YouTuber builds 'first' Apple Silicon iMac using old iMac & M1 Mac mini

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 3
By disemboweling a M1 Mac mini and jamming everything inside an old iMac, a YouTube content creator cobbled together what he calls the world's first Apple Silicon iMac -- with major caveats.

A 2011 iMac with Apple Silicon inside
A 2011 iMac with Apple Silicon inside


Apple is set to release a new line of desktops running its custom Apple Silicon but not for a few months. So, YouTuber Luke Miani took a motherboard from a Mac mini and shoved it into a 2011 iMac.

Miani notes that the Mac mini motherboard is so small that it can fit snugly within the iMac chassis without any modifications. Using an HDMI display adapter from the Mac mini motherboard to the custom Apple iMac display connector was the vast majority of work on the project.

Essentially, the Mac mini is running unmodified within the chassis of the iMac and using it as a display with the help of that adapter circuitry. This, however, comes with several limitations.

The Mac mini is held in via one screw inside the iMac
The Mac mini is held in via one screw inside the iMac


First, the 2011 iMac has a very low resolution by today's standards. Its pre-Retina 27-inch 2560 by 1440 display is not an ideal way to use macOS. Second, the "computer" portion of this setup is the Mac mini, inside the iMac chassis. With the current build, all the ports -- and power button -- are inside the chassis and completely inaccessible from the outside without taking the screen off.

Finally, the Bluetooth and Wifi radios were optimized by a three-antenna array used in the Mac mini, but one of those antenna was built into the Mac mini chassis. He overcame this limitation by connecting the extra antenna to the iMac's antenna wiring harness.

While the project was mostly successful, Miani says the setup isn't recommended despite it being simple to accomplish. He does, however, say that turning the iMac into a display for the Mac mini is worth it if you happen to have one laying around.





Apple is expected to release a 24-inch iMac with an M-series processor sometime in 2021. It is rumored to have multiple color options similar to the iPad Air 4.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,285member
    Just get the internal video harness to be exposed and hook up your HDMI on the mini to it so you can use it as a monitor without losing ports and other functionality.  If you really must reuse the old screen. 
    omasouentropysdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 21
    urashidurashid Posts: 108member
    Probably easier to use target display mode on the 2011 iMac and have access to all the mac mini M1 ports.  Saw the following on Reddit when I was looking for a similar solution (haven't tried it yet):



    omasouaderutterretrogustoAlex1NdysamoriaMacProdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,569member
    And that’s with the fan & power supply still attached. Looks like the motherboard itself could be reduced to a user-replaceable card solving any upgradability concerns. Maybe another for storage & another for GPU?
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    omasouomasou Posts: 98member
    @Chadbag, @Urashid The very first and second ideas that came to mind.

    Gotta love YouTube and the constant creator anxiety to develop content even when it's not practical or meaningful.
    chadbagdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,881member
    Another “Look at me, see how clever I am” moment. It’s completely useless but, hey, whatever inflates your ego.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,285member
    lkrupp said:
    Another “Look at me, see how clever I am” moment. It’s completely useless but, hey, whatever inflates your ego.
    The whole purpose is to create YouTube views for advertising and to get paid.  Not to present meaningful information.  
    omasouITGUYINSDdysamorialkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,823member
    Using an HDMI display adapter from the Mac mini motherboard to the custom to Apple iMac display connector was the vast majority of work on the project.
    No doubt.

    Probably easier to use target display mode on the 2011 iMac and have access to all the mac mini M1 ports

    would that get around the dodgy Radeon GPU in this model iMac though, the main reason this model would die?
    at least it would be easy to open up in comparison to more modern iMacs.

    Just get the internal video harness to be exposed and hook up your HDMI on the mini to it so you can use it as a monitor without losing ports and other functionality.  If you really must reuse the old screen. 

    Much cooler idea.


    edited March 3 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 21
    lkrupp said:
    Another “Look at me, see how clever I am” moment. It’s completely useless but, hey, whatever inflates your ego.
    Agreed on useless - one could try to build "iPhone" based on Android Snapdragon.

