Mac mini M2, apparently identical to the previous model: was there a need? The short answer is yes, and for once, the reason is also found in the price, although there is much more to say.
It doesn’t change the design of the Mac mini M2 in any way, and that’s good, but it’s increasingly starting to be bad as well. The ports are all on the back and the same as the previous model: 2 Thunderbolt 4, 2 USB-A, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, audio jack. But be careful: the version with M2 Pro has 4 Thunderbolt ports, and its HDMI is 2.1 instead of 2.0 (i.e., 4K@60Hz instead of 30). The basic cost is less than double the M2 variant, but we’ll discuss this later. What is missing?
Some front doors, which we find on the Mac Studio instead, and generally, there is no SD card reader even on the model with the M2 Pro, which would be the one most voted for “creatives.” Using a dongle on a landline isn’t a big drama, but it’s still an extra accessory that takes up a USB-C port, which in the case of the basic Mac mini is only two. In short, it is time for renewal also from the point of view of design for the Mac mini, even if, in doing so, it could become an even more valid alternative to the Mac Studio.
If there is one thing Apple is very good at, it is in diversifying its line-up, sometimes to the detriment of one, sometimes to another model. Therefore, the somewhat severe rating of this paragraph is to be understood more as a throw on the ears of Apple than as a criticism of the build quality of the Mac mini M2, which remains solid, compact, and well-assembled as always.
As we have already had the opportunity to underline, there are two versions of the Mac mini M2: the one proper and the one with the Apple M2 Pro chip. The first is intended for more common jobs, the other for those who need more performance. As always, you can configure the variant that best suits your purposes on the Apple website: up to 32 GB of unified memory and 8 TB of storage. Below is a summary of the technical data sheet of the model under test, a slightly pumped-up version of the basic model.
- CPU: Apple M2 with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
- RAM: 16GB
- Storage: from 512GB
- Ports: 2 Thunderbolt 4 (4 on M2 Pro), 2 USB-A, HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet (optional 10 Gbit), audio jack, power
- Connectivity : Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
- Weight: 1.196Kg
- OS : macOS 13 Ventura
Note the connectivity upgrade, with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, while the HDMI port remains fixed at 2.0 on the basic model but fortunately switches to 2.1 on the M2 Pro variant. We have already complained about the absence of an SD card reader and front doors, but it bears repeating.
The Mac mini M1 was already one of the best mini PCs on the market, if not the best. With Mac mini M2, we have more performance and a lower introductory price. How could this not be a good user experience? Apple isn’t known for the convenience of its products, but that’s only sometimes true. MacBook Air M1 has been a real best buy for a long time (those who bought it for less than 900 euros got a bargain!), and Mac mini M2 is ready to retrace its footsteps.
There are very few complaints to make in daily use of this mini PC, and they are the same as the previous model. It could have been more compact and had more ports (perhaps some even in front), but ultimately we are talking about a desktop system, not a laptop. The dimensions will hardly be a problem, and having a good dongle can always come in handy, especially since you won’t have to carry it around with you, perhaps risking forgetting it, but keep it always connected to have a few more ports handy.
The only difficult thing is to draw a precise boundary to give you an idea of the Mac mini M2’s limits, also because they have widened further than in the past. Navigation is always fluid, so much so that to start worrying about it, you must exceed 50 tabs open on Chrome, with multimedia content playing. No problem on the multimedia side, and not even with the Office suite (just the one from Microsoft, even faster than iWork). Photoshop and Lightroom allow you to edit RAW files with impressive speed, especially since you won’t even hear the noise of a fan in the background.
However, we have to start putting some stakes here: editing photos captured with smartphones or even with common digital cameras is one thing. Still, if we go to hundreds of megapixel photos, then 8 GB of memory could start to feel tight, but we have already moved into a rather professional sphere. Premiere Pro also works well with 4K video editing, but it depends on how many effects/transitions you will put on it.
To give you a concrete example, the intro of the video review above, which is a bit heavy, involves a loss of 21 frames if reproduced in the editing phase with half the quality; on the Mac mini M1, the frames lost were exactly double: 42. Neither of them is perfect, but halving the frame-drop is no small thing, and even here we are already in a sphere far from common use, in which the Mac mini M2 it’s still quite comfortable. Said in simplistic terms: YouTuber, yes. Cinema, no. In short, we are increasingly faced with a borderline mini PC: “too powerful” for the most common uses but not so powerful as to become the first choice of a “pro” user.
But the line is getting thinner and thinner, generation after generation. We close with the only element that can be annoying (and always has been): the first configuration. If you have an Apple keyboard and mouse, it’s a piece of cake: they pair by themselves (the keyboard also has a fantastic touch ID ), and you can use them immediately without any problems. Otherwise, you will have to get some wired solution, at least to get to the operating system, and from there, you can associate as many Bluetooth devices as you want.
Mac mini M2 drops in price. The previous M1 was launched for €819, while the new model’s starting price is €729. This is an excellent figure, net of the upgrades, which are always expensive (+230€ to double the RAM and the same for the storage), also because the Mac mini M1 has meanwhile dropped to around 680€, and for only 50€ unlike the new version remains preferable.
Ultimately, with less than €1,000, you could get a good desktop setup, perhaps by consulting our pages on the best monitors, keyboards, and mice. For all these reasons, the basic version of the Mac mini M2 is the one to buy. Bringing the unified memory to 16 GB does not change anything in general use, while 256 GB of storage is not a small amount, and if you need more space, it makes more sense to invest in a NAS rather than spending another €230 to get to 512GB.
We recently tested a model from Asustor that champions simplicity and will give you many more features that all your networked devices will benefit from. Switching to the Mac mini M2 Pro is, on the other hand, onerous: it starts at €1,579, but with 16 GB of memory, 512 GB of storage, two more Thunderbolt ports, and a processor which, as we have seen, is superior. In its way, it is also convenient (although not as much as the basic version), provided you need it.