Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (2023)

By Alex Wawro

last updated

Apple's littlest Mac just got a lot more powerful

Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (1)

Apple opened 2023 with a bang by unveiling a revamped lineup of MacBook Pros and a new Mac mini, along with new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips to drive them.

The new MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch 2023 launch with M2 Pro and M2 Max power on January 24 alongside the new Mac mini M2. While the new MacBook Pro models are certainly exciting, there's more new stuff to talk about with Apple's 2023 update to the Mac mini line.

When Apple debuted its inaugural M1 chip in the 2020 Mac mini with M1, it was a small revolution in Mac computing. The M1 chip redefined what we expect from a Mac in terms of performance, and allowed MacBooks to achieve new heights of power efficiency.

(Video) M1 Mac Mini VS M2 Pro - Worth the Upgrade?

Since then we've been impressed by the leaps and bounds Apple's made with its in-house Mac silicon, but we haven't heard much about the next big thing to expect from Apple's tiniest PC. Now we've been given a glimpse of what to expect from the 2023 Mac mini, and it looks to be even cheaper and more performant than its predecessor — which was already a sweet spot in terms of price for performance.

To give you a clear idea of what's new, here's how the new Mac mini M2 compares to the Mac mini M1 from 2020.

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Specs

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M2 Mac mini (2023)M1 Mac mini (2020)
Price$599 (starting)$699 (starting)
CPUM2 (8-core GPU, 10-core GPU) or M2 Max (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU)Apple M1 (8-core, 8-Core GPU)
RAM8-24GB (M2), 16-32GB (M2 Pro)8GB / 16GB
Storage256GB-2TB (M2), 512GB-8TB (M2 Pro)256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Ports2x Thunderbolt/USB 4 (M2) or 4x (M2 Pro), HDMI, 2x USB-A, Ethernet (up to 10GB), 3.5mm headphone jackThunderbolt/USB 4 (2), HDMI 2.0, USB-A (2), Ethernet, 3.5mm headphone jack
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
Dimensions7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches
Weight2.6 pounds (M2), 2.8 pounds (M2 Pro)2.6 pounds

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Price

Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (2)

The Mac mini M2 is available for order right now via Apple's website (opens in new tab), and will begin shipping January 24th. The base price for the new Mac mini is $599 (as well as £649 or AU $999 in the U.K. and Australia, respectively), which is $100 cheaper than the entry-level Mac mini M1 was at launch.

However, unlike 2020's Mac mini with M1, the latest model can be upgraded with a beefier M2 Pro chip. This is a more powerful version of the base M2 chip that offers more CPU and GPU cores (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU vs. 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU on the M2), though it costs more too. The entry-level Mac mini with M2 Pro has a starting price of $1,299, making the price of upgrading to M2 Pro roughly $700.

Given that the 2020 Mac mini with M1 offered no upgrade over its M1 chip and had a starting price of $699, the new 2023 Mac mini is clearly a better value with more versatility than its predecessor.

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Design

For better or worse, Apple appears to have changed basically nothing about the design of the Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1. If you like the design of the existing Mac mini this isn't a problem, and we certainly praised it in our review, noting the "Mac mini's square shape and rounded corners are iconic, literally like an icon rendered in 3D" that sits on your desk.

Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (3)

(Video) DON'T Buy The Apple M2 Pro Mac Mini - Here's Why

Like its predecessors, the Mac mini M2 has an aluminum chassis finished in a silvery bare aluminum. It's a classic and iconic look, one that fits neatly into all sorts of desk arrangements thanks to its pint-sized proportions. It measures roughly 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches and weighs ~2.6 pounds, though that goes up to 2.8 pounds if you spring for the upgraded M2 Pro model.

Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (4)

While we'll have to wait until we get one in for testing to check for ourselves, it's likely the new Mac mini M2 has a removable black plastic disc on the bottom which elevates it off your desk slightly, potentially improving airflow and cooling.

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Ports

The Mac mini M1 did depart from its predecessors by changing up its port array, and now the Mac mini M2 has once again updated its offerings to be more relevant to modern needs.

The new Mac mini M2 sports two Thunderbolt 4 ports (or four if you splurge for the M2 Pro upgrade), as well as two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port (configurable from 10-100GB), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

That's a significant upgrade over the 2020 model, which offered two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an HDMI port.

However, it's important to note that the HDMI port on the 2020 Mac mini M1 was HDMI 2.0, while the new Mac mini with M2 appears to have an HDMI 2.1 port. The difference between the two is that the newer Mac mini with M2 Pro can support more external displays, with higher refresh rates, than its predecessor. Specifically, a Mac mini with M2 Pro can support up to three displays (two via Thunderbolt @ up to 6K 60Hz, one over HDMI at up to 4K 60Hz) or one display up to 8K 60Hz (or 4K 240Hz) via HDMI alone.

