In a nutshell, the Apple MacMini is a laptop computer without a keyboard, display or input device. It is sold as a low-cost entry point to the world of Mac and as a replacement for cumbersome and unaesthetically pleasing PC boxes, to lure PC consumers away from the world of Microsoft and into the Mac fold.
The aesthetic is obviously Apple, but in order to make everything fit into such a small form factor Apple built the Mac Mini like a laptop. The power supply is external (this 85W unit was built by Delta for Apple), and some of the major components (hard drive and optical drive) are laptop form factor.
Just as was the case with the recently analyzed iPod shuffle, the Mac Mini is one of the more cutting-edge designs that we have seen using a great deal of creativity to fit the form and feel desired. This is not the densest design we have seen, and employs relatively conventional surfacemount components on the motherboard (no 0201 case sizes here), but the design is highly integrated. For example, the integrated Northbridge/Southbridge Agere ASIC has the highest pincount by far we have ever seen in a single chip (997!).
Furthermore, from a mechanical point of view there were several inventive Apple touches to deal with heat dissipation though the use of a thermal, non-skid pad (co-molded to the white base of the Mac Mini), as well as the use of a pass-through chanelled MPU heatsink and ducting, to take guide airflow through the Mac Mini. The Mac Mini body is largely a single, beautiful and weighty piece of machined aluminum which not only establishes the smooth aesthetic of the Mac Mini but further assists in thermal dissipation.
And by the way - for those who might wonder - to maintain the sleek Apple aesthetic, there are no screws to fasten the Mac Mini enclosure to the base - it is held together by snap-in 'hooks' molded into the white base, and grooves machined into the aluminum body which hold it together (quite tightly!). In fact the official tool recommended by Apple to separate the base from the aluminum housing is none other than a common 1.5 putty knife from your local hardware store; an odd and unique a choice as Apple itself.
Cost Drivers (Representing 90% of total materials costs)
MPU (Freescale) - MPC7447B 1.25Ghz $48
North/Southbridge Chip (Agere) - ASIC $18
Graphics Chip - ATI Radeon 9200 $19
Hard Drive (2.5" 40GB 5400rpm Ultra ATA) $58
Optical drive (DVD-R/CD-RW Combo Drive) $44
DIMM Module (256MB, PC3200, DDR 400Mhz) $21
* - Remember that iSuppli teardowns focus only on hardware and manufacturing costs, and as such do not accoujnt for intellectual property costs, specifically software, but also license fees, etc. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the manufacture of the core device itself - cost of shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and Apple margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device (the phone and packaging, in this case) itself. Margin IS assumed to be included in the costss used for sub-assemblies and devices used within the Mac Mini (hard drive, optical drive, power supply, chips, etc.).
The Mac Mini is assumed to be manufactured by Foxconn in China. This would seem to be corroborated also by the preponderance of Foxconn devices (connectors, at least) found populating the motherboard. It is also assumed, therefore, unless otherwise noted, that all manufacturing takes place in China, and domestic Chinese labor rates have been applied to the overall manufacturing. Other 'modules' such as the Hard drive (Seagate, Singapore), or the Power Supply (Delta, Thailand), may come from other labor and cost areas, but that is already taken into account in the cost for those assemblies.
We also assumed that the aluminum housing, plastics and other custom mechanical components were produced in China.
Overall, the final assembly of the Mac Mini is relatively simple, and is reminiscent of Nokia cell phone designs which use elegantly simple designs with few screws, snap-in parts where possible, and modular designs making the final assembly simple and efficient.