Why the new Mac mini is the perfect home & family computer

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 24
The just-released Mac mini looks unexciting from the exterior with its years-old design -- but don't let that fool you. This unassuming Mac is a steal with surprising performance.

Mac mini comes with an M2 or M2 Pro
The new Mac mini comes with an M2 or M2 Pro processor


It's hard to complain much about the updated Mac mini. Apple delivered not one -- but two versions -- with either the M2 or the M2 Pro on the inside. The new version of the headless Mac comes with more powerful silicon, and a lower price tag to boot.

Apple dropped the Mac mini price on the entry-level model from $699 to $599, getting you an M2-equipped Mac mini with 8GB of ram and 256GB of SSD storage. On the education store, the price drops further to only $499.

Depending on your needs, the Mac mini may be the desktop Mac to own. Let's compare it to the iMac and the Mac Studio, ignoring the Mac Pro as it's in a league of its own.

M2 Mac mini compared to the 24-inch iMac with Apple Silicon

Apple's 24-inch iMac is tempting as an all-in-one design that includes everything you need from the keyboard and mouse to the display. If you can compromise on the accessories, Mac mini can be far more power for the price.

You could opt for the entry-level 24-inch iMac that runs you $1,300 with an 8-core M1 with a 7-core GPU or for less than $600, you can have an 8-core M2 with a 10-core GPU. Less than half the price with better performance.





Alternatively, you could spend the same $1,300 but get a 10-core M2 Pro Mac mini that comes with a 16-core GPU and double the memory and storage.

If you can source your own monitor and peripherals, or already have ones you like, the new Mac mini is incredible value.

M2 Mac mini compared to Mac Studio

In the initial batch of M2 Mac mini reviews the performance was so solid some had already dubbed it the "Mac Studio Junior" and it's easy to see why.

The Mac Studio can absolutely be outfitted to be more powerful than the highest-end Mac mini. But, if you were looking at an entry-level Mac Studio a week ago, the Mac mini with M2 Pro processor may be a better choice.

Recent benchmarks have shown that the 12-core M2 Pro outpaces the 10-core M1 Max. That means you can pick up the new 10-core M2 Pro Mac Mini for $1,300 while the M1 Max Mac Studio starts at $2000 -- a $700 savings with similar performance.

Spending another $300 gets you a 12-core M2 Pro Mac mini, still a $400 savings and now better performance. Mac Studio has more ports, but if you're comfortable with Ethernet, four Thunderbolt, HDMI, and two USB-A, the Mac mini wins out.

Plus the Mac mini has extra benefits the Mac Studio doesn't, such as support for 4K 240Hz and 8K displays.

This comparison is complex, though. We already ran through the Mac Mini versus Mac Studio specs on paper, and we'll revisit it when we have the hardware in-hand.

Exclusive deals available now

Apple's new Mac mini is already on sale, with prices dipping to as low as $549 in our M2 Mac mini Price Guide.

Readers can exclusively save $100 on the following retail configurations with promo code APINSIDER at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama.

M2 Mac mini markdowns

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    JP234JP234 Posts: 789member
    Mine is scheduled for delivery tomorrow!
  • Reply 2 of 11
    I ordered one but it won't be here until the end of February, and it's also spec'ed out at $1,999.99. I debated waiting to see how it would compare to a Mac Studio but who knows how long it would take for the update to arrive.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    The base unit has half the main memory and storage of the Mac Mini I bought ten years ago.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 11
    DrBoar2DrBoar2 Posts: 6unconfirmed, member
    Half the HD space of my mid 2011 budget and half of what I upgraded the RAM to on my own.
    The real insanity is that with the M2 I have to pay as much for adding 256 GB SSD as getting a 2 TB external HD!  That is an 8:1 ratio
    And why do I have to pay as much for adding 256 (256 to 512) as adding 512 (going from 412 to 1TB) !?



    JMStearnsX2williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 11
    I ordered one but it won't be here until the end of February, and it's also spec'ed out at $1,999.99. I debated waiting to see how it would compare to a Mac Studio but who knows how long it would take for the update to arrive.
    I'm in the same situation, I'm not sure which one to get. I have my money ready, I wish I knew when the new Mac Studio is going to come out. I can wait a bit longer though.

    DrBoar2 said:
    Half the HD space of my mid 2011 budget and half of what I upgraded the RAM to on my own.
    The real insanity is that with the M2 I have to pay as much for adding 256 GB SSD as getting a 2 TB external HD!  That is an 8:1 ratio
    And why do I have to pay as much for adding 256 (256 to 512) as adding 512 (going from 412 to 1TB) !?



