Apple Mac Mini M2 vs. M1: don’t make a buying mistake

Apple’s new Mac Mini M2 promises better performance and features at a lower price. But with the next generation of machines out and doing the rounds, you can still get a deal on the latest Mac Mini M1. Which one should you buy?

With the same external design and similar port options, the Mac Mini M2 looks like just an internal update to Apple’s mini desktop. However, there are significant differences compared to the M1 model, and they make a huge difference in performance.


Apple Mac Mini M1 sitting on the table.
Alex Blake/Digital Trends

Since the Mac Mini M1 is a recent product, we’ll cover this section on how it can be offered at a lower or better price than the new model. But not this time. The Mac Mini M2 is much cheaper than the last version.

The base price of the Mac Mini M2 is $600, which is only $100 less than the starting price of the Mac Mini M1. For that price, you get an M2 processor with eight CPU cores and 10 GPU cores, 8GB of integrated memory, and 256GB of storage. If you set the car higher, you can spend more money.

You can add up to 24GB of integrated storage for $400, 2TB of storage for $800, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100.

Unlike its predecessor, Apple offers the M2 Pro inside a Mac Mini. This model starts at $1,300 for 10 CPU cores, 16 GPU cores, 16GB of integrated memory, and 512GB of storage. It has the same upgrades as the base model, but can be upgraded to 32GB of integrated storage and 8TB of SSD storage (the latter costs $2,400).

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Someone is editing photos on an M2 Mac Mini.

Apple no longer sells the new Mac Mini M1, but you can still buy a refurbished model. The M1, the base model with 8GB of built-in storage and 256GB of storage, is down to $470 at the Apple Store. This is the only good deal available. Even up to 512GB of storage costs $640, with 16GB of integrated storage and 1TB of storage costing nearly $1,000.

Unfortunately, trading on older marketplaces like BackMarket and eBay won’t yield better deals. The price of the Mac Mini M1 will likely drop over the next few months, but the Mac Mini M2 is the better option for now.

Ports and connections

Alex Blake/Digital Trends

The Mac Mini M2 and M1 share the same ports with a small but important caveat. The basic Mac Mini M2 and the original M1 come with two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI connectivity, Ethernet, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the M2 model supports Thunderbolt 4, while the M1 is locked to Thunderbolt 3.

You can drive two displays on both – up to 6K at 60Hz via the Thunderbolt connection, and up to 4K at 60Hz via HDMI. However, you can replace the HDMI connection with a second Thunderbolt display on the M2 Mac Mini, which supports displays up to 5K, like Apple’s Studio Display. It’s a small change, but vital in a multi-monitor setup.

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Ports on Apple Mac Mini M2 Pro.

The Mac Mini M2 Pro has several advantages. It has two additional Thunderbolt 4 connections, enabling three displays or up to one 8K display. If you want to pair a gaming monitor like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 with your Mac Mini, it can support a 240Hz 4K display (which you shouldn’t).

Some of the key differences between the Mac Mini M2 and the M1 are wireless. The M1 supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, while the M2 supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. Wi-Fi 6E is important because it only supports the 6GHz wireless band (though you’ll need a compatible Wi-Fi 6E router). Similarly, the difference between Bluetooth 5.0 and 5.3 may seem small, but Bluetooth 5.3 supports multi-device streaming, low-power audio codecs, and Bluetooth localization.

Performance and benchmarks

A Mac Mini M1 sitting on a desk.
Alex Blake/Digital Trends

Reviews of the Mac Mini M2 show that it’s a very powerful machine, especially considering its size and price. However, Apple only released the M2 Pro model to the press. It starts at $1,300, though it undercuts the benchmark M1.

YouTuber Brandon Butch tested the base model and found that the M2 Pro was 32% faster than the M2 in the multi-core Geekbench 5 run. Butch also featured an SSD in the base model. A 256GB SSD is half the speed of a 512GB, and even with an M2 core chip, Butch recommends upgrading to an SSD.

Compared to the M1, the base M2 chip is slightly faster. It’s about 12% faster in multi-core tests, but only 10% faster in single-core operations. This matches the MacBook Air M2 performance we’ve seen, and shows only a slight improvement over the M1 model.

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The real advantage is that the M2 Mac Mini has access to the M2 Pro, allowing it to achieve much higher performance levels than was previously possible. Given the price of the M2 Mac Mini, it’s hard to argue with the added performance, no matter how small.

Should you buy the Mac Mini M2 or M1?

Without hesitation, buy a Mac Mini M2. It’s a little faster, but more importantly, it updates some key connectivity features, and it’s currently priced the same as the Mac Mini M1. The only caveat is storage. If you want to see a big improvement, upgrade to the 512GB model.

However, the Mac Mini M1 still holds its own. If you need a basic PC without a ton of storage space, you can save hundreds of dollars with a refurbished Mac Mini M1. It’s not as fast and doesn’t offer the same connectivity, but it still supports the same apps and operating system as the M2.

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