Review roundup: M2 and M2 Pro chips jack up new Mac mini models | Cult of Mac

Review roundup: M2 and M2 Pro chips jack up new Mac mini models

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Reviewers heartily recommend the M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini models for different types of users.
Reviewers heartily recommend the M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini models for different types of users.
Photo: Apple

With the new M2 and M2 Pro versions of Mac mini released last week and expected to ship Tuesday, reviewers are showing a lot of enthusiasm for the new compact desktop machines.

Starting at $599, the Mac mini remains the cheapest Mac, but with performance upgrades and a powerful M2 Pro version on offer, the machines are more than capable of meeting the needs average users and pro creatives alike, reviewers said.

New M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini models impress reviewers with performance and feature sets

The Mac mini first came out in 2005 as a compact and affordable desktop option that could draw new Mac users.

Ever since its original launch, the mini has retained its basic form as well as its popularity. Just hook up your choice of input devices and display, and off you go. You can even hide the mini on a shelf or in a desk drawer.

Much later, in 2020, Mac mini became part of the Apple silicon vanguard, with an M1 model. Now, following M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, the jacked-up little desktop adds more power with a choice of M2 chips as well as more features, like better connectivity and, in the M2 Pro version, more USB-C ports. Read more about how the new Mac minis compare to their M1 predecessor.

‘Mac Studio junior’

The M2 Pro Mac mini features four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports rather than two.
The M2 Pro Mac mini features four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports rather than two.
Photo: Apple

“Apple’s littlest Mac has never been more appealing,” Chris Welch said in TheVerge, calling the machine a “Mac Studio junior” (especially the M2 Pro version, which he tested and called “an absolute screamer.” He noted that version adds two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, as well, for a total of four).

And here’s his recommendation of the standard M2 Mac mini:

I’d recommend the standard M2 Mac Mini for anyone looking for a general purpose desktop Mac — assuming you’ve already got a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at the ready. It’ll offer robust performance and is perfectly capable of photo editing and light video work. Apple has given the new machine faster Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6E) and the latest Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity. By default, the ethernet jack is capable of gigabit speeds, but you can opt for blistering 10-gigabit ethernet for an extra $100. Similar to the M1 Mac Mini, M2 models get two USB-C ports (now Thunderbolt 4) and two USB-A ports — plus a headphone jack and HDMI 2.0 output.

On the downside, the new Mac mini models don’t improve when it comes to using whatever wireless input devices you want, Welch said. Unless you have a USB transceiver, you’re stuck using a wired keyboard and mouse or Apple wireless products.

And he recommended starting with more than the 8GB of integrated memory the base $599 M2 Mac mini offers. For $799, you can get 16GB, which should boost performance and lifespan. Up to 24GB is available. The M2 Pro version starts at 16GB and goes up to 32GB.

Storage options are similar, with the M2 Mac mini starting with 256GB (configurable up to 2TB) and the M2 Pro starting with 512GB (configurable up to 8TB).

Great for content creators

While the M2 Mac mini meets the needs of average users, the M2 Pro seems especially good for content creators.
While the M2 Mac mini meets the needs of average users, the M2 Pro seems especially good for content creators.
Photo: Apple

Over at CNET, Dan Ackerman said improved performance ensures the Mac mini is still a great choice for content creators like streamers and podcasters.

Here’s who should buy the new M2 Mac mini, according to Ackerman:

The base M2 version of the Mac Mini, starting at $599, feels like it’s for entry-level buyers who want a MacOS system at the lowest possible price; audio and video producers who are already committed to a collection of external displays, input devices and storage drives; or anyone who needs a portable mini desktop that can be thrown in a bag and hooked up at an office or recording studio. Also worth noting, the Mac Mini has an Ethernet port, HDMI output and USB-A ports, which are great for expansion and hard to find in some other Macs, even very expensive ones.

He called the M2 Pro Mac mini a less clear-cut choice, but a great option to have for people creating video and podcast at a professional level.

From affordable (M2) to fairly pricey (high-spec M2 Pro)

Reviewers agreed that the $599 entry price for an M2 Mac mini is wonderfully affordable. However, when you go with an M2 Pro version the starting price jumps to $1,299 and climbs from there with higher spec options added.

With an M2 Pro Mac mini maxed out, you start to get into Mac Studio pricing territory. But of course you get a lot of performance, too.

Matt Burns described the basic M2 to M2 Pro jump in TechCrunch:

The M2 Pro has double the amount of transistors over the M2 and has twice the memory bandwidth. The M2 has an 8-core CPU with a 10-core GPU. The M2 Pro has up to a 12-core CPU and up to a 19-core GPU. The M2 Pro also has an additional Thunderbolt controller, allowing it to be equipped with 4 Thunderbolt ports instead of the two on the standard M2 Mac Mini. This also allows the M2 Pro Mac Mini to support up-to-three monitors instead of the two from the standard M2.

Impressive performance benchmarks

In testing, reviewers noted that the M2 and M2 Pro mini performed well. Predictably, they outscore their M1 predecessors. Some reviewers pointed out an advantage a Mac mini has over a similarly outfitted laptop. Mac mini models have more space for airflow and all have fans, whereas the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models don’t.

But don’t expect the new Mac minis to be blazing performers for gamers — they still aren’t, outside of games built for macOS, reviewers noted.

And keep an eye out for an in-depth review of the new M2 Mac mini on Cult of Mac, coming soon.

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