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Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020) review

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The smallest Apple desktop computer was the most in need of an update. The company did this with the Mac mini (M1,2020), and it set the standard for future iterations. Apple claims its CPU performance is three-times faster and GPU performance six-times faster than the previous Mini.

This update is unique because it introduces Apple’s M1 system on chips (SoC), which was not only introduced with the Mini, but also with the MacBook Pro 13″ (M1, 2020), and MacBook Air (M1,2020) notebooks. Although the Mac mini is smaller than its predecessor, it’s still a powerful machine. It can compile Xcode three times faster than the previous model, render Final Cut Pro projects and even run intensive games.

The Mac mini has enjoyed a loyal following over the years and its fans were certainly excited to see the M1 chip added to this model. We are happy with the M1 model’s extra power, especially considering the performance that has been achieved from such a small computer. It is still one of the most versatile options available in Apple’s computing range.

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Apple’s Mac mini is also a unique device. This is why Apple often ignores it. Although we did a refresh a few years ago with the Mac Mini 2018, it was actually four years in the making. It’s great to see the macOS 11. Big Sur operating systems on the Mac mini 2020. If you’re looking to maximize the Mini’s capabilities, you’ll find a new OS that you can download for free: the macOS Monterey.

Apple’s 8GB RAM model and 256GB storage model are priced at $699 / PS699 / AU$1,099 respectively. The base Mac mini 2018 model is more expensive than this one, so it’s a great deal to get a performance boost without spending a lot.

It really does have a performance boost. The M1 chip, which powers the Mac mini, is Apple’s first chip to power a desktop computer. But it really has done a great job. The tiny, responsive computer feels light and fast. It was also able to handle intense video rendering tasks.

We should also note that the M1 chip limits the memory to 16GB and can’t be used with external graphics cards (eGPUs). Anyone who wanted to upgrade their Mac mini will be disappointed.

Overall, the Mac mini (M1, 2020), is a great piece of kit with Apple’s latest hardware as well as software. It’s wonderful to see Apple embrace its little computer and use it as a showcase of its M1 hardware on a desktop.

It retains many of the same qualities we love about the Mac mini. It has a compact and attractive design with great components inside. The ability to run legacy Intel apps as well as M1 and iOS apps is truly exciting.

The fact that the Mac mini does not support eGPUs is a disappointment for those who are looking to be productive. Although most users will not use it, this PC has a loyal following among video editors and photographers due to its scalability through eGPUs. The Mac mini (M1, 2020), which is missing that feature and has a 16GB memory limit, may not be able to offer all that more demanding users require.

  • Apple Mac mini (M1 2020) (8GB 8GB RAM) at Amazon for US$678.99

Prices and availability

Spec Sheet

TechRadar received the Apple Mac mini (M1,2020) configuration for review.

CPU: Apple M1 (8 core)

Graphics Integrated Eight-core GPU

RAM: 8GB Unified PDDR4X-4266 MHz SDRAM

Storage: SSD 256GB

Ports 2x Thunderbolt 3(USB-C),2x USB-A (Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, and 3.5mm headphones jack

Connectivity: Bluetooth 6, Bluetooth 5.0

Weight: 2.6 pounds (1.2kg)

Size1.4x7x7.7inches (3.6x 19.7×19.7cm; W.x D.x H.)

The Mac mini (M1, 2020), which is available worldwide, starts at $699 / Ps699 / AU$1,099 and comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.

A model with 8GB RAM, 512GB storage and a price of $899 / PS899 / AU$1,399. These models have the same M1 chip, with an 8-core CPU & 8-core GPU. This chip is also used in the Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch (M1, 2020).

Each model can be configured to provide up to 16GB of unified storage and up to 2TB SSD storage.

The base model costs less than the 2018 Mac mini’s starting price of $799 (PS799, AU$1,249). This means you get significantly better hardware for a lower price. Apple is making a move to be more competitive in pricing. Compared to compact desktop computers from Intel and Zotac, they often cost more, but are more customizable.

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The Mac mini (M1, 2020), like the MacBook Air 13-inch and MacBook Pro 13-13-inch, has the same design as its predecessor.

The Mac mini (M1, 2020), which measures 1.4 x 7.7x 7.7 inches (33.6 x 19.7x 19.7cm) has the exact same dimensions as the Mac min (2018). However, its weight of 2.6 lbs (1.2kg) is lighter than that of the 2018 model (which weighed in at 2.9 pound (1.3kg).

Although we have criticized Apple for its inability to innovate with the design of its MacBook Air (M1, 2020), and MacBook Pro 13″ (M1, 2020), we are a little more comfortable with the Mac mini’s design.

This is because of two reasons. The Mac mini’s look and feel is not as important as Apple’s laptops. The Mac mini is a desktop computer that can be easily placed on a desk or behind an monitor. Its appearance shouldn’t matter as much as its functionality.

