Does it make sense to buy an M1 Mac Mini at the end of 2022? Given other options to develop, such as the MacBook Pro, Mac Studio, or other machines from other manufacturers, who is the Mac Mini for? Also, Apple was supposed to introduce its new generation of Mac Mini with the new M2 chip before Christmas, however there has been no announcement of any new Mac, and rumors indicate that the new machines will be unveiled in March of next year. There are leaks that also suggest that the price of these Macs will increase by around 25%. Is it worth waiting to get a more powerful but also more expensive machine?
These are some of the questions that I have asked myself lately, and in this article I am going to explain my personal conclusion that I draw and what I have decided to do.
A little background...
I've been developing apps on a 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 for about two years. I've been using it as a secondary work machine since my primary machine has been a Linux laptop. My workflow consisted mostly of developing and working on the Linux laptop and doing specific iOS development tasks on the MacBook.
The main problem with this workflow is the fact that I have to alternate between two machines to do my work. However, I have not been able to completely switch to the MacBook Pro, the reasons are, on the one hand, the lack of ports it has (only 2 USB-C ports) and the fact that having a small chassis led to thermal throttling when it had several open simulators.
The issue of ports is something that has brought me upside down. Not being able to plug the laptop into the power outlet, connect an external monitor, and also connect a physical device for development has been almost ridiculous on a machine that has the word Pro in its name. And lucky I have a wireless keyboard and mouse. Basically what I had to do was have it connected to an external monitor, something essential for me since the screen of this first generation of MacBook with the M1 chip is only 13 inches, and in the other port have a physical device with which debug. All this while running on battery, so when it got very low in battery I was forced to unplug something and plug the power supply.
The final conclusion after seeing all of the above was clear: I needed a new machine.
Why the Mac Mini M1 in 2022?
My interest then turned to deciding which machine would be right for me. Since I do development work for iPhones and iPads, it was clear that it had to be Apple hardware, which narrowed the decision possibilities quite a bit. The first question I asked myself was, do I really need portability? And my answer was a resounding no, after two years using the MacBook Pro M1 I hardly remember any time where I made us of its portability, I've always worked at home. So the fence narrows more... an Apple machine, MacBooks were out... basically I was left with the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio.
After seeing countless reviews of both products, I determined that the Mac Studio was too powerful for my needs, so I turned to the Mac Mini. I also saw the rumors about the refresh of the Mac Mini with the new M2 chip at the end of the year, so I decided to wait... and to my great disappointment, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, rumors appeared that Apple was not going to to announce new Macs this year, and that the new Mac Mini M2 was going to be pushed back to March 2023. On top of that, there were also some rumors that Apple was planning to increase the price of these new Macs by 25%, especially in Europe, where I live. Something that has already been seen with other Apple products.
So I asked myself, is it worth the wait? What will be the increase in performance that I will have with the M2 chip VS the M1 chip? And that 25% price increase, is it justifiable?
My first reaction was to look at the Mac Studio, after all if the price was going to increase anyway, why not buy a Mac Studio? But in the end this idea was discarded, too much money for a power that I was not going to take advantage of, especially for the development tasks that I do. The analysis that I extract from the Mac Studio is that it is a machine designed for professionals in audiovisual design, 3D creation, artificial intelligence, etc. Those people have a particularly high performance requirements, if you are in this group you know that you need a Mac Studio. For the rest of the people, including those of us who do more conventional development tasks, the Mac Studio is probably overkill.
The final decision
With the Mac Studio discarded, and without much desire to pay more or wait for the Mac Mini M2; I decided to buy the Mac Mini M1 initially launched in 2020. Specifically the model with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage.
The performance compared to the MacBook Pro M1 is practically the same, something that I already saw in many benchmarks on the internet. The reason is that both machines have the same motherboard.
Now, the fact of being able to have more ports to be able to connect everything without a problem and the fact that the box is much bigger and ventilates better means that I don't regret my decision. This machine works in complete silence. After running several stress tests I was able to see that the fan on the MacBook Pro M1 turned on at a certain point, while the fan on the Mac Mini remained silent, which is totally expected given that a thinner chassis means worse heat dissipation.
And why not the base 8GB model? Well, it was clear to me that I wanted the 16GB version, and it is something that I highly recommend if you are also hesitating between the two. In my opinion, any software developer should have a minimum of 16 GB. While you're developing it's noticeable, so it's worth the extra expense. Regarding the internal storage, I decided to buy the 512GB one because I know that it is the space I need, but if you can do your work with only 256GB then there should be no problem.
Should you buy the Mac Mini M1?
If what you are looking for is a machine to develop software, and portability is not a requirement; in my opinion the Mac Mini is the best machine in terms of what you get for what you pay of all the Apple desktop computers.
Of course, if money is not an issue you can opt for the Mac Studio, or if you prefer to wait, you can buy the new version with the M2 chip, probably with a slightly higher price as I have already mentioned; but why wait and also pay more when the version with M1 already performs well enough? At least that is the analysis that I have made of my personal situation.
I try to have a minimalist vision of life, and that also includes the tools I choose to perform my work. For now I have been using the Mac Mini for several days without any problem, I can perform all my usual tasks smoothly, this includes develop and compile Android, iOS and Flutter apps; so yes, I think it makes sense to buy a Mac Mini with an M1 chip in 2022.
I hope that this article has been entertaining for you; thank you for reading this far.
Happy coding :)