In November 2020 Apple introduced two new Mac mini models with its own M1 chip (reviewed here: M1 Mac mini review). Starting at £699/$699 and offering the exact same processor and graphics as more expensive MacBook and iMac options, buying a Mac mini right now seems like a no-brainer. But there could be a new model launching very soon.
Apple is said to be working on a new, even more powerful, Mac mini. This model will not replace the current M1 Mac mini models, instead it will replace the Intel-powered Mac mini model that Apple kept in the line up - or at least that is what is claimed.
New Mac mini release date
The news that Apple is planning to launch a new Mac mini came via a May 2021 Bloomberg report by Mark Gurman. Gurman claimed that "Apple is preparing to release several new Mac laptops and desktops with faster processors, new designs and improved connectivity to external devices." Read more here: Apple to overhaul entire Mac line up - Bloomberg.
When will the new Mac mini launch? We don't know for sure. The Bloomberg report suggests that it could be based on the same chip as will be used in the new MacBook Pro models though, and they may launch this autumn.
You may be wondering if Apple launched a new Mac mini at the Apple Event on 14 September. It didn't, but we didn't expect that it would. We think we will see the new Mac mini in October or November 2021. We anticipate an October launch alongside the new M1X MacBook Pro models.
New Mac mini price
The Mac mini that this new model is likely to replace is the model that costs £1,099 so we imagine the new model will have a similar starting price.
If Apple does keep the new higher specced Mac mini at this same low asking price then it will be a real bargain. It seems unlikely that it would increase the price as that would create a larger price gap between that model and the other units at £699/$699 and £899/$899.
New Mac mini design
Apple hasn't changed the design of the Mac mini for a few years, not because it couldn't, but because, it told us, there are a number of server farms and other organizations using Mac mini's in set-ups that are based around the existing form factor.
But it looks like this could now change. Infamous Apple leaker Jon Prosser has revealed details of the design of the new Mac mini model - indicating that it will be significantly thinner than the current one and feature a "plexiglass-like" top.
Ian Zelbo has made some illustrations based on the findings and these have been shared by Prosser. The renders indicate that the new mini will come in silver and white, rather than one of the new bright colour options seen on the 24in iMac. These renders are based on rumours, but they may still give a good idea of what Apple could unveil.
The ports should be the same as for the latest Intel model: four Thunderbolt/USB-C, two USB-A, ethernet and HDMI.
Prosser shared the news in an edition of Front Page Tech, embedded below.
It should be pointed out that Prosser has been wrong on several occasions before - he's had some big hits, but his misses include one so severe that he had to shave his eyebrows - so the information should be taken with a pinch of salt. AppleTrack currently gives him an accuracy rating of 74.2% (that score changes all the time). Read more about the Apple leakers in our round up: The Apple leakers worth following.
Mark Gurman, in his 22 August Power On newsletter (link above) also notes that the new model "will have an updated design and more ports than the current model." The new ports are thought to include a new MagSafe port like the 24in iMac.
New Mac mini spec
The model that Apple is said to be introducing is a replacement for the higher-end Mac mini, so you can expect the specs to be superior to the current M1 Mac mini.
According to a Bloomberg report in May 2021 this "more powerful version of the Mac mini" will feature the same chip as the new MacBook Pro. Thanks to various leaks and rumours we have some idea of what that might entail.
The new machine apparently has the code name J374.
It does seem that the Mac mini will use the same chip that Apple will place in the new MacBook Pro.
We're not sure what the name of the processor will be - it could be the M1X or the M2.We think it will be the M1X, an extra powerful version of the M1, rather than a whole new generation. We think that that M2 will come in 2022, as a successor to the M1, and an M2X will be the successor to the M1X, but who knows.Read all the theories about the M1X and M2 and other Apple chips here: Everything we know about Apple's M1X, M2 and M2X chip.
According to the Bloomberg report above, the new chip being used in the MacBook Pro will offer eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores - which means we can expect a total of 10 cores. The current M1 chips offer four high performance and four efficiency cores.
There should also be better graphics performance for this high-end Mac mini, with either 16 or 32 graphics core variations, compared to and seven or eight graphics cores for the M1.
This will likely result in a vast gap between the current Intel-powered Mac mini and the new M1X-powered edition as it will be a significantly more graphics capable machine than the predecessor which has Intel integrated graphics.
With such features could this be considered a Mac Pro mini rather than a Mac mini? Read about Apple's plans for the Mac Pro.
One of the benefits of the Intel Mac mini Apple is still selling is that it can be configured to take 64GB RAM. The M1 Mac mini (and all M1 Macs) max out at 16GB RAM. You can't add more than that. For some that is a big reason not to buy a M1 Mac.
The good news is that, according to the Bloomberg report from May, we could see 64GB RAM supported by the new Mac mini.
That does seem like the minimum that should be offered, although Apple may argue that it's RAM integrated on the M-series chips is not the same as standard RAM and less is required.
Apple's new chip uses a unified memory architecture, which ensures that all components - be it the graphics unit, the main CPU or the various auxiliary processors - have immediate access to the same RAM. As a result loss of performance due to the reshaping of memory access cannot occur.
Ports & Peripherals
As we mentioned above, in his Power On Newsletter on 22 August Mark Gurman indicated that the new Mac mini will have "more ports than the current model." The new ports are thought to include a new MagSafe port like the 24in iMac.
Both the old and new Mac mini models offer two USB-A ports and an HDMI 2.0 port and it's likely that this will carry through to the new iteration. One of the main benefits of the older 2018 Mac mini that is still on sale is that it has four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, while the M1 model only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. (The picture below shows the ports on the 2018 Mac mini).
The good news is that the new Mac mini will apparently offer four ports rather than the two it has currently. It seems that this capability is connected to an improved Neural Engine, which will enable the addition of more Thunderbolt ports.
This is also likely to impact on the support for external displays. One of the major disadvantages of the M1 Mac mini is the fact that it can only support one 5K display and one 4K display while the 2018 Mac mini can support for up to three 4K displays. Read: How to connect two displays to M1 Macs.
You can also expect 802.11ac Wi‑Fi and the option for 10Gb Ethernet in the new model (the latter being a feature of the 2018 model).
Apple doesn't ship the Mac mini with an Apple keyboard, right now you need to provide your own or buy one from Apple. That's unlikely to change, but we do anticipate that Apple will start offer the new Apple keyboard with Touch ID as an upgrade for the Mac mini, perhaps in the silver finish that goes with the silver iMac.