up to 80% performance increase in Lost Planet: Colonies") but I don't know if their laptop drivers have had any similar improvements.



    The drivers are the ones that came on the install disc. One game I tested said the drivers weren't the latest ones but Nvidia says to use the OEM drivers as there may be incompatibilities using their drivers.



    I doubt the performance will improve beyond what it's at because the chip only has 16 cores. There are inherent hardware limits to what it can do.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by japtor View Post


    And if you don't mind downloading/playing demos, can you try out the Devil May Cry 4 one? It uses a newer version of Capcom's engine (MT Framework) and was supposedly a better port.



    Sure, just downloaded it. I'll check it out.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OldCodger73


    You've done a good job of detailing how the mini performs as a game machine, but what are your thoughts as to how it might function using CS4? Will it be able to handle medium to heavy duty tasks?



    It performs very well indeed. I use a quad G5 at work with 4GB Ram and my Mini performs pretty much the same now when doing tasks that would push the memory and storage. For example, I can make a 10k (10,000 x 10,000) Photoshop image in seconds and it saves the 112MB file to disk in under 2 seconds (the 7200 rpm hard drive is over 60MB/s write - the original 5400 that came with it was about 45-50).



    The only thing that holds it back is the CPU but the good thing is that the drive and Ram don't choke up the machine, which are the main causes for the beachball. So for example, performing a liquify operation on the 10k image took a while to do but I switched it into the background and left PS with it's 1.5GB Ram usage and opened the 10k image up in Shake within seconds and not so much as a hiccup/beachball. Then I did a large radial blur on it in Shake at the same time, which pushed the CPUs right to maximum and I was able to switch out again and use Safari and Expose with barely a jitter.



    All the Mini needs is a Core 2 Quad CPU and Snow Leopard so it gets the GPU boost, possibly SSD and I firmly believe it will be the ultimate consumer desktop and I would hope there will be a Mini in 2010 with 32nm quad core chips and maybe a newer Nvidia chipset.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OldCodger73


    You've mentioned a heat problem. Do you think it's caused by overworking the processor or the 7200rpm HD or the 4GB RAM or ... ?



    It's entirely Apple's fault. They have setup the OS so that it doesn't turn the fans on right until the last minute so that for most use, you won't hear any noise at all.



    The 7200 rpm drive does generate a little more heat than the 5400 rpm but the issue is that Apple allows the CPU to run at up to 85 degrees before the fans kick in to full gear, which I think is kinda silly considering that the CPU has a maximum temp of 90.



    It may actually be ok to run the machine that hot - I'm not sure what the CPU at 85 did to the hard drive temp (generally it lags about 10-15 degrees below it) - but I personally prefer to be on the safe side and I've found a good setting using software called Fan Control, which allows you to ramp up the fans earlier and I set it at 50. This leaves my HDD at 40, which is well below the 55 degree guidance mark on the drive.



    This setting does mean that doing a CPU intensive session, the fan spins quite fast but I don't mind it at all. I'd rather it was a little noisy and cool than sitting at a high temperature and possibly damaging internal components. In average use like browsing, document editing, movie watching and even playing games, it's silent. The GPU doesn't seem to heat the machine up that much at all, it's the CPU. Mobile chips are able to run hotter though so as I say it may be ok to ramp the fans up later but I would recommend doing it earlier.



    It's clear that Apple don't expect you to use the Mini for high end work but it is very capable of doing so, it's just wise to cool it properly when you do.
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    Devil May Cry 4 runs very smoothly on high quality settings (there is super high quality too) but again using 800 x 600 is recommended. It seems like the 9400M is highly optimized for this resolution. Dropping from 1024 x 768 to 800 x 600 can jump as much as 20 fps.



    At this resolution, Devil May Cry sits between 30 and 50 fps. One issue though is that it doesn't correct the aspect ratio for a widescreen display properly, which other games manage to do so it slightly squashes things. You don't really notice so much during gameplay, more in the menus and cutscenes.



    You can set the resolution higher to a widescreen compatible size like 1280 x 720 and lower the quality to get similar frame rates but I like the high quality reflections. They may have corrected these issues in the final game as the vertical sync doesn't work right either - this is used to prevent tearing when you rotate your view.



    The demo is quite annoying as you only get 9 minutes of playing time, not a full level. Anyway, even in the street part, there are about 20 enemies in the street and the frame rate doesn't lag. Same when fighting and there are particle effects and things. It's very smooth.
  • hudson1hudson1 Posts: 800member
    Marvin, thanks for the tutorial which I just followed this evening. I installed 4GB of memory in my new mini and it makes a very noticeable speed difference over the stock 1 GB.
  • japtorjaptor Posts: 3member
    Cool, thanks for testing out DMC4. Considering I've been living with a Radeon 9600 in my old G5 and a GMA950 mini it'll be a nice improvement to say the least.



