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Following the Mac mini's recent hardware refresh that added the M2 and M2 Pro chips, what exactly do the latest machines bring to the table and is it worth upgrading from the previous generation?

m2-mac-mini-screen-feature.jpg

The current Mac mini with the M2 chip starts at $599 and model with the M2 Pro chip starts at $1,299. Upon the launch of the latest models, the M1 and Intel-based Mac minis were discontinued and are no longer available from Apple's main storefront. Units of these slightly older machines are likely to still be available via Apple's refurbished store and third-party retailers for reduced prices in the coming months. Buying an older model second-hand is also an option.

First-time Mac mini‌ customers or those upgrading from a much older, Intel-based device may be wondering whether it is worth buying a previous-generation Mac mini, so it will be important to weigh up exactly what was added with the latest models. Likewise, existing users of the M1 Mac mini may be wondering if it is worth upgrading to the latest model or sticking with their current device.

See the detailed breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each Apple silicon Mac mini compared to its direct predecessor:

2023: M2 and M2 Pro Mac Mini

  • M2 or M2 Pro chip
  • Eight-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 or up to 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores with M2 Pro
  • 10-core GPU with M2 or up to 19-core GPU with M2 Pro
  • Media engine with video decode engine, video encode engine, and ProRes encode and decode engine for hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
  • 100GB/s memory bandwidth with M2 or 200GB/s memory bandwidth with M2 Pro
  • 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB unified memory with M2 or 16GB or 32GB unified memory with M2 Pro
  • 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSD storage with M2 or 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB SSD storage with M2 Pro
  • Wi‑Fi 6E (802.11ax)
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports with M2 or four Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports with M2 Pro
    HDMI 2.1 port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones
  • With M2 models, support for one display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one display with up to 5K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt or 4K resolution at 60Hz via HDMI with M2. With M2 Pro models, support for two displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one display with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz via HDMI, one display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one display with up to 4K resolution at 144Hz via HDMI, or one display with up to 8K resolution at 60Hz or 4K resolution at 240Hz via HDMI.

2020: M1 Mac Mini

  • M1 chip
  • Eight-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores
  • Eight-core GPU
  • Media engine with video decode engine and video encode engine for hardware-accelerated H.264 and HEVC
  • 66.67GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 8GB or 16GB unified memory
  • 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB SSD storage with M1
  • 802.11ax Wi‑Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • HDMI 2.0 port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Support for one display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt and one display with up to 5K resolution at 60Hz via Thunderbolt or 4K resolution at 60Hz via HDMI

Final Thoughts

If you can get an M1 Mac mini for a sufficiently low price compared to the M2 model, it may still be worth buying, but given Apple's price drop for the new M2 version to just $599, significantly better prices may be difficult to find. In most cases, it will be better to get the M2 Mac mini over the M1 one, especially if you want a future-proof device to keep for the long term, where slightly better performance, more memory bandwidth, and specifications like Wi‑Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and HDMI 2.1 are likely to be more beneficial through successive software updates and as connectivity needs with other devices evolve. That being said, existing M1 Mac mini users are unlikely to get much out of upgrading to an M2 model.

  • New to Apple silicon Mac mini with no need for "Pro" capabilities: Buy M2 model over discounted M1 model
  • New to Apple silicon Mac mini with need for "Pro" capabilities: Buy M2 Pro model over discounted M1 model
  • M1 Mac mini user with no need for "Pro" capabilities: Don't upgrade to M2 or M2 Pro models
  • M1 Mac mini user with need for "Pro" capabilities: Upgrade to M2 Pro model

M1 Mac mini users who definitely need a more advanced machine will get a major upgrade with M2 Pro configurations of the latest model. The M2 Pro Mac mini's added performance and markedly more powerful GPU, doubled memory bandwidth, 32GB memory option, up to 8TB of storage, and two extra Thunderbolt ports make for a sizeable difference. For similar reasons, those considering the M2 Pro Mac mini should not buy the M1 model, even if it can be found for a much lower price.

Article Link: 2020 vs. 2023 Mac Mini Buyer's Guide
 
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Souponastick270

macrumors 6502
Mar 21, 2016
260
346
Citadel Island
A price drop for a M2 Mac Mini and a £150 price rise for the base spec M1 iMac… and the lack of a 27” or higher screen size…

I think I know where my next Mac purchase will be… and I’ll spend the bit extra to up the ram or storage
 

tcgjeukens

macrumors regular
May 16, 2007
170
252
Esbeek, the Netherlands
In 2005 I switched from PC to Mac. My friend told me the MacMini was more than enough for my needs. I purchased the PowerMac G5 DP. Eight years later I replaced the cheese grater with the trash can.
Yet ten years later the MacMini M2 pro will probably cover my needs. I should tell my friend I'm back to square one.
 

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wonderings

macrumors 6502
Nov 19, 2021
485
423
I have been absolutely shocked how many people are still chugging away with the 2012 minis. Myself included, however this is the time I finally upgrade.
That 2012 was a real workhorse and will remain plugged in for a variety of things in our house.
I use a 2012 Mini to run my wide format printer (Epson 9900). It has one task to run the RIP aka software that runs the printer. I replaced the hard drive some years ago with an SSD and it just keeps going and going. I love the form factor and price of the Mini's. If it did not cost me $5K to update the software for my printer I would replace it with a new Mini just to keep with the newest OS
 
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Prorege1

macrumors regular
Jun 21, 2020
242
345
My old 2012 Mac Mini is just too slow, just ordered the standard Mac Mini M2 with 512 GB SSD which will be a huge upgrade for me although the standard MBP M1 is my daily workhorse
 

genexx

macrumors member
Nov 11, 2022
50
19
Europe is paying the World off.

