Apple Mac Mini M1, small footprint and excellent performance

The Apple Mac Mini is often regarded as the ugly duckling in the Apple Mac series. Without the exquisite features of the iMac or the portable appearance of the MacBook, it is usually not noticed, but classified as a “niche” category and only suitable for developers and data centers.

But now it is equipped with Apple’s M1 chip, and ignoring it is the last thing you need to do. Although it looks like the previous generation Mac Mini in appearance, it is nothing more than a revolution in appearance.

If you want a desktop computer and already have all the necessary peripherals, Mac Mini is definitely not a strong competitor you want to spend money on. It is still a niche market, but it is slamming the wall of that descriptor and preparing to explode.

design

Mac Mini is Apple’s smallest desktop computer to date. It is 7.7 inches wide and 1.4 inches high from top to bottom, and can be easily placed on a desk or slid under the monitor. It has exactly the same memory usage as the previous Mac Mini based on Intel chips.

It is also one of Apple’s most minimalistic products. Almost the entire device surface is covered with matte aluminum, with only a large Apple logo on it, breaking the consistency. There are no other brands and no other labels, just a small white light on the front, which will light up when you turn on the device. This is the fanatical dream of Jony Ive, and perhaps the ultimate embodiment of Apple’s obsessive design concept.

As we would expect from Apple hardware, its build quality is very good. The whole device is very heavy and strong, with no bending or bending. It feels like a device that can withstand several bumps and still show up with a smile-not what you want.

However, there are some differences between the M1 and Intel models. The most obvious is the paint job. The M1 model is silver and the Intel version is space gray. The Intel Mac Mini is also slightly heavier, weighing 2.9 pounds, while the M1 Mac Mini weighs 2.6 pounds.

A more significant difference is in the back. Apple has long since abandoned the USB-A interface on its macbook, but its desktop Mac (including Mac Mini) has persisted. However, although the Intel Mac Mini is equipped with four USB-A ports, the M1 version has only two (both running at 5Gbps). This is more likely to be a restriction on the M1, rather than Apple’s plan to phase out the USB-A port on the Mac Mini. When more powerful Apple silicon chips come out, I would not be surprised to see the return of the four ports. But if you still rely on USB-A in your daily work, this is worth noting. An adapter or adapter may be required.

In addition, the M1 Mac Mini is also equipped with an Ethernet jack, two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports with a speed of 40Gbps, an HDMI 2.0 slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, plus a power button and power cord slot. This is exactly the same as Intel’s Mac Mini.

What you won’t get is a keyboard, mouse, trackpad, or any other type of peripheral device. You need to provide all of these yourself, plus a monitor connected to the Mac Mini. If you already have these, the starting price of $699 feels more attractive. If you don’t have one, you will need to consider them when you buy.

performance

This is the first time that the Mac Mini is equipped with Apple’s own M1 processor. The basic version of the previous model is equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i3-8100H running at 3.0GHz, which runs pretty well. Even on paper, Apple M1 seems to have taken an important step: it not only has dual CPU cores due to the old entry-level Intel processor-based Mac Mini, but it also packs eight GPUs and launches this neural engine to the same System on a chip (SoC).

More importantly, it uses what Apple calls the “unified memory architecture” (UMA), which allows the CPU and GPU to be extracted from a single memory pool, reducing the overhead of both. All this jargon means that, in theory, everything should run faster-this is what third-party developers have already told us.

We have seen the performance of the Apple M1 chip on MacBook Pro and MacBook Air before, so we already have some expectations: this is an incredible performance processor. But the question is whether the extra space inside the Mac Mini can keep the chip cool and provide it with some extra performance headroom compared to these portable laptops. Does the Mac Mini even outperform these devices?

The answer is yes, and in some cases it is true. In GeekBench 5, the Mac Mini has a single-core score of 1744 points and a multi-core score of 7659 points, ahead of the M1 MacBook Pro’s 1707 points and 7337 points. These numbers may not make much sense to you, so let me put it this way: The Mac Mini’s single-core score is the highest we’ve seen on GeekBench 5. Its multi-core score is the eighth highest we measured. This thing flies.

The same goes for other places. Its ssd hard disk is surprisingly fast, with an average write speed of 2144.1 mbps and a read speed of 2775.1 mbps. In Cinebench R23, the sales of Mac Mini is second only to Falcon NW Talon equipped with Ryzen 9 5950X, and it is priced at least $4,000. The Mac Mini we reviewed was priced at $699. Of course, this is just a benchmark, and the Falcon NW machine is much more powerful in heavy tasks such as games or video editing. Nonetheless, this is excellent value for money.

The starting price of $699 makes people feel that the performance of the Mac Mini is too absurd.

However, synthetic benchmarks can only tell you so much. In the real world, how does the Mac Mini perform? Well, in HandBrake 1.4 (an application optimized for M1), the Mac Mini encodes a 2 minute 4K video in 2 minutes and 36 seconds-the same as the M1 MacBook Pro The time is the same. In Adobe Premiere Pro, Mini defeated MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in the PugetBench test, which uses the Intel version of the Adobe application and Apple’s magic on the M1.

