Tested: Will the new i7 Mac mini run faster with new thermal paste?

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Comments

  • Reply 21 of 55
    thttht Posts: 3,229member
    tht said:

    DAalseth said:
    Thermal paste aside, maybe additional cooling fans might help? If the paste is getting the heat out to the sink, maybe getting it out of the case is the weakness.
    Yup. More fans probably won’t work with the Mac mini, but if they could modify the firmware or modify how the fan runs, they can increase the RPMs on the fans something like 20 to 30% more than baseline and maybe gain some additional performance.

    They probably should run a few tests in a refrigerator or freezer first to see what the potential is. Putting it in a freezer is not the safest thing to do either, but if they are comfortable applying and reapplying thermal paste, sure. Also, paint both the inside and outside of the case black, and don’t leave it anywhere sunny.
    What?  Why would painting anything black help?  There's no light inside the case, so how could it make a difference?

    If you could see in infrared, you will definitely be able to see the “light” inside. ;)

    Painting the case black inside and outside maximizes heat transfer from the heat sources inside to the aluminum case, and then out into the ambient atmosphere. It’s going to be a pretty small effect, but if these thermal paste solutions are 1% to 2% improvements, painting the case black inside and out may get 1% to 2% too, and it is similarly low tech and not that invasive to the machine.

    The vast majority of the heat transfer is done by the fan driving air across the heatsink and out to ambient. Best option is to increase fan speed. If someone is sporty, increase fan speed and increase the surface area of the heatsink. Maybe thermal pad or thermal strip connecting the top side of the motherboard behind the CPU to the top of the case as well.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 22 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,220member
    StrangeDays said:
    If you think Apple, whose materials science and electrical engineering is legend, hasn’t consider a quality thermal paste, you’re high. 
    Umm... it has happened in the past (I fixed one of my previous MBPs w/ new thermal paste). It was a really good thing to check, and I'm glad AI did it!

    What about sitting it on top of a bag of frozen peas? ;-) Or, productized, some kit that replaces the base and pushes cold air up into the system? I know I know, I'm pretty sure the cost/benefit analysis of any such "cooling base" product would never work out.
    Heh, I prolonged one of my flaky MBPs this way as well, by having a couple small (silent magnetic bearing) fans blow across it and putting it up on one of those little laptop risers. If I turned them off, it would eventually lock-up. With the fans running, it worked fine so long as I didn't long-term push it too hard. I'm guessing the same would help with the mini (especially since I've heard the case gets warm, so it's part of the cooling system).

     ... Personally I think that Apple probably has done its homework on the best cooling solution but having said that it probably is a compromise that works for most customers as well as improves reliability and reduces warranty repairs.  ...
    Yeah, maybe not the best, but probably adequate.

    randominternetperson said:
    What?  Why would painting anything black help?  There's no light inside the case, so how could it make a difference?
    Black will radiate or absorb more heat, depending on the situation. The idea was, I suppose, that having the case be black instead of space-grey would help it absorb more heat and radiate it more efficiently into the outside environment (assuming you don't have it sitting in the sun!).

    sflocal said:
    FYI, I bought the new Mac Mini a couple weeks ago and have been using it every day with dual Thunderbolt monitors.  The case is barely warm to the touch and if the fans turn on, I sure as heck can't hear them.
    Great to hear! Did you get the i7 version? I've got one coming in a couple of days as well, along with a Blackmagic eGPU. I've heard the mini is more noisy than the eGPU... so if you can't hear the mini, I'm going to be in quiet-computer heaven. :smiley: 
  • Reply 23 of 55
    So far my maxed out 2018 mini runs a lot cooler even at heavy load than MacBook Pro which cranks up the fan. So I am not even thinking about doing that kind of surgery. And no 2TB SSD is no longer to be considered as massive storage. I wish there was an option to upgrade to 4 TB at least. Their SSD is impressively faster. 
    edited December 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 24 of 55
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,055member
    Wish Apple found a better way to mass apply thermal paste, and make it of better quality at that scale. Didn't make too much difference here, but in other tests such as the i3 mentioned it makes a large one. 

    With Apple spending so much R&D on top end silicon for iOS, a tiny bit more per thermal grease application would go a long way...Maybe with the in house processor switch, at least. 
  • Reply 25 of 55
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,098member
    My gut feeling is that Apple's engineers spent a considerable amount of time on the thermal design of the Mac Mini, including the choice of thermal paste. The only reason I can think of that would lead Apple's engineers to select a paste that does not have the best performance characteristics would be something having to do with the handling the material itself, i.e., MSDS related concerns.

