M2 Mac mini review roundup: Tiny, but mighty

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 23
Initial reviews of the new Mac mini with M2 and M2 Pro are in, and it offers great power on a budget.

The updated Mac mini has an M2 or M2 Pro processor
The updated Mac mini has an M2 or M2 Pro processor


Apple announced the Mac mini with minimal changes beyond new chipsets on January 17. M2 Pro models also get access to more Thunderbolt ports and improved HDMI.

Initial orders and in-store availability of the M2 Mac mini begin on January 24. Reviewers have had some time with the newly-announced desktop, and these are their initial thoughts and reviews of the product.

The Verge: Mac Studio Junior

The Verge says Apple's Mac mini has never been more appealing. It has two processor choices -- the M2 for everyday computing and the M2 Pro for creative work.

If customers choose the M2 Pro option, they will get terrific performance in a small package, plenty of ports, and a variety of connection options like Wi-Fi 6E. The lack of front-facing ports or SD card slot isn't great though.

Setting up the Mac mini isn't ideal either, as users will need either a wired keyboard connection or Apple-made Magic Keyboard. It won't let third-party Bluetooth keyboards connect at setup.

The Mac mini offers an excellent entry-level price at $599
The Mac mini offers an excellent entry-level price at $599


Despite some small issues, The Verge calls this Mac mini the best version of the product that Apple has pulled off yet.

PCMag: elevated to new performance heights

PCMag celebrates the new processor options shoved into the classic Mac mini design. The additional Thunderbolt ports and 8K HDMI output in M2 Pro models are an added bonus.

The lack of user-upgradable memory and high-priced upgrades at purchase make this budget-friendly Mac a more difficult purchase. Especially since there are no peripherals included.

The decade-old design shouldn't stop people from upgrading, as the M2 or M2 Pro gives this product plenty of performance for the price. It may not match up spec for spec against dedicated, high-end desktop workstations, but it can fill the needs of many amateur and professional creators.

iJustine: impressive

YouTube personality iJustine does her usual unboxing treatment, setup, and testing in a video. She covers how the M2 and M2 Pro differ and does live performance tests on games and apps.



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The base M2 model handled Apple Arcade games like "Sneaky Sasquatch" without issue. She also dropped 8K video into Final Cut on the M2 processor with only a little stutter.

iJustine calls the new Mac mini impressive, citing the low price and high performance.

CNET: top pick for podcasters and content creators

CNET says that the Mac mini continues the tradition of being the podcaster's favorite computer while also being the cheapest way to access macOS on the market. The fact it can be configured with the M2 Pro and match the performance of the updated MacBook Pros is also impressive.

Apple saves the better port arrangement for the $1,299 M2 Pro model, and even then, RAM maxes out at 32GB. This budget-friendly Mac can quickly get expensive with pricey SSD and RAM upgrades.

The M2 and M2 Pro handled most tasks thrown at it, with the M2 Pro obviously taking on bigger tasks better. And despite Apple advertising gaming as an aspect of the Mac mini, it isn't quite there yet.

M2 and M2 Pro make the Mac mini an obvious pick
M2 and M2 Pro make the Mac mini an obvious pick


The baseline M2 Mac mini feels like it needs at least a storage bump, but it is going to be a clear choice for a lot of people. The flexibility to configure the machine from $599 to $4,499 means it can be set up to meet your needs.

TechCrunch: a serious contender

Even though the M1 Mac mini is still strong enough to tackle many tasks, TechCrunch says the M2 processor breathes new life into the machine. The M2 Pro, however, feels like new tires and a full tank of gas for an F1 driver.

That being said, most users would struggle to see the difference between the M2 and M2 Pro for day-to-day tasks. The M1 was already enough to handle it, and the M2 is improving on that, so the M2 Pro feels like a more difficult choice.

Apple pointed to gaming as a reason to get the new Mac mini, though that is a bit of an exaggeration. The only games worth playing on the platform are the ones optimized for Metal, like "Resident Evil Village."

