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2020 vs. 2023 Mac Mini Buyer's Guide

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?

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.
Related Roundup: Mac mini
Buyer's Guide: Mac Mini (Buy Now)
Related Forum: Mac mini

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Source: TechRadar

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