The New Mac Mini: Less Upgradeable Than Before

Sometimes we just don’t understand what goes on in hardware designers’ heads. Apple took one of their most-fixable, most-upgradable products and broke it. The design didn’t change at all from the outside, so we can’t blame the product designers who keep making things smaller, thinner, and lighter.

So what happened? Apple decided to throw us a repair curveball by preventing access to internals via T6 Torx Security screws. Thankfully, we had one prototype screwdriver on-hand; otherwise, we would’ve had to use pliers. The second detriment is the now-soldered-on RAM. So whatever RAM your Mini came with, that’s the amount it’ll take to its grave. Internal space didn’t change much, so it’s not like Apple had to solder the RAM in order to save space.

The 2014 Mini lost two repairability points, getting a 6 out of 10 on our scale. Quite the shame, as it used to be a repairability star in Apple’s lineup. That’s no longer the case.

Teardown highlights:

• The RAM now joins the CPU in being soldered onto the logic board. Thankfully, the storage drives are still upgradable.

• Gone are the handy thumb indents and indicators that made for a twist-off bottom cover. But no problem — we got it off anyway.

• We’re greeted with something new when the bottom cover is removed: a solid door held in place by T6 Torx Security screws, where there was once easy access to the RAM and fan. Our packrat engineers produced a lone prototype T6 Torx Security screwdriver, a tool we originally abandoned because nobody had seen such a screw used in real life.

Apple Mac Mini teardown
Didn’t need to do that before.

• While past Mac Minis have featured two SATA ports, allowing users to upgrade their base model with an extra hard drive, this year we only get one. However, this empty socket may well be a spot for a PCIe cable, enabling the installation of a blade SSD. More on this once we get our hands on a Fusion-equipped Mac Mini.

  • The AirPort card is now a proper PCIe card, and is dispatched after removing one screw and disconnecting the three antennas from their sockets. On it resides:
    • Broadcom BCM4360KML1G 5G WiFi 3-Stream 802.11ac Gigabit Transceiver
    • Skyworks SE5516 Dual-Band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WLAN Front-End Module
    • RF Micro RFFM4293 2.5 GHz FEMS and RFFM4591 5 GHz FEMS
    • Broadcom BCM20702 Single-Chip Bluetooth 4.0 HCI Solution
  • Chippity-doodahs on the Mini logic board:
    • Samsung K4E8E304EE-EGCE 4 GB LPDDR3 DRAM
    • Cirrus Logic 4208-CRZ Audio Codec
    • Broadcom BCM57766A1KMLG Ethernet PCIe Controller with SD3.0 Card Reader and ASF 2.0
    • Intel DSL5520 Thunderbolt 2 Controller
    • Delta Electronics LFE8904C-F Discrete LAN Filter
    • NXP 6142F and NXP PCA9501BS 8-bit I/O Expander
    • Microchip Technology 1428-7 420BE5A BMY System Management Bus Temperature Sensor
    • Cypress Semiconductor CY7C63833 LTXC enCoRe II Low Speed USB Peripheral Controller
    • Texas Instruments TPS51916 DDR3 Memory Power Solution Synchronous Buck Controller
    • Texas Instruments 58873D Synchronous Buck NexFET Power Block MOSFET Pair
    • Intel Core i5-4260U Processor with Intel HD Graphics 5000
    • Texas Instruments/Stellaris LM4FS1EH Microcontroller
    • Parade PS8401A HDMI Jitter Cleaning Repeater
    • Macronix MX25L6406E 64 Mb CMOS Serial Flash
    • Delta Electronics LFE8904C-F Discrete LAN Filter
    • Intersil 958 26AHRZ M419VL