The Mac mini continues to be an excellent value proposition, and has never looked better than it does now with the M2 and M2 Pro.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,588member
    I’m very impressed with the new mini. Mind you mine will be bumped up with 16 gigs of ram and a 512 drive. Plus i’m paying Canadian prices. So it’s going to be a fair amount more expensive. But it should do me for almost a decade so the extra cost will be worth it.


    n2itivguyScot1RonnyDaddyh2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    bill42bill42 Posts: 131member
    Upping the specs to mid level to match how I always buy new Macs, this Mac Mini alone would cost about $2000, and that's without a monitor. As an Apple snob who has not purchased a non-apple screen since my 21 inch Sony CRT for my 840AV back in 1991, I would want to buy an Apple screen. All we have available is a Studio Display starting at $1600.  I would prefer an iMac like my current 27" iMac from 2012, but the only iMacs available today have a screen just a bit too small for my taste. I really wish Apple would just make a new 27 or 30" iMac. It would be half the price of a Mac Mini with Studio Display, and it would sell like mad, just like the old 27" iMacs did when they dominated the graphics world.
    davebarnesScot1williamlondond_2RonnyDaddy9secondkox2zeus423robin huberentropysh2p
  • Reply 3 of 15
    JP234JP234 Posts: 822member
    Really appreciated the price drop from the M1 to the M2! Ordered one last week. Hoping to see it shipped tomorrow. (My old Mini is a mid-2011, and obsolete.)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,608member
    bill42 said:
    Upping the specs to mid level to match how I always buy new Macs, this Mac Mini alone would cost about $2000, and that's without a monitor. As an Apple snob who has not purchased a non-apple screen since my 21 inch Sony CRT for my 840AV back in 1991, I would want to buy an Apple screen. All we have available is a Studio Display starting at $1600.  I would prefer an iMac like my current 27" iMac from 2012, but the only iMacs available today have a screen just a bit too small for my taste. I really wish Apple would just make a new 27 or 30" iMac. It would be half the price of a Mac Mini with Studio Display, and it would sell like mad, just like the old 27" iMacs did when they dominated the graphics world.
    A 27" 5K iMac with the M2 Pro would be my dream Mac.
    Scot1aaplfanboyDAalsethwilliamlondond_29secondkox2keithwzeus423robin huberentropys
  • Reply 5 of 15
    bill42 said:
     I really wish Apple would just make a new 27 or 30" iMac.
    Me too. Have money set aside.
    Scot1williamlondon9secondkox2keithwzeus423robin huberentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 15
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,093member
    bill42 said:
    Upping the specs to mid level to match how I always buy new Macs, this Mac Mini alone would cost about $2000, and that's without a monitor. As an Apple snob who has not purchased a non-apple screen since my 21 inch Sony CRT for my 840AV back in 1991, I would want to buy an Apple screen. All we have available is a Studio Display starting at $1600.  I would prefer an iMac like my current 27" iMac from 2012, but the only iMacs available today have a screen just a bit too small for my taste. I really wish Apple would just make a new 27 or 30" iMac. It would be half the price of a Mac Mini with Studio Display, and it would sell like mad, just like the old 27" iMacs did when they dominated the graphics world.
    A 27" 5K iMac with the M2 Pro would be my dream Mac.
    The problem with this scenario (which is what I'd like to get) is that my 2019 27" iMac already has a Studio Display (kind of) in it. Would be interesting to see if someone would gut a 5K iMac and drop in a mid-level Mac mini (Mac Pro mini with enough internal storage) with ports moved to the back. Of course, even though it would look a bit ugly, I could go with attaching the mini to the back of the iMac and figure out how to drive the display at full 5K resolution. Maybe put the mini under the display stand would be a better idea. I know the Studio Display has a ton on electronics inside including an A7(?) CPU for performing lots of things but for many of us just an accessible 5K display might be enough. I like having everything in one "box" but I still have a couple external drives and Thunderbolt dock/hub(s) plus a bunch of external power bricks so why am I worried about having an all-in-one. I gave up on this years ago after adding RAID arrays. Maybe it's time for a rack-mounted Mac mini (flat) along with slots for RAID arrays and a rack-mounted dock for extra I/O ports. Put all the power supplies in the back of the rack, install a couple whisper fans and everything is organized cleanly. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 15
