Should you buy an M1 Mac mini? I’ve been debating this question for the best part of nine months. And earlier this calendar week, I finally decided to purchase one. Hither’s why…
I’k currently running a 2014 5K iMac. As computers get, it has been the best desktop computer I accept always owned. Prior to the launch of Apple’s new iMac range, I was pretty much ready on getting 1 of them as soon as they landed. Simply then I actually saw what Apple launched.
iMac vs Mac mini
The brandish on the new M1 iMac is also minor for my needs. Information technology has terrible I/O. And, worst of all, I really don’t like the manner it looks – it just looks weird. And not in a good way. I know at that place’southward a bigger iMac Pro coming with a larger display. Only I cannot look until 2022.
My iMac is at present well and truly in the throes of decease so I need a new computer now. I don’t desire a laptop, I already take a few Chromebooks, and since COVID, I barely travel anymore anyway. Plus, I already utilize a tertiary-party mouse and a mechanical keyboard, so I may as become a 3rd-party monitor besides.
Plus, with a third-party monitor, you have way more options with things like aspect ratio, resolution, and price. Do I get two mid-range monitors or one massive, super-wide-screen 4K monitor? I’thou still on the argue about this but I do know that the monitor I get for my Mac mini will probably cost more than the Mac mini itself.
What Is A Mac Mini?
The Mac mini is also Apple’s cheapest computer too. This is because y’all ONLY become a computer in the box; there’southward no display, mouse, or keyboard. Y’all demand to purchase these things separately. And that’s fine because it means you can swap things around, endeavour new tech, and more often than not customize your office setup to your exact needs.
And all the same, I call back this is the main matter that puts people off from getting a Mac mini. They don’t desire the hassle of ownership a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. A laptop or a MacBook is easier. Ditto an iMac. You lot get everything you need in one box, so y’all can go started right away. And logically, this does make sense. The Mac mini is cheaper just once yous factor in costs for a monitor, it’ll be just every bit expensive as an iMac – depending on what monitor you go with, of grade.
Essentially, what you get with a Mac mini is just a desktop computer without any peripherals – things like a monitor and a mouse and keyboard. You WILL need to buy these things separately. Simply for me, this is not a negative. Yeah, information technology means spending more money. But it as well means you tin build and customize your setup to your exact needs.
Choosing A Monitor For Your Mac Mini
Me? I’m currently weighing up four potential monitors for my Mac mini – and they’re all pretty pricey, as yous can see below:
- Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ
Samsung CHG90 49-Inch Curved Ultrawide Monitor
- Philips Brilliance 499P9H
- Dell UltraSharp 34 Curved USB-C Monitor
At present, these monitors are all pretty pricey – none retail for less than $500. But they’re all ultra-wide and they’re all 4K, 2 things I know I definitely want for my Mac mini. Why buy an ultra-wide monitor? Simple: I get all the benefits of two monitors – the expanded workflow, the ability to set upward action points for certain apps, like email and Tweetdeck in the left corner – on a single brandish.
Plus, buying one monitor is Always going to be cheaper than buying ii. Unless you’re ownership crappy monitors. If you get that route, you could take iii or 4 monitors. Or even an entire wall of monitors. Simply I expect at a screen all day long, then I want to look at a practiced screen with high resolution and brilliant contrast and things like HDR.
Mac mini Ports & I/O
Another reason that swayed me towards the M1 Mac Mini? Its I/O. If yous’ve seen the new iMac, y’all’ll know its I/O is pathetic – like utter rubbish. The Mac Mini, however, has all the I/O you lot’ll ever demand, although it is still not quite every bit skillful as its predecessor. Apple hates I/O, though, and so we’re just going to have to deal with it.
When it comes to I/O on the M1 Mac Mini, yous have the following options:
- Thunderbolt 3
- USB 3.1 Gen ii
- Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, VGA
- 2x USB-A
- Gigabit Ethernet Port
- iii.5mm Headphone Jack
As you can meet, all the main bases are covered with respect to I/O on the 2020 M1 Mac Mini. Yous fifty-fifty have a headphone jack. With all the to a higher place, I accept plenty connectivity to get everything I need synced up and integrated with my Mac Mini – from my SD card reader to a second display if I fancy ane.
Meanwhile, the M1 iMac is missing Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, 10GB Ethernet, and an SDXC Slot which, for my needs, is just totally unacceptable for a desktop computer. Why did Apple tree do this? Simple: Apple tree hates I/O. I just don’t know why though. Simply then I remember that the company is nonetheless hellbent on making an iPhone with Zilch ports (shudders).
In this respect, the Mac mini ports offering up but about the near connectivity you can go on any of Apple’s new M1 Mac computers. And if you’re doing anything remotely creative – similar design, photography, or video editing – you will definitely want to have plenty of options when it comes to ports and I/O.
Mac Mini Operation
Because the Mac Mini is a standalone device, and it is pretty modest compared to the iMac, people, including myself, ofttimes assume it lacks the power of Apple tree’south larger, more than expensive computers. Just this isn’t the case; the M1 Mac Mini is just as powerful equally Apple’s M1 MacBooks and iMac.