    Right now I play the free TrackMania and Trials 2. TrackMania runs pretty well in Crossover Games 7.2 (latest version) on my mini, so it should be pretty nice on the 9400m.



    On the other hand I can't get Trials 2 to run in Crossover. It uses DX9, so I used this trick (which gets DX9 somewhat working) to get past the hardware check, but it doesn't go anywhere after the launch/settings screen. I don't know if that's cause the GMA950 or Crossover yet though. It actually runs in VMware...runs like crap (3-5 fps I think), but it runs at least. Booted into Windows it's pretty damn smooth up until 1920x1200, it uses a lower quality setting on my computer though, missing most of the fancy lighting and effects.
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    I just tested out Bioshock and it runs it at maximum quality. I wasn't expecting that.



    It defaults to 1024x768 but as before, 800x600 just makes it smoother. Everything is up to full except the resolution and it looks great. This has to be one of the most visually impressive games I've seen and it looks like a very interesting game too. I can see why it gets around 9/10 on most review sites. I'll reserve my overall opinion until I complete it but so far, it looks like it could be one of the best games I've ever played.



    It has all sorts of fluid and fire effects but runs pretty smoothly all round. It's a minor thing but I don't feel disappointed any more when I see the "Nvidia, the way it's meant to be played" startup logo. Nvidia have done a great job with the 9400M chip.



    I also completed Tomb Raider Underworld and one thing to note is that performance can get a bit lower in the more complex levels (no less than 20fps though) but I actually had the texture quality at high - just make sure to turn off volumetric effects in the whole game. This doesn't disable the smoke or fog effects, I'm not sure what it disables but it improves performance quite a bit.



    I think I mentioned this elsewhere but Maya and After Effects hardware rendering are fully supported too and 3D modeling performance is about 1 million ploys per scene (over 5 fps) - this is similar to the X1600.
  • vineavinea Posts: 5,585member
    Thanks again for the walkthough. The drive enclosure was a good tip. Now I have a little external I can give my wife for her netbook. I contemplated sticking in her netbook but I'll upgrade hers to a WD 500GB Blue eventually.
  • spralesprale Posts: 10member
    This is where I dig having a GSX account. Apple's documentation is really good. I only work on MacBooks, PowerBooks, occasionally MacPro and G5s. I would imagine the Mini manuals are just as good.
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    I did some benchmarks to show the difference between the stock drive and the 7200 rpm Travelstar:



    OS 10.5.6, 2.0GHz



    4GB Crucial (Micron) Ram

    7200 Hitachi Travelstar

    (left)



    vs



    2GB Apple (Hynix) Ram

    5400 stock Hitachi

    (right)



    sequential uncached

    write 4k ----- 68MB/s --- 43MB/s

    write 256k --- 62MB/s --- 40MB/s

    read 4k ------ 23MB/s --- 13MB/s

    read 256k ---- 63MB/s --- 41MB/s



    random uncached

    write 4k ----- 0.94MB/s --- 0.92MB/s

    write 256k --- 31.3MB/s --- 19.6MB/s

    read 4k ------ 0.61MB/s ---- 0.41MB/s

    read 256k ---- 23.7MB/s ---- 16.6MB/s



    The Crucial/Micron Ram was between 5-10% slower in the memory tests though than the stock Apple/Hynix Ram.



    You can see the drive gets a pretty significant improvement in speed. In other sequential tests, I found the stock drive to be around 45-50MB/s so XBench may just have been a bit off. It's at least 25% faster from my tests. Perhaps others can test their stock drives or 7200 upgrades with XBench - do 3 runs, preferably from a clean boot and take an average.
  • bolinbolin Posts: 2member
    Thanks for this guide, made things a lot easier.



    Upgraded to 4gb with a Western Digital Scorpio Black, and it rocks, well happy
  • ringerajaringeraja Posts: 4member
    Also upgraded mini 2009 to 4 gb with Crucial & Scorpio Black 320 gb.

    Working like a charm.

    Thank's for the guide.
  • sequitursequitur Posts: 1,874member
    I'm a little confused, Marvin.



    quote: I also got a cheap Mac compatible 2.5" SATA enclosure from ebay for under £10:



    When you get all the parts, put the drive into the enclosure and plug it into your new machine.



