When it comes to the Mac mini, one of the things I've always been most impressed by is just how much power lies inside its small form factor. But with Apple throwing its M2 and all-new M2 Pro chip into the mix, the 2023 model looks set to take performance to a whole new level.
Announced just last week, I've had a few days to put the new Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023) through its paces, and early results are very, very impressive. There's no doubt this will remain in our top spot of the best computers for graphic design, but let's take a closer look at what I've found so far...
Mac mini (M2, 2023) review: Price
Brace yourself. We're about to say something you probably don't hear much when it comes to Apple products. The Mac mini (M2, 2023) is actually cheaper than its predecessor, priced at just $599 / £649 for the model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. So you get newer hardware for less. Yes, you read that right. This is a move we can't help but be impressed with Apple by (particularly after the recent iPad price hikes).
The new mini follows in its predecessors footsteps, with a pre-configured model with 8GB of RAM and 512GB storage (and the same M2 chip) for $799 /£849, which is, again, less than the M1 version. However, unlike its older sibling which can have up to 16GB RAM, the M2 mini can be configured to 24GB of unified memory.
The all-new M2 Pro device starts at $1,299 / £1,399 for the 10-Core CPU, 16-Core GPU, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD model. That's the same price in the US and just £50 more in the UK than a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a smaller CPU and half the amount of RAM and storage.
Mac mini (M2, 2023) review: Design
The dimensions and overall look of the Mac mini remains unchanged with this new iteration, which I have to admit to being a little bit disappointed by. I know as PCs go it's small. Really small. However, I would love for the design of the 2023 model to have embodied its name even further. That said, connectivity has been a big focus, certainly for the M2 Pro, and I can see how making it smaller would have presented issues from that point of view.
I have to admit I was also really hoping Apple would continue with its more vibrant colour schemes of late with the M2 mini and offer something more eye-catching than the silver of the M1. I had visions of a beautiful matte black or shiny sky blue mini sitting on my desk, but, alas, it was not meant to be. Maybe I'm missing the point of the mini to neither be seen nor heard?
Mac mini (M2, 2023) review: Performance
I am testing the Mac mini M2 Pro with a 12-Core CPU, 19-Core GPU, 16GB Ram and 1TB SSD model. In terms of specs, this is one of the highest you can get, and to buy at this configuration would cost $1,799 / £1,899.
So what does that price tag get you, I hear you cry? Having only just got my hands on it, I've yet to test the Mac mini to its full capacity. Boasting a CPU and GPU, it's meant to be able to handle complex, labour-intensive tasks with ease. And I can confirm that it does just that. At one point I was editing 8K video footage in Premiere Pro, while simultaneously running Photoshop, Freeform and an obscene amount of browser tabs and it didn't even flinch. No lag, delay, jitter or sound to speak of.
Here's how the Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 1,646; Multi-Core: 14,768
Geekbench 5: Single-Core: 1,958; Multi-Core: 15,198
Given the power under the hood of this particular M2 Pro model, I wasn't expecting it to, however, the benchmark tests I ran threw up results that were even better than I imagined. For context, these numbers (right) showed the new Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023) to be much more powerful than the M2 Macbook Air, and almost 10% faster than the M2 Max-powered MacBook Air. It is a cheaper alternative to Mac Studio, although not as fast as the Mac Studio M1 Ultra chip (23,300 Geekbench score), but faster than the Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip (12,500).
But this model will be overkill for many, from both a price and performance perspective. The entry-level M2 mini features and 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, which Apple used as a demo model in a briefing last week. In it, the system ran multiple applications, including video gaming streaming with ease. It looked hugely impressive for a PC at such a low price, and we look forward to putting that particular model through its paces soon.
As is stands, the entry-level M2 mini is less than half the price of a MacBook Pro, but has exactly the same chip, RAM and SSD. The mini obviously requires other accessories to use, plus it's not portable in the same way as a laptop, but the mini now, unbelievably, offers an even more affordable way for creatives to get their hands on Pro-level performance.
Put simply, the Mac mini (M2, 2023) is very, very fast, and fully viable as a professional creator's main workstation. As I experienced, it will run several highly demanding apps, including Cinema 4D, After Effects, 3DS Max, Premiere Pro etc, simultaneously with ease, making it fully viable as a professional creator's main workstation.
Mac mini (M2, 2023) review: Connectivity
The Mac mini follows the same design as previous models with its range of ports (Ethernet LAN, two Thunderbolt ports, HDMI, two USB and an audio jack). The M2 Pro model, however, takes this up a notch, adding two extra Thunderbolt ports and support for up to three displays. This is also the first Mac to offer support for one 8K display.
If you're a digital content creator who requires a multiple, high-res display set-up, you can be confident the M2 Pro model will deliver.
Should you buy the Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023)?
If you're after a small PC that packs a punch, our early verdict is a resounding yes. The entry-level model offers an impressive amount of power and truly excellent value for money, and the same can be said for the M2 Pro version if you need that extra level of performance. Yes, it's more expensive, but so far I've yet to find anything his seemingly unassuming little machine can't handle.
What model you go for will depend on just how hard you need it to work and what your desk space and system set-up looks like, but both the M2 and M2 Pro minis are, in my opinion, a really solid investment for digital content creators.