Most people don't need to be doing a lot of computing work at 4K or 6K (let alone 8K), but it's nice to see the new Mac mini with M2 Pro is capable of it.

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Performance

The most exciting upgrades to the Mac mini with M2 are under the aluminum hood, where the new M2 chip and M2 Pro chip help drive the Mac mini to new heights of performance.

The Mac mini with M2 is likely a fairly linear improvement over the 2020 Mac mini M1, as Apple claims the M2 offers 25% more transistors than the M1 and delivers up to 18% more multi-core performance. The company also claims the M2's 16-core Neural Engine (which helps out with machine learning tasks like image processing) is capable of processing up to 40% more calculations per second than the M1, which is good news for folks who like to see numbers go up.

The M2 chip also supports up to 24GB of memory, and Apple claims it can deliver up to 2x the performance of the M1 chip while using half the power. This allows you to configure a Mac mini M2 with up to 24GB of RAM, an improvement over the 16GB max allowed by the M1 chip.

And of course you now have the choice to kit your 2023 Mac mini out with an M2 Pro chip, which wasn't an option for the 2020 Mac mini. The M2 Pro supports up to 32GB of memory and offers faster memory bandwidth than the M2, meaning you can get a Mac mini with M2 Pro, configure it with up to 32GB of RAM and expect apps to load quicker than an entry-level Mac mini with M2.

The M2 Pro chip also offers more cores than we've ever seen inside a Mac mini, as you can configure it with up to a 12-core CPU (8 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores) and a 19-core GPU. Apple is pitching this model as a solid workhorse for photo/video editing and even gaming, claiming that a Mac mini with M2 Pro offers up to 2.5x faster graphics performance in Affinity Photo and up to 2.8x faster gameplay in Resident Evil Village than the entry-level Mac mini with M1. Hardly surprising given the 3-year gap between the two chips, but still impressive.

Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (5)

(Video) M2 Mac Mini Buyers Guide - Don’t Make These 9 Mistakes!

The new Mac mini M2 also offers improved wireless connectivity options over its predecessor, as it now supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. These are the latest wireless standards in common use as of publication, and an upgrade over the slower versions available in the 2020 Mac mini M1.

Mac mini M2 vs Mac mini M1: Verdict

When the Mac mini M2 lands on store shelves in late January 2023 it will be a clear improvement over the old model, making your buying decision pretty straightforward. If you need a pint-sized Mac desktop for work or play, the Mac mini M2 is the Mac to buy. It's cheaper and faster than its predecessor, with no meaningful compromises.

But now that you have the option to upgrade the chip inside, the question of which Mac mini model to buy is a little more complicated than it used to be. After vetting M2-equipped MacBooks like the MacBook Air 2022 in our performance testing lab, I have no doubt that the base M2 chip is plenty powerful enough for day-to-day work, light photo/video editing and basic gaming. Based on what Apple's shown us so far I expect the M2 Pro to make the Mac mini 2023 a more capable workhorse, allowing you to do more (and at higher resolutions) than any Mac mini yet.

Is it worth the $700 price to upgrade a Mac mini with an M2 Pro chip? The answer is ultimately up to you, but we'll soon have a review published — along with plenty of performance testing — which will hopefully help you make that decision.

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Mac mini M2 vs. Mac mini M1: Here's all the new upgrades (6)

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Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.

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    (Video) M2 Mac Mini (2023) - 20 Things You NEED to KNOW!

    FAQs

    Is it worth upgrading from M1 to M2? ›

    The ‌M2‌ MacBook Pro is better suited to buyers who are upgrading from an older machine, rather than 2020's ‌M1‌ model. Spearheaded by the ‌M2‌ chip, the device's series of minor improvements offer a good overall package for these buyers, ensuring that they get a slightly more modern and capable machine.

    Will the M2 chip be more powerful than the M1 Max? ›

    The GPU is even more powerful with up to 38 cores, and is paired with a larger L2 cache. Graphics speeds climb up to 30 percent faster than M1 Max. Along with 96GB of memory, the new MacBook Pro with M2 Max can tackle graphics-intensive projects that competing systems can't even run.

    Is M1 much better than M2? ›

    In our testing, the M2 has an 18 percent faster CPU than the M1. The new chip doesn't just mean that the new Macs can accomplish more though, they use less power doing so: Apple promises an increased CPU performance of 18 percent with the same energy consumption thanks to various optimizations.