    I agree it's insane, I wouldn't mind the soldered memory and storage as much if it were more reasonably priced. How much they charge for memory and storage upgrades is criminal. External Thunderbolt storage has a bandwidth cap, even a single NVMe 3.0 will be much faster. Move to PCIe 4.0 or 5.0 and there is no comparison.
    I'm a certified Mac technician, I've seen the inside of the M1 mini. There is SO much empty space, you could fit 2x 2.5" drives inside and still have lots of air movement, much less having a few NVMe blades. The logic board & heatsink only takes about 20% of the interior volume, the rest is just air space from using the same enclosure from the last 13 years.  It would be trivial for Apple to add that capability to the logic board, but they won't when they make as much as they do on storage upgrades.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 6 of 11
    I have a family of geeks so we all need (way) more than 8 GB RAM. I typically buy an 8 GB RAM machine intending to upgrade it to 32 GB, which costs about $80 if you do DDR4 and $120 if you go DDR5. But I do say that for "most people" $599 for such performance and the benefits of macOS - especially for iPhone and iPad users - is the best deal in ages. 
    edited January 24 williamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 11
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,582member
    I ran the numbers when the M2MM came out and got the same result. The MM is a far better deal with better performance than the iMac or the Studio. (Unless you max out the Studio.) Even buying a monitor for the Mini, I’m still several hundred ahead. 
    williamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 8 of 11
    I ordered one but it won't be here until the end of February, and it's also spec'ed out at $1,999.99. I debated waiting to see how it would compare to a Mac Studio but who knows how long it would take for the update to arrive.
    I'm in the same situation, I'm not sure which one to get. I have my money ready, I wish I knew when the new Mac Studio is going to come out. I can wait a bit longer though.

    DrBoar2 said:
    Half the HD space of my mid 2011 budget and half of what I upgraded the RAM to on my own.
    The real insanity is that with the M2 I have to pay as much for adding 256 GB SSD as getting a 2 TB external HD!  That is an 8:1 ratio
    And why do I have to pay as much for adding 256 (256 to 512) as adding 512 (going from 412 to 1TB) !?



    I agree it's insane, I wouldn't mind the soldered memory and storage as much if it were more reasonably priced. How much they charge for memory and storage upgrades is criminal. External Thunderbolt storage has a bandwidth cap, even a single NVMe 3.0 will be much faster. Move to PCIe 4.0 or 5.0 and there is no comparison.
    I'm a certified Mac technician, I've seen the inside of the M1 mini. There is SO much empty space, you could fit 2x 2.5" drives inside and still have lots of air movement, much less having a few NVMe blades. The logic board & heatsink only takes about 20% of the interior volume, the rest is just air space from using the same enclosure from the last 13 years.  It would be trivial for Apple to add that capability to the logic board, but they won't when they make as much as they do on storage upgrades.
    Apple/Mac has always been overpriced, yes, to the extent that it borders on criminal. But there are millions and millions of chumps like myself that continue to pay those insane prices. Until we convince ourselves that PC's will do precisely the same tasks for far less $$ it will remain as it is, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. I'm still running a 2013 27" iMac that is way, way obsolete by Mac standards, I refuse to get caught up in that "I gotta' have it because it's the latest and greatest from Apple" syndrome. Same with my 2016 MBP. Both machines still work great.
    dewme
  • Reply 9 of 11
    The new Mac mini can rightfully be called many great things, but "the perfect home and family computer" is not one of them... unless said home or family already owns the full suite of peripherals that will be necessary to buy to make the Mini comparable to an iMac: monitor, mouse, keyboard, webcam, speakers. You get premium Apple versions of all of these in one thin, attractive and "matched" package with an iMac, plus a single power cord that ties up just one outlet. Purchasing these peripherals of Apple quality separately would quickly get you to (or past) the price of an iMac, plus you end up with more cords and mismatched peripherals, like speakers and webcam, that are added on rather than built-in. Yes, the new Mac mini offers more power, but what's the home or family use case that demands more power than a base iMac M1? Here's what's curious about the tech press: even thought the base M1 chip blew the doors off of its Intel predecessors, the press still discusses base M1 machines like they're grannycore computers only suitable for casual email and web-browsing. The base M1 iMac will easily handle anything that the average family or home will throw at it without breaking a sweat. 

    The more interesting and valid use case for the new Mac mini is it's potential as a Mac Studio Junior -- there are probably many buyers for whom the Mac Studio form factor makes sense, but for whom even the base model is more than they need--now the new Mac mini offers similar power at a reduced price, minus some bells and whistles that likely aren't important to the Mini buyer. 
  • Reply 10 of 11
    AKApple said:
    Apple/Mac has always been overpriced, yes, to the extent that it borders on criminal. But there are millions and millions of chumps like myself that continue to pay those insane prices. Until we convince ourselves that PC's will do precisely the same tasks for far less $$ it will remain as it is, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. I'm still running a 2013 27" iMac that is way, way obsolete by Mac standards, I refuse to get caught up in that "I gotta' have it because it's the latest and greatest from Apple" syndrome. Same with my 2016 MBP. Both machines still work great.
    Whether something is "overpriced" involves consideration of much more than just the initial price paid. 