When the Apple silicon version of Adobe’s video application is launched this year, performance will be better. If this is your workload, the Mac Mini will make a big difference, especially if you are currently running old intel-based hardware.

Now, there is not much difference in performance between MacBook Pro and Mac Mini. It was only 8% faster in Premiere. If you want to decide between the two, then you should think about it.

Mac Mini is a heavyweight machine, it is absolutely ahead of CPU-intensive workloads, far ahead of twice (or more) the price of the machine. All this is done without the fan spinning. Not once. I had to rest my head on the machine to hear the sound, but even at that time, the machine was almost silent. Apple said that the performance of the M1 is better than any Intel product and it is more efficient. This is no joke.

Indeed, considering the performance of the M1 chip, the starting price of the Mac Mini at $699 is almost absurd. Of course, you don’t get a screen, mouse, and keyboard. If you have to buy these, the price will go up. But if you already have a lot of peripherals on your desk, Mac Mini is the most affordable way to get M1 performance.

Game performance

Nevertheless, Mac Mini is not a game console. M1 may have built-in 8-core GPU, but it is still replaced by a machine with a discrete graphics card. This is not to say that the game performance is terrible-for a machine of this size and price, it is respectable-but if you want a high frame rate, especially at higher resolutions, you need continue searching.

Performance varies from game to game. In games that don’t put too much pressure on the GPU, such as “Civilization VI”, as long as the settings are correct, the performance is acceptable. At 1080p and medium quality, the average frame rate of the Mac Mini is approximately 48 frames per second (fps). But on 1440p ultra, this frame rate dropped to 26 frames.

The game is an obvious weakness.

The tactical stealth game “Desperados III” runs without any problems at high settings, but the more demanding “Desperados: Human Division” can only reach 27 frames per second under 1080p media; on 1440p ultra, it barely cracked 12 frames per second.

Gaming is an obvious weakness, but I don’t think many hardcore players will buy Mac Mini as their host. If you just want to do some minor games, then you should be fine, but don’t expect too much in this regard.

Application support

Obviously, when Apple announced the M1 chip, it had learned from the mistakes of its competitors and its own past behavior. When Microsoft launched its own custom-designed ARM chip on Surface Pro X, it found that it had fallen into an application compatibility nightmare, and it is still struggling to get rid of it. Apple may take a look and know it must do better.

The good news is that Apple has done this to a large extent. If you bought a Mac Mini today, your favorite Mac applications will most likely not be a problem, regardless of whether they are optimized for the M1. Many developers have launched applications specific to the m1 version (such as Microsoft Office), but those who have not benefited from the Rosetta 2 developed by Apple.

Back when Apple switched processor platforms last time, this basically converted Intel’s applications to the arm-based M1. It comes pre-installed on the Mac Mini, and you can’t even see it start up-your Intel application loads smoothly. This is a very smooth process.

With applications optimized for M1, performance may be much better than anything translated using Rosetta 2. For example, when I used the 1.0.7 version of the application (for Intel systems) to run the handbrake benchmark test, it encoded the 4K test video for 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

Using the m1 optimized version of the application, it took almost half the time. If you insist on using Apple’s own apps for most of your work, performance may be better. Not everyone likes Apple’s control of its ecosystem, but hardware and software performance is one area where it really comes into play.

There may be several applications, no matter what the reason, just not working. When I used the Mac Mini for the first time, the Google backup and sync functions I used to move work documents between different devices were completely refused to load. In the end, it’s not too much trouble-I switched to Dropbox, a few weeks later, Google updated its application to solve this problem-but it is worth considering that you may have some problems with the compatibility of the application.

However, in most cases, this is not the problem I encountered. Google Backup and Sync is the only application I tried that doesn’t work right out of the box.

Brief summary

The M1 Mac Mini is one of the most cost-effective desktop computers that people can buy. Its performance is an exciting computer, so small, so affordable, and although it is not a big gaming platform, it is perfect for everything.

Are there other options?

Some other companies also provide micro desktop computers. There is Intel NUC 10, and there are processors from Intel i3 to i7. If you want to play games, other companies such as HP and Asus also have small personal computers that can meet your needs.

Note, however, that all alternatives run Windows. If you want a small desktop computer running MacOS, then Mac Mini is your only choice.

How long will it last?

We are at the beginning of Apple’s silicon roadmap, so support for Mac Mini will continue for many years. Considering its performance compared with other devices in brackets (and higher than those in brackets), it will take a long time for you to notice its slowdown.

Apple does not update the Mac Mini as often as the macbook, but currently there is only one Apple Silicon Mac Mini to choose from, so Apple may launch another one this year. This does not mean that if you buy this M1 Mac Mini, you will be disappointed, but a better model may be in development.

Should you buy it?

Yes, of course. Its price/performance ratio is amazing. If you want to buy a desktop computer instead of a laptop, Mac Mini should be your first choice.

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