Apple's M1 Mac mini can be made portable or smaller with some tinkering

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited March 2
A pair of homebrew projects using the M1 Mac mini have highlighted the extremely small computer, with the latest cramming the computer into an enclosure about half the volume as Apple's.

Two Mac mini projects [Via Twitter <a href=@SnazzyQ and @Scottyujan]" height="731" />
Two Mac mini projects [Via Twitter @SnazzyQ and @Scottyujan]


The Mac mini is widely accepted as a very small computer that offers considerable performance for its size. While tinkerers typically use boards like the Raspberry Pi to create highly-portable computing devices, some are turning to the M1 Mac mini for the same concept.

With work, some projects have made the desk-bound Mac mini into a portable working device, as well as aiming to shrink an already compact system into an even smaller body.

Shrinking the Mac mini

The Mac mini has always used a compact mainboard and components. With the introduction of the M1 Mac mini, Apple has shrunk down the internals more, but without altering the size of the external aluminum enclosure.

To answer the question of how small you can actually go with the M1 Mac mini's internals, Quinn Nelson of Snazzy Labs is doing so with a 3D printer.

Prototypes and prototypes and prototypes. pic.twitter.com/mZ2Tfyy7xJ

-- Quinn Nelson (@SnazzyQ)


In posts to Twitter, the YouTuber shows the Mac mini's internal board, complete with heatsink, connectors, and some wiring. Another image shows a collection of prototype prints in various colors and materials, each with the same grille effect of the Mac Pro.

One Saturday post hints at the reduction, with Nelson asking "In which color would you want to see, eh, idk, an M1 Mac mini that's just 28% the size of the original?"

The video debuted on Wednesday night, and CAD files are available for the enclosure design.



Portable Mac mini

Posted to YouTube on Wednesday by Scott Yu-Jan, the video "Making a Portable Mac mini" describes how the YouTuber tried to solve the problem of making the Mac mini portable. After complaining about hating notebooks due to cooling issues, he designs and 3D-prints an enclosure for the Mac mini.

The idea stems from noticing the iPad mini is roughly as tall as the Mac mini is wide, which makes it a potentially decent-sized screen.





The enclosure wraps around the Mac mini, and has a hinged section that holds the iPad mini, which effectively serves as a cover. The iPad mini is connected to the Mac mini using a USB-C cable that's neatly routed around the edge and clipped in place.

The project isn't to make the Mac mini a truly wire-free device, as it still relies on a power cable running to an outlet instead of a portable power supply. The iPad mini runs Duet, which displays the Mac mini's display output on its screen, while still retaining Apple Pencil support.

The setup also still requires the use of an external keyboard for text entry.

While you couldn't consider it a MacBook replacement, the setup does at least allow its creator to go mobile with the Mac mini complete with a display that is also a removable iPad mini -- and without worrying about the limitations of thermal throttling too much.

A hint at the future

Both projects, but specifically the former, points to what Apple could release in the future. With the use of smaller internal components, it makes sense for Apple to engineer an even smaller Mac mini.

Apple is currently rumored to be producing a redesigned Mac mini, one that could shake up the design in a number of ways. Along with specification changes, the inbound model is thought to use a metal band and a polycarbonate-like top panel, as well as slimming down in height.

