The Black-and-White of The 2014 Mac Mini

2014 Mac Mini ExplodedApple’s announcement of the new Mac mini last week was an immediate disappointment for those of us waiting two years for updated hardware. With the level-entry Mac mini corresponding to the lower hardware specs of the level-entry MacBook Air, and, being like the MacBook Air, unable to upgrade the hard drive and memory after purchase, was a deal killer for most folks. Since the CPU fan for my vintage Black MacBook (2006) died this past summer, I need an affordable replacement system. Apple failed to deliver this year, but Other World Computing (OWC) has better options that fit the bill.

OWC sells refurbished Macs and various upgrades to extend the usefulness of each Mac. The cheapest option would be a 17″ iMac (2006) for $149 USD. This is the same generation as my Black MacBook, compatible with my existing hardware (i.e., memory modules, OWC 120GB SSD and external 250GB FireWire drive), and should boot up the SSD in an external closure as if it was yesterday. However, I’ll still be stuck with an unsupported 32-bit CPU that won’t run the newest Mac OS X, Yosemite, which was also announced last week.

The best option is a White MacBook (2010) for $449 USD. The unibody design has a back cover that comes off after removing ten screws, exposing the battery, DVD drive, hard drive, and memory for easy replacement. I’ll be able to pimp out this White MacBook more than I had with the Black MacBook.

  • Battery — The first battery for the Black MacBook lasted six years, and the second battery (manufactured in 2007) lasted two years. The battery for a 2010 laptop will need replacement sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, this item can only be obtained from the Apple Store for $129 USD.
  • DVD Player — OWC sells a data doubler adapter for $35 USD to replace the DVD player with a SATA hard drive or SSD. I’ll install the SSD from the Black MacBook to serve as the primary boot drive. OWC also sells an external optical drive enclosure to continue using the DVD player.
  • Hard Drive — My FireWire drive has two 120GB partitions for backing up the SSD with SuperDuper!, and a 10GB partition as a programming scratch pad. Since the White MacBook doesn’t have a FireWire connector, the internal 250GB hard drive will replace it. As prices for the larger capacity SSDs drop over time, I’ll replace the hard drive.
  • Memory — The White MacBook has 4GB RAM installed, which is fine for another year or two. The 2010 model maxes out at 16GB RAM, twice as much as the 2009 model. OWC sells a pair of 8GB memory modules for $200 USD.

All this expandability in a compact system for slightly more than the 2014 Mac mini with AppleCare and sale taxes included (~$650 USD). I got eight years of useful life out of the Black MacBook. I expect the White MacBook to provide at least four years, perhaps longer with a 64-bit CPU. More bang for the buck.