or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › Mac Hardware › Current Mac Hardware › Mac Mini 2009 upgrade guide
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Mac Mini 2009 upgrade guide

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
I thought I would provide a few tips for upgrading the 2009 Mac Mini, which some guides don't cover fully. If you plan on upgrading yourself, doing any damage inside can void your warranty. There are actually no stickers inside that you have to break to change the RAM or HDD and I didn't find it to be all that bad. If you're not sure about it, pay an Apple Certified Tech to do the upgrade for you but then you won't save much money.

Apple's upgrade prices on the Mini are quite expensive so this can save you some money.

The base Mini is 2GHz Core 2 Duo for £499. The 4GB Ram upgrade costs £120 and a 250GB 5400rpm drive is £80. This takes us up to £699.

What I did was upgrade to 4GB Ram and a 250GB 7200rpm drive for £630 plus I can get £50 back, which I'll explain so overall £580

What you will need to do first of all is buy your upgrade parts. I opted for 4GB RAM (check Crucial for the right kind) and a 250GB 7200rpm Hitachi Travelstar hard drive (they are supposed to be quieter than Seagates and I can verify they are pretty quiet). I also got a cheap Mac compatible 2.5" SATA enclosure from ebay for under £10:

drive = £63
RAM = £56
drive enclosure = £10

total = £129

When you get all the parts, put the drive into the enclosure and plug it into your new machine, which you should have setup (don't setup Bootcamp yet though). Format the external drive as GUID partition map (important!) and HFS+ Extended Journaled with disk utility. Download Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) or SuperDuper - I used CCC - and clone your internal onto the external drive. It should take about 15-20 minutes.

Reboot the machine holding alt (the alt-key on the new keyboard works finally) and make sure you can boot from the external drive.

Now shutdown the computer and remove all peripherals and power leads. Touch some metal objects to discharge any static.

To open the Mini up, you need the stupid putty knife method - the person who designed this case is a complete idiot. The knives have to be extremely thin and you'll find that pulling one edge up makes it very difficult to use the knife on the other side. Some Minis are easier to open than others but it kind of seems like they've strengthened the metal this time round as I found it harder than the last generation. The top case also feels heavier.

Anyway, once you have it loose, lift the top cover straight up and off. You will see the following:



There are 3 antennas. In the Mac Mini Colo guide, it shows the antenna wires disconnected from the motherboard. You don't have to disconnect these and you actually can't until you flip the top over anyway.

It's actually easier to take the top of this one than the last model.

You take the airport chip off same as the last generation by squeezing the black plastic clips underneath it - hook it over the back of the machine out the way. This allows you to access the screw at the back. The screw locations are marked with a circle above and there are 4 you need to remove. The long one goes into the front right in case you forget where it came from.

There is an orange data cable at the back. I disconnected it from the back of the optical drive rather than the I/O board as it's easy to get your fingernail in and gently prize it off. Be careful not to squash it though when moving the top part that you remove.

Gently lift the top part directly upwards. When it's loose, tip it over in the direction indicated in the image. If you're facing the front, it tips over to your left. The two antennas still have wires attached - as I say, you don't have to remove these.

I should have taken a picture of this but you'll see the bottom part looks like this:



The RAM is easy to remove. You just push out the two silver clips one each side. One thing that I noticed here was that the base Mini only gives you a single 1GB module. This probably reduces the performance of the graphics as it's not matched memory. Slotting the RAM in should be fairly trivial if you've replaced RAM before. Just make sure it snaps firmly into place. If you think you are straining it too much, try pulling the sliver levers to get the modules in.

That's the RAM upgrade done.

The hard drive is actually pretty easy to replace too. It's underneath the following block and you will see it clearly when this is upside down:



It's held in by 4 screws. There is a wire glued and taped to it. Don't worry about this as you can put it back onto your new drive easily.

The wire has a tiny chip glued to the front of the drive. You can ease this off with a small flathead screwdriver. Try to leave some glue on it so you don't have to tape it. Remove the tape too and push the wire out the way.

Take out the 4 screws and the drive will slide right out. It's not tight.

