Ahh the Mac mini. Left to languish during its Intel days for what felt like far too long. Just like the 24-inch iMac, its had its fair share of cold shoulder treatment from Apple. But fears about its ultimate demise were, thankfully, eradicated when the M1 chip arrived.
The situation I’m writing about today isn’t like that. We received brand-new Mac minis earlier this year containing the M2 and M2 Pro chips. I have the latter in my studio, connected proudly to a Studio Display, and it is a brilliantly capable machine.
The current Mac mini lineup is, therefore, still relatively young. But with the launch of the M3 chip, and the Mac mini being rather conspicuous by its absence at the Scary Fast Apple event, one does wonder when – and if – we’ll see an M3 Mac mini.
More pressingly, Apple’s decision not to throw an M3 chip into the Mac mini in 2023 creates a rather horrible buying decision for anyone who wants or needs to grab the diminutive desktop powerhouse today. Especially as the M3 iMac has now entered the fray.
If you’re in that camp, I want to help you.
Will there be an M3 Mac mini?
I have absolutely no idea – sorry.
I think it’s about time we got realistic with rumours. One thing that became abundantly clear after the Scary Fast Mac launch event last month was that people like Mark Gurman are working on nothing more than hunches and questionable whispers.
I have nothing to back this up (that’s part of the problem) but I have followed Gurman and chums for many years, and when you watch from the periphery, it’s clear that they have lost insider contacts who were once reliable. Either that, or those same contacts are just having an awful lot of fun with them.
No matter what you read over the next few weeks and months – possibly, years – the only people who know when a new Mac mini will drop are those who are in charge of product releases at Apple. And they don’t say much publicly.
I can, therefore, only offer a guess as to whether or not we’ll see an M3 version of this wonderful little computer.
I think we will. Just like the hardware release dates, I know as much as you about the breakdown of Mac mini sales figures, but I just hope they remain positive enough to make that machine a permanent fixture in Apple’s plans.
But what if you need one now?
Let’s start by looking at the alternatives – if you really want the latest chip.
M2 Mac mini vs M3 iMac: does it compare?
As I type, there’s one sitting behind me, waiting to be unboxed for a ‘thorough’ Mark Ellis Reviews bout of performance testing. I’m excited to see how far that machine has come in nearly three years since the M1 version hit the shelves – but what you care about is whether or not you should buy one over the M2 Mac mini.
These are two incredibly similar yet very different Macs. There’s the chip difference, for starters. It’s early days with the base M3 chip, and the initial stress tests and performance benchmarks are only slowly starting to emerge. That said, if you’re looking for something at the lower end of the spec scale, there’s little to separate the M2 Mac mini and the M3 iMac in everyday use.
They’ll feel just as fast as each other during normal day-to-day productivity stuff. macOS won’t feel quicker on the M3 iMac just because it has a newer chip than the M2 Mac mini. The same goes if you increase the unified memory or internal storage – these are both brilliantly capable machines for casual non-pro use and businesses.
The difference lies in the pricing and display. The M3 iMac comes with a keyboard and mouse – and a beautiful 24-inch Retina display. To get the same setup for an M2 Mac mini (which only comes with a power cord), you’ll have to buy all of the peripherals separately. And that can get expensive – and untidy – and that’s before we get to the challenges of finding an external display that’s as good as the one built into the iMac.
Does the M2 Mac mini compare with the M3 iMac? I’m afraid not. For that reason, I’d plump for the latter. That is, unless you want pro performance, in which case the M2 Pro Mac mini is a killer buy.
Or is it?
M2 Pro Mac mini vs M3 MacBook Pro
This is a weird one, right?
Well, not necessarily. The base model M2 Pro Mac mini starts at just £1,399. That includes a 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16GB of unified memory, and a 512GB SSD. I’m sat using mine now and it is absolutely fabulous.
The base model 14-inch M3 Pro MacBook Pro starts at £2,099 and includes an 11-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 18GB of unified memory, and a 512GB SSD.
Once again, these are very different Macs. The MacBook Pro is portable and has a gorgeous built-in Liquid Retina Display with ProMotion, and even an SD card slot. The M2 Pro Mac mini? Well, once again, you’ll need to add those bits yourself.
However, if you don’t need to be mobile and would prefer to have the freedom to buy your own peripherals and display (that 14-inch display on the MacBook Pro may not be big enough, after all), the M2 Pro Mac mini starts to become very tempting indeed.
This is the most unlikely of comparisons, I agree, but the more you dig into it, the more interesting it gets. The decision you make will come down to, once again, your desire to buy your own peripherals and display, and whether or not you need to be mobile.
Wrap-up: should you wait for an M3 Mac mini?
No. It’s just not worth it, I’m afraid.
The M3 Mac mini could arrive today. It could arrive next week. We may not see it until next October. Apple might skip 2024 entirely for Mac mini updates and wait until 2025. They may even wait for the M4 chip to arrive.
None of us know what they’re going to do next with the Mac mini, and if you’re reading this blog post today, I’m guessing you need or want one soon.
Go with your gut. Buy the Mac you need today, and banish all thoughts about what might happen tomorrow!
Before you go
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