At the very end of the “Peek Performance” presentation Tuesday, John Ternus wrapped up the day’s announcements by declaring the Mac’s transition to Apple silicon was nearly complete, with just one more to go: the Mac Pro. That was quickly followed by the unceremonious removal of the 27-inch iMac from Apple’s lineup.
That left Mac mini fans feeling a little left out. While it’s true that Apple’s cheapest Mac was first in line to get the M1 processor back in 2020, it was little more than a processor swap. Mind you, it was an excellent processor swap, but fundamentally the Mac mini didn’t change—the ports, design, and overall sense of purpose were largely unchanged. It was an excellent machine, but still a little overpriced and a little underwhelming.
Mac fans were hoping the “Peek Performance” event changed that. For months, rumors were swirling about a redesigned Mac mini packing an M1 Pro/M1 Max processor that dramatically increased the performance. Additionally, it was expected to get an overdue overhaul with a smaller case, more ports, colors, and a cool braided magnetic power cord like the iMac.
At first glance, it would seem that the Mac Studio usurps that position. With an M1 Max processor, six USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, a card reader, and a brand new design, the $1,999 Mac Studio is very much a pro-level Mac mini. But that price is quite a leap from the $699 Mac mini.
If your wallet isn’t ready to fork over a couple of grand on a desktop Mac, there is plenty of evidence that an upgraded Mac mini with more speed and expansion is indeed on the way. For one, Apple still sells the 3.0GHz Intel Core i5 Mac mini, so it clearly recognizes that there is a need for a machine that doesn’t top out at 16GB of RAM and has more than two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports.
Furthermore, the Mac Studio doesn’t match up with the rumors we had heard about the new Mac mini. The latest Mac mini rumors pointed to a two-tone plexiglass top with multiple color options and two rubberized strips on the bottom, nothing like the Mac Studio’s design. And the Mac Studio doesn’t have a magnetic power cable, either.
And just yesterday, 9to5Mac reported that Apple is working on an M2 upgrade for the Mac mini that will include an M2 Pro option for people who want more power. Apple conspicuously left the M1 Pro out of the Mac Studio options, leaving it open for the Mac mini. The M2 chip is expected to have the same architecture as the M1 with a 15 to 20 percent speed boost, which would make an M2 Pro Mac mini an extremely speedy machine.
The timing is another question. Often-accurate Ming-Chi Kuo doesn’t think it’ll arrive until next year, while Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and other have pegged it for a release later in 2022. Apple obviously needs to announce the M2 chip first, and that might not happen until the fall, which could push back the Mac mini to next spring.
But fear not Mac mini fans. Just because Apple made another Mac for the desktop doesn’t mean the Mac mini is abandoned. Quite the opposite in fact—the Mac Studio gives the Mac mini some much-needed clarity and solidifies its place in the lineup as a mid-range powerhouse that’s both attractive and affordable.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.