Mac mini: What we want to see in an update to Apple's low-cost desktop

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  • Reply 121 of 127
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,388member
    cgWerks said:
    Hmm, I don't think so. But, I'd doubt any drives (and actually hope not). It will likely be SSD, though they still use HDs in the iMacs, oddly enough.
    Just checked: they’ve all been laptop drives since 2004. They use hard drives in the iMac because capacities haven’t increased in years and SSD prices haven’t gone down in the same amount of time. A HDD tops out at 12 TB, a DECADE after the first 1 TB drive (for comparison, we went from 10 GB to 1 TB in the decade before that). 2TB SSDs are  still $400, where a 2 TB (laptop) HDD is only $90, and a 2TB desktop HDD is $50, and spending $400 on an HDD gets you 12 TB.
    being more of a 'desktop' machine.
    I’ve never understood why that happened, mainly to PCs. HDMI is the TV standard; DisplayPort is the computer standard.
    But, now that TB3 is roughly powerful enough to put an eGPU external
    I vehemently reject this “future.” It’s unacceptable.
  • Reply 122 of 127
    cgWerks said:
    Hmm, I don't think so. But, I'd doubt any drives (and actually hope not). It will likely be SSD, though they still use HDs in the iMacs, oddly enough.
    Just checked: they’ve all been laptop drives since 2004. They use hard drives in the iMac because capacities haven’t increased in years and SSD prices haven’t gone down in the same amount of time. A HDD tops out at 12 TB, a DECADE after the first 1 TB drive (for comparison, we went from 10 GB to 1 TB in the decade before that). 2TB SSDs are  still $400, where a 2 TB (laptop) HDD is only $90, and a 2TB desktop HDD is $50, and spending $400 on an HDD gets you 12 TB.
    being more of a 'desktop' machine.
    I’ve never understood why that happened, mainly to PCs. HDMI is the TV standard; DisplayPort is the computer standard.
    But, now that TB3 is roughly powerful enough to put an eGPU external
    I vehemently reject this “future.” It’s unacceptable.
    I have to agree with the TB3/eGPU.  I am not saying the next Mac Pro has to have internal PCIe slots, but TB3/eGPU is not a substitute (there could be a 3rd alternative).  The higher the performance of the video card the more the penalty that you will have by basically taking 4 PCIe lanes (GPU cards can take up much more than that), running it through a cable, out to another box, routing it through another PCIe slot and then slotting the Video card in there with another power supply.   For a card such as the nVidia 1080Ti (about $750 USD) you are being penalized by about 30% since that is what you will lose in performance.  That is equivalent to buying a $750 card, buying an extra box ($300 - $750 plus) and then running it at an equivalent performance as a $350 GPU card.  That just does not make really much sense when you are trying to get the best performance you can.  If they do have modular (non-PCIe slotted) graphics - then they would have to use another technology -- but I doubt that a bus like that is anywhere close to being affordable in a workstation classed machine.  I have no idea what Apple is planning but then predicting what Apple will do based on their only reference of "modular Mac"...  likely will only lead to being mistaken.  They were as vague as possible because more than likely - they had not really solidified a design concept and they want to give themselves the widest possible latitude in designing the computer.  What we sort of can figure out is it won't be a trashcan version of modularity where it is limited just to TB3, and more than likely it is likely not going to be just another cheesegrater... I just wish they would tease us now that they do likely know what they will deliver.
    tallest skil
  • Reply 123 of 127
    thttht Posts: 4,729member
    Here’s an attempt at a Mac mini along the lines of Apple’s current industrial design ethos. A TB3/USB-C style Mac mini on the left, an existing Mac mini on the right, at the same scale:



    196 x 89 x 10 mm
    15 W processor (up to i7-8650U)
    1 SO-DIMM (up to 16 GB)
    1 M.2 SSD (22 x 60 mm, I think 1 TB are available)
    3 TB3/USBC ports (2 rear, 1 front)
    WiFi, Bluetooth
    Single speaker
    Integrated 3.5 mm audio out/in port (rear)
    60 mm impeller/blower fan
    Powered by USB-PD (needs about 40 W)

    It’s basically looks like a large iPhone or a small high aspect ratio iPad, without the display. There’s a couple of things that Apple is unlikely to do in this form factor I laid out. The M.2 SSD and SO-DIMM are bog standard and would be user replaceable be unscrewing the bottom plate. Apple doesn’t do this much anymore. Then, it would be highly unlikely for Apple to put a front facing port on a device these days, but an easily accessible USB port is something my iMac really needs.

