You know when you know there’s something wrong but you do everything in your power to put it to the back of your mind?
I’ve been experiencing this with the M1 Mac mini ever since the macOS 11.2 update which included a fix for the Bluetooth issues users were experiencing.
Following that update, things have been better for me, but not perfect.
This week, it struck me that I’ve been making the classic mistake of forcing myself to believe a problem isn’t there, simply because I so badly want everything to be ok.
Alas, it’s time to face up to the reality: the M1 Mac mini still has a really big issue with Bluetooth, and it’s spoiling what is the best desktop computer I’ve ever owned.
There’s still a Bluetooth problem with the M1 Mac mini
To this day I still receive YouTube and blog comments asking if the M1 Mac mini’s Bluetooth issues have been resolved. I’ve stopped replying with my stock answer of, “yep, macOS 11.2 fixed it for me”. Instead, I’ve observed as others get involved and reveal that they’re still having issues, despite Apple’s patch.
If you’re not aware, the Mac mini has always had a troubling time with Bluetooth – even before the introduction of the brilliant M1 chip. Whether it’s due to the way Bluetooth is implemented, the chassis design or something else beyond the user’s control, the issue manifests itself in the inability to maintain Bluetooth connections.
It’s incredibly frustrating and affects both Apple and third-party hardware. Keyboards will randomly disconnect and if, like me, you have a Logitech mouse, you’ll probably find yourself resorting to a dongle in order to obtain fluid cursor movement.
macOS 11.2 did make a huge difference to the issues I was experiencing, which were severe enough for me to abandon my AirPods Pro, and resort to a wired keyboard. Even AirDrop didn’t work for me – at all (it literally crashed Finder).
The macOS update enabled me to return to a Bluetooth connection for my keyboard, resurrect the AirPods Pro as my conferencing ‘headset’ of choice and finally make use of AirDrop once more.
Or so I thought.
Whether the issues have reappeared gradually or I’m simply noticing them more, I have no idea, but I’ll break them down individually.
I’ve developed a bit of a thing for mechanical keyboards. But boy do they behave weirdly with the Mac mini.
I can say this confidently because they don’t act strangely at all when connected to my 5K 27” iMac. I also have enough keyboards to test the possibility that the issue only lies with one brand or device.
When I connect any one of the numerous mechanical keyboards I have in my studio to the Mac mini, they’ll occasionally lose the connection entirely (although not to the extent of the pre-macOS 11.2 era). But more often than not, they’ll also do some incredibly weird things.
For instance, my IQUNIX F96 will randomly switch to Arabic. Other keyboards will start to lag with their input and miss keystrokes entirely. Both of these issues are always fixed by a quick toggle of the Bluetooth switch on macOS.
Most mechanical keyboards have a Bluetooth connection status light, and I’ve noticed that this also indicates something is amiss because said light will flash randomly, as though the keyboard is momentarily searching for a connection.
It’s hard to explain unless you experience it, but something really isn’t right with the Bluetooth connection between my keyboards and the Mac mini.
Unusable AirPods Pro
The keyboard issues are annoying, but this takes the crown for being the most embarrassing Mac mini Bluetooth problem.
I undertake a fair few remote calls each week and I’ve had to stop using my AirPods Pro for the task. Again.
This is irritating because they’re the best headphones I have for the job, but I simply cannot rely on their connection to the Mac mini.
At first, I thought it was my internet connection. Then, I blamed Teams (it’s gotta be that, right?!). But, no, there was clearly something else going on.
During every call, people would complain about the inability to hear me. I’d “sound like a Dalek”, or my voice would disappear entirely (and, no, I wasn’t on mute). As soon as I switched headphones and instead used my webcam’s mic, the problem disappeared.
I’ve tested this, too. If I use my AirPods Pro on my M1 MacBook Air, they work perfectly.
Again, a bit like the keyboard issues, something isn’t right.
The Logitech mouse
Hands-up: I’d forgotten about this one. But that’s mainly because even before the macOS 11.2 update, I’d switched to Logitech’s bundled wireless dongle in order to circumnavigate the Mac mini’s Bluetooth connection.
If I attach my MX Master 3 via Bluetooth, it’s unusable. The connection is maintained, but the cursor skips and stutters across the screen. You can deal with it for about ten seconds before reverting to the dongle.
However, after the macOS update, I still experienced a few minor issues – even via the dongle. Ever so occasionally, the cursor would still stutter. So, I leant on the advice of a lovely YouTube viewer and bought myself a USB extension cable.
That extension cable is now attached directly to one of the Mac mini’s USB-A ports and dangles beneath the desk. Attached to it is the Logitech dongle. The idea is that it moves the dongle as far away from the Mac mini as possible, and it works – the mouse operation is now flawless.
But why on earth am I having to do this?
How can Apple fix the M1 Mac mini Bluetooth problems?
This is where it all gets a bit sad and depressing. Sorry.
I think it’s clear that Apple can’t solve this issue, and that saddens me, deeply.
I’ve gushed about this computer for months. It has other problems, sure, but it still blows me away in terms of what it can do on a day-to-day basis for a busy content creation business.
Updates to macOS have definitely resulted in improvements to Bluetooth connectivity, and I still receive comments from people whose connectivity issues have been totally resolved. That’s awesome, and it’s one of the many reasons I’ll continue to recommend this computer.
But, if like me, you rely heavily on Bluetooth gear and you have several wireless devices around you at all times (I’m convinced that has an impact on proceedings), you may want to take stock.
We don’t know what Apple is going to do next with the Mac mini. There are rumours of a high-end version on the horizon, but it’ll need far more than additional ports and the next version of the M-series chip to win the adulation it so badly deserves.
Clearly, the Mac mini needs a complete design overhaul. I’m at the stage where I’ve accepted the Bluetooth issues, simply because the computer itself is so, so great.
This still isn’t good enough though, Apple, and it would be lovely if you’d break your silence on the matter.