In a way, the Mac mini is the most interesting of the three Macs with M1 launched in November 2020. We assume that it is a desktop computer, with which the power consumption of the M1 and the service life of the battery are not of concern.
But of course, energy efficiency is always a good factor when thinking about the environment and your economy, something that doesn’t affect the day-to-day experience. So, with the Mac mini M1, our main focus is performance.
And it is that in the Mac mini, the M1 has the opportunity to show its best side. With a bigger chassis and more space for fan cooling, it’s theoretically possible to squeeze a bit more silicon out of the chip. It seems that is what Apple is doing.
The M1 is available for sale with four different configurations, with a seven- or eight-core GPU and with 8GB or 16GB of onboard RAM. In the Mac mini we tested there were eight graphics cores and 8 GB of memory.
It’s the same setup as the 13in MacBook Pro we tested, but in our benchmarks the Mac mini always managed to perform better, both in terms of processor performance and graphics.
However, the difference is not that big as you realize. We are talking about 2-4% higher scores and similar rendering time for a video project, decompressing a compressed file, etc.
But this difference is so constant in the measurements that we take several times, that it can be said that it is not due to simple margins of error.
Our benchmarks that we show in the charts below, you’ll see that there’s a bigger leap between the fanless MacBook Air, which is completely passively cooled, and the other M1 Macs, which benefit from fan cooling.
Cinebench R23 runs at full CPU load in a ten minute loop, so cooling becomes more interesting.
In both cases, these are versions of the reference applications which are optimized for the M1 and are an indication of what is possible to achieve with applications developed directly for the architecture.
Geekbench can also be run in an Intel mode which allows you to use x86 instructions and goes through the Rosetta 2 translation layer. This results in a noticeable 20-30% performance reduction in most older applications compared to optimized for M1.
But since the CPU isn’t everything, graphics performance was the main reason for switching to the mainframe, which had quite poor UHD graphics. We are talking about quadruple performance.
Does this mean the Mac mini M1 has a good gaming setup? It’s not a computer specifically designed for these tasks, and the slightly more demanding titles we’ve tested show Apple has a ways to go.
In fact, when we run Subnautica, with its power management and light effects handling on the GPU, we could at best get it to just under 30fps, and that’s with all the minimum settings on a 1080p screen. .
The CPU-hungry city skylines also struggled to maintain the frame rate that we considered appropriate for display.
However, these games are coded for PC hardware, so emulation is an additional hurdle. In the future, these games can certainly be simplified and optimized for M1 and Mac.
This does not prevent that with the productivity programs that handle M1 graphics we see them come to life and it means a big boost for all new Mac computers, not just desktops, which along with the Intel processor, were lagging behind.
With low resolution and minimized graphics settings, it is possible to play games. But without eGPU support (which is not offered by any Mac M1), you currently have to consider that the new Mac mini is not intended for today’s gaming environments.
It’s not just the CPU and GPU that make the difference for th is generation of Mac mini M1. In fact, the onboard memory handling of the M1 circuit should provide a faster experience in many settings, as well as one of the fastest SSDs.
It’s hard to gauge how much these different factors affect each situation, but in general you can count on M1 compatible apps to get a significant boost, and Intel custom apps will perform as well or better than before. .
For the Mac mini, which hadn’t been updated since 2018 and stayed on the slightly older eighth generation Intel Core processor, this is a real leap in performance.
The M1 offers about a 40% increase for single-core operations over the Mac mini with the better Intel Core processor, but that’s not a big step for multi-core tasks.
We’re guessing it may have to do with the Intel equivalent which has six cores running at full power, while M1 is an architecture called BIG.little, where four cores are less clocked and meant to take the load off the cores while multitasking. .
The cooling of the Mac mini makes it the most capable device of the Mac M1 (failing to see how the new 24-inch iMac M1), but if no one had told us it was fan cooled, we would hardly have realized it.
Most of the time it is completely silent, and even when we are running demanding games or applications and stress testing for long periods of time, the equipment barely emits a slight hiss which is negligible.
This makes the Mac mini attractive as a desktop computer for any home, whether for office tasks, for audio production, as well as a podcast computer or even in a video conferencing facility.
During our testing, we kept it near a very sensitive desktop microphone and barely got a trace of its fans’ sound.
M1 vs. Intel
Is there a reason to stick with an older Intel-based Mac mini, instead of going with an M1 model? Yes, in fact the new Mac mini does come with a few markdowns. The first one that we are going to reveal to you is a problem shared with the MacBooks M1.
And is that the M1 does not support external graphics cards or eGPU that you can c onnect through the Thunderbolt port. Therefore, you cannot supplement your Mac mini with a graphics enclosure for a more complete business setup.
You’re also limited to just two external displays with the M1 Macs, while the Mac mini with Intel setup supports three displays. Part of the problem is that Apple has reduced the number of ports.
Thus, at the back we have only located two Thunderbolt ports on the Mac mini M1, compared to the four ports that the previous generation model of 2018 still has.
Many of the issues reported early on were due to software that was not ready for Big Sur and the M1. This image has changed over the months, with more and more developers offering M1 optimized versions of their applications.
Read the article, What programs work with M1 Macs?. But even where they’re not available, you’ll find apps running through Rosetta 2, which is a good solution, for the most part.
Before you buy, it’s worth checking to see if the apps you need to use are verified to be M1 and / or Big Sur ready before you jump in.
Apple’s M1 processor impressed us. Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have seen a huge jump in performance over not only the previous generation, but also Intel’s options on what would once have been faster machines.
Now is the time for the Mac mini. It’s a bit overshadowed by the two MacBook laptops and with the new 2021 iMac M1 coming in now, but it’s definitely worth it now that they’re starting to play. Apple’s plans for the new Mac mini from 2021.
- 8-core M1 chip 8-core GPU
- 8 GB or 16 GB (unified memory)
- 256 GB / 512 GB / 1 TB / 2 TB of storage,
- Support up to 6K display and up to 4K display (sold separately), single speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack
- HDMI 2.0 port supports multi-channel audio output
- Connectivity Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, 2 Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, 2 USB ports? AT,
- HDMI 2.0 and Gigabit Ethernet port
- Dimensions of 197 mm x 197 mm x 36 mm
- 1.2 kg weight
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