Laptops are, however, far more tactile. Laptops will be carried around and used for work, so it is important to look good. Many laptops are status symbols.

The second reason is that the Mac mini continues to be one of the most beautiful small-form-factor computers ever made. While the MacBook Air’s and MacBook Pro’s designs are outclassed in design by HP and Dell, it still stands as the best. Although we aren’t sure that the MacBook designs conform to the “if it’s not broke, don’t repair it” philosophy, the Mac mini certainly does.

The M1 Mac mini has a slight design change: it now comes in silver. This is lighter than the Space Gray color on the Intel model. It’s a great way to distinguish the two. However, if you prefer Space Gray (and we do), the Mac mini doesn’t offer that option.

You still get a compact, stylish desktop computer that fits on any desk. You get Ethernet LAN and two Thunderbolt ports. Two USB ports are available. An audio jack is also included for headphones. The M1 chip allows the Mac mini to support two displays: one with a maximum 6K resolution at 60Hz and the other with a maximum 4K resolution of 60Hz, both connected via Thunderbolt.

It is worth noting that the Mac mini (M1, 2020), does not come with a keyboard or mouse, nor a monitor. You will need to purchase these separately.

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

Benchmarks

Here are the benchmark results for the Mac mini (M1, 2020).

Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 1,515; Multi-core: 7,755

Geekbench 5 Single-Core: 1,754; Multi-Core: 7,676

You need not be concerned that the switch from Intel hardware to its own semiconductor would cause a slowdown in the Mac mini’s performance. The Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020), performs extremely well with macOS Big Sur running smoothly. We tried a few legacy and native apps (Apple’s Rosetta 2 tool allows for you to continue running older apps without major problems), and they all ran smoothly. You wouldn’t even notice that some apps aren’t running natively.

It is a great thing that older Mac apps can be run on the Mac mini (M1,2020). With the M1 chip allowing iOS app installation, the Mac mini will continue to be a versatile and useful little computer.

The main selling point of the Mac mini (M1, 2020), is the inclusion the Apple silicon M1 system on a chip, an 8-core chipset which combines security, I/O and the CPU into one.

Apple makes big claims about the M1’s CPU performance. Apple claims that the M1’s 8-core CPU is made up of four high performance cores and four efficient cores that balance workloads. This will allow it to complete tasks almost three times faster than the chip found in the Mac mini.

The gaming performance is also greatly improved. The M1-powered Mac mini can play graphically demanding games at up to four times the frame rate if you choose to continue using your Mac mini. A few games were tried out, including some downloaded from Steam and some iOS games from App Store. We found that the results were acceptable as long as we didn’t have to change any settings for the Steam games. Although the Mac mini isn’t a gaming computer, it does have some capabilities. The Mac mini feels more at home with iOS games. Many of these games are visually impressive and complex, even though they were designed for iPhones or iPads.

Final Cut Pro promises to render up to six times faster than previous models, which is good news for videographers and graphics designers.

The Mac mini performed well in real-world tests. Our benchmark tests also proved how capable this small computer is. The M1 chip scored 7,755 points in the Cinebench R23 multi-core Cinebench R23 testing. This chip scored higher than the powerful 12-core Intel Xeon X5650 and provides a very impressive level of performance.

Although performance was generally very good, there are some reasons to choose the Intel Mac mini instead of the M1 model. Apple’s Intel-based mini is still available, and could offer greater performance than the M1 version, but this is not the case with MacBooks.

The Mac mini (M1, 2020), while it can have up to 16GB of unified RAM, the Intel version can hold 64GB. This is not only more than the previous model, but also makes it less unified. The Mac mini (M1,2020) has a unified 8GB and 16GB memory that is shared between the GPU and CPU. This has advantages, Apple claims. Data stored in the memory can be transferred from one CPU to another without the need for overhead.

This could lead to other problems. The M1 chip might have a 16GB limit, since no M1-toting Macs has more memory. Apple won’t have the same ease adding more memory unlike modular memory.

It is possible for a task to consume a lot memory on the graphics side of things. This could impact CPU performance.

You should also note that the Mac mini used to have an option to connect an external graphics card (eGPU) to increase graphical power. This was a popular choice for video editors and 3D animators. However, the Mac mini (M1, 2020) cannot use eGPUs.

It will cause a problem for those who require extra graphics power. You’ll be stuck with the integrated graphics on the Mac mini (M1,2020) and you won’t have the option to use an eGPU with the model. This makes the Mac mini (M1,2020) less versatile than its predecessors.

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The M1 chip was able to deliver a solid graphical performance. Although we’ve mentioned that the M1 chip can run some games, video editing was a highlight. The PC was able to edit a 8K project in Final Cut Pro. This little computer is capable of running multiple applications at once and really impresses when it comes down to performance.

We should also note that the Mac mini was virtually silent throughout our testing. It was easy to hide it and forget that it was on.

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