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Apple Mac mini (M2 Pro) review: Small but mighty

By Kenny Yeo - 30 Mar 2024

Introduction

Note: This review was first published on 16 March 2023.

The Mac mini is the cheapest way into a Mac and Apple Silicon.
 

Want a taste of Apple Silicon?

A Mac is many things but it is not cheap. And Apple very rarely drops the price of its products. But with the latest Mac mini – which is powered by the fresh M2 and M2 Pro chips – Apple has, surprisingly, made the Mac mini faster but cheaper, making it easier than ever for people to get into a Mac.

The TL;DR version:

A more powerful and capable Mac mini but at a lower price? What’s not to like? This is a no-brainer if you are looking for the most affordable way into a Mac.

The big news for many people is that the price of the Mac mini now starts at S$849, which is S$130 lower than the starting price of the last-generation M1-powered Mac mini. And with that you get the full-fat M2 chip with 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores paired with 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage. And Apple ain’t cutting any corners here, the last-gen entry-level Mac mini also came with the same amount of memory and storage.

The Mac mini will come in three off-the-shelf configurations and here they are and how much they cost.

CPU M2 M2 M2 Pro
CPU cores 8 8 10
GPU cores 10 10 16
Memory 8GB 8GB 16GB
Storage 256GB 512GB 512GB
USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports 2 2 4
Price S$849 S$1,149 S$1,849


Choice of M2 and M2 Pro

The M2 series of chips is Apple’s latest and the Mac mini would be available with either an M2 or M2 Pro chip. I’ve written about it in greater detail in my M2 13-inch MacBook Pro review so I suggest heading over if you want to find out more. But in a nutshell, here are the high-level highlights of the M2 chip.

  • Built on a second-generation 5nm process
  • Over 20 billion transistors in M2, and up to 40 billion transistors in M2 Pro
  • 8 CPU cores in M2, up to 12 CPU cores in M2 Pro
  • Up to 10 GPU cores in M2, and up to 19 GPU cores in M2 Pro 
  • Up to 24GB memory in M2, up to 32GB memory in M2 Pro 
  • Next-gen 16-core Neural Engine, up to 15.8 trillion operations per second
  • Unified memory architecture

The unit I received, however, is a custom order unit with an M2 Pro chip but customised with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 32GB of memory, and a 2TB SSD. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most expensive Mac minis you can spec out. Configured this way, the Mac mini costs S$3,817.20

I wish I had the most basic model to test but the upside is at least we’ll know how powerful a fully decked-out Mac mini with the M2 Pro chip is. 

What are the differences and similarities?

Only Mac minis with the M2 Pro chip have four USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The main differences apart from the processor are the ports and video connectivity. Because of the limitations of the M2 chip, you’d only get two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. The M2 Pro models will get two more for a total of four USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. All Mac minis will have two USB-A USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. And for an extra S$151.40, you can upgrade that Gigabit Ethernet port to a 10GbE port. 

Video connectivity is also different. Mac minis with M2 chips will only be able to drive up to two external displays simultaneously, while units with M2 Pro chips can drive up to three. Also, only Mac minis with M2 Pro chips will work with 8K displays (at up to 60Hz). The M2 chip only supports up to 6K displays at 60Hz. Wireless connectivity has been improved with support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

What would have really made the Mac mini better is if we had an SD card reader and ports on the front like the Mac Studio. The ports are all on the back and that makes connecting and removing flash drives and headphones a pain. 

The Mac mini is really compact. Here is an iPhone 14 Pro Max for comparison.

Physically, these models are identical to each other and also the last-generation Mac mini. Crucially, this means they are really small – roughly the size of a typical TV set-top box – and should fit on most desks easily. Alternatively, you could get a VESA mount and mount them behind a monitor. Build quality is high. Though the chassis is 100% recycled aluminium, it feels absolutely bombproof. 

One thing to note is that the Mac mini only comes with a power cable in the box. You’d need to provide your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse. And although it does have built-in speakers, they sound awfully tinny. You’ll need speakers or, at the very least, some kind of headphones.

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8.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Value 9
The Good
Well-built and extremely compact
Excellent performance
Quiet operation
Many ports (for the M2 Pro version)
Attractive starting price
The Bad
No ports on the front
No SD card slot
Base configuration is lean
Not upgradeable
Can get pricey if you go crazy on options
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