Of the two, the 2014 Mac mini is easier to service, scoring a six out of 10 repair-ability grade, compared to five out of 10 for the iMac with Retina Display. If you’re thinking of tweaking the RAM, CPU or hard drive yourself, you should know that it’s only possible to do so on the 27-inch iMac with Retina Display.
The Mac mini has both the processor and memory soldered to the logic board, so they’re not user upgrade-able. In a way, it makes perfect sense, since the extravagantly priced 5K iMac addresses a target audience that presumably doesn’t see money as a problem, whereas the Mac mini starts at $499.
If Apple were to allow user upgrades, there would be less incentive for people to cough up an extra $200 for the Mac mini that packs a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 1TB HDD, or another $300 on top of that for the 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 version with 8GB RAM, and a 1TB Fusion Drive. It’s a little cynical, maybe, but from Apple’s point of view, it’s healthy business approach.
The entry-level Mac mini comes with a modest 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive. The latter two could be easily replaced for better guts at lower cost, if such a thing were possible.
Unfortunately, the new iMac with Retina Display’s modular components don’t make the $2,500 (and up) system any easier to disassemble and repair. The glass and LCD are fused together, and a number of additional hurdles obstruct the path to upgrade success for amateur DIY-ers.
Here’s the bottom line. If you want to service either of these Macs, it’s best to handle them with care. Don’t dismantle them just for kicks.