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The 2023 Mac Mini is a serious contender with the M2 Pro • TechCrunch

Apple’s latest silicon innovations shine in the Mac Mini. The small desktop computer is the latest Apple computer equipped with the M2 chipset. For $599, buyers can opt for the M2 or spend $1299 for the impressive M2 Pro, which offers unique benefits.

For the past few days my M1 Mac Mini has been sitting on the sidelines while the new Mac Mini used the track. This machine rises. As expected, the new SoC lets the machine jump through applications and tasks with ease. That said, the M1 Mac Mini released in 2020 has always worked well. I’ve used one since launch and still find it adequate. However, it is no longer fast for new phones. This M2 Pro makes me feel like an F1 driver with a new set of tires and a tank full of gas. I’m ready to go another hundred laps.

I threw everything in my daily rotation at the M2 Pro and it never blinked. It zoomed through media encoding and heavy photo editing. It overcame benchmarks and endured Chrome’s never-ending quest for system memory. It was a pleasure to use.

The Mac Mini has long been Apple’s most affordable computer. But occasionally it was omitted from Intel CPU updates over the years, leaving the computer looking unloved and forgotten. Now that Apple is making its chips, the Mac Mini is back in rotation. In 2020, the Mac Mini helped debut the M1 chip. Now, in 2023, the Mac Mini will debut alongside the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 Pro.

Buyers have a number of options with the M2 Mac Mini. For $599, they can select the base model with the M2 CPU, 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage. Spend $799 to upgrade the SSD to 512 GB. The M2 Pro retails for $1,299, and for that price buyers get 16GB of memory and 512GB of SSD storage. Spend more to upgrade the number of cores in the CPU and get more system memory and up to 8 TB of local storage.

The differences between the M2 and M2 Pro are minor but consistent. The M2 Pro offers significant benefits for some applications. The M2 Pro has twice the transistors of 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 standard M2’s two.

The M2 Pro in my tester ran incredible benchmarks. For example, in Geekbench 5, the multi-core benchmark clocked in at 14,991. That’s several clicks above the performance of the M1 Max in the Mac Studio (12,336) and Late 2019 Intel Xeon W-3245 (14,674). The single-core benchmark was even more telling: the M2 Pro scored 1,932, surpassing the previous record of 1,900 set by the 13-inch M2-powered MacBook Pro. The M1 Mac Mini scored 1,715.

Benchmarks only tell part of the story.

Let’s take a look at the placement of the $2,099 M2 Pro against the stock $1,999 Studio M1 Max. Think of the Studio line as super Mac Minis. The Mac Studio with the M1 Pro and Max was released almost a year ago, in the winter of 2022. Apple will probably eventually renew it, but as it stands it offers clear advantages over the new M2 Pro Mac Mini, although the benchmarks put the Studio behind the newer computers. The difference comes down to the beefy M1 Max. The Max designation indicates that the chip has additional CPU cores, video decoding pipelines, and Thunderbolt controllers. The $1,999 Studio also comes with 32GB of RAM, with an additional $199 charge in the Mac Mini. The Mac Studio has a front SD card slot, which I’d like to see on the Mac Mini.

Apple would like to point out that the Mac Mini can play video games. But this is not a gaming computer. For the Mac Mini to perform well as a gaming machine, the games must use Metal, which means it’s coded directly for Mac OS. Unfortunately, there are very few games on the market in this format. Apple gave me a copy of Resident Evil Village and the graphics are the best I’ve ever seen on a Mac. They look great and the game is smooth and responsive, but I highly doubt anyone is looking for a Mac Mini for the main purpose of playing games.

Gaming has never been a selling point for the Mac. Sadly, the M2 doesn’t change that, although it’s nice to see Apple’s progress in this area.

The M2 chip brings the Mac Mini into a new world of performance. The benchmarks show a computer capable of keeping up with the fastest computers Apple has ever made – and now the performance is available at relatively low prices.

But do you need the M2 Pro? That’s my lingering question. The M1 chips can handle most everyday tasks and the M2 is built from the same secret sauce. So would I consider the M2 Pro a must-have upgrade if it were my money? I do not think so.

I doubt most users would see a difference between an M2 and M2 Pro beyond the resource-intensive media editing software. The standard M2 is ideally suited for browsing the web and using Apple’s built-in apps. And the standard M2 would still be an impressive upgrade over existing systems. The $599 M2 Mac Mini, even with its limited local storage, seems like a great deal.

With the M2 and M2, the Mac Mini is among the most powerful computers Apple offers at any price point. And let’s remember one of the Mac Mini’s main selling points: it’s mini. The Mac Min is a small package that offers a lot of flexibility. Bundle it with one of Apple’s Studio Displays for a great iMac alternative, or use it with a cheap monitor for a cheap workstation. As always, the Mac Mini is a value proposition, and it’s never looked better than it does with the M2 and M2 Pro.

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