    First, let's consider that your now 10-year-old iMac "still works great" per your own description. You've had a decade of use and still going strong for a desktop that listed (standard model) at $1799. That's $180 per year or about 50 cents a day for a desktop that STILL does everything you need it to do well. How many of the cheaper Windows desktops you could have bought are still "working great" after ten years? A very under appreciated part of the Mac value proposition is that they CAN be used for a decade or longer -- you can choose to avoid upgrading if you wish because Apple machines last... and because of #2 below, which is equally important. 

    Second. let's consider that your 2013 iMac was able to run the latest and greatest Mac OS until Nov 2020 when Big Sur was released. For seven years the OS of your iMac was as current as any other Mac out there. You had seven years of new Mac OS releases for FREE. And even now, Apple continues to support Catalina on your 10-year-old machine with security updates. Again, how many of the cheaper Windows desktops you could have bought were supported with the latest Windows OS for free for that time. Here, let me help: None. How many are still getting security updates? In terms of support with the latest OS with the latest features, nothing matches the longevity of a Mac and you get that kind of support for free. 

    Third, where Apple used to lag behind in price/performance comparisons, that is no longer the case. Especially since the M-chip debuted, Apple is performance competitive with anything else at its price point. 

    And finally: even after years of use, if you've kept your Mac or Macbook in excellent condition, they still have resale value. Last year, I sold my 2015 Macbook 12" on Craiglist for $350. Back in 2017, I sold my 2009 iMac for $500. Show me a cheap Windows desktop or laptop that retains that kind of resale value after that many years. A key part of value retention is that a 6 or 7 year old Apple machine is able to run a very recent (if not the latest) Mac OS, and will still receive security updates from Apple. 
  • Reply 11 of 11
    charlesn said:
    AKApple said:
    Apple/Mac has always been overpriced, yes, to the extent that it borders on criminal. But there are millions and millions of chumps like myself that continue to pay those insane prices. Until we convince ourselves that PC's will do precisely the same tasks for far less $$ it will remain as it is, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. I'm still running a 2013 27" iMac that is way, way obsolete by Mac standards, I refuse to get caught up in that "I gotta' have it because it's the latest and greatest from Apple" syndrome. Same with my 2016 MBP. Both machines still work great.
    Whether something is "overpriced" involves consideration of much more than just the initial price paid. 

    First, let's consider that your now 10-year-old iMac "still works great" per your own description. You've had a decade of use and still going strong for a desktop that listed (standard model) at $1799. That's $180 per year or about 50 cents a day for a desktop that STILL does everything you need it to do well. How many of the cheaper Windows desktops you could have bought are still "working great" after ten years? A very under appreciated part of the Mac value proposition is that they CAN be used for a decade or longer -- you can choose to avoid upgrading if you wish because Apple machines last... and because of #2 below, which is equally important. 

    Second. let's consider that your 2013 iMac was able to run the latest and greatest Mac OS until Nov 2020 when Big Sur was released. For seven years the OS of your iMac was as current as any other Mac out there. You had seven years of new Mac OS releases for FREE. And even now, Apple continues to support Catalina on your 10-year-old machine with security updates. Again, how many of the cheaper Windows desktops you could have bought were supported with the latest Windows OS for free for that time. Here, let me help: None. How many are still getting security updates? In terms of support with the latest OS with the latest features, nothing matches the longevity of a Mac and you get that kind of support for free. 

    Third, where Apple used to lag behind in price/performance comparisons, that is no longer the case. Especially since the M-chip debuted, Apple is performance competitive with anything else at its price point. 

    And finally: even after years of use, if you've kept your Mac or Macbook in excellent condition, they still have resale value. Last year, I sold my 2015 Macbook 12" on Craiglist for $350. Back in 2017, I sold my 2009 iMac for $500. Show me a cheap Windows desktop or laptop that retains that kind of resale value after that many years. A key part of value retention is that a 6 or 7 year old Apple machine is able to run a very recent (if not the latest) Mac OS, and will still receive security updates from Apple. 
    I think you are mixing up Android and Windows interchangeably when it comes to software support. Android phones - you would be lucky if you get OS or security updates after 2 years of purchase (except Samsung Flagship/Pixel phones), Not so with windows. I have a 15 year old windows PC (assembled) and it is running windows 10 with latest security patches. Of course, I upgraded it during various times in the last 15 years (Processor and mother board about 8 years ago, HDD to SSD about 3 years ago and Monitor about 2 years ago). Only windows 11 is not supported in older hardware due to new hardware requirement imposed by the OS. The prior versions of windows did NOT impose this restriction and even ancient PCs had the capability to run latest OS and security updates without any problem (unlike MacOS). The key point is - Windows OS has been historically supported on ALL PCs for a much longer span than MacOS was ever supported.
    edited February 3
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