Take the drive out of your enclosure and put it in. There are no drive jumpers to worry about. Screw the drive in place and tape the wire back down. If the chip still has enough glue, it should stick back on quite firmly. If not, just add a little piece of tape over it. I think it's just a heat or vibration sensor.

There are also 2 sticky pads on the other side of the drive for cushioning. Transfer those over too. They help when slotting the drive back in.

Now that's the drive installed so flip the top back over into place and be careful not to damage the orange data cable. You also have to align it properly so that the chip on the bottom drops into the slot. It's not too difficult but do it gently.

Connect the orange data cable back up.

Connect your display, power and keyboard/mouse and boot the machine to check everything is ok. Go into the system profiler and check the RAM shows up ok. If it's working fine, shut down and disconnect everything again.

Put the 4 screws back in and then put the airport back on (remember the spring).

Now just clip the top cover back down and you're done.

The hardest part IMO is dealing with the top cover. 4 screws would make the whole process so much more pleasant.

Now, the savings I was talking about. When you take the internal 120GB 5400 rpm drive out, you can put this back in your enclosure and sell it on ebay for about £35-40. The 1GB module that was in it, you can sell for about £10-15. I'm personally going to keep the external as another backup drive (you can use it for Time Machine for example).

As far as the performance goes, getting the 4GB RAM is a good thing. It's cheap and you can't upgrade beyond this. The 7200 rpm drive I wasn't sure about at first. I did some benchmarks before I did it though and it seems that the 5400rpm drive in the new Mini is faster than the old one. I actually got double the performance. I'm not sure if they use drives with a higher density or something so I wondered if I actually needed 7200rpm but it was also double the space so I decided that if it was quiet enough, I would go ahead with it.

In the external enclosure, it sounded noisier but inside the machine it's actually fine and it doesn't seem to generate much more heat than the 5400rpm. It is a touch noisier but from a distance of about 2 ft, it's still pretty much silent.

I also did some benchmarks before and after and I noticed a distinct 25% performance improvement in drive writes - booting is also faster. I tested both writing a large single file and 10,000 x 100k files. Both showed a 25% improvement consistently.

Also, once you install more RAM, your VRAM goes up to 256MB on the 9400M. Using two modules should also help improve graphics performance. I have the Call of Duty 4 demo so I'll let you know how it runs on this machine.

For the price of £580, even though PCs are around that for a Core 2 Quad, the RAM, HDD and graphics are about even. I would prefer it to be £480 but the economy does play a part in this. If you have an old Mini already, you will get about £300 for it so it's a £280 upgrade cost and well worth it for the graphics alone.

I have also Bootcamp'd the machine (had to get another SP2 disc as I got the disk error, press to restart issue - you need one with the formatting option on it and choose FAT or NTFS quick) and you insert the install disc that comes with your machine for the drivers. So far, the graphics performance seems to be on par with the X1600 in the old iMacs but that was before my upgrades.

No graphics glitches are present so far that existed on the Intel one.
post #2 of 50
Thanks, nice walkthrough. Is there a problem with a fresh install from the discs if you simply install an empty drive in there? There's not much I care about on my mini at the moment.
post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea View Post

Thanks, nice walkthrough. Is there a problem with a fresh install from the discs if you simply install an empty drive in there? There's not much I care about on my mini at the moment.

There shouldn't be but you'll have to go through the installer disc, which takes longer than a drive clone. The external enclosure is good because it lets you sell the internal drive easily or re-use it. You'll be able to format the empty drive by booting from the installation disc so just putting a blank disc in will be ok. I would do the installation and test the drive out before sealing it back up though. Some drives can arrive DOA.

I did a test of Call of Duty 4 and I'm really pleased with the performance. The graphics default to medium detail with all special graphics features turned on. It also turns on 4x anti-aliasing. I'd recommend turning AA off.

With those settings, indoor scenes get between 40 and 60 FPS. Outdoor scenes generally sit around 25-35 FPS. High action scenes can drop to 15 FPS but the game never seems to reach a point where you'd be annoyed by the occasional drop in FPS. You can lower some settings of course in order to avoid it but I didn't find it necessary.

