Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Video of 20" iMac G4 All-In-One ECX Mod

Before I removed the contents of the base to convert this mod to an external monitor for the mac mini I shot a quick (and shaky - sorry) video demonstrating its use.  I have stored all the contents including the bluray drive and ports.  The new Quanmax ECX board is due out at the end of the month and if it is not cost prohibitive - it could quickly be reassembled.  I'm hoping that, for one - there are new mac minis and secondly that they do not disappoint.

 For those of you interested in doing this mod, but wanting an all-in-one - use an ECX board - trust me.  I spent hours trying to shoehorn a mini itx into this thing and have spoken to plenty of modders who have done the same.  I bought all right angle port connectors - tried all angles.  Eventually I'd get it to close, but then within a couple hours I had to reopen it for something. (Short out, wire hitting the fan etc.). The one person I know able to get it closed and working has to power down periodically as a result of heat issues.  The base is a very poorly vented thick metal cage.  There are a few slits at the bottom and holes at the top.  Apple designed this to be convection cooled.  When I had updated the inside RAM in an original iMac G4 I forgot to put thermal paste on the two heatpipes when I closed it back up and the iMac would not stay on for more than 2 minutes - that's how delicate the convection cooling system was.

Mini itx in bottom of dome
The unavoidable flaw with a mini itx board in this setup is that it has to sit at the bottom of the dome (its the only place it fits).  So everything is above it.  There is no way to fit a DVD/Bluray with a mini-itx as the RAM and heatsink come up way to high.  Despite removing this, at minimum you will have the hard drive (even a small one), a power supply (The ECX board connects from a 4pin to external power bricks), and lots of wires that will all occupy the area above mobo - obstructing what little airflow there is.  And its a long way up to those small ventilation holes at the top of the dome.

Native HDD and DVD vs. BLURAY and ECX Mobo
The ECX is 3.5" (the exact same size as the native hard drive).  You can easily put a SSD below it or at the bottom of the dome (mine has a CF slot), and it does not require a separate power supply.  Most importantly the ECX by virtue of its size can sit at the top of the dome with its fan right under the ventilation holes.  And to be honest it was still pretty hot!! But at least not dangerously so.  For those interested ECX boards come in many varieties.  Quanmax and Portwell are two of the bigger manufacturers.  I am waiting for the new Sandy Bridge line, but there is nothing wrong with some of the newer Atom boards. Lets face it - if you are doing a 15 or 17" mod its probably not going to be a gaming computer.  As a secondary computer, it would probably be more than adequate.

Photo courtesy of Electronista
In terms of opening a mac mini - I'm not sure - while its designed to be very low voltage it would have to sit at the bottom and therefore heat is likely to be an issue.  To be honest, I kind of consider this now a moot point.  The newer mini design is likely here for the foreseeable future and although thinner, its mainboard is now likely too big to fit into the dome.  The previous generation core 2 duo will fit, but without a clear upgrade route I wouldn't risk taking it apart.

Question, Comments, and Advise always appreciated!