How good is the performance with respect to the Mac Mini? Pretty freaking skillful; you tin can see how it compares to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in a selection of popular benchmarking tools below.
|Benchmark||MacBook Air||MacBook Pro||Mac mini|
|Cinebench R23 Multi||6803||7729||7729|
|Cinebench R23 Unmarried||1494||1519||1520|
|Cinebench R23 Multi looped for 30 minutes||5369||7729||7780|
|Geekbench v.3 CPU Multi||7510||7554||7711|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Unmarried||1730||1730||1754|
|Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL/ Compute||18357||19211||19654|
And fifty-fifty when information technology comes to running Intel apps, the Mac mini performs brilliantly. I’ve read multiple reviews, done my research, and the determination that nigh all critics take come to is that the Mac mini, like Apple tree’s other M1 machines, is utterly rapid in most all settings.
The Mac mini, thank you to its M1 chipset, is at present also sixty% more power-efficient than its Intel-based counterparts. That means information technology runs libation, draws less power, and basically delivers more performance for less energy. If this thing was a car, it’d have over the market in the infinite of a week, such is the ability of Apple’s custom silicon.
I’thou not a massive power user, a lot of what I do is done in the deject. I seldom use x86 apps on my iMac, so a machine like the M1 Mac mini – or any of Apple’s M1 Macs – is perfectly suited to my style of working. And I’m guessing millions of other peoples’ besides. Fifty-fifty with apps similar Microsoft 365, y’all’re covered with an M1 Mac.
But in that location will be cases where certain x86 apps don’t play overnice, so if you do piece of work with specialist x86 apps frequently, and they’re integral to your workflow, it might be worth doing a deeper dive on how it functions on M1 Macs. Apple has done a lot to make x86 apps uniform, but it is still early days in the M1 ecosystem, and in that location will always be outliers.
My Keyboard of Option For The Mac mini
Having owned an iMac since 2014, and a MacBook Air before that, I have used Apple’s keyboards pretty extensively over the years. The company’s Magic Keyboard is a popular option, it comes bundled with the iMac, and this is what I used for 90% of the time between 2014 and today.
Only and then I discovered mechanical keyboards, and my earth changed forever. I’ve been using a Keychron K2 wireless mechanical keyboard since 2019 and it has completely changed my – writing – life. The keys are easier to type on, you tin can blazon faster, and they make this awesome clicking sound because they run on switches.
And considering the keys on a mechanical keyboard run on physical switches, y’all become a more than tactile typing experience. This is why coders, gamers, and software programmers favor them. They’re kinder to your fingers and wrists, thanks to the improved travel of the keys, and this ways you have less chance of developing a repetitive strain injury.
Honestly, after using the Keychron K2 wireless mechanical keyboard for a couple of years, I couldn’t imagine going back to one of Apple’s Magic Keyboards. The difference is nighttime and day. And Apple’s keyboards – for iMac and the Mac mini – aren’t exactly cheap either. My communication? Get yourself a mechanical keyboard. You’ll exist blown away past the difference it makes, especially if you type all day long.
Is there a learning bend with mechanical keyboards? Yep, there is – simply it doesn’t accept long to adjust. I recollect information technology took me a few days to get back up to my usual typing speed. Now, a couple of years later, I remember I am faster at typing than ever – and it is all down to using a mechanical keyboard.
If you’re using to typing on flat keys, like Apple tree’south Magic Keyboard, the transition from this to using a mechanical keyboard, where the keys have actual travel and switches, feels pretty desperate at first. You feel like you’re doing more, initially, but y’all chop-chop go over this. It’s a scrap like switching from a normal desk to a standing desk-bound, it only takes a few days to adjust and your body to adjust.
Is The Mac mini Upgradable?
Back in the day, you could upgrade Apple’s Macs. But for the last couple of years, Apple is making this a lot trickier. With the 2020 M1 Mac mini, y’all cannot physically alter any of the components. This means getting your configuration right before buying is cardinal – you don’t want to be using a Mac that is underpowered or lacks adequate storage.
I went with the 16GB / 512GB model; it is the most expensive option in the highest configuration. I too updated the storage to 1TB. But I plan on using this machine for the next viii-x years, so I wanted to brand sure information technology was future-proofed with plenty of storage and enough of memory.
This particular model retails for $1099, whereas the entry-level Mac mini starts from $699. And for $699, you go 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. This might exist fine for some people. But it was as well limited for my tastes. In the middle, you have a 16GB / 256GB Mac mini which costs $899, representing a happy medium between the most expensive model and the cheapest, entry-level Mac mini.
Which Mac mini Configuration is Best?
Obviously, the best Mac mini for yous will depend on your needs and wants. If y’all’re going to be doing a lot of intensive stuff on your Mac mini, things like video editing and the similar, you lot’ll desire to go with the 16GB model with 512GB of SSD storage.
If you’re a blogger, or you practice nearly of your work in the cloud, either via Google Drive/Workspace or Microsoft 365, you lot’ll exist fine with either the entry-level model or the eye-tier option which means you tin can get up and running for under $900 at the loftier-end and $700 at the lower end.
