Late 2018 Mac mini Teardown  

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theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

I picked up an i5 Mac mini tonight at a local Best Buy. After unboxing, I took everything apart. One thing I noticed right away about the packaging is that the cardboard material feels cheap. It's unusual for Apple packaging.

There's a strip of black tape covering the rear ports. The plastic bottom cover is easy to remove. You simply place a thin object such as a credit card/guitar pick to pry it apart.

There are 3 raised Torx T6H screws and 3 sunk ones holding the bottom metal shield in place. The raised screws are where the plastic bottom cover snap onto. Once the bottom shield is loosened, carefully push it to the side to access the antenna connector and retainer screw. This screw can be removed with the same Torx T6H.

The main cooling fan is held in place with four Torx T6 screws. Lift the fan up to access the fan connector on the the logic board.

There are two Torx T10H anchor screws  on the logic board assembly. Remove them and unplug the power supply connector as well as front status light connector.

Push the logic board by the cooling fin to release it from the Mac mini casing. Here's a look at the logic board backside.

One good news about this model year Mac mini is the return of RAM slots. It's not easy to access but not terrible compare to most modern Macs. There's a metal shield covering the RAM modules and slots. The four screws are Torx T5. Once the screws are out, push the shield back towards you to remove.

You can then swap the stock RAM modules with up to 2x 32GB DDR4 SODIMM modules. Right across from the CPU is the Apple T2 chip.

I also located the soldered NVMe flash storage and the two Titan Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controllers.

Last component to remove was the power supply. I pulled the metal sleeve sitting on top of the power plug.

There's a tiny metal retainer clip at the bottom of the power plug. Undo this clip then the plug can be tilted sideway to release the PSU.

The power supply label shows it's a 150W unit [12V ~ 12.5A].

Here's the full component view. While I was at it, I upgraded the RAM and applied a proper amount of thermal paste.

I quickly plugged the WX 9100 + Mantiz Venus in macOS to test

Boot Camp Windows 10 1803 worked plug-and-play with the RTX 2070 + Razer Core too. Here's the HWiNFO screen capture showing the two Thunderbotl 3 controllers are attached to the CPU.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 2:48 am jangoloti, goalque, DanHC and 7 people liked
esatamacmodular
(@esatamacmodular)
Trusted Member

@theitsage sweet teardown photos and it just came out today! when you say "applied a proper amount of thermal paste" (to the CPU) ... are you implying that there could have been more/better paste to begin with?

Also its funny that the manual looks like it has an apple monitor in it (due to the iMac-like base).

iMac 2013 10.9, Macbook Air 2013 10.11, MBP 2016 13" 10.13.6 , HP 4530s 10.11, node lite, DA-2 PSU w/mod, PE4L 2.1b expresscard34, GTX460,1050Ti,1060,1070/Ti RX470,560,580

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Posted : November 8, 2018 3:23 am
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

I always find the amount of thermal paste from the factory is too much. Since I had everything apart already, it's a no brainer to reapply a good amount with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut. Here's a photo with the 2018 Mac mini next to an Intel NUC7i5 and InWin Chopin Ryzen 5 2400G for scale.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 3:46 am
detunedradios
(@detunedradios)
Trusted Member

RAM looks tedious to get to, but not really difficult. Just a bunch of screws. Awesome to hear an eGPU in Boot Camp worked right out of the box!

2016 15" MacBook Pro - 2.7GHz Core i7, Radeon Pro 460 4GB, 1TB SSD
Sonnet Breakaway Box 350, modded with 650W PSU, with Radeon RX Vega 64

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Posted : November 8, 2018 3:46 am
Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member

Amazing tear down and great to hear about Bootcamp working so effortlessly. Will keep my eyes peeled for further tests... (amd).

I think its worth noting that there is no room for a GPU in that InWin Chopin so folks who wanted one in the Mini may have been being unrealistic (ok, on board Vega would prob work/fit).

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + [email protected] (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070 (debating 2070 upgrade) @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10
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Posted : November 8, 2018 7:54 am
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

I will test with an AMD eGPU later tonight. The air intake through the gap between the circular bottom cover and casing is fairly narrow. Seeing thermal throttling issues from the i7 is definitely a concern. I will keep HWiNFO sensors running during my tests to observe the i5 thermal performance.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 1:55 pm Fearlefanz liked
DanHC
(@danhc)
Eminent Member
Posted by: theitsage

I will test with an AMD eGPU later tonight. The air intake through the gap between the circular bottom cover and casing is fairly narrow. Seeing thermal throttling issues from the i7 is definitely a concern. I will keep HWiNFO sensors running during my tests to observe the i5 thermal performance.

If the AMD eGPU you planned do with windows setup is your WX9100 it would be my life saver, I own a Vega FE and WX9100 would be the one that most assembles it. 

