“The Mac Mini M1 resets expectations for simply how briskly a small, reasonably priced desktop might be.”
Blistering CPU efficiency
Extremely quick SSDs
Very good worth
Compact, sturdy design
MacOS Large Sur is nice
Subpar gaming efficiency
The Mac Mini has typically been seen because the ugly duckling in Apple’s Mac household. With out the modern sophistication of the iMac or the transportable fantastic thing about the MacBook, it’s typically ignored, consigned to the “area of interest” class and seen as solely match for builders and knowledge facilities.
However now that it has been outfitted with Apple’s M1 chip, ignoring it’s the very last thing you need to do. Though it might seem like the previous-generation Mac Mini from the surface, on the within it’s nothing lower than a revolution.
Removed from an afterthought, the Mac Mini is now a severe contender on your money — supplied you desire a desktop machine and have already got all of the required peripherals. It’s nonetheless area of interest, however it’s bashing exhausting towards the partitions of that descriptor, able to burst out.
The Mac Mini is by far Apple’s most compact desktop Mac. Measuring 7.7 inches broad and 1.four inches tall from high to backside, this can be a machine that may simply match in your desk or slide below a monitor. It’s equivalent in footprint to the earlier Intel-based Mac Mini.
Additionally it is certainly one of Apple’s most minimalist gadgets. Virtually your entire floor of the machine is roofed in matte aluminum, with simply a big Apple brand on high to interrupt up the uniformity. There isn’t a different branding and no different labeling, only a tiny white gentle on the entrance that lights up whenever you energy the machine on. It’s a Jony Ive fever dream, maybe the final word expression of Apple’s obsessive design mores.
As we’ve come to count on with Apple , the construct high quality is superb. All the machine is weighty and strong, with no flexing or bending to be discovered wherever. It looks like a tool that might take just a few knocks and nonetheless come up smiling — not that you’d need that to occur.
There are just a few variations between the M1 and Intel fashions, although. The obvious is the paint job, with the M1 mannequin coming in silver and the Intel model within the darker house grey. The Intel Mac Mini can also be barely heavier, weighing in at 2.9 kilos, in comparison with the M1 Mac Mini’s 2.6 kilos.
A extra important distinction lies across the again. Apple has lengthy since dropped USB-A ports on its MacBooks, however its desktop Macs — together with the Mac Mini — have held out. However whereas the Intel Mac Mini got here with 4 USB-A ports, the M1 model has solely two (each working at 5Gbps). That is extra doubtless a limitation of the M1 fairly than a plan by Apple to part out USB-A ports on the Mac Mini, and I might not be stunned to see a return to 4 ports when extra highly effective Apple Silicon chips come out. However it’s value noting if you’re nonetheless reliant on USB-A in your day-to-day duties. An adapter or dongle is perhaps required.
Elsewhere, the M1 Mac Mini comes with an Ethernet jack, two Thunderbolt three/USB four ports working at 40Gbps, an HDMI 2.zero slot, and a three.5mm headphone jack, plus the ability button and slot for the ability cable. That’s all equivalent to the Intel Mac Mini.
What you’ll not get is a keyboard, mouse, trackpad, or every other form of peripheral. You’ll need to offer all of these your self, plus a monitor to attach the Mac Mini to. If you have already got these, then the beginning worth of $699 feels all of the extra enticing. If you don’t, you’ll need to issue them in whenever you make your buy.
That is the primary time the Mac Mini has include certainly one of Apple’s personal M1 processors. The earlier mannequin’s base model got here with a four-core Intel Core i3-8100H working at three.0GHz, and it ran fairly effectively. Even on paper, although, the Apple M1 seems to be to be a major step up: Not solely does it have double the variety of CPU cores because the outdated entry-level Intel-based Mac Mini, but it surely additionally packs an eight-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine onto the identical system on a chip (SoC).
What’s extra, it makes use of one thing Apple calls a “unified reminiscence structure” (UMA), which lets the CPU and GPU draw from a single pool of reminiscence, lowering overhead for each. What all this jargon means is that every thing ought to, in principle, run rather a lot snappier — one thing third-party builders have already instructed us.