    The only thing I would add is that I would be perfectly happy if the Mac Mini was somewhat less aesthetically pleasing if adding extra cooling fins, grills, inlets-outlets, or other cooling enhancing modifications to the design would improve thermal performance. The Mini is attractive, for sure, but does it really doesn't have to be as pretty as it is? The Mac Mini is like a Porsche 911 but we're now living in an era where Bubbas don't blink twice about spending 65K+ on pickup trucks that look like scaled-up Tonka toys. Compare the sales numbers on Ford F-150s versus Porsche 911s. 
  • Reply 26 of 55
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    tht said:

    DAalseth said:
    Thermal paste aside, maybe additional cooling fans might help? If the paste is getting the heat out to the sink, maybe getting it out of the case is the weakness.
    Yup. More fans probably won’t work with the Mac mini, but if they could modify the firmware or modify how the fan runs, they can increase the RPMs on the fans something like 20 to 30% more than baseline and maybe gain some additional performance.

    They probably should run a few tests in a refrigerator or freezer first to see what the potential is. Putting it in a freezer is not the safest thing to do either, but if they are comfortable applying and reapplying thermal paste, sure. Also, paint both the inside and outside of the case black, and don’t leave it anywhere sunny.
    What?  Why would painting anything black help?  There's no light inside the case, so how could it make a difference?
    https://io9.gizmodo.com/5903956/the-physics-that-explain-why-you-should-wear-black-this-summer

  • Reply 27 of 55
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    Form follows function.  At 100C I now understand why the mini is shaped like a hot plate.  Boil me an egg!  
  • Reply 28 of 55
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    tipoo said:
    Wish Apple found a better way to mass apply thermal paste, and make it of better quality at that scale. Didn't make too much difference here, but in other tests such as the i3 mentioned it makes a large one. 

    With Apple spending so much R&D on top end silicon for iOS, a tiny bit more per thermal grease application would go a long way...Maybe with the in house processor switch, at least. 
    I’d question how far Apple would want to rely upon use of thermal paste to push the envelope.  As one commenter stated, the contact between the paste and the component and heat sink could loosen up after transporting a system and possibly the efficacy of the paste may degrade over time.   And more might not be better if it starts pulling heat to portions of the heat sink that aren’t optimal to drawing heat away, or worse, beyond the heat sink out to other materials, or to empty air.  

    But here’s a thought...  if, and this is key (if) the thermal paste is a better conductor of heat than the heat sink material itself, or even if it isn’t but is sufficiently close in its ability to conduct heat, then creating troughs in the bottom of the heat sink could be a means of increasing its surface area, then filling them with the thermal paste to deliver heat from the component to that larger surface area might be a viable means of enhancing cooling.  
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 29 of 55
    Can articles please stop half and half naming Arctic MX-4? It's a completely different company putting out a paste with very different characteristics, and only the MX-4 should really be recommended.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 30 of 55
    Beau SlimBeau Slim Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I saw a 20C drop in my 2012 i7 mini (100C to 80C with Handbrake transcodes) after I replaced the stock base with a custom one that had much more space for air to flow. I'd love to see some test results from an i7 2018 mini with the base removed.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 31 of 55
    jdwjdw Posts: 752member
    I didn't have time to watch the entire video and only skimmed through it.  I only spotted one clip of paste being applied.  What is the alternate application method that got you better results?  Also curious if the application method of Snazzy Labs had anything to do with his success.  How you apply it matters, and in my experience, erring on the side of too much paste or too much coverage works better than not enough paste and/or insufficient surface area coverage.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 32 of 55
    thttht Posts: 3,229member
    But here’s a thought...  if, and this is key (if) the thermal paste is a better conductor of heat than the heat sink material itself, or even if it isn’t but is sufficiently close in its ability to conduct heat, then creating troughs in the bottom of the heat sink could be a means of increasing its surface area, then filling them with the thermal paste to deliver heat from the component to that larger surface area might be a viable means of enhancing cooling.  
    The object of the thermal paste to eliminate the micro air gaps or voids between the top of the chip packaging and the heatsink or heatpipe. The troughs will only make the application of thermal paste more prone to these gaps, and would decrease performance.

    I think there is too much specious reasoning on thermal paste. The goal is to get rid of these micro air gaps between the two contact surfaces so as to maximize the heat conduction aperture between the chip to the heat sink, as if there was one continuous piece of material from the chip to the heat sink, or heat pipe to heat sink. AI could clean off the thermal paste, get some slight shorter bolts, and screw the heat pipe plate down super tight (risk breaking the chip) and end up with better performance than using thermal paste because squeezing the two tightly together increased the amount of surface contact of the two materials.

