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We tested the Apple Mac mini with the M1 chip: what kind of audience is it for?

Mac mini with M1 video impressions

The insider’s Mac

The Mac mini has always been regarded in a way as the computer ideal to get started in the world of macOS and the truth is that the new Mac mini with M1 chip seems to maintain that essence. With an identity that therefore remains almost unchanged, this time we find a proposal that may be even more interesting both for price and performance.

In terms of design, yes, you will not “find” anything that you have not already seen. The new generation Mac mini is physically identical to the latest models with Intel processors that we have seen in the catalog. A very elegant and attractive device to look at, with a small box made of aluminum and with the quality of finishes that Apple has used to us in practically all its products.

Mac mini with M1, review

Her grace (and beauty, as the saying would go) is therefore within her: a new architecture, the M1 system on chip, which integrates the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I / O and much more in a design designed to be more efficient, thanks to the use it makes of its resources and how hardware and software now exist the hand more than ever, under the control of the same manufacturer.

In the case of the unit that we have been able to test, it is the version with 8 GB RAM, a base configuration (it is the minimum that it can mount) that has shown us to be able to behave much better than other equipment with a superior technical sheet, with two and up to four times more RAM. In the end that’s the Magic of the optimization that Apple has pursued with this new approach and that could find its parallel to the way it works with its iPhones.

Performance: optimization is the key

We will not accompany this experience with becnhmarks left and right (you will have already seen data and numbers of all kinds); instead, we prefer to talk to you about how this range, more focused on the consumer and non-professional level user, has managed to perform spectacularly in many tasks where other Macs with Intel and much higher prices can suffer.

Mac mini with M1, review

As you can imagine, in daily Homeworks, office automation and the like (drafting documents, editing images in a basic way, browsing, etc.), the equipment has been able to function without problems, with a hard disk speed that is noticeable, since the opening of applications and access to the data has been practically instantaneous. But, what happens with more demanding tasks, more of a professional nature such as video editing? Or what about games?

Mac mini with M1, review

Well, the experience in the first case has been very satisfactory, taking into account, of course, the application optimization. If these have already been ported to the new architecture, you can see how all the advantages offered by the different CPU and GPU cores are taken advantage of, as well as the specific units that Apple has integrated into the SOC to improve processes such as video encoding or use of actions that require artificial intelligence. This is the case of Final Cut Pro, Davinci Resolve or the current version of Lightroom -although in the latter we have found some minor minor flaw-; performance of all of them that also makes us imagine that when teams with more cores are launched, the results will be even better.

However, when resorting to Rosette to emulate applications only available for Intel processors with X86 architecture, things change. The performance is not a disaster, do not get us wrong, but it does show that it does not offer everything that the team could give of itself due to that translation of instructions that it has to perform.

Mac mini with M1, review

The topic games It is another matter, since here the key is in how it is used Metal. This set of graphical instructions makes Macs now better computers for gaming, although you should bear in mind that a PC with an Intel or AMD processor and a dedicated graphics from NVIDIA or AMD itself will continue to offer better support, especially in the most demanding games. The graphical improvement is therefore real and if you want to enjoy some games in your spare time, you will be able to do it without problems, but this equipment is still not a device especially for this purpose, do not be confused.

So is it worth it?

With all this, the Mac mini is clear that it has made a significant leap compared to the previous generation with Intel processors. It is true that features such as a greater number of Thunderbolt ports or the 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection have been lost. It is assumed that Apple will have considered that these computers are not intended for that niche of users that requires such a fast cable connection, but it would have been good to keep it anyway.

Mac mini with M1, review

For the rest, and without being a perfect team, we feel like first Mac or desktop computer for an average user, it can be a very interesting option, even in its most basic configuration, since you get a very capable machine at an attractive price. Yes, if you already have a Mac with an Intel processor, we will not encourage you to throw it out the window and bet on the M1. The previous generation continues to offer very good equipment, capable of executing tasks in which, for a long time, they will be more solvent than Macs with M1.

But, for everything else, we think the Mac mini M1 is a good option to make the jump to the platform so if you were willing to give it a try, you probably won’t regret it.

Pedro Santamaría participated in the analysis and writing of this text.

Images

Youtube Videos

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