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 graphs 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 in the pipeline.
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 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 summer.
We had suspected a WWDC 2021 launch for the Mac mini, 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro, but the event came and went on 7 June with no mention of new hardware. Apple instead unveiled iOS 15, macOS Monterey and more software updates coming later this year.
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 orginisations 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 78.1%. Read more about the Apple leakers in our round up: The Apple leakers worth following.
New Mac mini spec
The model that Apple is said to be introducing is the higher-end Mac mini so you can expect the specs to be superior to the current M1 Mac mini.
According to the Bloomberg report this "more powerful version of the Mac mini" will feature the same chip as the new MacBook Pro.
The new machine apparently has the code name J374.
We're not sure what the name of the processor will be - it could be the M1X or the M2. It does seem that it will be the same chip that Apple will use in the new MacBook Pro though.
As per the Bloomberg report 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.
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.
Ports & Peripherals
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.