    Disagreed on ego. Obviously, claims on ego prove that person (who claims that) has problems with creativity and experimentation that may be useful to draw some independent conclusions. One has to learn that instead of being critical only. It has its values... just like porting Linux on M1 that was achieved recently and helped judging Apple M1 creations and their qualities.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    omasouomasou Posts: 98member
    chadbag said:
    lkrupp said:
    Another “Look at me, see how clever I am” moment. It’s completely useless but, hey, whatever inflates your ego.
    The whole purpose is to create YouTube views for advertising and to get paid.  Not to present meaningful information.  
    That's why I hate articles like this b/c it rewards and encourages the behavior
    edited March 3 lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    This will never happen, but I would be THRILLED if apple could release a M1-motherboard for my old iMac 2008. It’s such a same the machine is almost useless, because I can still use it to watch Netflix although it starts really slow. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,491member
    Now can he do a Luxo 17inch iMac keeping a working DVD drive in the process?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,127member
    “Drawbacks”...

    Seems pretty dumb to me.
  • Reply 13 of 21
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 715member
    There was mod of iMac G5 month ago already. It would be funny, not much practical, to see Mac Classic mod tho :smile: 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 21
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 392member
    Wow - someone did something fun (for them), creative and shared it.  Why all the "hate" from here?  No one forced anyone to read the article or watch the video...
    rob53watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    maximaramaximara Posts: 302member
    This is NOT the first attempt: Mac G5 upgraded to iMac M1 using a MacMini M1 logic board (Jan 10, 2021). That earlier version seems to avoid some of the issues that the later one does (USB-A and USB-C ports actually work)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,881member
    I’m trying to keep my late 2013 iMac 14,2 going as I wait for a REAL M-series iMac. So far so good. It’s a n impressive machine even if it’s headed toward 8 years old.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,215member
    lkrupp said:
    I’m trying to keep my late 2013 iMac 14,2 going as I wait for a REAL M-series iMac. So far so good. It’s a n impressive machine even if it’s headed toward 8 years old.
    Agreed. Even when Macs are too old for running the latest macOS they are still useful.  My 2013 Mac Pro is, for the most part, a very good Windows 10 PC nowadays although it is also a Logic Pro X work station when not running Windows at least it can run Big Sur.  I never throw out an old Mac.  That all said, M chips are a paradigm shift.  My $5K/ 5K 64 GB RAM upgraded GPU 27" iMac is pretty much equaled by my 8 GB M1 Mac mini in most areas, it's mind-blowing.  I can't wait for later M iterations.

    I agree with the commenter that simply using Target Monitor mode on that old iMac would have made more sense and be less gimmicky for Luke.
    edited March 4 watto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 18 of 21
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,462member
    lkrupp said:
    Another “Look at me, see how clever I am” moment. It’s completely useless but, hey, whatever inflates your ego.
    Check out Luke's youtube page, 276K subscribers. He's more than a clever guy. As for being useless, you need to look further into what he exposed about Intel-based Macs. Current iMacs are packed with way too much junk (from Intel). What Luke showed is that Apple will have no problem reducing the thickness of the iMac while providing top of the line performance. Add the speakers back in and maybe a low volume fan and the new iMacs will be amazing. That's what Luke was showing.

    My only concern with this video, which is not normal for Luke, is it came out as an infomercial for iFixit. He usually isn't so blatant. As for everyone saying to use target disk mode, Luke started it that way but the idea was to show what the new iMac could be not simply using an old iMac as a monitor. The computer had to be inside the iMac, not outside, which he ended up doing with a bunch of tape and a few screws to hold it together. The amazing thing is it actually worked, with several caveats. When Apple releases the first M-series iMac I bet the insides will look very similar to what Luke built.

    As for keeping my late 2015 27" iMac, I bought an M1 MBA and since I'm retired I'll probably buy a simple external display for home use and use the MBA for travel. My old iMac will be going to a grandkid for schooling. I'm telling my family to wait for the M-series iMacs before they purchase anything because my MBA is already faster than almost everything any of them have.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 21
    urashid said:
    Probably easier to use target display mode on the 2011 iMac and have access to all the mac mini M1 ports.  


    Also works with 2010 27'' iMac which I have, it's my main display now for my M1 MBA, for when I'm at home. Which is all the time, thank you corona ;_(
    Will try the converter board trick at some point on my dead 2008 iMac 24 inch that's still boxed in & being stored in the cellar for years now. (couldn't part with it, even if it doesn't turn on any more.)

    just gotta get the time to have it looked at, if it's unfixable, but the screen is still gut, I will follow his suggestion and mod it to a hdmi converter board to only use the screen 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 21
    ivanhivanh Posts: 551member
    fantastic! it will be the first iMac able to rotate the display!
    watto_cobra
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