The Mac mini can be something of an overlooked classic when it comes to having a great platform on which to run macOS. No, it doesn’t come with a display, keyboard, trackpad or mouse, but this is sometimes a feature not a bug, as it frees you up to choose your own monitor and peripherals – or save money by using the ones you already own.
We have always loved the Mac mini and since Apple introduced the M1 powered version in November 2021, our admiration of it has increased even more. The M1 chip has given the diminutive powerhouse a new lease of life.
Just to complicate things, currently Apple also has another Mac mini available to buy. The 3.0GHz Intel Core i5, 6-core Mac mini with 512GB SSD. This model costs more than the M1 Mac mini at £1,099. It does offer a few things that the M1 models lack, including more ports, support for 64GB RAM, and support for up to three 4K displays (the M1 model supports two displays). It lacks the Apple-made system on chip though.
So the question of whether now is a good time to buy a new Mac mini depends first and foremost on which Mac mini you are thinking of. It also depends on whether you are looking to avoid buying a new model just before a newer one arrives, or if you are looking to buy at the best time to get the best discounts.
When will Apple update the Mac mini?
We’ve all been there. Order a shiny new device, take it out of the box, then find out that its successor has just been released. To avoid this sinking feeling, it’s always a good idea to check whether the product in question is due to be replaced.
As we explained above, there are two kinds of Mac mini on sale right now. The M1 model and the Intel model. They were introduced at different times and we suspect that they will be updated at different times.
When will Apple update the Intel Mac mini?
We think that the first Mac mini to be update will be the remaining Intel-powered model which was introduced back in 2018.
It seems that Apple kept this model on to suit pro customers who need support for more RAM among other things. Now that the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are shipping with the 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro it is surely only a matter of time before those chips make their way into the pro-focused varient of the Mac mini. A Mac mini Pro perhaps?
On the other hand, it is possible that Apple will simply discontinue the 3.0GHz Mac mini, but we think that is unlikely given the popularity of this machine with high-end users, such as developers.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman wrote in the summer of 2021 that a new pro variant of the Mac mini would launch “in the next several months”, leading us to expect a M1 Pro or Max Mac mini alongside the 14in MacBook Pro 2021 with M1 Max and M1 Pro and the larger 16in MacBook Pro 2021 with M1 Max and M1 Pro in October.
Obviously no such model launched, but it is surely coming very soon. Perhaps at the spring of 2022?
The only thing that might delay it is if Apple intends to furnish it with an even better chip or launch it alongside the successor to the 27in iMac.
Answer: We think we will see a replacement for the Intel Mac mini model in spring 2022, or at least by the summer… If you can wait our advice is to do so.
When will Apple update the M1 Mac mini?
Apple introduced the M1 Mac mini in November 2020 so it’s now a year on from the launch. Does that mean we can expect a M2 Mac mini soon? We don’t think so.
We expect we will be waiting until at least the summer of 2022 before we see the M2 Mac mini, but we might have to wait even longer. It may launch alongside the new MacBook Air (M2) and M2 13in MacBook Pro (which may actually be one machine called the MacBook!) In that case we will almost certainly be waiting until October 2022 before it launches – at least that’s the rumour right now.
It might be worth the wait, tech tipster Jon Prosser has leaked details and renders of a new design for the Mac mini (as you can see from the image below).
The current worldwide chip shortage could delay the launch even more though, so if you’re in need of a Mac mini right now, you’ll still be getting an excellent machine which will keep you going for a few years. Just bear in mind that it may be followed by the upgraded version within the next four or five months.
To see the latest news on this, read our New Mac mini rumours guide.
Answer: We don’t expect it to launch until autumn 2022, so buy now, unless you fancy the rumoured new design.
Should I wait for Mac mini discounts?
Black Friday is the weekend when most of the big discounts are rolled out, so it’s always a good idea to see what’s on offer before you make a purchase. This year Black Friday falls on 25 November and you can see a roundups of the best Apple Black Friday deals and best early Black Friday Mac mini deals.
To be honest though, it’s not that often that we see really great deals on Apple products, especially current models rather than previous generations whose stock is being cleared. One place that’s always worth keeping an eye on though is the Apple Refurbished Store as this sells current products with reductions (usually around 15%) all of which come with the same warranties as brand-new items.
You could also consider refurbished models from other respected retailers, as these can give you significant savings while still allowing you to get your hands on the latest tech. Read our Why you should buy a refurbished Mac for more details.
Answer: Black Friday deals could allow you to grab a bargain, but you should also consider refurbished models.
Should I buy an M1 Mac mini or Intel Mac mini?
The M1 model has impressed us very much with its performance, price and quiet operation, as you can see from our Mac mini 2020 (M1) review and from the Mac mini 2020 (M1) vs Mac mini 2018 (Intel) comparison.
There are a few things that the older Intel model has on its side, in that the Intel mini supports external GPUs while the M1 models doesn’t. We have heard that a compatible GPU will arrive soon, but at the time of writing it remains the preserve of Intel devices.
The older one also can power three displays, while the M1 maxes out at two. This probably won’t be much of an issue for most people, but if it is then the Intel device could be a tempting proposition, at least until the M2 version of the Mac mini arrives.
The other big disadvantage with the M1 Mac mini is that it can only support 16GB RAM. If the M1 Pro is used in a new model you can expect support for 32GB RAM, and if the M1 Max is used that will allow support for 64GB RAM.
Answer: Unless you need external GPUs, three displays, or more RAM, the M1 powered Mac mini is the much better device.
Should I wait for the M1 Pro/M1 Max Mac mini?
The big reason to wait for Apple to introduce a M1 Pro or M1 Max powered Mac mini, as we suspect it will, is if you need support for more RAM.
These new chips also offer much improved graphics, so if you are the kind of person who uses graphically intensive apps then it’s definitely worth waiting.
Answer: The M1 is a great platform, but the M1 Pro and M1 Max will make the Mac mini ideal as a pro machine. If that’s what you need we recommend waiting – hopefully it won’t be long.
Should I wait for the M2 Mac mini?
We’re anticipating a new MacBook Air (M2) that could appear in the summer or autumn of 2022, so it’s quite possible that Apple will announces a new M2 powered Mac mini at the same time, just as they did with the M1 version in November 2020.
With the M1 being such a leap forward in terms of performance, and Apple having honed its processor experience with the A-series in the iPhone and iPad, it’s likely that when the M2 arrives it will bring further refinements and power to the Mac mini’s performance. Don’t expect the M2 to be better than the M1 Pro or M1 Max, the M1 and M2 are targeted at general use, so the features we can expect will be designed to be beneficial for that kind of work. So expect battery life and energy use improvements rather than more RAM and graphics.
Answer: The M1 is a great platform and makes the existing Mac mini a powerful machine, but if you really want the best then you may want to hold out until the middle of 2022 for the M2.