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Posted : November 8, 2018 4:20 pm
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

@danhc Yes, the Mantiz Venus + WX 9100 will be one of the AMD eGPUs. I will be testing different configurations as well. The Sonnet Breakaway Puck RX 560 is a nice addition to a Mac mini.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 5:09 pm DanHC liked
Grumz
(@grumz)
New Member

@danhc Great tear down! Thank you!
My ideal set-up right now is the i7 Mini with a Razer Core X + Vega 64 (or 56) GPU. The biggest block for me right now is how that set-up work will with Windows Bootcamp. When you say it was possible to boot into Windows 10, and that this was plug&play,  is that without any hot-plugging or alternating cables and such? I really, really just want a eGPU connected where I can alternate between OS and Windows with the normal, easy, booting into Bootcamp.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 5:18 pm
joevt
(@joevt3)
Estimable Member
Posted by: theitsage

Here's a photo with the 2018 Mac mini next to an Intel NUC7i5 and InWin Chopin Ryzen 5 2400G for scale.

The NUC looks tiny compared to the Mac mini, but it doesn't have a built in power supply like the Mac mini and it's 40% taller. Well, the M.2 only version of the NUC is the same height, but none of them can have 64 GB of RAM or four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 6:42 pm
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

@joevt3 It would be really cool if next generation SFF systems can be powered by USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. The external power adapter on this NUC is very small and its output I recall is less than 60W.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 8:09 pm
jangoloti
(@jangoloti)
Eminent Member

What is the metallic shield over the RAM for? To avoid EMI?

Mac Mini 2012 i7, Mac book Pro 2016 15" with TB, eGPU Galax/KFA2

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Posted : November 8, 2018 8:35 pm
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

From my experience fixing Macs over the years, the shield is there to make sure there's no play in the RAM slots. There are two rubber inserts on the sides of the metal release clips. RAM modules sitting at an off angle can be knocked loose when people handle the computer a bit less than gentle.

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Posted : November 8, 2018 9:08 pm
DanHC
(@danhc)
Eminent Member

@Grumz

You thank the wrong guy, it was @itsage who did the comprehensive tear down and boot camp testing.

I’m still looking forward to his WX9100 Bootcamp testing, AMD GPUs are troublesome on windows and most likely not plug and play. Your Vega 64 will be the non-pro version of the WX9100 (same chip) different Ram and driver.

If his setup work (with WX9100), it is really really likely that your vega 64 and my vega FE will be good to go following his guide.

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Posted : November 9, 2018 1:25 am theitsage liked
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

I have good news. The 2018 Mac mini works plug-and-play with AMD eGPU in Boot Camp. I tried with both the Sonnet Breakaway Puck 560 and Manitz Venus + WX 9100. To set up I connected the monitor through the HDMI port of the Mac mini. The AMD eGPU got detected then I manually downloaded and installed the latest Radeon drivers. Once driver installation finished, I restarted the computer and switched all monitor outputs through the eGPU. Here's the 2018 Mac mini running Windows 10 1803 powering three monitors via the Sonnet Breakaway Puck 560 (two LG 4K & one HP 5K).

As seen in HWiNFO screen cap, having the AMD eGPU connected at boot would disable the Intel iGPU. It would be an issue on a Mac laptop or iMac, but there's no issues with Mac mini. You'll extract the most performance through an external monitor so it's ideal.

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Posted : November 9, 2018 2:04 am Fearlefanz and DanHC liked
DanHC
(@danhc)
Eminent Member

Wow.. @itsage, do you think if I grab an i7 CPU (same as no Gigabit Ethernet Connector) instead of your i5 will likely affect the success chance assuming I do what you do?

Do you think opt in for 10 Gigabit Ethernet Connector will use up more resources and poses an additional risk to the setup?

Thanks

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Posted : November 9, 2018 3:13 am
detunedradios
(@detunedradios)
Trusted Member

I'm so glad to hear eGPU use in Boot Camp is pretty much seamless regardless of vendor. For the first time in decades Apple is now selling a standalone consumer(!) desktop with desktop-class CPUs that can have the RAM and GPU upgraded without paying exorbitant Mac Pro prices.

2016 15" MacBook Pro - 2.7GHz Core i7, Radeon Pro 460 4GB, 1TB SSD
Sonnet Breakaway Box 350, modded with 650W PSU, with Radeon RX Vega 64

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Posted : November 9, 2018 3:15 am jangoloti liked
Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member

This is fantastic news, the Mac mini is kinda the modular Mac Pro we've been promised.

Edit: I wonder how it would work with displays connected directly to the Mini rather than the eGPU - are you able to test?

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + [email protected] (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070 (debating 2070 upgrade) @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10
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Posted : November 9, 2018 7:18 am jangoloti liked
joevt
(@joevt3)
Estimable Member
Posted by: Eightarmedpet

I wonder how it would work with displays connected directly to the Mini rather than the eGPU - are you able to test?

It won't work if the iGPU is completely disabled. Unless it works like the Thunderbolt controller, where the NHI and XHC are removed until a Thunderbolt or USB device is connected to a Thunderbolt port. I don't think I've seen any OS treat the iGPU the same way as the Thunderbolt controller though.

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Posted : November 9, 2018 10:34 am
Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member
Posted by: joevt
Posted by: Eightarmedpet

I wonder how it would work with displays connected directly to the Mini rather than the eGPU - are you able to test?

