Apple has up to three, three new Mac minis coming our way this year, and while they may all look the same, the performance… and price… are going to be… wildly different, and here’s why!
We already have the silver M1 Mac mini starting at $700. That’s the entry-level model Apple slid back into the lineup in November 2020. It has 4 firestorm performance cores, 4 icestorm efficiency cores, 8 G13 graphics cores, 16 neural engine cores, H.264 and HEVC media engines, and up to 16 GB of unified memory. Also, two Thunderbolt and two USB controllers. But that’s it. Not a bit, byte, or port more.
Except for the circa 2018 Intel 8th Gen space gray Mac mini that Apple’s kept idling at the higher end of the lineup. Starting at $1100. For a 6-core i5, and 512 GB of SSD. Which… even with the Intel-inside space-heater feature thrown in for free, was just a terrible deal back then. Never mind now.
So Apple really, really needs to transition that to the M1 Pro and M1 Mac, the chipsets they introduced last October for the new 14- and 16-inch MacBooks Pro. But in desktops. Stat.
Because the M1 Pro has up to 8 firestorm performance cores, 2 icestorm efficiency cores, up to 16 G13 graphics cores, ProRes media engines, up to 32 GB of unified memory, and up to 8 terabytes of SSD. Also, three Thunderbolt and three USB controllers.
And M1 Max… well, it has all of that, but with options for up to 32 graphics cores, double the ProRes engines, and up to 64 GB of memory.
Each individual core is the same as M1, but there’s just so many massively more of them, and other resources, that it’ll tear through CPU-bound tasks like audio plugins faster, GPU-bound tasks like 3D modeling way, way faster, and the media engines will… basically feel like you have second rendering box off to the side that you can use while still working away on your main Mac. It’s just… transformative.
Now, there have been reports of a dual die M1 Max, even a quad die M1 Max as well, all for the upcoming Apple silicon Mac Pro, and that’s gotten some Mac mini aficionados just… drooling at the idea of a dual M1 Max Mac mini somehow making its way into the top end of lineup as well. Because it would literally be twice the M1 Max, the M1 Big Max, so to speak. Up to 16 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores, 32 neural engine cores, 64 graphics cores, 4 ProRes engines, and up to 128 GB of unified memory.
Which… I’d all caps love to see it. But I don’t every time get what I’d love. Because, in this case, literally, I think Apple would rather shrink the enclosure than fill up the thermal envelope, and maybe also keep multi-die exclusive to the much higher end Pros, like the Mac Pro, maybe, hopefully, even the 27-inch iMac if they really want to recapture full unfettered glory of the previous iMac Pro.
But, yeah, I think mini is going to top out at max, especially given the reports of that sleeker, slimmer new design that’s been making the rounds. Probably as sleek and slim as Apple can go and still allow full workloads to sustain pretty much indefinitely. For the CPU, no doubt, because they can already do that in the MacBook Pro, but hopefully even better, faster, stronger… and longer for all the compute engines all lit as well.
Also, with up to four Thunderbolt USB-C ports, which means it’ll support more displays, and MagSafe power, but more like the M1 iMac and less like the M1 Pro Max MacBook Pro version.
And I’m guessing that’ll all come in at $1000 or more for the M1 Pro mini, neatly taking the place of that old Intel space gray blast furnace. And that means something closer to $1900 or more for the M1 Max mini. At least, based on the M1 Pro MacBook Pro starting at $2000 and the M1 Max MacBook Pro starting at $2900 once you add $500 for the Max chip itself and $400 for the 32 GP memory option that’s obligated along with it.
And then there’s… not that keyboard-only Mac mini patent thirst trap making the rounds, though I’d adore in an all shades of Apple 2 Plus nostalgia kinda way. And if you want a video on what that could mean for the future of the Mac, let me know in the comments.
But then there’s the next-generation entry-level M2 Mac mini. Which might sound like… too soon, too soon, but the M1 shipped almost 18 months ago so unless we all want even Intel to start laughing at Apple’s update rate, they absolutely need to get moving on their spec bump roadmap as well. And given Apple’s previous AX chipset schedule was loitering around 18-months for the last long while already, the same pace between M generations just makes the same kind of sense that does.
But don’t let the numbers fool you. M2 won’t compete with M1 Pro let alone M1 Max. No more than the 2019 A13 iPhone competed with the 2020 A12Z iPad Pro. Core for core, M2 will have both higher performance and higher efficiency, as well as much better graphics and, my guess is, entry-level ProRes engines. But it just won’t have anywhere nearly as many of those massively multi cores that pro workloads demand, or as much memory or ports. And I’ve got a whole entire video up deep diving on exactly that, which I’ll link up in the description below the like button.
But, because it’s meant for consumers and not pros, some reports say it might just have that one special feature Apple currently reserves exclusively for it’s entry level consumer lines — the full on skittles taste-the-rainbow of colors. I’m talking red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, Like the M1 iMac, but all-in-none instead of all-in-one.
And my hope is, even with the new M2 chip and new multi-color design, Apple keeps it at the same starting at $700 price point. But then also keeps the silver M1 Mac mini around as the entry-level option, but drops it down to $500. That original sweeter than sweet spot nature and Steve Jobs intended when the Mac mini was originally announced.
I know, I know, but a nerd can dream. And pivot table me out here, but M1 Mac mini at $500, M2 Mac mini at $700, M1 Pro Mac mini at $1000 and M1 Max Mac mini at $1900… that is one HELL of a lineup.