It's certainly a very capable casual gaming machine and I'll try benchmarking a few other games when I get them.
post #4 of 50
Very nice, informative guide.
post #5 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

...

Very nicely done, and this will help me (first time attempting to upgrade a mini) when i do it.

Speaking of ... what are you (or anyone else who upgraded the memory themselves) doing with that spare 1GB stick ....
post #6 of 50
Upgrade guides are always helpful, thanks!

My issue with Apple's options is not only the pricing, but that they don't go far enough. 500 MB 2.5" SATA drives are common now (especially 5400 rpm models, which is all that Apple offers for its other sizes) so why not give that choice?

And for that matter, I'm enough of a mini lover that if Apple had a 256 GB SSD option, I'd be tempted to go for it... It would make the ultimate home theater machine: no sound during the quiet bits, and Front Row would be very snappy loading menus without having to spin up a dormant drive.

(Of course, it would look downright funny having a drive option that cost more than the actual computer, so maybe that's a reason it's not there!)
post #7 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelb View Post

Upgrade guides are always helpful, thanks!

My issue with Apple's options is not only the pricing, but that they don't go far enough. 500 MB 2.5" SATA drives are common now (especially 5400 rpm models, which is all that Apple offers for its other sizes) so why not give that choice?

And for that matter, I'm enough of a mini lover that if Apple had a 256 GB SSD option, I'd be tempted to go for it... It would make the ultimate home theater machine: no sound during the quiet bits, and Front Row would be very snappy loading menus without having to spin up a dormant drive.

(Of course, it would look downright funny having a drive option that cost more than the actual computer, so maybe that's a reason it's not there!)

that is the VERY upgrade I (and many others, likely) plan to do with the mini.

I'm going to wait a year or two for the prices to drop significantly. Then, when the warranty is gone i'm gonna go to town.
post #8 of 50
Thank you Marvin, would love for you to bench Left4Dead, UnrealTournament3, Fallout3 and CrysisWarhead (I'm not kidding), FarCry2.
post #9 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelb View Post

And for that matter, I'm enough of a mini lover that if Apple had a 256 GB SSD option, I'd be tempted to go for it... It would make the ultimate home theater machine: no sound during the quiet bits, and Front Row would be very snappy loading menus without having to spin up a dormant drive.

Even the 7200 rpm drive isn't noisy. From TV viewing distance, you wouldn't hear it at all. The spin up is very quick and the Travelstar doesn't make the loud noise my old drive did when coming out of sleep mode. It just turns on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008

Thank you Marvin, would love for you to bench Left4Dead, UnrealTournament3, Fallout3 and CrysisWarhead (I'm not kidding), FarCry2.

So far I tested Unreal Tournament 3 and Lost Planet Extreme Condition.

Unreal Tournament 3
playing at 1024 x 768 slows down to 20FPS
800 x 600 is fine, textures and detail at mid-level (3/5) gets 30FPS average, can go down to 25FPS but goes up to 50FPS in low complexity areas
tried hardware physics - seemed to improve performance but was disabled when I went out again so it's probably not supported and I was just imagining the speed up.
This is definitely playable and looks pretty good.

Lost Planet Extreme Condition
Must be played at 800 x 600
turn motion blur off
most settings at medium, some on low
gets between 20-30 FPS, drops to 15FPS in high motion
Playable but only just. I wouldn't recommend playing this as it's just on the limit of what the machine can handle. You can of course lower settings right down to the bare minimum and it will go at around 30FPS but it doesn't look very good.
post #10 of 50
Dunno where to post this and it's not worth a new thread but two interesting gotchas with my 2009 mini:

1) It doesn't like my KVM: ioGear 4 port usb kvm with VGA that stacks under the mini. The keyboard doesn't work under the KVM for the mini but works fine for my old mini and MBP.

2) The mini DVI to DVI cable (incl with Mini) does DVI-D only. Which sucks because obviously you can't use the old Apple DVI to VGA cable (incl with MBP) with it.

Marvin, perhaps you can make this a generic 2009 Mini thread?
post #11 of 50
Thanks very much Marvin, you just saved me $1000. For those resolutions and frame rates, the 9400M comes nowhere close to my minimum gaming needs.

