Apple's beloved Mac mini is the first desktop-class Mac to receive Apple Silicon. It is 1/10th the size of most desktop PC's while running 5x faster than many bought by consumers. The M1 processor and compact form factor will make your tiny desktop the perfect choice for the move away from Intel.
● Small form factor
● Excellent introduction to Mac ecosystem
● 100% recycled aluminum enclosure
● Two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and HDMI
● Find great Mac mini deals
● Discounted prices start at $645
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Apple's compact desktop, the Mac mini, was originally released in January 2005 and is still a front runner in the lineup as the first desktop Mac with Apple Silicon. The M1 processor takes the entry-level Mac from basic computing to rivaling all but the most powerful desktop Macs.
Apple still offers both Intel and Apple Silicon variants of the Mac mini as the transition from Intel continues. Each machine offers specific features that will appeal to different users, so consider each pro and con before buying.
Mac mini features
This headless Mac serves as a low-priced alternative to the all-in-one iMac and iMac Pro. It's always been a bare-bones unit, and the M1 model continues the tradition of "bring your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor."
The Mac mini has a wide user base from the entry level dorm PC to the high-powered server farm for industries to live on. The form factor and I/O options have always made this a versatile workstation.
Apple's tiny desktop is made out of 100 percent recycled aluminum as a part of Apple's effort to create a closed-loop manufacturing process. Extraordinarily there is enough leftover aluminum from making iPhones and other products that the entire Mac mini line can be built using that metal.
This process reduces the carbon footprint for the alloy's creation by 50 percent compared to the previous process. The use of recycled aluminum helps Apple in its push to being completely carbon neutral across manufacturing and corporate by 2030.
The M1-based Mac mini is sold in silver vs the Intel variant in space gray. The move back to silver could indicate Apple repositioning the device as an entry-level Mac rather than being a pro-only niche product.
A new Mac mini with M1 Pro and M1 Max processors is expected to launch in 2022. This machine would bring back the space gray color with a new, thinner design.
Ports and connections
Two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports in the 2020 model give users the ability to connect a display, keyboard, hard drive, dock, or any USB 4 or Thunderbolt 3 peripheral. There are also two USB-A ports for further peripheral support and a headphone jack for audio professionals.
The M1 processor only allows one display to be connected via a Thunderbolt connector. So despite having two Thunderbolt ports, it can only output to one Thunderbolt display, even when using a dock. The Mac mini is the only Apple Silicon based Mac with HDMI also included, which means it can have one more additional display.
The Mac mini has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and is IEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, but also includes a 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet port. The 10Gb Ethernet connector upgrade is only available for the Intel model for an extra $100.
Configuration and upgradability
The base 2020 model has an Apple M1 chip, 8 gigabytes of 2666MHz DD4 RAM, and 256GB of storage. This base configuration starts at $699, which is $100 cheaper than the 2018 model it replaces. Apple still sells the 2018 Intel-based variants for higher-end configurations, starting at $1,099.
At the time of purchase, users can upgrade the 2020 Apple Silicon model to 16GB RAM and up to 2TB storage. If you're buying the 2018 Intel variant, you can configure that up to a 3.2 GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor that features a Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz, a maximum of 64 gigabytes of RAM, and 2TB of storage.
The 2018 Mac mini has slotted RAM, allowing users to upgrade at a later date and install the chips as needed. However, the 2020 M1-based Mac mini has its RAM integrated into the chip and isn't user-upgradable.
Intel vs Apple Silicon
|Mac mini with M1||Mac mini with Intel|
|Processor||M1 8-core CPU||8th-generation Core i3|
8th-generation Core i5
8th-generation Core i7
|Graphics||8-core integrated GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 630|
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt 3|
|Four Thunderbolt 3|
|Monitor support||One via Thunderbolt|
One via HDMI
|Two via Thunderbolt|
One via HDMI
Common Mac mini Questions
Is Mac mini good for video editing?
The Mac mini doesn't have a dedicated graphics card. While Apple promises big graphical boosts in the 2020 model, we don't yet know if it's a great choice for heavy video-editing.
Is Mac mini good for gaming?
The Mac mini handles non-resource-intensive and mobile-style games, but it isn't made for heavy PC-style gaming. We haven't yet tested the gaming capabilities of the M1-based model, which Apple says can boost graphics performance by up to 6x.
While you can invest in an external GPU and run Windows through Bootcamp on the Intel-based models, neither an eGPU or Bootcamp work with the 2020 Apple Silicon update.
Is Mac mini upgradeable?
You can only configure the 2020 Mac mini at the time of purchase. It does not have user-installable RAM. The 2018 Intel-based models do offer user-upgradable RAM.
How much does the Mac mini cost?
As Apple's least-expensive macOS machine, Mac mini pricing starts at $699. However, custom configurations range all the way up to $2,899.00.
Mac mini Pricing
Retail Mac mini pricing starts at $699 for an M1 model with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, making it Apple's least expensive Mac. The best Mac mini deals often drive down prices anywhere from $50 to $150, however. Custom configurations with Intel processors range all the way up to $2,999.00.