    I imagine the biggest reasons people think that different thermal paste seems to work is that it is simply misapplied at time of assembly, either by human hands or robot. It’s not the type of thermal paste. AI’s article tried two different thermal paste applications, and they didn’t work any better than the factory application, and any variance in performance is entirely driven by how well the paste is applied, not the paste itself, and how the parts are part together.
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 33 of 55
    dewme said:
    The only thing I would add is that I would be perfectly happy if the Mac Mini was somewhat less aesthetically pleasing if adding extra cooling fins, grills, inlets-outlets, or other cooling enhancing modifications to the design would improve thermal performance. The Mini is attractive, for sure, but does it really doesn't have to be as pretty as it is? The Mac Mini is like a Porsche 911 but we're now living in an era where Bubbas don't blink twice about spending 65K+ on pickup trucks that look like scaled-up Tonka toys. Compare the sales numbers on Ford F-150s versus Porsche 911s. 
    Remember in the early days of the mini when companies would make external hard drives that had the same look as a mini and you would put the mini on top of it, so it looked like two stacked minis and didn't take any additional desk space? Why can't somebody Kickstarter a similar product, say a 140mm fan with space gray aluminum or plastic case that matches the current mini's footprint? Or if you don't want to spend the money to match Apple's finish, make it a contrasting or complementary color. It would  basically perform the same function as a laptop cooler. No muss, no fuss, no need to crack the mini's case and risk damage. It would just add an inch or so to the mini's height. I really don't understand why a mini setup absolutely has to be thin anyway.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 34 of 55
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,220member
    dewme said:
    The only thing I would add is that I would be perfectly happy if the Mac Mini was somewhat less aesthetically pleasing if adding extra cooling fins, grills, inlets-outlets, or other cooling enhancing modifications to the design would improve thermal performance.
    Yeah, I agree... though it seems I'm going to be pretty happy with the mini as is, too. It sure could have been much worse!

    tht said:
    I imagine the biggest reasons people think that different thermal paste seems to work is that it is simply misapplied at time of assembly, either by human hands or robot. It’s not the type of thermal paste. AI’s article tried two different thermal paste applications, and they didn’t work any better than the factory application, and any variance in performance is entirely driven by how well the paste is applied, not the paste itself, and how the parts are part together.
    My guess would be that the difference between thermal pastes has more to do with how they apply and drying characteristics and such, than some super-secret optimal thermal conduction properties. So, the gains to be had might come down to the expertise in terms of application/assembly. A friend of mine, for example, seemed to be much better at this stuff than I ever was (optimizing and repairing complex electronics).
  • Reply 35 of 55
    It would be really cool if someone found a way to retrofit the Mac Mini components into a Mac Pro (aka trash can) enclosure. The thermal capacity should be dramatically better. It would be really interesting to see how an Intel Core i7 or i9 performed in that environment. Even better if someone found a way to include an AMD RX580 or Vega56.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 36 of 55
    thttht Posts: 3,229member
    Beau Slim said:
    I saw a 20C drop in my 2012 i7 mini (100C to 80C with Handbrake transcodes) after I replaced the stock base with a custom one that had much more space for air to flow. I'd love to see some test results from an i7 2018 mini with the base removed.
    Did you also clean out the inside too? The lint and dust can act like insulation.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 37 of 55
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,652member
    cgWerks said:
    sflocal said:
    FYI, I bought the new Mac Mini a couple weeks ago and have been using it every day with dual Thunderbolt monitors.  The case is barely warm to the touch and if the fans turn on, I sure as heck can't hear them.
    Great to hear! Did you get the i7 version? I've got one coming in a couple of days as well, along with a Blackmagic eGPU. I've heard the mini is more noisy than the eGPU... so if you can't hear the mini, I'm going to be in quiet-computer heaven. :smiley: 
    Yes... I got the six-core i7, 1TB SSD, 16GB RAM model.  It's quiet.  Every so often when I'm doing some CPU-intensive projects, I'll put my hand on the case out of curiosity and it's barely warm.  I don't hear the fans.  I barley feel any airflow coming out from the vents.  So figure that.  Nice machine.  It's a speed demon for sure, not a fan of the Intel graphics but I wanted the small footprint and I already had the Thunderbolt monitors so didn't want to get an iMac.

    I hope someone makes an eGPU the size of the Mac mini housing so I can neatly stack it!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 38 of 55
    I really wish they would stop calling it thermal throttling. Clearly the CPU was running at 3.2ghz fully loaded which is exactly what Apple claims, and what intel rates the chip at. Anything beyond that is a bonus. 
    radarthekatwatto_cobracgWerks
  • Reply 39 of 55
    I think Apple already did the testing of using thermal paste in their labs. Why anyone would do this besides for tests & putting $800 investments into jeopardy is beyond me.
    Because history teaches us that Apple has been horrible in applying thermal paste in previous machines, especially laptops. It is well-known that applying new paste to your macbook pro (2009-2012) will increase the lifetime of the machine and make it run less hot.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 40 of 55
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,634administrator
    jdw said:
    I didn't have time to watch the entire video and only skimmed through it.  I only spotted one clip of paste being applied.  What is the alternate application method that got you better results?  Also curious if the application method of Snazzy Labs had anything to do with his success.  How you apply it matters, and in my experience, erring on the side of too much paste or too much coverage works better than not enough paste and/or insufficient surface area coverage.
    The i3 on Snazzylabs had more to do with it.
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