I’ve been using my M1 Mac mini for about three months now and it has resulted in my 16” MacBook Pro being placed on eBay.
My time with that laptop has reached a premature conclusion. Selling it so early wasn’t the plan; I had intended on keeping it for at least three years – maybe an awful lot longer.
Then, Apple launched the M1 chip, plonked it into their Mac mini and literally everything changed.
You might be bored of hearing about how incredible this little computer is. But there’s a reason so many people are still writing, talking and waving their hands about it.
After three months of using the M1 Mac mini day-in, day-out, I feel l have enough insight into what makes it so special. But I’ve also spotted a few things which aren’t perfect.
The performance doesn’t need benchmarking
I don’t have any interest in benchmarks, personally – but that’s not the reason for the heading above.
As soon as Apple launched its M1 chip, it was, unsurprisingly, thrown into a world of benchmarking. People dug deeply into the numbers and compared them against the Intel equivalents.
But that’s the issue – there is no equivalent chip at the moment.
I was recently listening to MacBreak Weekly, on which people who are far smarter than I am with this stuff were discussing just how far behind Intel is.
As Alex Lindsay pointed out, it’s hard to conceive how on Earth the world’s most recognised chip manufacturer could develop something as capable as the M1 and push it out to the mass market. It’ll require years of development they’re yet to expend.
Microsoft? Perhaps they could dive in and save the day for Windows? Not really. That’d require some form of collaboration with another chip manufacturer – and while that’s probably on the cards, they’re still ten years behind Apple on this.
However, I’ve never been interested in – or understood – the platform wars. Windows users aren’t going to abandon their machines because of these new Macs. Intel-based PCs and, indeed, Intel Macs, can be incredibly performant.
In that sense, neither Windows nor the land of Intel Macs needs saving; they both still have huge audiences who have every right to stand by their chosen platforms.
The M1 Mac mini encapsulates everything that’s incredible about the M1, and it should be celebrated not for its benchmark performance, or for the way it outshines much of the competition, but for the way it simply breezes through the day without breaking a sweat. Mine has replaced a computer three times its price, and that says all you need to know about its performance at this stage.
Those Bluetooth issues
My initial enjoyment of the M1 Mac mini was dampened somewhat by some pretty hideous Bluetooth issues.
To cut a long story short, it meant I simply couldn’t rely on the Bluetooth connection for any of my peripherals, leaving me no choice but to connect them via USB cables.
macOS 11.2 largely fixed the problems, but I do still occasionally experience odd keyboard drop-outs and I still have to connect my Logitech MX Master 3 mouse via its USB-A dongle.
Apple is clearly dealing with a pretty significant issue here because, for as much as my Bluetooth woes seem to be nearing their end, I can’t ignore the number of comments I receive from people who are still battling with it.
This is definitely one to keep an eye on, but I do fear it’s inherently an issue with the Mac mini’s design, and it’s probably why the next iteration of the mini will look rather different.
This is one of those edge case issues which has made its way into the mainstream, and I really don’t think it should have.
It’s also another regular question I receive on YouTube.
“I’m thinking about buying the 8GB M1 Mac mini, but I’m worried that the SSD is going to die after six months. Should I wait for Apple to fix this problem?”
Most of the people who ask this question will be using their Mac minis for the web, email, Teams calls and perhaps a bit of amateur video editing. Some intend to use it for professional content creation. Others are just curious about the M1 and want the ‘cheapest’ entry point.
None of them will ever run into an issue with SSD wear.
The people who discovered what is subjectively higher SSD degradation than normal were hammering their M1 Macs.
If you’re smashing the SSD that intensely, you should be using a different machine. Simple.
Admittedly, I have the 16GB M1 Mac mini, which is less likely to experience the high levels of swapping which are apparently leading to reduced SSD life, but I have an M1 MacBook Air with 8GB which is also used daily for my business, and I have no worries about its lifespan.
Wait… it doesn’t come with a keyboard and mouse?
I’m going to admit something.
When I purchased the M1 Mac mini, I forgot that it didn’t come with a keyboard and mouse.
Apple sends you a box with a Mac mini in it and a power cable – that’s it.
I have a feeling this might catch a few people out, therefore it’s worth mentioning. But it also means you get to buy some really cool stuff to complete your M1 Mac mini rig.
I’ve pretty much settled on my own setup now, and I absolutely love it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the most enjoyable computing setup I’ve owned.
It features the M1 Mac mini, a 34” ultra-widescreen monitor, Logitech MX Master 3 mouse and IQUNIX F96 mechanical keyboard. I’ve recently thrown in a set of Kanto desktop speakers and subwoofer for good measure, too.
This, in a way, makes the M1 Mac mini a modular computer. You have to add bits to it to make it work. If you do that without sending any more money Tim Cook’s way, it turns into a satisfyingly un-Apple world which is run by their brilliant little chip but supported by some wonderful third-party accessories.
Sure, this has nothing to do with the performance of the M1, but it’s a lovely side benefit of opting for the Mac mini.
Those ports (or the lack thereof)
I won’t labour the point here, but the M1 Mac mini’s lack of connectivity is more of an issue than I thought it would be. For me, at least.
I just want a few more ports – it’s that simple.
I really like the range of USB hubs you can buy – particularly when they allow you to effortlessly add storage via an embedded SSD. But as I’ve got older, I’ve become more of an ‘out-of-the-box’ guy than I ever thought I would be.
It’s why I don’t build custom PCs like I used to as a kid. It’s why I don’t EQ headphones when they arrive.
It’s also why I’m already thinking about what might replace my M1 Mac mini.
That’s a pretty big deal. As I’ve noted consistently, this Mac mini is arguably the best Mac I’ve owned and has absolutely blown me away in terms of performance.
But the lack of ports really does bother me, and that, unfortunately, means that this particular computer won’t live a long and prosperous life in my studio.
Lack of ports, SSD wear and Bluetooth oddness to one side, the M1 Mac mini is still the best computer I’ve ever placed on my desk.
This is largely because it is satisfyingly unique.
You can’t compare it to an iMac, because it doesn’t come with a built-in retina screen. You can’t compare it to a MacBook because you’d never take it to a coffee shop. And comparing it to the Mac Pro would be ludicrously short-sighted.
What I love the most about the M1 Mac mini is that it sits in a bracket of its own, and it’s a bracket that has been carved out over many years. The introduction of the M1 chip has simply rocketed it ten years ahead of anything Intel can throw at the market.
If you want the most affordable entry-point into the macOS ecosystem and portability isn’t a factor, go and grab one of these computers. It’s hard not to fall in love.