Here’s What Has Changed in Apple’s New Mac Mini and Retina iMac
There’s no question about what products were the stars of Apple’s recent media event in Cupertino, California — the release of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 were the headlining events. However, iPads weren’t the only product line to be refreshed by Apple. The company’s economical Mac mini desktop computer received its first update since 2012, while the 27-inch iMac was upgraded with a higher-resolution 5K display.
As usual, researchers at various repair companies and market research firms were ready to start tearing apart Apple’s latest products as soon as they could get their hands on them. However, although the new iPad models are currently available for pre-order through Apple’s online store, the devices won’t begin shipping out to customers until the week of October 20. On the other hand, the new Mac mini and the iMac with Retina 5K display were immediately made available for disassembly and analysis by the experts. Here’s what researchers discovered inside two of Apple’s newest products.
As noted by Apple, the new Mac mini was updated with fourth generation Intel Core processors, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a second Thunderbolt 2 port. “With the latest CPU and graphics, faster Wi-Fi, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, OS X Yosemite, and starting at just $499, the new Mac mini is the best value ever,” stated Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller.
While there’s no doubt that the addition of upgraded Haswell processors and Intel HD Graphics 5000/Iris Graphics boosted the desktop computer’s performance, the new Mac mini also included some changes that may disappoint Apple fans. According to a teardown of the new Mac mini performed by Macminicolo’s Brian Stucki, the “RAM in the new Mac mini is not user accessible,” which means that the device is limited to 16GB of RAM and can no longer be upgraded by do-it-yourself tinkerers. Although the new Mac mini also lost its Firewire 800 port, the USB 3 ports had already made it somewhat redundant.
On the bright side, the cost of upgrading to higher RAM for build-to-order machines has been lowered by Apple. The entry-level 1.4GHz Mac mini comes standard with 4GB of RAM, but can be upgraded to 8GB for an additional $100 or 16GB for $300. The 2.6 GHz and 2.8GHz Mac minis both come standard with 8GB of RAM but can be upgraded to 16GB for an extra $200.
Apple has also limited internal storage to 1TB and discontinued the dual-drive server version of the Mac mini. According to Stucki, the new Mac mini hard drive can be replaced, but it may void Apple’s warranty. As previously noted, the 1.4GHz Mac mini base model starts at $499 with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 5000. The mid-level 2.6 GHz model comes with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and Intel Iris Graphics. The top-level 2.8GHz model comes with 8GB of RAM, a faster 1TB Fusion Drive, and Intel Iris Graphics. All models come with Apple’s latest desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite.
27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display
Excluding the components that are directly related to the higher-resolution display, the new iMac with 5K Retina display retained many of the same components that were used in last year’s model, according to researchers from repair firm iFixit. One of the few noticeable differences was the Retina iMac’s slightly wider display cable which allows it to support the higher bandwidth required for the display’s 14.7 million pixels (5,120-by-2,880 resolution).
According to iFixit researchers, the model they disassembled featured a display manufactured by Korea-based LCD panel maker LG Display. The researchers also identified the custom Apple-designed chip that was highlighted by Schiller at the recent media event as a Parade Technologies DP665 LCD Timing Controller. Although some Apple users were hoping that the Mac Pro or other devices could use the iMac as an external display via Target Display Mode, TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino later confirmed that bandwidth limitations prevent the new iMac from being used as an external display.
However, beyond the higher resolution display and few other minor specification bumps, the new iMac is largely identical to its predecessor. The standard 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display costs $2,499 and includes a 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, 8GB (two 4GB) of RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 M290X GPU.
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