Impressive for integrated graphics, but not suitable for me. Appreciate your testing.

AFAIK physX not supported on Bootcamp 9400M drivers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

So far I tested Unreal Tournament 3 and Lost Planet Extreme Condition.

Unreal Tournament 3
playing at 1024 x 768 slows down to 20FPS
800 x 600 is fine, textures and detail at mid-level (3/5) gets 30FPS average, can go down to 25FPS but goes up to 50FPS in low complexity areas
tried hardware physics - seemed to improve performance but was disabled when I went out again so it's probably not supported and I was just imagining the speed up.
This is definitely playable and looks pretty good.

Lost Planet Extreme Condition
Must be played at 800 x 600
turn motion blur off
most settings at medium, some on low
gets between 20-30 FPS, drops to 15FPS in high motion
Playable but only just. I wouldn't recommend playing this as it's just on the limit of what the machine can handle. You can of course lower settings right down to the bare minimum and it will go at around 30FPS but it doesn't look very good.
post #12 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Thanks very much Marvin, you just saved me $1000. For those resolutions and frame rates, the 9400M comes nowhere close to my minimum gaming needs.

Impressive for integrated graphics, but not suitable for me. Appreciate your testing.

AFAIK physX not supported on Bootcamp 9400M drivers.

Yah, it's only good for light gaming. Anything beyond playing WoW at medium quality is doubtful. Fortunately, I mostly play strat games on the PC and leave my FPS fix for the PS3.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea View Post

Yah, it's only good for light gaming. Anything beyond playing WoW at medium quality is doubtful. Fortunately, I mostly play strat games on the PC and leave my FPS fix for the PS3.

I am dying here waiting for an official launch of the Xbox360 in my country (don't ask, where I am is not that backward, seriously... WTF).

Because ~ the best part? An Xbox360 CAN RUN ANY GAME FOR AT LEAST 3 YEARS. No need to constantly crack one's head about image quality this or DX10 that. Left4Dead? Pop it in. Play. FEAR2:ProjectOrigin? Pop it in. Play. Rich multiplayer community.

Investing a few hundred for a year to two years of consistent, rich gaming experience at graphics better than PS3 quality, reasonable quality compared to PC gaming, I'll take it.
post #14 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

I am dying here waiting for an official launch of the Xbox360 in my country (don't ask, where I am is not that backward, seriously... WTF).

Because ~ the best part? An Xbox360 CAN RUN ANY GAME FOR AT LEAST 3 YEARS. No need to constantly crack one's head about image quality this or DX10 that. Left4Dead? Pop it in. Play. FEAR2:ProjectOrigin? Pop it in. Play. Rich multiplayer community.

Investing a few hundred for a year to two years of consistent, rich gaming experience at graphics better than PS3 quality, reasonable quality compared to PC gaming, I'll take it.

Sure, for just gaming the 360 is far superior to the PS3 when cost is factored in. The primary advantage of the PS3 is Blu-Ray for movies. Well that and build quality vs the 360.

Shame about that. Had it not been for the RROD issues I think MS would have really killed Sony this go around. Hopefully Sony got some complacency knocked out of them like Nintendo did on the Game Cube.
post #15 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Even the 7200 rpm drive isn't noisy. From TV viewing distance, you wouldn't hear it at all. The spin up is very quick and the Travelstar doesn't make the loud noise my old drive did when coming out of sleep mode. It just turns on.



So far I tested Unreal Tournament 3 and Lost Planet Extreme Condition.

Unreal Tournament 3
playing at 1024 x 768 slows down to 20FPS
800 x 600 is fine, textures and detail at mid-level (3/5) gets 30FPS average, can go down to 25FPS but goes up to 50FPS in low complexity areas
tried hardware physics - seemed to improve performance but was disabled when I went out again so it's probably not supported and I was just imagining the speed up.
This is definitely playable and looks pretty good.

Lost Planet Extreme Condition
Must be played at 800 x 600
turn motion blur off
most settings at medium, some on low
gets between 20-30 FPS, drops to 15FPS in high motion
Playable but only just. I wouldn't recommend playing this as it's just on the limit of what the machine can handle. You can of course lower settings right down to the bare minimum and it will go at around 30FPS but it doesn't look very good.

