Although Apple's Mac computers are not exactly friendly to modification, this does not mean that they cannot be modded. It is not only possible, but as a new Mac Mini mod shows, it actually leads to impressive results.
Being one of the first high-volume desktop PCs to use laptop parts, Mac Mini was among the smallest desktop machines when it was introduced in 2005. Over time, it got a little more compact, but for over ten years the design has remained largely the same. With emergence of Intel's NUC and even tinier systems, Apple's Mac Mini in its current form-factor launched in 2011 does not look that neat anymore. Yet, given a compact footprint of Mac Mini M1's motherboard, it is possible to make this PC tiny, and the Snazzy Labs team of modders has found out (via Liliputing).
Apple's M1 system-on-chip (SoC) allowed a significantly reduced footprint, complexity, and power consumption for Mac Mini compared to the previous Intel-based Mac Mini. But what the latest Mac Mini did not do was shrink the size of its cooling system, wattage and dimensions of its 150W built-in power supply, and consequently the size of its chassis.
Enthusiasts from Snazzy Labs managed to carefully unsolder antennas and power button from the chassis, and all of that effort was rewarded with a highly-integrated motherboard with all wired and wireless input/output interfaces attached. The modders 3D printed a specially designed chassis that is 78% smaller than the original one (the guide how to do it has been published). That chassis is fanless though.
Apparently, the biggest problem for the engineers was to find a proper power supply. A 150W PSU is obviously an overkill for a system that merely consumes over 68W under load even when all I/O ports are used. Therefore, Snazzy Labs had to design an appropriate PSU themselves using a 65W Microsoft Surface power adapter, a MacBook Pro MagSafe 2 DC-IN power board, and a MagSafe 2 cable.
There are some catches with Snazzy Labs' mod. First up, this system is passively cooled and will inevitably throttle under high loads. Of course, it is possible to 3D print an appropriate chassis with a fan. Secondly, there are a lot of chassis (rack mounted or desk mounted) for Apple's Mac Mini, so making the system smaller may not make a lot of sense. Nonetheless, the mod demonstrates that it is possible to make the current Mac Mini considerably smaller, albeit with some compromises.