I’ll be completely honest – when I originally switched from a 16” MacBook Pro to the new M1 Mac mini, I wasn’t entirely sure how the latter would fit into my life.
I thought it might just end up being a machine used entirely for performance comparisons and real world benchmarking. A point of reference, if you will.
But it has turned into so much more than that. The M1 Mac mini, as I noted in my two-week review, is effortless enough to be capable of running my entire business.
I can’t make it sweat. It never feels hamstrung by RAM, CPU speed or graphics performance. For such a relatively cheap Mac, it is absolutely incredible.
However, I’ve received a number of questions from viewers recently who want to know what a typical workload is for me. Am I really pushing this machine? Or is my use case actually relatively light and, therefore, perhaps indicative of the fact that I’m not really pushing the M1 as much as I could?
So, here’s why I get up to during a typical day. Let me know what you think in the comments.
It all starts with the Air
It’s important to note that the Mac mini is usually the second device I start using each day.
In first place, there’s the M1 MacBook Air. In fact, I’m sat in my living room writing on that device right now. It’s super early (6:16am), and I’m continuing my current trend of getting a shed load of work done before most people rise.
The Air is perfect for this task, but when I head upstairs an hour or so later, it’s the M1 Mac mini to which I turn.
What I do first on the Mac mini depends largely on the day ahead. But, more often than not, it’ll be some form of writing task. I’ll have blog posts to write, comments to answer or videos to plan.
For these tasks, I use the brilliant Ulysses. It remains among my favourite Mac apps simply because it enables me to get words down quickly and syncs effortlessly across all of my Macs.
Now, I’m aware that Ulysses isn’t exactly going to push the envelope when it comes to the required computing horsepower, but this first experience of the Mac mini each day does confirm something about the M1 chip which has been noted by most reviewers.
It is ‘snappy’. In fact, it’s the ‘snappiest’ computer I’ve ever used.
It’s easy to overlook this as you work your way through your to-do list, but if I reflect on those early morning writing sessions, they are completely without any form of lag, beach-balling or hanging around waiting for things to load.
Beyond Ulysses, I’ll also make heavy use of Safari, Trello, my email client (Spark) and other tools like Notion. That means lots of context switching, and a significant amount of alt-tabbing.
The M1 Mac mini enables me to fly through these morning tasks without an ounce of frustration. It delivers the kind of power and headroom which is abstracted away from the user, but which has a tangible impact on one’s productivity. That means a lot when you have a voluminous to-do list.
The video edit
I don’t edit videos every single day, but it’s a pretty regular occurrence throughout the week and some days are heavier than others. For instance, yesterday, I had a client video to edit and one of my own to polish off and upload to YouTube.
Having paired the Mac mini with a huge, swooping 34” widescreen monitor from MSI, video edits are so much fun (they always have been, to be fair – there’s just much less scrolling and zooming these days).
But it’s the performance of the M1 Mac mini that’s the real crowning jewel of this part of my day. Before, I was using a decked-out 16” MacBook Pro. It was effortless for video editing, but it would also spin its fans up so loud and get so hot when rendering or exporting that I’d expect it to gently lift from the desk and fly away.
I’ve said this several times, but I cannot get the M1 Mac mini to make a sound or get even remotely warm.
I’m not editing multiple streams of 8K video, but I am editing 4K footage, colour grading it and adding graphical elements to my videos. I also take pride in producing my audio properly, and use a number of plugins during the final master in Final Cut Pro.
The mini sails through all of these tasks. Very, very occasionally I might spot a fleeting beach ball or a couple of dropped frames, but that is so rare.
What a machine.
Where will you go from here with the M1 chip, Apple? I am absolutely fascinated.
A quick photo edit
Every header image you see on my Medium posts and all the YouTube thumbnails I create are, typically, photographed by yours truly.
I’ll leave the process of taking photos of yourself with a DSLR for a future blog (if anyone cares), but suffice to say, I spend a great deal of my week taking elaborate selfies.
These are done on a completely ad-hoc basis. Indeed, I’ll be shooting one soon for the blog you’re reading.
This means that I’ve had to nail down a process which is as fast and efficient as possible to get the resulting image from memory card to the top of this page. I don’t have time to wait around.
I use Lightroom to edit each photo. I don’t spend hours on it – just a white balance tweak, lens correction, highlight/shadow adjustment, and, sometimes, a tiny bit of work in Photoshop to add some sparkle (thanks, Pete McKinnon).
This means lots of single image transfers from an SD card and the requirement for a machine that can get me through those edits as quickly as possible.
Now paired with the Satechi USB-C hub and its lovely front-facing SD card reader, the Mac mini is easily the best computer I’ve ever owned for this process.
Honestly – I fly through these photo edits. It’s incredible.
I can’t understate how important this process is for my business. If I had a computer which made me wait during any stage of getting those images from memory card to Medium or YouTube, it would add significantly to the production time for every piece of content.
As any creator will know, seconds count.
Heading into the afternoon… and a bunch of Teams calls
My mornings are definitely more creative than my afternoons.
As I head deeper into the day, I’ll typically undertake a number of Teams calls and work which is more centred around project planning and collaboration with others.
Let’s cover this off first – the M1 Mac mini has no problem running apps like Teams, Zoom and Skype. They just work. End of story.
This half of my day also sees me spending a fair amount of time in Chrome and some rather heavy-duty enterprise applications (think Salesforce). Again, the mini sails through these tasks without ever breaking a sweat or suggesting that I really should be using an Intel platform.
As I reflect on my use case for the Mac mini, it’s clear that it isn’t as strenuous as a video editor who is dealing with all-day edits and multiple streams of video and audio. Nor is it so complex in its requirement for apps and platforms that I need a computer with limitless x86 compatibility.
But it is incredibly varied, and what impresses me about the M1 Mac mini is that it always feels like it could do more. It sits there, just beneath my monitor, goading me. “Come on, Mark – you can do better than this,” it says. “Push me – really push me.”
Alas, I can’t. Which is a rather lovely thing.
I genuinely cannot wait to see what Apple does next with the Mac. But if you’re stuck choosing your own M1 Mac mini, check out my buying guide, below.