If you have the time can you do this:

"Testing conducted by Apple in February 2009 using preproduction 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duobased 20-inch iMac units with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (256MB VRAM shared). 20-inch iMac systems with 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT (128MB VRAM) were shipping units. Call of Duty 4 v1.7.1 tested using Timedemoambush, Timedemobog, and Timedemopipeline with standard graphics quality at 1280x800. Quake 4 v 1.3 tested using Demo001.netdemo and high graphics quality at 1280x800. Performance tests are conducted using specific computer systems and reflect the approximate performance of iMac."

It might be possible that someone with the HD 2400 XT to do the same and we can compare framerates.
post #16 of 50
Thread Starter 
I got home today after running the machine 24/7 since Friday and the Mini was running very quietly but I started to play a video and it was dropping frames (though CPU and RAM was free). I tried the video in other players and it did the same thing.

The system would also do a single hiccup doing other things like moving a window but all very infrequently. Maybe 10-15 seconds apart.

I suspected my RAM but it passed all the memtest tests.

I felt underneath the machine and it was pretty hot. The air coming out the back was pretty hot too. I decided to install a temperature app and it was sitting at 85 degrees.

Now none of the sensors are messed up or anything due to the install because they are reading these temps. The problem is, it seems Apple thinks it's ok to let your temperature go that high without kicking the fans in.

This is not ok. My HDD clearly states it's maximum operating temperature is 55 degrees. 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.

I then turned off the fan control and it remained at 40 degrees. That is really stupid of Apple to allow the machine to idle at such a high temperature to save 5 minutes of fan noise.

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. Unfortunately this won't happen in Bootcamp but I'd only use that for a couple of hours at most at a time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post

Thanks very much Marvin, you just saved me $1000. For those resolutions and frame rates, the 9400M comes nowhere close to my minimum gaming needs.

Yeah, it's not great but anything faster would run much hotter too. I was only ever expecting it to match the X1600 and I'm quite happy that it exceeds that.

I would never expect a machine that size to be a high end gaming device. If that was possible, the XBox 360 and PS3 would be much smaller machines - like the Wii.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea

If you have the time can you do this

I only have the demos of these games just now and I don't think they have the benchmark features. The average framerates are very dodgy benchmarks because indoors, your framerate can shoot right up to around 50 fps. I have a hard time believing Apple's 2x performance claim.
post #17 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea View Post

If you have the time can you do this:

"Testing conducted by Apple in February 2009 using preproduction 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duobased 20-inch iMac units with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (256MB VRAM shared). 20-inch iMac systems with 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT (128MB VRAM) were shipping units. Call of Duty 4 v1.7.1 tested using Timedemoambush, Timedemobog, and Timedemopipeline with standard graphics quality at 1280x800. Quake 4 v 1.3 tested using Demo001.netdemo and high graphics quality at 1280x800. Performance tests are conducted using specific computer systems and reflect the approximate performance of iMac."

It might be possible that someone with the HD 2400 XT to do the same and we can compare framerates.

One must read this Apple statement very, very carefully.

1280x800

This is quite naughty of Apple. Because the 20" runs at 1680x1050 and 24" 1920x1200. As we know from gaming and benchmarks, these are FAR, FAR different from 1280x800.
post #18 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hmm, I'm not sure the previous stuttering issue was my hardware at all. It was a regular stutter so I figured it was likely a software thing and I had run Monolingual to save about 3GB of space getting rid of localizations and also installed Perian. I ran the permissions repair, which fixed an issue with a windowserver plist and I downgraded Perian and rebooted. Seems to be ok now - use Monolingual and Perian 1.1.3 with caution.

EDIT: No, the stutter seems to be something else as it still crops up. I'll have to investigate this further. It looks like it might be happening after rebooting back from Bootcamp. If I reboot again, it seems to be ok. I use the Bootcamp control panel in Windows to restart in OS X and it seems to take longer than it should. I'll do normal reboots from now on and see if that prevents the stutter from appearing.

