I’ve got some extremely distressing news.
My M1 Mac mini has been demoted to Backup Manager. It’s not happy about the change, either. Prior to this pay cut, it was my Lead Creative – the device on which I produced most of the content for this brand.
It would spend hours each week rendering and exporting my YouTube videos. Occasionally, I’d put it to task on some music-making or photo editing. Without it, I’d have been lost, and an awful lot less productive.
I therefore completely understand why it now glares at me whenever I walk past. Indeed, the only time we interact with one another is when I need to connect my video editing SSDs to ensure they’re backed up. It’s rather embarrassing and I don’t like the uncomfortable silence.
So, I thought I’d show it some love this morning and write this blog on it. There are still unnerving, teeth-gnarling glances being thrown my way, but I sense a bit of our old connection returning.
In the Mac mini’s place sits a specced-up M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro. The switch to Apple’s latest laptop has been transformative, both in the freedom it has given me from not having to edit from a desk, and the sheer power packed into that M1 Max chip.
This makes me very excited about what we could see next from the Mac mini.
Here are my predictions.
Under the hood
This is pretty straightforward, Tim. Just stick the M1 Pro and M1 Max chip into the next Mac mini. Although, not at the same time, obvs.
I appreciate there’s quite a bit more to this than simply ‘sticking in’ those chips, but you get my point. Apple has everything it needs to make the next Mac mini an absolutely ridiculously powerful little computer.
I’ve sampled both, and I’ve even done some benchmarking. I know. Get me.
My 16GB M1 Mac mini rendered a 20-minute piece of 4K footage in six minutes, 37 seconds (which is seriously impressive alone). But the base-spec M1 Pro rendered the same footage in just three minutes, fourteen seconds – on battery power.
The M1 Max shaved another five seconds off that render time and smashed the Mac mini’s export time in half (and then some).
Now, imagine all of that power in the Mac mini – a computer that is constantly connected to power, and which doesn’t have the same expectations placed on it for weight and size (which I’ll get to in a moment).
The worst thing Apple could do is simply slap the rumoured M2 chip in the next Mac mini (which is apparently making its way into the next-generation MacBook Air). Doing that and skipping the M1 Pro and M1 Max entirely would be a huge opportunity missed.
I give Apple free rein here.
I couldn’t give two hoots about what they do with the look and aesthetics of the next Mac mini, as long as they promise to avoid letting the design dictate the function or performance.
Apple has set a brilliant precedent with the new MacBook Pro. It’s thicker, heavier, and chunkier than its predecessor. I’m yet to hear anyone say they look worse, or that it was a poor decision.
Apple has, finally, apologised (sort of) for the countless missteps made during Jony Ive’s handling of our beloved MacBook Pro.
Make it nothing more than a larger version of the current square design. Make it a mini ‘Mac Pro’ tower. Make it wider, taller, longer – whatever. Just let those internals sing and please don’t let anything get in the way of the Bluetooth performance.
As much as I’d love Apple to add a couple of additional USB-A ports, they’re never going to do that.
But we do deserve two more USB-C ports and an SD card slot please, Tim.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and, again, the new MacBook Pros reveal that Apple has at least removed a portion of its head from its arse when it comes to reneging on past decisions.
This element of the Mac mini should be the easiest ‘give me’ as far as Apple is concerned.
Pricing and positioning
This is where it gets interesting.
The more power Apple puts into the Mac mini, the more expensive it’s going to be – that is inevitable. Adding M1 Pro and M1 Max options are going to jack up the price, as we’ve seen with the new MacBook Pro.
We should expect at least £500/$500 thrown onto the base price of the machine, and a small fortune required if you want to completely max the thing out.
That’s fine; for business users, extreme hobbyists, and professional creators, that pricing will deliver, big time, in both productivity gains and as a long-term investment. More interestingly, that price point and available horsepower will position the next Mac mini as a genuine alternative to the current – and future – Mac Pro.
But it’s the other end of the scale that excites me.
With the M1 Pro and M1 Max added to the Mac mini, Apple has the perfect opportunity to keep the M1 version on the shelf and reduce the price. Imagine how many people, businesses, and organisations that’d open this computer up to.
The Mac mini has always been the most affordable route into the macOS ecosystem. It’s damn affordable now, but if Apple shaved just £100/$100 off the price of a base-level M1 version, it would go from “ok, let’s give this a shot”, to, “an absolute no-brainer”.
A little sweetener
One last request I have for Apple is to see a new, lower-priced version of the Pro Display XDR appear alongside the next Mac mini.
I simply can’t justify buying Apple’s professional reference monitor – it would make zero sense for my business, purely because of the price point. But one that was a third of the cost? I’d snap that up tomorrow.
There have been some light, questionable rumours surrounding a lower-end Pro Display XDR with a more palatable price point. For me, it feels like the perfect accompaniment to the next Mac mini – particularly given how graphics-focused those M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are.
Those are my predictions and wishes for the Mac mini. What are yours?
I’d love to see the M1 Pro in a Mac mini. In fact, I was ready to pull the trigger for when Apple rolled out the MacBook Pros, but the mini was a no-show to the party. Hoping Apple rolls it out in Spring ’22. Like you, I don’t really want a relatively low-end M2 chip in the Mac mini if that chip isn’t a better performer than the M1 Pro or Max chips. Shrug…
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