    Lastly, I’d like to shrink the width another 4 mm, to somewhere around 85 mm. This will make it fit vertically in a 2U rack, like a blade server. With 1.5x spacing, you could put 32 of them in a 19” 2U rack. At 4 cores per socket, that’s 128 cores. 700 W Power supply would need 32 USB-PD ports, you’d need a fancy I/O (Ethernet, etc) over TB3 switch too. Not much of a cost and power savings over Xeons though, but price of entry will be cheaper maybe, and that is attractive for a lot of small Internet services shops. Essentially 5 mm between the slabs, and maybe you could shrink to 2 or 3 mm, which could make the core density better and better. Or just put in 50W 8C Xeons and spin up the fan more, as the HD620 in a i7-8650U is basically wasted transistors in a server environment. 

  • Reply 124 of 127
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,899member
    cgWerks said:
    Hmm, I don't think so. But, I'd doubt any drives (and actually hope not). It will likely be SSD, though they still use HDs in the iMacs, oddly enough.
    Just checked: they’ve all been laptop drives since 2004. They use hard drives in the iMac because capacities haven’t increased in years and SSD prices haven’t gone down in the same amount of time. A HDD tops out at 12 TB, a DECADE after the first 1 TB drive (for comparison, we went from 10 GB to 1 TB in the decade before that). 2TB SSDs are  still $400, where a 2 TB (laptop) HDD is only $90, and a 2TB desktop HDD is $50, and spending $400 on an HDD gets you 12 TB.
    being more of a 'desktop' machine.
    I’ve never understood why that happened, mainly to PCs. HDMI is the TV standard; DisplayPort is the computer standard.
    But, now that TB3 is roughly powerful enough to put an eGPU external
    I vehemently reject this “future.” It’s unacceptable.
    Oh yeah, HDs give a lot more storage for the money, but the rest of Apple's products moved to SSD. And, some of their iOS devices now have more storage than the Macs (for a lot less money). I suppose it could be that they think the typical iMac user isn't going to be able to figure out how to manage their files/storage if they've moved from a PC, etc. to a Mac.

    re: DisplayPort - I'm not sure... never really thought much about it. Maybe kind of like FW vs USB?

    re: TB3 future - Yeah, I guess it depends on if you like big boxes with slots. I'm just saying that it doesn't seem the industry is moving in that direction. I don't mind it so much if the technology is up to par, but it has been lagging, which I suppose will always be the case (i.e.: lag behind internal).

    bkkcanuck said:
    I have to agree with the TB3/eGPU.  I am not saying the next Mac Pro has to have internal PCIe slots, but TB3/eGPU is not a substitute (there could be a 3rd alternative).
     ...
    What we sort of can figure out is it won't be a trashcan version of modularity where it is limited just to TB3, and more than likely it is likely not going to be just another cheesegrater... I just wish they would tease us now that they do likely know what they will deliver.
    I'm not sure what the alternative is. I guess in the past, a few have tried to move internal slots external with complex connections... that was nasty though.

    I guess modularity could be taken either way... either buy/upgrade in modules and be able to change. But, that would be true of a cheese-grater or trash-can design. More power-users are going to want the cheese-grater, while prosumers would prefer the trash-can. I guess the real question is who does Apple think the audience is?

    tht said:
    Here’s an attempt at a Mac mini along the lines of Apple’s current industrial design ethos.
    Is Apple's design ethos giving us something we can kludge into a server farm, though? I suppose you're right that it could serve either the really low end or that kind of purpose, then. I'm not opposed to having that kind of box, but am opposed to having nothing in the gap between that kind of box and a Mac Pro. Otherwise, I think we need something more like the 2012 Mini, just refreshed. (I'm also not sure what is gained by the average person by making it even smaller, aside from fulfilling Apple's own fetish.)
  • Reply 125 of 127
    thttht Posts: 4,729member
    cgWerks said:
    tht said:
    Here’s an attempt at a Mac mini along the lines of Apple’s current industrial design ethos.
    Is Apple's design ethos giving us something we can kludge into a server farm, though? I suppose you're right that it could serve either the really low end or that kind of purpose, then. I'm not opposed to having that kind of box, but am opposed to having nothing in the gap between that kind of box and a Mac Pro. Otherwise, I think we need something more like the 2012 Mini, just refreshed. (I'm also not sure what is gained by the average person by making it even smaller, aside from fulfilling Apple's own fetish.)
    The current Mac mini is already kludged into a server environment. Some of these companies live in fear of Apple changing the form factor and being unable to kludge it.

    https://macminicolo.net/


    Even with the cheese-grater MacPro models, Apple had server SKUs that ended up in racks. I don’t know if Apple intended to happen that way, but companies ended up using them that way anyways.

    As far as a headless model in between the Mac mini and Mac Pro, I don’t think it is going to happen. We’ve been having xMac discussions since 1998 and the advent of the quadrant based Mac lineup. I would like it to happen, but it just won’t. If there was a box with 1 3.5” HDD bay, 2 PCIe slots, 2 DIMM slots and CPU with pin packaging, I would have bought it over the 2013 27” iMac I got. Just isn’t going to happen.