To be off-white, all the Mac mini models are very powerful and extremely quiet; the fan is barely aural. The model you eventually go for, withal, will largely exist based on how much storage you lot need and how much RAM you desire. The more intensive the work you lot do, the more than RAM you need.
The base model, the one that costs $699, will however be plenty powerful, fifty-fifty for content creators, only it is rather express with respect to storage and memory. If you want to shop lots of files natively, or you edit and need to store lots of large files, y’all’ll want to go with either the $899 or $1099 model – this will requite yous more storage and more RAM.
Yet, all of the to a higher place are just the base configurations for each model. Yous tin add boosted storage and RAM to each model. Each new tier of storage volition add $200 to the baseline cost. And Apple has storage options from 512GB to 2TB.
Is The Cheapest Mac mini Skilful Enough For Me?
The cheapest Mac mini is very approachable at $699. But is it worth it? Again, this will largely depend on you. If you don’t run plenty of intensive apps and yous plan on simply running the motorcar for a couple of years, and so, yep, the entry-level option is more appealing.
If you lot want to run the Mac mini for longer – say, half-dozen to 8 years – so you’ll want to go with a more expensive model. This will ensure more reliable performance in its later on years. For instance, I low-balled my 2014 iMac, and at start, it was fine. But now, many years later, the arrangement is slowing downward and making my life hell.
Had I gone for a college-spec model, it probably would have bought me another couple of years of usage. And that would have meant I wouldn’t have to spend the best role of $1500 on a new Mac mini now.
As I said, it’s mostly swings and roundabouts. If you’re planning on running the Mac mini for years at a time, and yous plan on doing lots of stuff with it, you’ll definitely not want to inexpensive out on RAM or storage. What’due south an ideal storage choice for the Mac mini? I’d go with 1TB; this will give yous more than enough storage to play with.
8GB of RAM or 16GB – What’due south The Difference?
Because of the nature of Apple tree’due south M1 chip, you will become WAY more functioning from 8GB of RAM, than yous would from a PC running 8GB on an Intel or AMD chipset. Information technology’south similar to Apple’s iPhone; it runs less RAM than nearly all Android phones. And yet it is consistently more potent from a performance perspective.
With the M1 iMac, 8GB will be more than enough for most users – even heavy users. But to exist safe, I would wholeheartedly recommend that you take the $200 striking and upgrade the unit of measurement to 16GB of RAM. This will give you lot insane performance and it will also make the machine run smoother as it gets older which – trust me – is super-important.
With RAM, more is usually meliorate. And while the 8GB Mac mini is still a powerhouse, the 16GB model will ensure that your Mac mini stays relevant for longer, pregnant y’all can run it for longer and not take to upgrade after several years of use. This is the smart style to practice things. I know this because I fabricated this very mistake with my 2014 iMac, though mercifully that car allowed for upgradable RAM.
Is The M1 Mac Mini Worth It?
This is a long mail, I know. But we had quite a lot of stuff to encompass, from peripherals for the Mac mini to mechanical keyboards, as well as the all-time configurations for the Mac mini. The primary takeaway of all of the in a higher place, however, is that Apple’s Mac mini is 1 of its best Mac computers right now – it is a vastly superior system to the new iMac.
> View All Configuration Options
And for a certain type of user, the Mac mini is the perfect computer. It is relatively inexpensive, you can pair it with any monitor, keyboard, and mouse you lot like. You cannot practise this with an iMac or a MacBook. Okay, you can with a MacBook. Merely the MacBook isn’t really a desktop computer, although information technology tin definitely be used equally one with a dock.
The M1 chipset is bonkers powerful. It runs near-slightly, outpaces most of the contest, and it will be supported past Apple for years to come up. Add together in a dandy cost and expansive I/O and you’re looking at one of the best M1 Mac options on the market right at present. This is why I brought one, and it is why – if yous hold with any of the higher up – y’all should too.
Essential Mac Mini Accessories
External SSD – Regardless of which Mac mini model yous, having external storage is essential, peculiarly if yous work on the motion. With an SSD, yous tin can store and keep all your most important documents in one place and have it with you lot when yous’re on the move. Our current favorite correct now is the
2TB OWC Envoy Pro EX. It is outstanding.
Mechanical Keyboard – If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard before, in that location’southward a fleck of a learning curve. But once you’ve gotten used to using 1, you’ll never go back to flat, lifeless keyboards similar the one on your iMac or MacBook. Our summit picks correct now are the
($59) and the
($99); they’re both wireless and feature RGB lighting.
Mouse – A good mouse will last you lot years at a time. It’ll likewise stop you from getting RSI on your wrist. I take used a bunch of 3rd-party mouses in the past 24 months merely my absolute favorite correct now has to be the
Logitech MX Master three. Oh, and it is fully uniform with iOS as well, so information technology’ll piece of work fine on your iPad as well.
How To Tell If An App Is Running Natively On Your M1 Mac!
And cheque out
The M1 Pro Mac mini Is Expressionless. Hither’s What’south Adjacent For Apple’s Tiny Figurer!
Richard Goodwin has been working every bit a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and possessor of KnowYourMobile.