I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my 2018 Mac Mini from the start. Sometimes it’s felt more like a project-build running a beta OS than a reliable, fun workstation to me. But now with Catalina OS 10.15.6, I’m happy to report that things are running exceptionally smoothly! I’ve spent a ton of time researching aftermarket products that would play well with the Mini and I’m finally thrilled with my build which has finally exceeded my former iMac 27″.
The two things I did are quite simple, but you have to know they are available and that took me some time. 1) I added a tiny IR dongle that receives signals from almost any remote control unit. 2) I purchased an external GPU in an Apple approved enclosure. That’s it, pretty basic but unbelievably useful!
Apple stopped including infrared systems in their computer lineup several years ago. There is an iOS app I use occasionally called Remote. It’s cool for picking out music to play from my Music library but is slow and bulky for simple things like muting a song or changing the volume level. Since I use my Mac as my home entertainment center-I loved the aluminum Apple Remote that came with my old iMac. It allowed me to pause YouTube, mute commercials, fine tune volume adjustment quickly, etc. It’s easy to take it for granted until it’s gone.
I stumbled upon a dongle the size of a small flash drive that plugs into a USB port called FLIRC. It acts as an IR receiver which allows you to pair it with nearly any type of remote on nearly any OS using their free software. I read a bunch of reviews from Mac users who were successfully using the product. I purchased FLIRC for $23 and grabbed a vintage white Apple Remote off eBay for $5. After spending less than 5 minutes with the FLIRC software, my Mac is able to do everything I really missed about my iMac’s remote!
A few days ago I decided to research and price some external GPUs for my Mini. All I really knew about eGPUs was that BlackMagic made one that works with Macs but it’s hella expensive. Fortunately, Apple has allowed other eGPU makers in the Mac ecosystem to some extent and has a list of approved graphics cards and enclosures.
I asked for some advice on MacRumors.com and got pointed in the right direction to do some additional research. There are actually several good options for the Mini but I went with one that was super cost effective and practical for my use. I found an AMD RX 570 graphics card in a small enclosure made by Sonnet Technologies on facebook marketplace for a great price. It hooks up to my Mini by a single Thunderbolt cable and wires to my monitor by an HDMI cable.
Guess what, it fired right up and was recognized my the Mini right away! In benchmark tests it yielded a 13x increase in my graphics processing. I will take that any day!