Apple is also rumored to be making a smaller version of the Mac Pro that runs on Apple Silicon. With the change from Intel to Apple Silicon, this could offer Apple the opportunity to considerably reduce the size of the largest Mac, while still retaining performance.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    I think the tinkering days are over, as a requirement to use computers… or the non-tinkering market has grown, to make tinkers insignificant.
    edited February 28 watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 6
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,364member
    geekmee said:
    I think the tinkering days are over, as a requirement to use computers… or the non-tinkering market has grown, to make tinkers insignificant.
    When were tinkerers last significant?  The days when computer companies operated out of garages have been gone for decades.  That doesn't mean it isn't a fun hobby, or entertaining to show what a 3D printer plus a bit of talent and determination can result in.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 6
    What are you talking about ?
    PC users have been tinkering for decades. With AMD's 4000 and 5000 mobile processors (U series) you can build yourself a small desktop with the right motherboard and case. Later this year AMD will introduce the 6000 mobile processors which will be even more powerful and even more energy efficient then the 5000 series. There are a lot of inexpensive AMD compatible tiny motherboards being introduced. Even HP sells a line of tiny desktop computers. Though these are more expensive than what people can build at home.  
    michelb76watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 6
    davendaven Posts: 646member
    crowley said:
    geekmee said:
    I think the tinkering days are over, as a requirement to use computers… or the non-tinkering market has grown, to make tinkers insignificant.
    When were tinkerers last significant?  The days when computer companies operated out of garages have been gone for decades.  That doesn't mean it isn't a fun hobby, or entertaining to show what a 3D printer plus a bit of talent and determination can result in.
    Amazing how time flies. When I got out of college and worked as a post graduate student intern at an Air Force base, I got all the computer grunt jobs because I had an engineering degree and some programming background. We ordered some PCs for the office and they came in… in pieces. You had to install the extra memory chips (individual chips) above the base ram, the hard drive, the drive cables, and the operating system and software. 

    We had the option to let the computer division assemble everything but they were backed up for a few months. So, being the low man on the totem pole, it was my job. After a few jobs like that, I became the branch tech guy and because of that, when I got a new permanent job at a company and they decided to add computers and then a network, I ended up being the network administrator and tech guy. I didn’t want to be a network administrator because you see a disproportionate amount of the bad side in people. The visits to porn sites in company time, inappropriate jokes again on company time, using company resources for private gain, being plain stupid and lazy, etc. And that was before the current polarized state of things. I trained a tech savvy secretary to be my replacement and she was happy for the promotion. I went back to engineering and then quit to, of all things, start a shareware company. 

    That worked out quite well for about a decade but I could see that changing technology was going to obsolete my programs so I went back to work in my old industry but at a remote office. Networks improved by then and our office network was mostly run my the main office but, you guessed it, because of my background, I was the backup administrator and did some daily tinkering that was best done in person. It wasn’t bad though as by that time most people were more tech savvy. 

    I’ve been retired for over eight years now but it sure was an interesting ride. I’m glad to see people still tinkering. I’m glad it is at a higher level than sticking memory chips into a board. 
    muthuk_vanalingamdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 6
    crowley said:
    geekmee said:
    I think the tinkering days are over, as a requirement to use computers… or the non-tinkering market has grown, to make tinkers insignificant.
    When were tinkerers last significant?  The days when computer companies operated out of garages have been gone for decades.  That doesn't mean it isn't a fun hobby, or entertaining to show what a 3D printer plus a bit of talent and determination can result in.
    I'd think one could argue that tinkerers are quite significant, in that they can potentially keep manufacturers a little more honest. It appears this tinkerer has exposed Apple not miniaturizing the Mini at the pace they could) 
  • Reply 6 of 6
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,401member
    The tinkerer space is very much alive and well, but it's largely aligned around small and inexpensive single board computers (SBCs) and micro controllers, the most popular of which is the Raspberry Pi family of single board computers. With the availability of low cost and powerful SBCs, free operating systems, free software, free software development tools, approachable high level programming languages, highly affordable 3D printers, online informational and how-to forums, and tinkerer/maker communities catering to tinkerers and lifelong learners of all ages, there has never been time for those who wish to get hands-on involvement in all manner of hardware and software computing technology to do so.

    Sure, a lot of traditional "personal computers" have become more appliance-like, especially ones that cater to business needs, but there is so much more out there today than there has ever been in the past and it is so accessible and so affordable. If being able to tinker around with a 64-bit quad core SBC that you can buy for less than $50 isn't exciting enough for you, there's still a lot of tinker-ability to be had in building and tweaking your own high-end gaming PC yourself. Just don't forget to open up your wallet - very wide or melt down your credit card buying exotic components ... and pretty lights.
Sign In or Register to comment.