    Is M2 chip worth the extra money? ›

    The new MacBook Air M2 is here. Like the recently released MacBook Pro M2, this new notebook is the latest to feature the Apple M2 chip — making it one of the most performant and overall best laptops you can buy. Despite its steep $1,199 starting price, it's arguably worth every penny due to the value it provides.

    What is the difference between a M1 and M2? ›

    The cores of the Apple M2 chip and M1 differ. The M1 is based on Apple's A14 Bionic processor. In contrast, the CPU of the Apple M2 chip is based on the A15 Bionic processor (fun fact: it's the same CPU you'll find in the iPhone 13 series).

    Is it worth waiting for M2 Mac? ›

    We still recommend that unless you're creating 3D content, making videos, writing apps, or doing other tasks that push the CPU, it's unlikely that you will notice the additional performance the 2023 MacBook Pro models will bring. But if you don't need a new Mac just yet, it sounds like you'll be rewarded for the wait.

    Is there any chip better than M1? ›

    Apple says that the ‌M2‌ has up to 25 percent higher graphics performance than ‌M1‌ at the same power level, and up to 35 percent better performance at its max power. In early Geekbench Metal benchmarks, the ‌‌M2‌‌ chip scored 30,627, a notable improvement over the 21,001 score earned by the ‌‌M1‌‌.

    What can beat the M1 chip? ›

    Benchmarks show that Intel's latest Core i9 processors received a higher score than Apple's ‌M1 Max‌ chip in tests, but that 4% increase in performance is offset by a marked reduction in battery life compared to Apple's chips.

    Who needs the M1 Max chip? ›

    The ‌M1 Max‌ is better suited to extremely demanding GPU workflows, such as high-level graphic design, 3D modeling, and video editing. Users who often work with video may also benefit from the ‌M1 Max‌'s additional video engines.

    Is the M1 or M2 more forgiving? ›

    TaylorMade has recently launched the M2 driver which is designed to give golfers more forgiveness. It doesn't have as much adjustability as the M1 but it is aimed at players with higher handicaps.

    Which Apple chip is best? ›

    Not surprisingly, the A16 Bionic in the iPhone 14 Pro is the fastest. The iPhone 14 and iPhone 13 both have an A15 Bionic processor, but the iPhone 13 has one fewer GPU core than the iPhone 13 Pro, which gives it better graphics performance.

    Is 256 GB of storage enough? ›

    The reality is that 256GB of internal storage is probably going to be plenty enough for most people who don't already have (or anticipate having) a ton of locally stored photos, video, video games, or music that can't either be easily offloaded into the cloud, or to a backup drive.

    Does the M2 chip overheat? ›

    According to recent reports, both devices equipped with Apple M2 chip — MacBook Air M2 and Pro M2 — face severe overheating issues. Reviewers and enthusiastic customers have shown their disappointment at how quickly and frequently their MacBook Air and Pro devices heat up.

    How much unified memory do I need M2? ›

    Most people will be absolutely fine with 8GB of unified memory on their M2 MacBook. Those who know they need more – or who plan on undertaking increasingly intensive, creative workflows or complex software development – will do well to upgrade. It's that simple.

    Can M2 chip run Windows? ›

    In the past, you could install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp, but that won't work if you've upgraded to an M1 or M2 Mac—you need an Intel processor to run the app, but Apple doesn't sell Macs with those chips anymore.

    What is included in M1 but not M2? ›

    M1 money supply includes those monies that are very liquid such as cash, checkable (demand) deposits, and traveler's checks. M2 money supply is less liquid in nature and includes M1 plus savings and time deposits, certificates of deposits, and money market funds.

    Does M2 include everything in M1? ›

    M2 is a measure of the U.S. money stock that includes M1 (currency and coins held by the non-bank public, checkable deposits, and travelers' checks) plus savings deposits (including money market deposit accounts), small time deposits under $100,000, and shares in retail money market mutual funds.

    Is 8GB unified memory enough? ›

    For the M1-based 16 inch MacBook Pro (and MacBook Air), 8 GB of unified memory should be plenty for a regular user, much like 16GB RAM was on the Intel-based versions and Big Sur. While applications and the operating system used to require less than virtual memory of 8GB RAM, Intel considered it acceptable.

    Is Apple M2 better? ›

    The M2 chip is 1.4x faster than the ‌M1‌, with an 18 percent faster CPU, a 35 percent more powerful GPU, and a 40 percent faster Neural Engine. Geekbench benchmarks have confirmed that the M2 chip is up to 20 percent faster than the ‌M1‌ chip when it comes to multi-core performance.

    Should you buy M1 MacBook or wait for M2? ›

    Wait for the M2 MacBooks. They'll retail for around the same price that the M1 models currently do, so it'd be a waste of money to buy the older design. If you can get an M1 MacBook Air or Pro cheaply, they're still capable machines.

