Apple already had a Mac mini powered by an Apple processor – after WWDC in June it seeded some Mac mini’s with A12 processors to developers so that they could use them to work on the apps they were transitioning to Apple’s silicon. But now Apple has released a new Mac mini powered by Apple’s M1 chip – the first Apple silicon processor made for Macs.
New Mac mini M1 specs
There are two new Mac mini models as of 10 November 2020. Both offer the same 8-core CPU combined with an 8-core GPU and Apple’s 16-core Neural Engine. Both models also offer 6GB RAM – upgradable to 16GB.
The cheapest Mac mini model is now £100/$100 less than it was, starting at £699$699. It’s a good price – but not quite as good as many years ago when the Mac mini cost just £499. That model offers a 256GB SSD. There is also a £899/$899 model that offers a 512GB SSD – the storage is the only difference between the two models.
You’ll notice that Apple doesn’t refer to the clock speed any more, instead focusing on the number of cores (for the new
Silicon MacBook Air there is a 7-core version and a 8-core version).
On the back of the new Silicon Mac mini you will still find two USB A ports, an Ethernet port, and HDMI 2 port, and 3.5mm headphone jack. New to these models are two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports.
Apple is continuing to sell one Intel Mac mini – the £1,099/$1,099 6-Core 3.0GHz 6-core i5 model from 2018. This model features four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. We look at the
M1 Mac mini vs Intel Mac mini in a separate article.
Below we’ll examine the various components in a bit more detail, based on what Apple revealed in the 10 November event at which the company also unveiled a
new MacBook Pro with M1 chip.
There is also an issue with Bluetooth, which isn’t actually new to the M1 Mac mini. There were already problems with Bluetooth connectivity on the 2018 Mac mini and earlier models. Reports suggest that keyboards and mice from Apple, and third-party manufacturers such as Logitech, keep losing their Bluetooth connection. Read more here:
Mac mini M1 has problems with Bluetooth.
Apple’s M1 chip
The M1 is the first Apple Silicon chip designed for the Mac and it actually features in three new Macs: the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and the MacBook Pro.
10 November event Apple talked about how its system on chip (SoC) is capable of dramatically improved performance and efficiency because of the way it combines powerful technologies onto one chip. Put simply, in the past Macs (and PCs) used multiple chips, one for the CPU, one for the I/O, one for security, and so on. Now all these technologies are combined into a single SoC. This integration means that greater performance and power efficiency can be achieved.
This it made even more efficient by Apple’s unified memory architecture which combines high-bandwidth, low-latency memory into a single pool.
The M1 is a 8-core CPU (although one of the MacBook Air models has a 7-core CPU). Of those eight cores, four are high-performance and four are high-efficiency. Apple says that the high-efficiency cores deliver similar performance to the early 2020, dual-core MacBook Air while consuming less power.
Once combined with the four high-powered cores Apple claims “incredible compute power for the most demanding tasks” while delivering “the world’s best CPU performance per watt”. Early
benchmarks for the MacBook Air are promising so we have high hopes for the M1 Mac mini.
It’s been a long time since the Mac mini shipped with a discrete graphics card. Apple has been using integrated Intel graphics for some time. The new M1 Mac mini will feature Apple’s own graphics solution.
Apple is describing it as it’s most advanced GPU. The Apple GPU features up to eight cores capable of running nearly 25,000 threads simultaneously, and it boasts 2.6 teraflops of throughput, according to the company.
Apple says the GPU can handle “extremely demanding tasks with ease, from smooth playback of multiple 4K video streams to rendering complex 3D scenes.”
The M1 chip brings the Apple Neural Engine to the Mac, which will accelerate machine learning tasks.
The Neural Engine offers a 16-core architecture capable of 11 trillion operations per second. Apple says that the Neural Engine in the M1 “enables up to 15x faster machine learning performance.”
The Mac mini design hasn’t changed at all in many years, despite the fact that Apple could easily make it smaller. In fact, YouTuber Brendon Geekabit unscrewed the Mac mini and was amazed to see how empty the case is. He
looked inside the Mac mini and found that the case is empty.
macOS Big Sur
Apple reassures that existing software will work on Apple Silicon, due to the inclusion of Rosetta 2 which will translate it to run on the new architecture. In addition – in theory – any iOS app should be able to run on the Mac, we just need the developers to put in a apparently small amount of work to get their iPhone and iPad apps Mac ready.