    I thought I understood you to say (in another post) that a SATA enclosure doesn't plug into a Mini with out making extensive changes. Could you please clarify. Pardon my lack of tech knowledge. Thanx.
  • tacitustacitus Posts: 3member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    So I used the SMC Fan Control and set the fan speed up to 4000 rpm until it dropped to 40 degrees. This only took 5 minutes.

    [SNIP]

    I've installed Fan Control (not SMC Fan Control), which is automated and this will start to ramp up the fan around 45 degress automatically. It should jump to 4000 rpm around 70 degrees so hopefully it won't ever go that high again.



    Excellent guide. Do you have a link for Fan Control? The only one I can find is by Lobotomo and is specifically for MacBooks, not the new Mini.
  • benroethigbenroethig Posts: 2,782member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    To open the Mini up, you need the stupid putty knife method - the person who designed this case is a complete idiot. .



    I wouldn't say an idiot as much as trying to design a piece of art more than a computer. Unfortunately the checks and balances seem to be heavily weighed towards the design team.
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,650member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sequitur View Post


    I'm a little confused, Marvin.



    quote: I also got a cheap Mac compatible 2.5" SATA enclosure from ebay for under £10:



    When you get all the parts, put the drive into the enclosure and plug it into your new machine.



    I thought I understood you to say (in another post) that a SATA enclosure doesn't plug into a Mini with out making extensive changes. Could you please clarify. Pardon my lack of tech knowledge. Thanx.



    External enclosures are bridges to internal drives. The external ports on such enclosures are eSATA, Firewire or USB typically. The internal interfaces are either SATA or PATA/IDE. The enclosure I got had just USB 2 on the outside and SATA inside.



    The other post was about connecting using the eSATA external connection which isn't supported on the Mac so you can only use enclosures with Firewire or USB but with SATA connections on the inside.



    It has to be an enclosure with SATA inside as opposed to PATA for this process as the Mini internal drive is SATA and USB ones are the cheapest.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tacitus


    Do you have a link for Fan Control? The only one I can find is by Lobotomo and is specifically for MacBooks, not the new Mini.



    That's the version I'm using - it seems to be working ok. I would warn though that this software actually modifies the computer SMC control. This is why there are instructions for an SMC reset on the page.



    I have actually removed the software a couple of times and reset the SMC to see if it resets things correctly and I'm not entirely sure it does but it may be that the fan was just needing to be run at the same speed.



    I thought that Apple actually shut off the fan or ramped it down to a really low rpm during low end use. With this software installed, it doesn't happen - not that I'm complaining much as Apple allowed my CPU to get to 85 degrees without cooling it. I actually set my control down to 1200 rpm base speed to keep the fan noise down a bit.



    I don't mind it as I like my machine to be cool and sitting back from it sufficiently (2-3 feet), it is silent but if you sit closer than this and don't normally push the hardware much, I probably wouldn't install the software. If you have a 5400 rpm drive, it won't be so bad. My 7200 rpm drive adds to the noise a fair bit.



    I don't want to make it seem like my machine is noisy after installing Fan Control and the 7200 rpm drive as it's not particularly but Macs are generally dead silent up until you put your ear close to the back and mine is now audible from normal sitting distance. In a working environment you don't notice it but at home in a quiet room, you can hear the faint hum of the fan.



    One thing I would install is Temperature Monitor:



    http://www.bresink.de/osx/TemperatureMonitor.html



    and put your CPU and HDD in the menu. You can adjust fonts and tags. Then put the light version in your login items. You can tell if you will need fan software by monitoring the temps of the CPU and HDD. If your HDD is above 50 degrees and/or your CPU is above 75 degrees then I would say installing it is a good idea as mine idle around 40-45 each now on a 1200 rpm fan setting - 35-40 on the default 1500 rpm.



    An alternative to Fan Control is SMC Fan Control instead but it's a manual process and doesn't kick in when it gets too hot. I just stuck with Fan Control because it's all automated and ramps up the fans without me bothering.



    I've installed it on 2 Minis and I'm pretty happy with it.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenRoethig


    I wouldn't say an idiot as much as trying to design a piece of art more than a computer. Unfortunately the checks and balances seem to be heavily weighed towards the design team.



    Maybe but the screws would be on the bottom of the machine out of sight. I can understand on a laptop but a desktop covers these up and they can be embedded in the rubber base - they could even have put smaller ones inside the plastic rim at the edges of the base. If it didn't make the process as awkward as it does, I'd be ok with it. The motherboard is fixed to the base of the machine and opening it with putty knives actually bends parts of the base. I wouldn't say it's likely you could damage the board but it's just unnecessary to design it that way.
  • jackkornerjackkorner Posts: 5member
    I just know how to use software and was not aware about hardware.Thanks Marvin for this informative post.
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