It won't work if the iGPU is completely disabled. Unless it works like the Thunderbolt controller, where the NHI and XHC are removed until a Thunderbolt or USB device is connected to a Thunderbolt port. I don't think I've seen any OS treat the iGPU the same way as the Thunderbolt controller though.

Cheers for the reply, thats disappointing to hear... I wonder if there is anyway round this?

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + [email protected] (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070 (debating 2070 upgrade) @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10
---
LG 5K Ultrafine flickering issue fix

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Posted : November 9, 2018 11:29 am
jangoloti
(@jangoloti)
Eminent Member
Posted by: jangoloti

What is the metallic shield over the RAM for? To avoid EMI?

I have a reply to my question. From iFixit:
"Actually though, we've seen this in iMacs of yore. The shield allows the RAM to operate at high frequency (2666 MHz) with no chance of accidentally interfering with other functions."
So it is a shield for EMI interference.

Mac Mini 2012 i7, Mac book Pro 2016 15" with TB, eGPU Galax/KFA2

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Posted : November 9, 2018 2:28 pm
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

@danhc HWiNFO shows the PCI Express x16 Controller - 1901 as unoccupied in the 2018 Mac mini with no 10GbE. The 1G Ethernet port attaches to the PCH which shares bandwidth with NVMe SSD, wireless card, and other peripherals. My guess is the 1901 controller would be occupied on a 10GbE Mac mini. This controller is the same attachment point for Radeon dGPU on the TB3 15 MacBook Pro.

@eightarmedpet Keep in mind all my testings so far with the 2018 Mac mini involved no workarounds available in our community. I'm confident @goalque's eGPU EFI Boot Manager can activate the iGPU to allow LG 5K UltraFine connection. I will have more time this weekend to test more configurations.

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Posted : November 9, 2018 2:43 pm Eightarmedpet and DanHC liked
DanHC
(@danhc)
Eminent Member
Posted by: theitsage

@danhc HWiNFO shows the PCI Express x16 Controller - 1901 as unoccupied in the 2018 Mac mini with no 10GbE. The 1G Ethernet port attaches to the PCH which shares bandwidth with NVMe SSD, wireless card, and other peripherals. My guess is the 1901 controller would be occupied on a 10GbE Mac mini. This controller is the same attachment point for Radeon dGPU on the TB3 15 MacBook Pro.

@eightarmedpet Keep in mind all my testings so far with the 2018 Mac mini involved no workarounds available in our community. I'm confident @goalque's eGPU EFI Boot Manager can activate the iGPU to allow LG 5K UltraFine connection. I will have more time this weekend to test more configurations.

@itsage That’s a great answer to my 10G Ethernet question, thanks. Hours ago I’ve ordered a i7 version without 10G Ethernet in fear or having trouble.

However, minutes ago I read your another reply with a user that encountered the first error 12.... which I am very scared now. He owns a i7 machine.

https://egpu.io/forums/which-gear-should-i-buy/2018-mac-mini-for-egpu/paged/4/#post-47149

Reading your advice to him, I am guessing that his setup didn’t work likely due to him using his iGPU and his eGPU all together with an monitor connecting to iGPU, and that iGPU uses some resources too, making insufficient resources for the eGPU.

I believe the above was the cause of error 12 instead of caused by an i7 instead of i5. My assumption is that his iGPU must be working, or else he won’t get a monitor running showing him error 12.....

If in his case, activation of iGPU which caused error 12, would @goalque’s EFI boot activation of iGPU poses a threat of error 12 for keeping iGPU alive? So far in your success and success of others, iGPU is deactivated, and the only failure is on his.... where iGPU is activated. I wonder what your @itsage thought would be?

In Hong Kong once an order is placed we can’t cancel it or return the machine....

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Posted : November 9, 2018 3:45 pm
Eightarmedpet
(@eightarmedpet)
Noble Member

@itsage cheers as ever, yeah I have high hopes for the EFI boot loader working, worked so far for my MacBook although the Vega card I bought didnt fit in the Core so I'm back to my 1070!

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touchbar + [email protected] (AKiTiO Thunder3) + Win10
2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + [email protected] (Sonnet Breakaway Box) + Win10

2017 13" MacBook Pro Touch Bar + GTX1070 (debating 2070 upgrade) @32Gbps-TB3 (Razer Core V1) + Win10
---
LG 5K Ultrafine flickering issue fix

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Posted : November 9, 2018 4:04 pm
theitsage
(@itsage)
Famed Member Admin

@danhc Similar to my response regarding the use of an LG UltraFine monitor, there are ways to keep the iGPU activated and running alongside an AMD eGPU in Boot Camp. So far I have not used any workaround we have at our disposal. Having multiple eGPU success reports this early with the Mac mini is a very good sign. I believe you won't encounter much trouble with your BTO Mac mini. We're here if you need help. It's always fun to have some challenges with new setups.

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Posted : November 9, 2018 4:05 pm Eightarmedpet and DanHC liked