    I drew up this Mac mini slab the way I did because:

    1. It features only TB3/USB-C ports. Nothing stresses that like being on a thin slab. Then, short term cable dongle pain in trade for a quicker transition from USB-A. That’s Apple through and through. 

    2. Being as small as possible is a 80/20 or 90/10 tradeoff. It benefits the vast majority of customers while not serving people who want HDD or PCIe slots. That’s basically Apple’s market strategy too. Using standard M.2 SSD storage and SO-DIMM memory lets 90% of market do user upgrades, but unfortunately, this isn’t Apple’s market strategy anymore. But definitely possible in this slab.

    3. Being as small as possible also benefits Apple in terms of logistics. It’s smaller than an iPad mini. It’s packaging can be put on a shelf. It will occupy less storage room, be easier to ship, and can use the MBP charging/power infrastructure.

    4. Apple has to ship an Apple branded display.
  • Reply 126 of 127
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,899member
    tht said:
    The current Mac mini is already kludged into a server environment. Some of these companies live in fear of Apple changing the form factor and being unable to kludge it.
    Oh yea, when I was in corporate IT, we had a couple rack cabinets full of them. We used them for various app servers, automation, and developer test environments. I'm just wondering if there is much of a need for that today, as I'd think most have moved to VMs and don't need macOS as much anymore (I doubt where I worked, they have them anymore).

    People also used to use Mac based web servers, but Apple kind of killed that off on the software side. So, probably that photo was one of those web hosting places that is likely changed or out of business today. (Actually, those kind of web host services are going to die off anyway, as web-hosting becomes value-added services mostly running on AWS or Google infrastructure, IMO. For example, my sites - and client's sites - are on WP Engine which uses Google and adds a bunch of services on top of their 'raw' hosting. They used to be on places like Linode... already steps above places like Go Daddy or Bluehost... but I think AWS/Google just got too attractive.)

    Oh, also... the kind of ports really matter when you're putting them in racks. I'd think USB-C/TB3 ports would be a bit of a nightmare. You want a good solid connection that doesn't easily pull out, especially when you're in a tight space. USB-C/TB3 ports kind of suck in that regard. They also aren't as mechanically strong, I don't think, for sideways pressure.

    tht said:
    As far as a headless model in between the Mac mini and Mac Pro, I don’t think it is going to happen. We’ve been having xMac discussions since 1998 and the advent of the quadrant based Mac lineup. I would like it to happen, but it just won’t. If there was a box with 1 3.5” HDD bay, 2 PCIe slots, 2 DIMM slots and CPU with pin packaging, I would have bought it over the 2013 27” iMac I got. Just isn’t going to happen.
    I guess I agree, I'm just saying it shouldn't be that way. Most of the reasons you list are Apple reasons, not making the best product line for the customers. But, I guess that's part of the 'new' Apple.

    Also, I don't think the xMac needs to be the PCI slot thing or such, but maybe more like a current Mini, just with updated ports, adequate cooling, and maybe a bit of expandability would be nice (i.e.: RAM, maybe storage accessibility). I don't think anyone but pros, these days, need a box they can get into and add cards or drive bays or things like that.

    So, when I'm talking that prosumer or mid-level Mac, I'm not really talking about the xMac of discussion lore. But, I think you're absolutely right that Apple would just say, "Buy an iMac" and possibly (unlike the past, IMO) care if it eats into the iMac sales.

    I'm still torn... I really need a new machine (I have for a couple years now).

    The best solution would probably be a Mac Pro (iMac Pro, if I could afford it), but I'm concerned about the age of the technology, and it's the least bang for the buck. But, it would be adequate and quiet. And, I suppose I'd be able to hack an eGPU on it to up the GPU ability down the road.

    The new '18 MBP 13" is now also an interesting solution with the eGPU. The problem is that it's kind of expensive, overall, for what it is, and I don't really need the laptop aspect of it. It would spend most of it's time 'docked' on my desk with more cables than necessary and taking up a good amount of space. And, I'd rather just use an iPad while mobile considering the horrible keyboard on it. But, it has the latest and greatest tech.

    Then, there is the iMac. Like the laptop, I'm a bit concerned about noise when it is more heavily used. The screen would be nice (and with the screen, you're getting a good amount of value for the $)... but I'd rather not have the screen and pick my own (hence the mini or xMac kind of idea). The problem is that I have a pretty small work-space, so I'd have to get the 27" and mount it with an arm, and then that would be my screen... with no inputs, I can't use any other devices at my desk.

    I suppose I'm just one of few that doesn't do well with a generic solution. The iMac fits most people's needs and a laptop fills most of the rest. But, I miss the days when Apple built a range of machines best for use-case, rather than best for their profits and marketing department.
    edited August 2018 bkkcanuck
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