We have now beforehand seen how effectively Apple’s M1 chip performs within the MacBook Professional and MacBook Air, so we have already got an inkling of what to anticipate: That is one extremely performant processor. However the query is whether or not the additional house contained in the Mac Mini in comparison with these transportable laptops can maintain the chip cooler and afford it some additional efficiency headroom. Does the Mac Mini outperform even these gadgets?
The reply is sure, and in some circumstances resoundingly so. In GeekBench 5, the Mac Mini racked up a single-core rating of 1744 and a multi-core rating of 7659, forward of the M1 MacBook Professional’s 1707 and 7337. These numbers might not imply a lot to you, so let me put it this manner: The Mac Mini’s single-core rating is the very best we’ve ever seen in GeekBench 5. Its multi-core rating is the eighth highest we’ve measured. This factor flies.
It’s the similar elsewhere. Its SSDs are blazing quick, averaging 2,144.1MBps write speeds and a couple of,775.1MBps learn speeds. In Cinebench R23, the Mac Mini was bested solely by the Falcon NW Talon packing a Ryzen 9 5950X, a machine that can price you not less than $four,000. The Mac Mini we reviewed prices $699. In fact, that’s solely a benchmark, and that Falcon NW machine is much extra highly effective in heavy duties like gaming or video modifying. Nonetheless, that’s astonishing worth for the cash.
The $699 beginning worth of the Mac Mini feels an virtually absurd quantity of efficiency.
Artificial benchmarks can solely let you know a lot, although. How does the Mac Mini carry out in real-world conditions? Effectively, in HandBrake 1.four (an app that has been optimized for the M1), the Mac Mini encoded a two-minute 4K video in two minutes and 36 seconds — the identical period of time because the M1 MacBook Professional. In Adobe Premiere Professional, the Mini beat each the MacBook Air and MacBook Professional within the PugetBench benchmark, and that’s utilizing the Intel model of Adobe’s app that’s been translated utilizing Apple wizardry to work on the M1.
When the Apple Silicon model of Adobe’s video app comes out a while this yr, efficiency can be even higher. If that is your type of workload, the Mac Mini goes to make a giant distinction, particularly if you’re at the moment working older Intel-based .
Now, the distinction in efficiency between the MacBook Professional and the Mac Mini isn’t big. It’s solely eight% sooner in Premiere. That needs to be thought of in case you attempting to determine between the 2.
The Mac Mini is a workhorse, and it completely excels in CPU-intensive workloads, roaring forward of machines that price twice as a lot (or extra). Oh, and it did all of it with out the followers spinning up. Not as soon as. I needed to put my head towards the machine to listen to something, and even then it was practically silent. Apple wasn’t joking when it mentioned the M1 provided higher efficiency in a extra environment friendly manner than something Intel needed to supply.
Certainly, the $699 beginning worth of the Mac Mini feels virtually absurd given how a lot efficiency the M1 chip has on faucet. Certain, you don’t get a display screen, mouse, and keyboard, and if it’s a must to purchase these, then the worth will increase. But when you have already got loads of peripherals sitting in your desk, the Mac Mini is essentially the most reasonably priced option to get M1 efficiency.
Regardless of all that, the Mac Mini just isn’t a gaming machine. The M1 might have an eight-core GPU inbuilt, but it surely nonetheless will get smoked by a machine with a discrete graphics card. That’s not to say gaming efficiency was horrible — it was respectable for a machine of this measurement and worth — however if you’re after excessive body charges, particularly at greater resolutions, you’ll have to maintain wanting.
Efficiency various by the sport. In video games that don’t put an excessive amount of strain on the GPU, like Civilization VI, efficiency was acceptable with the suitable settings. At 1080p and medium high quality, the Mac Mini averaged round 48 frames per second (fps). At 1440p extremely, although, that dropped right down to 26 fps.
Gaming is an apparent weak spot.
