A couple of years ago, I made the bold decision to get rid of my ageing Nikon D70 digital SLR in favour of something more portable, and I ended up with an Olympus PEN E-PL5 micro four-thirds mirrorless camera.
It took beautiful pictures, but I there were a couple of things about it that I didn’t really like. The flash was a clip-on accessory, which was inconvenient to use, and there was no viewfinder which made using it in bright sunshine almost impossible.
I contemplated buying the electronic viewfinder accessory for the camera, but that cost a cool £120. That got me thinking – if I’m prepared to pay £120 on an add-on, what if I upgraded instead? I had seen Olympus’s new OM-D range, and their entry-level model, the E-M10 not only had a built-in flash and electronic viewfinder, but it also had a very nifty power zoom pancake lens – essentially the same focal lengths as my current camera in a lens half the size.
My current kit went on eBay, and I was able to get £300 for it. The new camera was £475, but with a £75 cash back deal. Altogether (using a liberal application of LaceyMath), I’ve ended up with a much better camera for just a £100 cost-to-change. In my head, I’ve saved £20 by buying a whole new camera instead of an electronic viewfinder…
Following on from my purchase of the Mac Mini, I was spurred on to making the upgrades I had been considering when I saw an amazing deal on a 480GB OCZ Arc 100 SSD on Amazon, so I bought it. Deciding that I only wanted to go through the task of dismantling the Mini once, I then sourced a 1TB 2.5-inch WD Red hard drive, and 16GB of RAM from Crucial. The final part of the puzzle was the Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive kit from iFixit.
Once I had everything, I set about the task of installing it all.
I was helped no end by OWC’s video showing the process of taking the Mini apart. I have to add at this point that it certainly isn’t a simple procedure, and you need to be confident that you’ve got the necessary skills to complete it successfully. I’d recommend watching the video through first before you commit to taking apart your little silver box of joy. It could easily go wrong if you’re not careful.
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the hardware installation was pleasingly stress-free, and once everything was installed, I decided that I was going to try and create my own Fusion drive, rather than keeping the SSD and hard drive separate. Because I had no recovery partition to rely on (two brand new drives precluded that option) I made myself a Yosemite installer on a USB stick. Not only does this allow you to install OSX, it also includes Disk Utility and Terminal to facilitate the Fusion Drive creation.
The Mac Mini really is flying along now – it’s a night and day improvement over the standard hardware. All in, the new-and-improved Mini had cost me £625. That’s a considerable cost saving over buying a similar spec direct from Apple.
As I mentioned last month, I’ve come to the realisation that I need a Windows PC to run alongside my new Mac Mini. Not only do I need to reacquaint myself with the Windows OS for work purposes, but I also rather fancy getting back into PC gaming.
Of course, I could just go out and buy an off-the-shelf machine, but where would be the fun in that? A self-build gets you a far better specification for your money, you can select exactly the configuration of parts that you want and need, and there’s the actual building of the thing which I enjoy rather too much. It has definitely been the hardware-tinkering aspect of computing that I’ve missed since moving to the Mac platform.
As you can imagine, prior to actually purchasing anything a large amount of research was undertaken to establish the best combination of components. I considered (briefly) going down the “budget” route, and trying to get the whole thing done under £500. However, after some consideration I decided that I’d rather build something that would hold up for at least the next 3 years without needing much attention, and that meant doubling the budget.
The build was fairly painless, and was helped no end by this YouTube video (again from PCPartPicker) which, apart from a few minor hardware differences, shows the process in excellent detail.
All in all, I’m really pleased with the finished product. In particular the case is excellent, and the graphics card is an absolute beast. I look forward to putting it through its paces in the next few months.