I'm leaving the fan software on though because the max temperature for the Core 2 Duo CPU is 90 degrees. No sense hovering at 85 when I can cool it earlier and have it hover at 40, which it's doing right now. Although 85 wasn't the temp of my hard drive, having the CPU at that speed keeps the air inside hotter so it's more likely to affect the drive. This probably explains the hard drive clunking issues in the older Minis after running them for a while.

I tested a couple more games. FEAR 2 actually runs very well but it has automated performance settings that I can't seem to override and the quality is set down a bit. Still very playable though and the graphics aren't terrible. It is mostly indoors though so frame rate is expected to be higher. Playable and recommended.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 plays but the default performance setting chosen is too jittery. I had to reduce settings to medium and keep the resolution down. Even then, it was 20-25FPS. Not the smoothest experience. Playable but on low settings.

Left4Dead plays too but you really have to put shader quality to low because there are a number of scenes where 20-30 zombies just run at you full speed. Reminds me a bit of Painkiller. If you don't set the graphics down to the lowest settings, the game can also crash. You get into an infinite loop of audio stutter, which is quite a annoying. Playable but not recommended - you'll have to put settings down to low again.

Half Life 2 Episode 2 plays on high quality though.

The performance of the 9400M is very similar to the X1600 graphics card, which I've tested in the past.
post #19 of 50
Thread Starter 
Burnout Paradise works too. I'm really pleased to be able to play this on the Mini as the series is one of my favorites. This particular game isn't great as it's open-ended but it plays very smoothly and the graphics are great.

You do have to use low settings and 800 x 600 resolution but even though it says low, the graphics are still pretty high end with HDR, bloom, blur etc. When you are driving so quickly, you don't really notice.

I was playing for maybe 2 hours and there wasn't a single slowdown even in the most intense action with multiple cars crashing. Easily 30+ FPS constantly.

I noticed that after this time and booting back into OS X, the CPU was at 60 degrees and the HDD at 50 but within a matter of minutes, the Fan Control brought it back to 50 for the CPU and 40 for the HDD.

I actually didn't upgrade to this machine to play games, it was mainly to fix the glitches and problems with Intel's terrible GMA chips. Intel's options are appalling in contrast to the Nvidia 9400M and I'm so glad to see the back of them for now.

It isn't the highest end graphics performance but it's certainly a huge improvement over what we're used to from Apple's low end and the fact that it can actually play the highest end games on low quality is enough to qualify it as a pretty decent gaming and graphics machine.
post #20 of 50
Almost somewhere between a Wii and XBOX360. Thanks for the testing Marvin.
post #21 of 50
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.
post #22 of 50
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...?
post #23 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
post #24 of 50
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.
post #25 of 50
Registered just to say Thanks! this is the guide I've been looking for...

Wish me luck!
post #26 of 50
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 ... ?
post #27 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
post #28 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
post #29 of 50
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.
post #30 of 50
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.
post #31 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
post #32 of 50
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.
post #33 of 50
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.
13" MacBook (2008, black): 2.4GHz, 2Gb RAM, 300Gb his
13" MacBook Pro (2009): 2.53GHz, 8Gb RAM, 500Gb hers
Quicksilver G4: dual 1GHZ, Leopard Server
13" MacBook (2006): HDTV Media Mac
Reply
13" MacBook (2008, black): 2.4GHz, 2Gb RAM, 300Gb his
13" MacBook Pro (2009): 2.53GHz, 8Gb RAM, 500Gb hers
Quicksilver G4: dual 1GHZ, Leopard Server
13" MacBook (2006): HDTV Media Mac
Reply
post #34 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
post #35 of 50
Thanks for this guide, made things a lot easier.

Upgraded to 4gb with a Western Digital Scorpio Black, and it rocks, well happy
post #36 of 50
Also upgraded mini 2009 to 4 gb with Crucial & Scorpio Black 320 gb.
Working like a charm.
Thank's for the guide.
post #37 of 50
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.
ADS
Reply
ADS
Reply
post #38 of 50
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.
post #39 of 50
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.
post #40 of 50
Thread Starter 
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.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Current Mac Hardware
AppleInsider › Forums › Mac Hardware › Current Mac Hardware › Mac Mini 2009 upgrade guide