Almost a year ago, 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.
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New Mac mini release date
The news that Apple is planning to launch a new Mac mini to replace the remaining Intel-powered model 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.
We have already seen two of these new Macs: the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro, which launched at an Apple event on 18 October, but what we are concerned about here is his claim that a new Mac mini is also in the works.
When will the new Mac mini launch? We hoped that we'd see a new Mac mini announced at its event on 18 October 2021 alongside the new MacBook Pro, but it was a no-show.
It would have made sense for the Mac mini to see an update alongside the new MacBook Pro because the Bloomberg report suggested that the new Mac mini could be based on the same chip as the new MacBook Pro models. Sadly, we will have a longer wait for the new Mac mini with M1 Pro or M1 Max chips.
In Gurman's Power On newsletter on 22 August 2021, he confirmed (in the subscriber version) that the new Mac mini will launch "in the next several months", so perhaps we will see it in the spring of 2022 - perhaps alongside an update to the 27in iMac.
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 (although when Apple updated the MacBook Pro models there was a bit of a price hike).
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. Now that the MacBook Pro models in question have launched we have some idea of what to expect.
The new machine apparently has the code name J374.
It does seem that the Mac mini will use the same chip that Apple has placedin the new MacBook Pro: so expect to see an M1 Pro and M1 Max option for the Mac mini (possibly the Max will be a build-to-order option).
For the M1 Pro there is a choice of a 8-core or 10-core CPU. The M1 Max offers the same 10-core CPU. Apple claims that this CPU offers 70 percent faster CPU performance than the M1.
In the 10-core version there are eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores.
For more information about the new processor read Everything you need to know about Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.
Based on what we know about the M1 Pro and M1 Max in the MacBook Pro we have great expectations for the Mac mini based on the same chips.
The real difference between the M1 Pro and M1 Max is the GPU offering. For the M1 Pro there is a 14-core or 16-core GPU (14-cores on the entry-level). Apple says that this offers up to 2x faster GPU performance compared to the M1. The company also claims the GPU is up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.
The M1 Max GPU goes even further with 32-cores (although there is also a 24-core option). Apple claims that the graphics performance is up to 4x faster than M1.
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 the M1 Max chip can support 64GB RAM, while the M1 Pro can support 32GB RAM. Both the 14in MacBook Pro and 16GB MacBook Pro ship with 16GB Unified Memory, so we would expect the same of the Mac mini.
Apple's chips use 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.