M1 Mac mini review: The Mac with the best ever bang for your buck

Apple’s bestselling Macs are its laptops, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Professional. So it sort of feels logical for Apple to debut its new M1 machine on a chip in those machines. However Apple additionally determined to make use of the M1 within the Mac mini. Two years after its closing replace, the Mac mini was the primary desktop Mac to game Apple’s SoC.

After having examined the M1 Mac mini, something is completely transparent: at $699, the M1 Mac mini is an amazing worth. You get such a lot bang to your dollar that it’s a little bit exhausting to fathom, particularly for any individual who has invested in Mac minis up to now. You are expecting to make compromises in efficiency for the fee being paid. No longer right here. No longer anymore.

This assessment takes a dive into the $699 Mac mini, which has an Eight-core M1 SoC with an Eight-core GPU and 8GB of RAM. This fashion additionally features a 256GB SSD.

Ahead of we dive into the efficiency effects, let’s communicate a little bit about why this Mac mini is so speedy. It’s as a result of the M1.

M1: Machine on a Chip

Processor adjustments aren’t new to the Mac. Within the mid 1990s, Apple switched from Motorola 68000 processors to the PowerPC. In 2005, Apple introduced the transition from PowerPC to Intel processors. Now, in 2020, Apple has began the two-year procedure to change from Intel chips to its personal. However why will have to you care?

Apple doesn’t simply transfer chips for no just right reason why. There are numerous reason Apple desires to change, and for you, the consumer, the explanation are just right. Apple desires to make and device with options that may’t be accomplished with out elementary adjustments. Positive, Apple advantages business-wise by means of controlling up to it may well, but when Apple in reality didn’t care in regards to the evolution of the Mac (as some longtime customers consider, as a result of iPhone), it wouldn’t make this alteration.

Apple calls the M1 a machine on a chip (SoC). Ahead of the M1, Macs had separate chips for the processors, graphics, RAM, controllers, and extra. The ones elements are actually introduced in combination on a unmarried chip (the RAM is technically separate chips at the similar bundle). And Apple isn’t in reality new to all of this. They’ve been making SoCs for the iPhone and iPad for years. If you wish to be informed extra in regards to the M1 and why an SoC makes Macs so speedy, learn this assessment in regards to the M1 SoC.

Something that I will have to deal with in particular in regards to the SoC is its reminiscence. The M1 is obtainable with both 8GB or 16GB of RAM, and if you wish to have 32GB or 64GB, it’s a must to put money into the Intel-based fashion—or wait and spot if Apple will unencumber a SoC with extra reminiscence. The volume of reminiscence is a priority for plenty of customers, particularly for any individual who makes use of skilled manufacturing device. In my enjoy with the 8GB M1 Mac mini, I wasn’t in a position to sluggish the device down as I used it in all the way through my standard workday. We now have a separate article that explains how reminiscence works within the M1, and that it’s time to reconsider our reminiscence necessities as a result of Apple’s Unified Reminiscence Structure.

Mac mini efficiency benchmarks

We ran a number of benchmarks to gauge the efficiency of the M1 Mac mini. For comparability, we additionally examined 2018 three.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 Mac mini, which offered for $799 when it used to be launched. That is the Mac that the M1 fashion replaces in Apple’s lineup.

Geekbench five unmarried CPU and multi CPU benchmarks

m1 mac mini geekbench 5 IDG

Effects are expressed in Geekbench rankings. Upper rankings/longer bars are higher.

The Geekbench five benchmark is just right gauge for total efficiency. The M1 Mac mini just about doubled the single-core CPU results of the Core i3 Mac mini, and it greater than doubled the efficiency in multi-core checking out. The brand new Mac mini makes the outdated Mac mini glance, neatly, outdated.

Cinebench R23 multi-core and single-core benchmarks

m1 mac mini cinebench r23 IDG

Effects are expressed in Cinebench rankings. Upper rankings/longer bars are higher.

Differently to gauge efficiency is by means of taking a look at benchmark effects from Cinebench R23. This app does CPU-based ray traced rendering, so whilst it’s of pastime to inventive pros, it’s an effective way to measure efficiency in a manufacturing setting. Once more, we see every other multi-core consequence from the M1 Mac mini that’s greater than two times that of the outdated Mac mini. The only-core result’s spectacular, too, with a 60 p.c building up.

Cinebench R20 multi-core and single-core benchmarks

m1 mac mini cinebench r20 IDG

Effects are expressed in Cinebench rankings. Upper rankings/longer bars are higher.

We became once more to Cinebench in our subsequent check, however this time with model R20, which used to be written just for Intel processors. On this case, the M1 Mac mini runs the app the use of Rosetta2, Apple’s code-translation device that permits Intel-optimized apps to run on Apple silicon. And it nonetheless outperforms the outdated Mac mini, with a 44 p.c building up in multi-core checking out! The only-core consequence is a bit more subdued, appearing an Eight p.c building up.

The benchmarks display that the Mac mini is speedy, however even the easy duties that you just do at the pc always really feel speedy. Opening and shutting widows, indicators and notifications, or even wake for sleep have a snap to them. Safari advantages so much from the improve to macOS Large Sur and the M1—webpage rendering and scrolling are a lot quicker.