Tactical stealth recreation Desperados III ran on excessive settings with no downside in any respect, however the extra demanding Deus Ex: Mankind Divided may solely attain 27 fps at 1080p medium; at 1440p extremely, it barely cracked 12 fps.
Gaming is an apparent weak spot, then, however I don’t assume there are numerous hardcore players on the market who’re going to purchase a Mac Mini as their fundamental machine. When you simply need to do some gentle gaming, then try to be high quality, however don’t count on an excessive amount of extra on this space.
It was clear when Apple introduced the M1 chip that it had realized from its rivals’ errors, in addition to its personal actions previously. When Microsoft rolled out its personal custom-designed ARM chip within the Floor Professional X, it discovered itself in an app-compatibility nightmare from which it’s nonetheless attempting to extricate itself. Apple doubtless took one have a look at that and knew it needed to do higher.
The excellent news is that Apple has largely achieved that. When you purchase a Mac Mini at present, the possibilities are your favourite Mac apps will work with no downside, no matter whether or not they have been optimized for the M1 or not. Many builders have already introduced out M1-specific variations of their apps (Microsoft Workplace, for instance), however those that haven’t profit from one thing Apple has developed referred to as Rosetta 2.
Reminiscent of the final time Apple switched processor platforms, this mainly interprets Intel apps to work on the ARM-based M1. It comes preinstalled on the Mac Mini and you don’t even see it boot up — your Intel apps simply load with no hitch. It’s an exceptionally clean course of.
With apps which might be optimized for the M1, efficiency is more likely to be significantly better than something translated utilizing Rosetta 2. As an illustration, after I ran our HandBrake benchmark utilizing model 1.zero.7 of the app (which is made for Intel techniques), it encoded our 4K take a look at video in four minutes and 44 seconds.
Utilizing an M1-optimized model of the app, it did it in virtually half the time. When you stick with Apple’s personal apps for many of your work, efficiency will doubtless be even higher. Not everybody likes Apple’s vicelike grip on its ecosystem, however and software program efficiency is one space the place it actually works.
There could also be a few apps that, for no matter cause, simply don’t work. Once I first acquired the Mac Mini, Google Backup and Sync, which I take advantage of to maneuver work paperwork between my numerous gadgets, completely refused to load. In the long run, it was not an excessive amount of of a hassle — I switched to Dropbox, and some weeks later, Google up to date its app to repair the issue — however it’s value contemplating that you’ll have just a few points with app compatibility.
For essentially the most half, although, it was not one thing I’ve had issues with. Google Backup and Sync was the one app I attempted that didn’t work immediately out of the field.
The M1 Mac Mini is among the best-value desktop PCs cash should purchase proper now. Its efficiency is mind-blowing for a pc this small and this reasonably priced, and whereas it’s not a lot of a gaming rig, it’s nearly excellent for every thing else.
Are there any options?
A couple of different corporations supply miniature desktop PCs. There may be the Intel NUC 10, with processor choices starting from an Intel i3 to an i7. When you’re trying to recreation, the Different corporations like HP and Asus even have small-scale PCs that will meet your wants.
Observe that each one the options run Home windows, although. If in case you have your coronary heart set on a tiny desktop pc that runs MacOS, the Mac Mini is your solely possibility.
How lengthy will it final?
We’re proper at first of the Apple Silicon highway map, so help for this Mac Mini will proceed for a few years to come back. Given how effectively it performs in comparison with the rest in its bracket (and in comparison with gadgets manner above its bracket), will probably be a very long time earlier than you discover it slowing down.
Apple doesn’t replace the Mac Mini as typically as its MacBooks, however proper now there is just one Apple Silicon Mac Mini mannequin accessible, so it’s potential Apple will convey out an alternative choice this yr. That doesn’t imply that in case you purchase this M1 Mac Mini, you’ll be disenchanted, simply that a fair higher mannequin could also be within the works.
Do you have to purchase it?
Sure, completely. The worth-to-performance ratio is staggering, and if you’re out there for a desktop fairly than a laptop computer, the Mac Mini needs to be on the high of your listing.