On upgrading older Mac minis →

Brian Stucki at Macminicolo:

Since we buy so many Mac mini parts, I’ve noticed some real trends over the years. When it comes to upgrading Mac minis, I think we’re in a pretty nice sweet spot right now. I think that most people don’t know the current opportunity so I thought I’d do some digging and get some of that data out.

Brian is right; upgrading an old Mac mini is cheaper than ever before, and these machines are definitely worth the investment.

I currently have three Mac minis in use. One is at home, hooked up to our TV. It serves a couple of big file volumes to the home network and runs iTunes 24/7 to feed the Apple TV. It’s a Mid 2011 machine with a 2.3 GHz Core i5, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. You’d never know it was five years old. I use this machine daily, and it rarely feels slow. Handbrake is the only time I wish I had more CPU at hand.

I have two machines at Macminicolo. The first is the machine that hosts the Relay FM live feed. It’s also a 2.3 GHz Mid 2011 model, but has 16 GB of RAM and a spinning hard drive. In addition to streaming audio for live podcasts to the web and our app, we use this machine to sync a ton of shared Dropbox folders back to one place for backup to Backblaze. If I interacted with it more, I’d put an SSD in it, but it feels plenty fast for the type of tasks it completes.

The most robust Mac mini in my growing army is a Late 2012 machine I just set up with Brian’s company. I’m using this machine for personal backups and a few little projects I’m tinkering with. It has the ever-coveted quad core i7 processor with a 256 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM.

Here’s the thing: if I didn’t know which of these machines was fastest, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which was which. It’s amazing what an SSD and some RAM will do for these little computers.

While the current Mac mini retains the same form factor, it is far less upgradeable than the machines I’m using. The RAM is soldered to the board, which is ridiculous in a computer that’s form factor doesn’t justify it.