Ars Technica reviews Apple’s M1 Mac mini: Faster and better

Mac mini is Apple’s most versatile computer, and now with M1, it packs a staggering amount of performance and incredible new features in such a compact design. M1 brings an 8-core CPU with up to 3x faster performance than the previous generation, dramatically accelerating demanding workloads, from compiling a million lines of code to building enormous multitrack music projects. An 8-core GPU delivers up to a massive 6x increase in graphics performance, allowing Mac mini to tackle performance-intensive tasks like complex 3D rendering with ease. ML workloads also take a quantum leap forward with up to 15x faster performance over the previous generation. And when compared to the best-selling Windows desktop in its price range, the Mac mini is just one-tenth the size, yet delivers up to 5x faster performance.

The new Mac mini packs a staggering amount of performance into its ultracompact design.
The new Mac mini packs a staggering amount of performance into its ultracompact design.

When compared to the previous generation, the M1-powered Mac mini can:
• Compile code in Xcode up to 3x faster.
• Play a graphics-intensive game like “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” with up to 4x higher frame rates.
• Render a complex timeline in Final Cut Pro up to 6x faster.
• Take music production to new levels by using up to 3x as many real-time plug-ins in Logic Pro.
• Magically increase the resolution of a photo in Pixelmator Pro up to 15x faster.
• Utilize ML frameworks like TensorFlow or Create ML, now accelerated by the M1 chip.

Mac mini also features an advanced thermal design to sustain its breakthrough performance while staying cool and quiet, support for up to two displays including Apple’s Pro Display XDR in full 6K resolution, and Wi-Fi 6 for faster wireless performance and the Secure Enclave in M1 for best-in-class security.

Samuel Axon for Ars Technica:

Going into this, I was ready to see some strong performance, but I was skeptical that Apple Silicon would work for me.

I’m still not sure the Mac mini is an ideal machine in every respect because of its limited port and peripheral options, but amazingly, Apple didn’t rock the boat. The boat is faster, it’s longer lasting, it’s better — and it hardly took on any water at all.

Between the move to universal apps across Apple’s entire catalog, to promised native updates from various software-as-a-service companies like Adobe, to the performance and seamlessness of Rosetta 2, the majority of Mac users may never even have an inkling that a change of architecture has occurred.

They’ll just notice that their Macs are faster and cooler, get better battery life, gain machine-learning features over time—and I suppose that they can run iPhone and iPad apps, if said users aren’t picky about those apps being nice to use.

As the first of Apple’s Mac chips, and as one designed for its lowest-end devices, this is probably the slowest Mac silicon Apple will have ever made. But already, it is the beating heart of some of the fastest Macs produced to date.

In other words, the future of the Mac looks quite bright

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s hardware and software teams responsible for macOS Big Sur, Rosetta 2, the M1, and the M1 Mac mini, M1 MacBook Ai, and M1 MacBook Pro deserve a standing ovation!


  1. My biggest issue is that the SSD drive in the base model is not big enough. 256GB doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if you have a significant libraries of photos, etc. Paying another $200 for 512GB takes it over the edge of affordability.

    1. It doesn’t work for me, either, but I suspect that the average MacBook Air user uses Apple Music, rather than local music libraries, iCloud, rather than local image and video libraries, and has never downloaded xCode.

  2. There must be significant “extra” space in that casing with this new M1 version. Externally, it’s the same size going all the way back to the models with an internal optical drive, which takes up about half internal volume. Then, optical drive was replaced with (optional) hard drive (or SSD) in standard 2.5-inch brick form. I still have one from 2011 (last one with real FireWire); it has two 2.5-inch drives inside as DIY Fusion Drive.

    Now, the integrated SSD is very small physically. The M1 motherboard and supporting parts are probably much smaller too, compared to Intel. Can I still add an aftermarket 2.5-inch drive inside? There should be plenty if space. If so, problem with small capacity main SSD alleviated without external drive. But I think answer is no.

  3. We’re past due for a 5-year AppleCare plan. We’ll buy into your expensive, sealed, glued-in garden, but you at least have to stand behind your products like auto manufacturers do, we’ll pay the extra $100-200 up front for the “peace of mind” you advertise at the current 3 years.

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