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,588member
    I had another thought. OWC makes an external drive, the MiniStack STX that has the same footprint as the Mini, and a similar look. It has space for a spinning drive and an SSD, plus some extra USB-C ports on the back. I might leave the Mini’s drive at 256, and set it on one of these. Use the Mini’s internal for things that need a lot of speed, but Photos, and Music don’t. Plus the extra ports would be nice. That would be a nice combination, and for a bit over $400 for 1TB spinning and 1TB SSD, a serious option compared to bumping the Mini drive up. 
    edited January 23 thtrobin huberdecoderringliketheskywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 15
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,899member
    What I’m waiting to see is a comparison of the mini M2 Pro to the base Studio.
    zeus423h2pwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 15
    Studio Display has an A13 SoC
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    DAalseth said:
    I had another thought. OWC makes an external drive, the MiniStack STX that has the same footprint as the Mini, and a similar look. It has space for a spinning drive and an SSD, plus some extra USB-C ports on the back. I might leave the Mini’s drive at 256, and set it on one of these. Use the Mini’s internal for things that need a lot of speed, but Photos, and Music don’t. Plus the extra ports would be nice. That would be a nice combination, and for a bit over $400 for 1TB spinning and 1TB SSD, a serious option compared to bumping the Mini drive up. 
    I love your idea, but do not know how to separate functions between drive A and B. When you set up a new Mac I don’t think it gives you a choice. If there is a way to drag the Photos “app” onto the B drive, I would worry that some necessary tidbits would remain on A, requiring the Mac to shuttle back and forth between drives to do various functions while using Photos. Probably a dumb question, but I am not a power user and my only experience with secondary drives is as TimeMachine backup. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    Yeah so I pre ordered an M2 Mac mini, but I have a non Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse… I might have a wired mouse somewhere, so I won’t be able to set this thing up?!?!?!? That’s really not cool for Apple, if they are not going to include one of their keyboards and mouse, they need to make it work with ANY keyboard and mouse! So, now I have to go get a wired keyboard just to set this up? You’ve got to be kidding me! Forkin a!
    entropys
  • Reply 12 of 15
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,588member
    DAalseth said:
    I had another thought. OWC makes an external drive, the MiniStack STX that has the same footprint as the Mini, and a similar look. It has space for a spinning drive and an SSD, plus some extra USB-C ports on the back. I might leave the Mini’s drive at 256, and set it on one of these. Use the Mini’s internal for things that need a lot of speed, but Photos, and Music don’t. Plus the extra ports would be nice. That would be a nice combination, and for a bit over $400 for 1TB spinning and 1TB SSD, a serious option compared to bumping the Mini drive up. 
    I love your idea, but do not know how to separate functions between drive A and B. When you set up a new Mac I don’t think it gives you a choice. If there is a way to drag the Photos “app” onto the B drive, I would worry that some necessary tidbits would remain on A, requiring the Mac to shuttle back and forth between drives to do various functions while using Photos. Probably a dumb question, but I am not a power user and my only experience with secondary drives is as TimeMachine backup. 
    With Photos, and I believe Music, you can just set the system up normally, with no Photos or music data. Then you tell each of them the new location for the files. I’d probably let MacOS and most everything else on the internal drive and point Music and Photos at the external SSD. The spinning HDD would be for TimeMachine. 
    cgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,793member
    I suspect Tim Apple wants you to buy a mini/studio plus an Apple display rather than an iMac 27 inch and the power people expect.  Think of the difference in margins.
    until Apple solves the margin issue, we won’t see a big iMac.

