I recently revealed that I was switching from a 16” MacBook Pro to an M1 Mac mini.
Now, if we head back a few years, this sounds absolutely daft.
No, really. My 16” MacBook Pro cost over £3,500 and was specced up to the hilt. It packs 32GB RAM, an 8-core processor, the best graphics card you could buy at the time, and 1TB of internal storage (I know you can go higher).
I’ve said it before: it’s a beast.
The M1 Mac mini, by comparison, is anything but. An 8-core processor with a publicly-hidden clock speed, integrated graphics and ‘just’ 16GB of RAM. Why on earth would you ditch the aforementioned laptop for something like that?
Only, the M1 Mac mini is a better computer than the 16” MacBook Pro (and I’ve only had it two weeks).
Here’s why, if your finger is hovering over the ‘checkout’ button on an M1 Mac mini, you should go ahead and spend that money.
I can barely distinguish the performance of the M1 Mac mini from that of the 16” MacBook Pro.
In day-to-day use, the mini is arguably ‘snappier’, as many have pointed out when describing these M1 machines. There’s just barely any waiting for anything to happen, and even non-native, Rosetta 2 apps simply breeze through any task you throw at them.
But, for me, where the M1 Mac mini really shines, is video editing. This is a task for which I specced up my 16” MacBook Pro, and it has served me handsomely in that regard. But along comes a computer that’s over £2,000 cheaper – and it feels identical during a 4K video edit.
I still cannot get my head around this. Very occasionally, I’ll experience a couple of dropped frames while editing, but it’s not enough to slow me down or frustrate. I’m also yet to properly test the rendering or export times between the two computers, but the M1 Mac mini doesn’t feel sluggish with either task.
Regardless, my previous test between the 16” MacBook Pro and M1 MacBook Air tells its own story in that regard.
I have lots more testing to do with the mini, but the word ‘effortless’ really is the most appropriate when describing the way it performs on a day-to-day basis.
If your workload includes some form of heavy duty, processor-intensive task, this computer will impress you. What’s more, if you run a business, it’ll offer a measurable return on your investment incredibly quickly.
I’m glad I went for the 16GB version
I’ve already provided my thoughts on the M1 RAM debate. It genuinely fascinates me, but I’m also realistic, and can’t quite prise myself away from the old way of thinking just yet.
Sure, 8GB vs 16GB is now a very different topic of conversant in M1 Land, but there’s still an awful lot to be said for buying as much RAM as you can afford.
I chose the 16GB version of the M1 Mac mini because I wanted a machine with plenty of headroom. And it has that in spades.
iStat Menus tells me I have comfortably 50% RAM or more in reserve on a daily basis, and that’s while running pretty much every app I use, from Final Cut Pro to Photoshop, Word, Slack, Teams and Discord (plus several others).
I don’t know what the M1 is doing behind-the-scenes with memory management, but it works – big time.
This is illustrated by the fact that I no longer worry about leaving apps open. In fact, it has become second nature not to close them. It’s the same story on my M1 MacBook Air which ‘only’ has 8GB RAM; I find myself simply leaving stuff running on that machine, too, because it has never so much as wagged a finger at me disapprovingly.
My advice therefore remains: if you can spec your M1 machine up to 16GB RAM, do it. But don’t sweat it if you can’t afford to; the RAM situation is very different indeed.
There are some issues, I’m afraid, and they absolutely need to be covered before you make your final decision.
Firstly, Bluetooth. It’s a big problem on this M1 Mac mini – at least at the moment.
The internet is awash with reports of dodgy Bluetooth connections on the mini, and they have caused me significant headaches.
The best way to describe it is that Bluetooth performance on the M1 Mac mini is, a) very troublesome when it comes to maintaining peripheral connections, and, b) it just acts odd.
When it comes to peripherals, I’ve had to resort to the Logitech dongle for my MX Master 3 mouse, and the Keychron K2 keyboard now flat-out refuses to connect via Bluetooth.
As for the ‘oddness’ of the Bluetooth problem, it’s hard to explain, but since the M1 Mac mini has been in my studio, I’ve experienced really weird issues with audio dropping out on headphones and AirDrop only working intermittently.
We need a fix, Apple – fast.
The other issue with the M1 Mac mini is the much reported lack of ports. For me, it’s not the end of the world, because I only really need two of them, but if you’re a heavy external drive and peripheral user, you’ll have several dongles hanging out the back of the machine, which is a bit unsightly.
I spent a long time considering what to write about in this early two-week review of the M1 Mac mini. If I’m honest, I ran out of topics. But not for any bad reason; simply because this computer is just effortlessly good value.
People may scoff at that – it’s so easy to do so when it comes to Apple products. But when pitted against the ridiculously priced AirPods Max, £35 dongles and plastic watch bands for which we’re expected to pay £99, it is an absolute bargain.
This is for one very simple reason: the M1 Mac mini unashamedly knocks its intel cousins into a cocked hat. And it really doesn’t care about the trail of product line cannibalism it leaves in its wake.
We’re right at the start of a Mac revolution, and the M1 Mac mini demonstrates that more wholesomely than its MacBook siblings (and, trust me, they are very impressive, too). This computer is an absolute powerhouse.
All we need now is a fix for that Bluetooth problem. There are workarounds for most people, but they’ll be seen as temporary, so, come on, Apple – get this sorted, please.
If you’re wondering whether you should buy an M1 Mac mini, here’s your answer: yes, you should.