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The new Mac Mini M2 is the best Mac for the money

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Should you buy the Apple Mac Mini M2?

Port selection for base models

Weak against traditional desktops

Apple’s Mac Mini M2 leaves enough space on your desk for the decor that matters.

The Mac Mini M2 comes in several configuration options. You can choose between the base 8-core M2 processor with a 10-core graphics processor and the upgraded 10-core M2 Pro processor with a 16-core graphics processor.

We tested the base M2 version, which is configurable up to 24GB of memory and 2TB of storage. The M2 Pro version starts with 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage, which can be upgraded up to 32GB of memory and 8TB of storage. The base M2 Mac Mini starts at $599 while the M2 Pro Mac Mini starts at $1,299.

The Mac Mini M2 remains lightweight and compact, measuring in at less than three pounds—even with six versatile ports.

As the old adage goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Mac Mini’s chassis design has been a hit for years now. At under three pounds and about sixty square inches of desk real estate, the Mac Mini basically disappears into the background of your space’s decor. It’s also very easy to use, with all the ports and the power button located on the same side.

While there aren’t many of them, the ports the Mac Mini packs are incredibly useful—two USB A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port. Because the M2 doesn’t usually get hot enough to require active cooling, the chassis could be thinner still, but there’s nothing wrong with how thick it actually is.

One of my major complaints about the M1 Mac Mini was its lack of configuration options. It was only upgradeable to 16GB of memory and didn’t come in an M1 Pro version. This generation, Apple has freed the power of the M2 Pro processors from their MacBook cages, and you can upgrade the memory up to 32GB, to boot.

Even without the M2 Pro processing upgrade, users are still delivered faster processing times and up to 8GB of memory.

If you already have an M1 Mac Mini, the performance boost isn’t enough to justify upgrading. It’s about 20% faster in multicore performance and 15% faster in single-core performance. (You can get bigger boosts from switching to a tower PC.) But if you’re deciding between an M2 Mac Mini and a comparable Windows laptop for light computing like web browsing or writing word documents, then the Mac Mini is probably the better choice.

However, the Mac Mini’s multicore score is less impressive than other desktop PCs. Intel’s midrange desktop processor, the Intel Core i5-13600K, scored 166683 points in Geekbench 5’s multicore test, and the high-end Intel Core i9-13900K and AMD Ryzen 9 7950X scored over 24000 and 22000 points, respectively. The Mac Mini’s processor is still a mobile processor with those same limitations, meaning that it’s just not as powerful as what you could get from other desktops.

The upside is that the Mac Mini is incredibly power-efficient compared to most desktop PCs. The M2 processor is rated at 20W, and the Mac Mini itself is designed to use up to 150W for the M2 version and 185W for the M2 Pro version. By comparison, the desktop Intel Core i5-13600K uses up to 125W, more than six times what the M2 processor uses. It even uses less power than the Core i5-13600H mobile chip, which is rated at 45W.

So, is the M2 Mac Mini competitive with traditional desktop PCs for performance? No, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s still more powerful than what you will get with most productivity laptops, and it’s enough to do most tasks seamlessly. It’s about as powerful as you can get for just $600.

The Apple Mac Mini M2’s design hasn’t been upgraded since the last generation, but there’s definitely room for small improvements when it comes to things like sound quality.

I know what you’re thinking—I just praised the M2 Mac Mini for having the same design as the M1 Mac Mini, but the same upsides also come with the same downsides. The integrated speakers still sound hollow and tinny, and the base model still only has two Thunderbolt ports. (At least the upgraded M2 Pro model has four Thunderbolt ports.)

Like the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro 13 before it, the M2 Mac Mini’s SSD is notably slower than the SSD on the M1 processor from 2020. The M2 Mac Mini hits about 1500 MB/s for both read and write speeds in the DaVinci Blackmagic disk speed test, whereas the M1 MacBook Air hit over 2100 MB/s for write speeds and 2800 MB/s for read speeds. Similar read/write speeds have been observed on the Mac Mini M2 Pro, as well.

If you’re looking for a general PC that can handle occasional heavier processing like photo editing an album in Lightroom or producing a short video in Premiere, the M2 Mac Mini is still fast enough to get the job done. Even though it’s slower than its predecessor in this area, there isn’t a major loading time increase on the M2.

However, if you do plan to use the Mac Mini to edit photos and videos or for 3D modeling, then the M2 Pro’s extra two performance cores make enough of a difference even with slower read/write speeds to justify the expense.

Like many others, this mini computer is a standalone purchase with no additional upgrades when it comes to Apple accessories.

The Mac Mini might be the least expensive Apple computer, but you don’t get a lot of the usual creature comforts.

That said, there are many great 27-inch 4K monitors these days that cost $400 or less, and a good 1080p monitor can cost under $200. A good wireless mouse and keyboard can easily be found for less than $100 combined if bought new. If you expand your search to pre-owned and refurbished goods, that will bring the price down even more (and always remember to ask your friends, family, and coworkers if they have any old mice or keyboards they’ve been meaning to get rid of). For those fortunate enough to live in areas full of offices or other tech-heavy spaces, a lot of businesses will give away older peripherals for free or very cheap.

The impressive processing times, coupled with its compact design makes the Apple Mac Mini M2 a winner.

The M2 Mac Mini is a great desktop for daily productivity and takes up almost no desk space.
Its M2 mobile processor is much faster than most laptops for $600, and it consumes very little power. If you need a Mac with a bit more juice, for $1,299 you can upgrade to the M2 Pro processor, which has extra video encoding engines for those looking for a multimedia production powerhouse.

While there isn’t a lack of options for small form factor Windows desktop PCs, none can compete with the combined power and size of the Mac Mini M2. It trounces most productivity laptops under a thousand dollars, and as an unobtrusive productivity PC for those who don’t game or travel much, it’s hard to beat the simplicity of the Mac Mini.

Adrien is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During his free time, he's usually wandering around Hyrule.

Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you’re confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we’ll compare notes.

Category: Technology

Source: USA Today Technology

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