    How long do you have to wait for M2? ›

    You must ride under the restrictions of an M1 for at least 60 days before upgrading to the M2/M2L/M2M licence. Once you complete the course with RTI, you must wait 60 days from the day you received your M1, and then return to a DriveTest Centre to request the upgrade to your M2/M2L/M2M.

    What is the disadvantage of M1 chip? ›

    Disadvantages. M1 is still new and is undergoing a process of change constantly. But there are cons too of M1 processors that have been seen in the M1 chip. GPUs Or Multiple Screens Displays are not Supported – Gamers have consistently dealt with issues while utilizing Macs, and the M1-based are the same.

    Is M1 faster than i7? ›

    For content creation tasks, Intel showed the Core i7 to be about 1.12x faster than the M1 in performing a 4K AVC-to-HEVC/H.

    Which is better Mac Mini M1 or Intel? ›

    The ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ can support one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K, while the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ can support up to three 4K displays, or one 5K display and one 4K display. This means that to use a 6K display such as Apple's Pro Display XDR, you must have the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌.

    Is M1 faster than i9? ›

    Overall, it's safe to say that the new Intel Core i9-12900HK is performing better than both M1 Pro and the M1 Max in the CPU-centric benchmarks. Even in tests involving the graphics unit, the MSI is able to hold its own against the MacBook Pro.

    Is Intel processor better than Apple? ›

    The Apple silicon Macs that Apple has released so far have been very good—as fast as or faster than the Intel Macs they replace, but with much better battery life (for laptops) and lower power usage (for desktops).

    Why did Apple stop using Intel? ›

    The announcement was made during that year's WWDC Keynote Address. At the time Apple announced the transition, Jobs attributed the switch to a superior product roadmap that Intel offered, as well as an inability to build products envisioned by Apple based on the PowerPC product roadmap.

    Can M1 run everything? ›

    Everything should function as normal when transitioning to M1 Macs, and over the course of a few years, most popular Mac apps will likely be built to run on the M1 Macs natively. Right now, there is one major compromise when choosing an M1 Mac, and that's Windows support.

    What is the Apple M1 chip equivalent to? ›

    The M1 chip uses a 5-nanometer (nm) production process, similar to the latest A14 chip in the iPhone 12.

    Will the Mac Mini get the M1 Max chip? ›

    AppleInsider may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made through links on our site. Apple never updated the Mac mini with M1 Pro or M1 Max processors. It gained the M2 Pro processor in 2023, but without a redesign. The Mac Studio's existence likely prevents any other major changes to this product anytime soon.

    Should I upgrade to M2 air? ›

    Apple's M2 MacBook Air could use more ports and a higher refresh rate, but overall, anyone who's been rocking an older MacBook for a while should upgrade to this one ASAP. Mashable Choice is a badge of honor, reserved for the absolute best stuff you can see, use, or do. If it's Choice, it's worth your time.

    Is the M2 slower than M1? ›

    See our ethics statement. Previously, a number of reviewers have reported that Apple's entry-level M2 MacBook Pro's SSD is significantly slower than that of the M1 MacBook Pro due to the configuration of the storage models in the computer.

    Will M1 Macs last long? ›

    Battery life in an M1 Mac lasts up to 2x longer than in prior-generation Macs. The Mac with the longest battery life is the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which lasts for up to 20 hours. That's double the battery life of the prior-generation model.

    Is m1x faster than M1? ›

    According to Apple, the 32-core GPU in the ‌M1 Max‌ is up to 4x faster than the ‌M1‌. Apple has said that the chip delivers performance "comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop" while consuming up to 40 percent less power.

    Can M2 overheat? ›

    The new MacBook Air is thinner than its predecessors, and while it has received positive reception, there have been reports of users complaining that their MacBook Air is suffering from overheating and throttled performance.

    Should I get the 256GB or 512GB MacBook Air? ›

    Is 256GB Enough for a MacBook? If you're buying any model of MacBook (whether it's a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro) and plan to use it as your main machine, you should buy a model with more than 256GB of storage. Even if you only double the internal storage to 512GB, you'll thank yourself in a few years.

    How much better will the M2 chip be? ›

    The M2 chip is 1.4x faster than the ‌M1‌, with an 18 percent faster CPU, a 35 percent more powerful GPU, and a 40 percent faster Neural Engine. Geekbench benchmarks have confirmed that the M2 chip is up to 20 percent faster than the ‌M1‌ chip when it comes to multi-core performance.

    Videos

    1. Testing Apple's New M2 MacBook Pro and Mac Mini
    (CNET)
    2. Why you should NOT Upgrade to the Mac Mini M2?
    (Zander Round)
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    (GregsGadgets)
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