The humble Mac Mini is getting a new lease on life this week, standing out among the handful of Apple devices the tech giant is now launching with its powerful M2 chip.
This new 20 cm by 20 cm square unit fits neatly into what’s been a bothersome gap in Apple’s computer lineup for years. Folks who wanted to use a Mac at home have previously gone for an all-in-one iMac or connected a MacBook to a bunch of peripherals.
The Mac Mini was there, but was overpriced and underpowered compared to the laptops. Last year, the company introduced the Mac Studio, which upped the power but also the price and size.
Pair the Mac Mini with Apple’s own display and accessories, or whichever ones suit your needs.
With the new Mac Mini, you can get what is essentially last year’s $1900 MacBook Air, in a tiny desktop format, for $1000. That makes it the least expensive current Mac you can get, to which you can add whatever keyboard, mouse and display you want, for a powerful and adaptable workstation.
That $1000 model’s M2 chip is more than enough for media and office tasks, plus light gaming, and makes for very snappy apps and browsing. There’s 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB-A ports, two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.0 and a headphone jack. It’s an impressive computer for the price, able to drive two high-resolution displays, and the USB-C ports are great for making a neat desktop setup.
Of course, you can always pay more for greater capabilities, and with the Mini that includes upgrading to an M2 Pro machine with two extra Thunderbolt ports, much more powerful processing and graphics capabilities, HDMI 2.1, more RAM and faster Ethernet.
I’ve been testing out an absolutely maxed out model that would cost around $3500, with a 19-core GPU and 32GB of RAM, and while it’s more hardcore than most users would need it’s brilliant to have as an option. It easily drives multiple high frame rate displays, gave me performance well in excess of 60 frames per second at 1440p in every game I tested, and didn’t even spin up its cooling fans unless I was rendering multiple 4K video assets at the same time.
I’ve also been testing Apple’s fanciest Mac of early 2023; the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which optionally comes with an M2 Max rocking 38 GPU cores and up to 96GB of RAM. None of that’s even an option on the Mac Mini, and that’s totally fine. The MacBook Pro is a huge, heavy, beautiful $7000 laptop that’s likely a godsend for a very specific cohort of creative professionals, enabling feats of processing and rendering on battery power that just a few years ago would have required a computer the size of a table and serious cooling. The Mini’s strengths lie elsewhere.
As long as you don’t need portability, the Mini is the ideal Mac to have at home, with specs that (finally) don’t feel like a compromise and the ability to fully customise your setup with the peripherals of your choosing. The starting price of $1000 feels right as an entry point into the Mac ecosystem, especially considering the previous less powerful Mini cost more. And the upgrade to the M2 Pro model, which starts at $2000, provides a great option for all but the most demanding creatives to put at the heart of their setups.
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