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Mac Mini + iPad Mini = touchscreen Mac


The device has a touchscreen instead of an integrated keyboard and touchpad.
Enlarge / The device has a touchscreen instead of an integrated keyboard and touchpad.

Measuring 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches and weighing 2.6 pounds, the Mac Mini is more portable than most desktops. But to use it at, for example, a café, you also need to carry some sort of display. Instead of relegating desktop-level work to, well, the top of the desk, one maker has taken matters into his own hands. The “Portable Mac Mini,” as he calls it, is supposed to make it easier to work with the Mac Mini anywhere. It also creates a pseudo-Mac laptop with a handy feature that Apple doesn’t offer in its real clamshells.

Although the Portable Mac Mini that YouTuber Scott Yu-Jan created has a display you can angle and folds shut like a laptop, it has to be plugged in, and it doesn’t have a built-in physical keyboard.

However, the computer does have a screen attached: a 2021 iPad Mini. The tablet brings touch functionality to the Mac Mini via Duet Display, an app that basically turns iPads or iPhones into second screens. Apple doesn’t make any MacBooks with touchscreens, so the result here is a maker-made exclusive.

The heart of the Portable Mac Mini hack is a 3D-printed case that lets you slide the Mac Mini and iPad Mini in and out. A USB-C cable connects the Mac Mini and iPad Mini while helping the tablet stay in the chassis.

The case includes a carrying handle and a slot to hold the power cable.
Enlarge / The case includes a carrying handle and a slot to hold the power cable.

There’s also a spot to store an Allen key, which can tighten any bolts that might come loose after using the hinge “a few times,” Yu-Jan said.

If you’re wondering what the point of this is, you’re not alone. In a video shared last week and spotted by Hackaday on Thursday, Yu-Jan called the Portable Mac Mini “the most controversial thing I ever made.”

Putting the Mac Mini into the 3D-printed sleeve.
Enlarge / Putting the Mac Mini into the 3D-printed sleeve.

A 2021 Mac Mini (starts at $700) and iPad Mini (starts at $500) together cost more than an M1-based MacBook (the MacBook Air starts at $1,000).

Inspiration for the Portable Mac Mini also came from seeing how loud and hot laptops can get, the YouTuber noted. But as commenters, and our reviews of MacBooks, have pointed out, Apple’s M1-based laptops can hold their own against the M1-powered Mac Mini. And in the case of the MacBook Air, there are no noisy fans to hear.

Inserting the iPad Mini into the 3D-printed chassis.
Enlarge / Inserting the iPad Mini into the 3D-printed chassis.

But Yu-Juan explained that his channel is about “getting more out of the things you already own.” Since 3D printing seems to have made this miniature computer extra portable and has given it a touchscreen, Yu-Juan has apparently succeeded.



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