    I don’t think it worth waiting to see if a reasonably priced iMac (reasonably priced = similar to that if the old 5K iMac) comes out.  Just Velcro a mini to the back of a decent 4K monitor.
    edited January 23 muthuk_vanalingamcgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 15
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,899member
    benji888 said:
    Yeah so I pre ordered an M2 Mac mini, but I have a non Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse… I might have a wired mouse somewhere, so I won’t be able to set this thing up?!?!?!? That’s really not cool for Apple, if they are not going to include one of their keyboards and mouse, they need to make it work with ANY keyboard and mouse! So, now I have to go get a wired keyboard just to set this up? You’ve got to be kidding me! Forkin a!
    It is not a bad idea to have a wired keyboard/mouse around somewhere, just for such situations (or when things go wrong). If you’re not crazy about the keyboard you have, or want to upgrade (and ‘kill two birds with one stone’) you might look into something like my Keychron K3, which is a low-profile mechanical keyboard. This will cost quite a bit more than any old USB keyboard (which should work for that purpose), but IMO, it is night and day better than even my previous Apple Magic keyboard. The have several layouts and key-switch options. I think my K3 + ‘Banana’ switches is quite like a low-profile version of the famous Apple Extended II.

    DAalseth said:
    With Photos, and I believe Music, you can just set the system up normally, with no Photos or music data. Then you tell each of them the new location for the files. I’d probably let MacOS and most everything else on the internal drive and point Music and Photos at the external SSD. The spinning HDD would be for TimeMachine. 
    Convenience aside, I now look at internal SSDs differently than I used to. I treat the internal like OS + most apps + scratch/working space, instead of trying to buy a big enough one to hold it all (unless it is a laptop for primarily mobile use). Apple’s SSDs are ultra fast, but also really expensive. For a desktop, I just add external storage as needed, and as you pointed out, just do a bit of additional pointing of data storage for certain apps. For others which allow, I just point them at external drives on install (ex: Unreal Engine or Native Instruments, which both use huge amounts of storage). Yes, Music and Photos let you easily pick where the data ‘libraries’ are located.

    entropys said:
    I suspect Tim Apple wants you to buy a mini/studio plus an Apple display rather than an iMac 27 inch and the power people expect.  Think of the difference in margins.
    until Apple solves the margin issue, we won’t see a big iMac.

    I don’t think it worth waiting to see if a reasonably priced iMac (reasonably priced = similar to that if the old 5K iMac) comes out.  Just Velcro a mini to the back of a decent 4K monitor.
    Aside from a bit of aesthetics, I’d probably go that direction anyway. I loved my iMac, but there are so many advantages to the modularity. The reason for the attractiveness of the 5K iMac was more about the great overall deal it was, right? If Apple doesn’t replicate that, there isn’t a huge reason to go with an iMac for a power-user.

    Yeah, and unless you really want/need a Studio Display, I also don’t get why someone wouldn’t put the extra cash into the Mac and just hook it to one of the many great 4k monitors (or a couple!) that are much cheaper.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 15
    thttht Posts: 4,730member
    I think there is a bit of lull in high DPI monitors, in Apple's ecosystem at least, because TB4 didn't have a bandwidth increase. TB3 and TB4 are 40 Gbit/s. So this puts an upper limit on what resolution and refresh is achievable with a Thunderbolt monitor, which is what you see with the 32" Pro Display XDR. 5K 120 Hz is not achievable with TB3/4, unless you set it as a one-way signal, which then means no USB hubs in the monitor.

    The other thing is a miniLED 27" 5K monitor is not yet economical. $3000 for that, maybe? Then you have add a computer to it. So, the costs for a properly featured 27" miniLED iMac is going to be prohibitive.

    When Thunderbolt 5 comes with its 80 Gbit/s bandwidth, that will finally mean single cable solutions will be possible for 5K/6K 120 Hz monitors, and 8K 60 Hz monitors, where a USBC/TB hub could be inside. Not sure when or if 5K to 6K miniLEDs from 27" to 35" will become affordable. It may never become affordable because OLEDs will just supersede them.

    So, perhaps with the M3 Mac models with TB5, 120 Hz 5K and 6K displays will come.
    cgWerks
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