Computing

Apple Mac mini M2: A Comprehensive Guide to Avoid Common Mistakes

Introduction

Apple’s Mac mini M2 is an impressive desktop computer that has finally received a long-awaited update. However, it’s crucial to pay close attention when configuring your Mac mini to avoid potential performance pitfalls and ensure that you make the most of your budget. In this buying guide, we will help you choose the perfect configuration and steer you away from any mistakes you might make with cheaper models.

Meet the M2 Mac mini

The Mac Mini M2 sitting on a desk.
Apple’s Mac mini M2 features the highly anticipated M2 processor, which is the key highlight of this upgrade. Reviews of the Mac mini M2 indicate that it offers approximately 15% more speed than the previous generation, although this may not be considered a significant improvement. However, Apple has also slashed the price by $100, bringing the base model down to $600.

Externally, the Mac mini M2 closely resembles its predecessor. It retains the same chassis and port selection, but Apple has upgraded the new model with Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E. Additionally, the two Thunderbolt ports have been updated to Thunderbolt 4, enabling support for either one 6K display or a combination of a 5K display and a 4K display simultaneously.

The most exciting update is the introduction of the M2 Pro processor, which is available for the new Mac mini as well as the MacBook Pro. The M2 Pro comes with additional cores, making it capable of running more demanding applications effectively.

Moreover, the M2 Pro Mac mini offers four Thunderbolt 4 ports compared to the two featured on the base M2 Mac mini. Additionally, the M2 Pro model allows you to expand the storage and memory capacity.

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Avoid Slow Storage on the Mac mini

A Mac Mini M2 being used for video editing.
Apple provides three starting configurations for the M2 Mac mini. While you have the flexibility to upgrade certain aspects like storage, it’s crucial to be cautious when selecting the model. Let’s take a look at the base configurations:

  • 256GB SSD
  • 512GB SSD
  • M2 Pro design

However, it’s imperative to be mindful of the model you choose. The 256GB configuration suffers from significantly slower SSD performance compared to the other options.

Similar to the MacBook Air M2, Apple has compromised on the SSD quality for the 256GB model. It uses a single NAND chip for storage, resulting in SSD performance that can be up to 50% slower. This is the same issue found in the MacBook Pro M2 Pro, and it is why reviewers are advising against purchasing the 256GB model.

Fortunately, the slow storage is the only drawback of the 256GB model. It still features the same M2 processor, 8GB of Unified Memory, and port selection as the 512GB model. We recommend investing an additional $200 for the 512GB model to benefit from increased storage capacity as well as significantly faster storage speed.

Configuring the Mac mini M2

Apple Mac Mini M1 sitting on a desk.
You have various options when it comes to configuring your Mac mini M2. For the base model, you can choose between 16GB or 24GB of Unified Memory and select from storage capacities of 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. Additionally, you can opt for 10 Gigabit Ethernet instead of the standard Gigabit Ethernet port.

Here’s the base M2 model that we recommend:

  • Apple M2 with an eight-core CPU and ten-core GPU
  • 16GB of Unified Memory
  • 512GB SSD
  • Gigabit Ethernet
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This configuration closely matches the $800 model suggested by Apple, with the exception of an additional $200 cost for 16GB of Unified Memory. While 8GB is sufficient for regular web browsing, upgrading to 16GB can significantly enhance performance in applications like Final Cut Pro and Xcode.

We do not recommend further upgrading to 24GB of Unified Memory, as it only provides a minor boost in certain apps and comes with an extra cost of $200 on top of the 16GB configuration. Similarly, you can choose to have up to 2TB of SSD storage, but this incurs an additional $800 charge. Opting for the 512GB SSD resolves the storage speed issue present in the 256GB model, and the Mac mini M2 offers plenty of connectivity options to support an external hard drive.

The M2 Pro model offers a simpler configuration. We recommend the following:

  • M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU
  • 16GB of Unified Memory
  • 512GB SSD
  • Gigabit Ethernet

This configuration strikes a balance between the SSD and memory upgrades. Although the 12-core M2 Pro is more expensive, with a $200 price increase compared to the Intel-based Mac mini it replaces, it can compete with even the M1 Max in the Mac Studio, making it the ideal choice for power users.

However, the upgrade is not necessary for everyone. The base 10-core M2 Pro is sufficient for most users. If desired, you can add 32GB of Unified Memory for an extra $400 or expand the SSD storage to up to 8TB for an additional $2,400. However, 16GB of Unified Memory is adequate for most users, and external storage options are available at a lower cost than what Apple offers.

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Conclusion

Apple Mac mini M2 buying guide: don't make this mistake"

Considering that the Mac mini M1 still sells for approximately $550 when new, it is advisable to opt for the Mac mini M2 instead. While the performance boost may not be significant, any improvement at the same price as the previous generation is worth considering. To compare the two models, don’t forget to read our Mac Mini M2 versus M1 comparison.

However, it’s important to avoid purchasing the 256GB model. Even though the 512GB Mac mini M2 is priced at $800, the same as the previous generation, it offers a superior storage solution. This is the recommended configuration for most users.

For power users, the M2 Pro is the ideal choice. Although it incurs an additional cost, representing a $200 price increase compared to the Intel-based Mac mini, the M2 Pro can compete with even the M1 Max in terms of performance, making it the preferred option for those who require additional power.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple’s big M3 MacBook event could be in danger.
  • Best Mac Mini deals for 2023: Save over $100 on a renewed Apple desktop.
  • Apple’s serious miscalculation with the 15-inch MacBook Air.
  • The M3 MacBook Pro may launch sooner than anyone expected.
  • Apple’s 32-inch M3 iMac could be facing yet another delay.

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