I remember paying off the Flight and Hotel with buying just CD Burner and SyQuest Hardware in NY City back in the 90ies.

I was waiting for huge Discount on the MBA M2 with 10C / 16GB / 1TB this version was somehow cheaper than 8C / 16GB / 512GB so i grabbed it.

My decision for the M2 beside the Love for no fan silent operation and the new Formfaktor and upgrades to MBA M1 are:

Interestingly, the M2’s upgrade to the media engine actually appeared in the M1 Pro. You get improved H.264 and HEVC encode and decode performance and ProRes support in the M1 Pro, while you didn’t in the M1. As far as we can tell, it’s the same media engine–it just landed in the M1 Pro first.

The one area where the M2 has a clear performance advantage over the M1 Pro is in the Neural Engine–Apple’s custom hardware to accelerate machine learning and AI software. They both feature a 16-core Neural Engine, but the M1 Pro has the same Neural Engine as the M1 (and A14), capable of 11 trillion operations per second. The M2’s newer-generation 16-core Neural Engine can handle a reported 15.8 trillion ops, making it more than 40 percent faster.

In sum, expect a Mac with the M1 Pro to be a good 30 percent to 40 percent faster than the M2 in every way, with the the exception of the media engine (which appears the be the same) and the Neural Engine (in which the M2 is 40 percent faster).
 
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sers

macrumors 6502
Jan 11, 2006
291
528
With these annual M series chip upgrades, is Apple hoping for people to upgrade their macs the way they do their iPhones? It used to be that people would buy a mac and keep it for several years before upgrading. Now, I bet people will be tempted to upgrade more often. I know Apple is in the business of making money, but this seems to go against their "environmental" ethos.
 

skillzmcgavern

macrumors newbie
Jul 23, 2017
7
4
Just waiting to order until it's clear which SSD size is fastest - have seen a few threads saying that at this point with 32GB RAM, 1TB or 2TB is best, but that 4TB is the fastest with Max/Ultra architecture. Leaning towards 2TB but if 4TB isn't bottlenecked, I'd rather spec it as fast as possible.
 

hobocamp456

macrumors member
Sep 14, 2017
53
161
All I want to know and have is Plex that can play through the Mac mini and output Atmos to the AppleTV.
 

falkon-engine

macrumors 6502a
Apr 30, 2010
857
2,137
restricting 4k 240hz to M2 Pro was a ***k move and there is nothing Pro about 4K 144hz resolution either. Upselling is hard on this one.
The limitation is in the hdmi 2.1 spec itself and the wire 🤣🤣🤣 it only has so much bandwidth. 4K 240 Hz is a lot of bandwidth.
 

tomscott1988

macrumors 6502a
Apr 14, 2009
653
562
UK
With these annual M series chip upgrades, is Apple hoping for people to upgrade their macs the way they do their iPhones? It used to be that people would buy a mac and keep it for several years before upgrading. Now, I bet people will be tempted to upgrade more often. I know Apple is in the business of making money, but this seems to go against their "environmental" ethos.
The initial wave of tech enthusiasts ye, but people are selective and desktop/laptop computers are not phones and people keep them 5+ years. The transition even for phones now is similar.... im rocking an 11 pro and it still feels great so spending £1250 on a new one isnt that appealing.

Even in the intel days it was a 5-15% improvement year over year. This is why the M2 so far has been a bit meh because it's a similar increase and seemingly similar issues to 2012-2020 intel that its increased cores and power because of being on 5nm but M3 on the smaller 3nm node should see bigger improvements again.

For people who didn't jump on the first gen apple silicon this is a huge upgrade and with more options which is great for everyone.

What I keep having to remind people is that the M1 wasn't far behind the the i9 2019 MacBook Pro and in some areas much faster and this was an entry level chip. Compare it to the old i5 processors then its 2-3x faster so its worth reminding ourselves about the base lines.

These threads are full of people umming and arring about pushing up the chip path but these are so fast that most won't even tax the base models let alone the pro and max chips.

Im a creative professional and have a full spec i9 2020 iMac but my mediocre MacBook Air 8x8 m1 16gb 1tb can keep up with is and it feels snappier. Where I struggle is ram my iMac has 64gb and is idling with 36gb usage so I hit that 16gb limit on my MacBook Air all the time which is a pain then it does slow. What I do is quite taxing tho so its all perspective.

It's almost like apple are sort of shooting themselves a bit because all the products above the base model chips are niche and get really expensive quickly. The benefits are incredible but really they are for quite specific purposes.

Back in the day it was the other way round, the base models were so poor and only just usable like the 2018 i3 MacBook Air, how they had the balls to even release that computer is beyond me and is almost useless today. At that time you had to jump quite far up the range to get something capable.

Now apple seem to have made the ram and storage so expensive that is the difference.

The M2 Pro Mac mini with 32gbs 1tb and a 10gb ethernet is £100 more than the Mac Studio. Regardless of the chip the Mac mini is still the entry level computer.

This is one example of strange overlap for base to pro machines. Same thing with the m2 MacBook Air and the 14" MacBook pro. You get so many better features with the MacBook Pro but with similar specs is the same price. The benefit is the weight.

Interesting times.
 
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