Along with the benchmarks, I timed a few software–founded duties to look what the adaptation is like. With iMovie, an export of a 32-minute video with easy transitions and a gap name took 129 seconds to export as a 720p video report. That very same export took what turns out by means of comparability like an excruciating 252 seconds at the outdated Mac mini. In GarageBand, I did an export of a 42-minute Macworld Podcast to a 256okay MP3 report, and the development wasn’t as giant—the M1 Mac mini used to be 10 p.c quicker than the outdated Mac mini.

m1 mac mini display imovie IDG

Apple apps similar to iMovie are optimized to make the most of the M1.

Mac mini graphics efficiency

A significant longtime factor with the Mac mini is that the device historically has been a lackluster graphics performer. It trusted Intel built-in graphics and equipped sufficient efficiency for on a regular basis utilization, however attempt to do anything else extra tough, and also you discovered fast that the Mac mini suffered. Apple additionally didn’t replace the Mac mini as often as different Macs (the closing replace earlier than this one used to be in 2018, and that replace changed a four-year outdated lineup). So through the years, as device turns into extra tough, the Mac mini didn’t stay tempo.

That each one adjustments with the M1 Mac mini. Within the exams we carried out, the brand new fashion is a stunning graphics performer. And right here’s the article: lots of the benchmarks we ran had been finished the use of non-native packages, and the Mac mini nonetheless supplies prime framerates and rankings.

We ran the integrated benchmarks for Upward thrust of the Tomb Raider and Civilization VI, either one of which might be operating at the M1 Mac mini in emulation. And simply check out the body charges within the charts underneath. I repeat, that is in emulation. The outdated Mac mini is a humiliation in comparison to the M1 Mac mini.

Upward thrust of the Tomb Raider benchmark

m1 mac tomb raider IDG

Effects are frames in step with 2d. Upper rankings/longer bars are higher.

Civilization VI benchmark

m1 mac civ 6 IDG

Effects are frames in step with 2d. Upper rankings/longer bars are higher.

Geekbench five is a Common app, and its Compute benchmark exams the GPU, the use of both the OpenCL or Steel graphics framework. And the effects listed here are comical. The outdated Mac mini slightly even registers in comparison to the M1 Mac mini.

Geekbench five Compute benchmark

m1 mac mini geekbench compute IDG

Effects are expressed in Geekbench rankings. Upper effects/longer bars are higher.

When you have an outdated Mac mini, and the CPU efficiency isn’t sufficient to sway you to improve, then those graphics effects will have to provide the ultimate push.

Mac mini design, ports, and show make stronger

Apple didn’t trade the design of the Mac mini. It nonetheless has a compact, aluminum 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.Four case, and its measurement make it thought for distinctive eventualities the place house is at a top rate, if it is on a table, used for inventive installations, or stacked with different Mac minis for a server farm. However the Apple silicon fashions are to be had most effective in silver, whilst the Intel-equipped Mac mini is available in house grey.

mac mini space gray silver IDG

Apple nonetheless provides an Intel Mac mini, which is to be had most effective in house grey (left). The M1 Mac mini is available in silver.

But even so the colours, there are primary variations with the equipped ports. The M1 Mac mini has most effective two Thunderbolt/USB Four ports, whilst the Intel fashion has 4 Thunderbolt three/USB-C ports. You could desire a hub for the M1 Mac mini. Each fashions have an HDMI 2.zero port, two USB-A ports, a gigabit ethernet jack, and a headphone jack.

Every other factor with the M1 Mac mini is its show make stronger. Right here’s what to imagine:

  • M1 Mac mini: Can make stronger as much as two presentations, one 6K (at 60Hz) show attached to Thunderbolt, and one 4K (at 60Hz) attached to HDMI 2.zero

  • Intel Mac mini:

    • Can make stronger as much as 3 presentations, with two presentations each at 4096×2304 solution (60Hz) attached by the use of Thunderbolt, and one show at 4096×2160 solution (60Hz) attached by the use of HDMI 2.zero

    • Or two presentations, one at 5120×2880 solution (60Hz) attached by the use of Thunderbolt three, and one show at 4096×2160 solution (60Hz) attached by the use of HDMI 2.zero

Most of the people use one or two presentations, however a just right quantity use 3 (inventive pros, knowledge analysts). If you’ll be able to’t are living with no 3rd show, then the M1 Mac mini isn’t for you. It’s a must to get the Intel fashion.

m1 mac mini ports IDG

The M1 Mac mini (most sensible) has two fewer Thunderbolt/USB-C ports than the Intel-based fashion (backside).

Final analysis

The Mac mini is common as it’s Apple maximum reasonably priced desktop Mac, and likewise as a result of its measurement provides it versatility, making it a just right device to make use of in numerous eventualities. But it surely used to be to the low tier of the Mac lineup when it got here to efficiency.

With the M1 machine on a chip, that’s now not the case. The brand new $699 M1 Mac mini blows proper previous its predecessor, the three.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 Mac mini, and leaves it within the mud. In truth, in accordance with our benchmarks, the brand new M1 Mac mini’s efficiency mirrors that of the brand new 13-inch M1 MacBook Professional.

It’s unlucky that the M1 Mac mini has most effective two Thunderbolt/USB-Four ports, this means that you will have to shop for a hub. And the show obstacles might come into play for you. However even with the ones restrictions, the Mac mini finally ends up being the most productive worth at this time in Apple’s Mac lineup. The Mac mini is also small in stature, but it surely’s a large in terms of efficiency.

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