In this article, I am reviewing the Mac Mini with the new M2 Pro SOC inside. The new MacBook Pros have this chip as well, and I’ve tested it against machines with the M1 Pro, M1 Max, and the M2. This chip definitely brings some big gains in single-threaded performance. It also has two more CPU cores and three more GPU cores than the last generation. However, in several major workflows, it actually doesn’t scale as well as I expected.
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M2 Mac Mini
As for the design, it didn’t really change much. It’s all aluminum on the front, and on the sides, there’s a big Apple logo front and center. Then, on the back, there’s just a black disc with the words Mac Mini engraved on it. And as you can maybe tell, this thing is pretty fingerprint, not that it matters though because the majority of the time you will not see it. The top and the sides, though, are very resistant to fingerprints, which is great. The overall shape of the Mac Mini is like a rounded square. The edges here are not sharp, but they’re definitely very well-defined. And on the front here, there’s a tiny little light to indicate power.
This M2 pro mac mini has no battery, no screen, no keyboards, but surprisingly, a speaker inside. It sounds pretty horrific, so I wouldn’t use it. I think it’s probably only meant to play the startup sound so that you know it’s booting on. There’s only one color for the Mac Mini: silver. I think it would be way more fun if there were many different colors like the iMacs.
In the box the Mac Mini came with, and on the inside, there was only one power cable and one really large Apple sticker.
Mac Mini Ports
Alright, in terms of the physical design of the Mac Mini, one thing that surprises me is the number of ports on this M2 Pro model. It has four Thunderbolt ports, which is one more than the new MacBook Pros, but it still maxes out at three displays. Also, this year all the new M2 Pro and Max MacBooks, as well as this Mac Mini, have an HDMI 2.1 port so you can drive a 4K high refresh rate monitor from it or an 8K TV. I definitely think this is a good upgrade.
You can also get a 10-gigabit Ethernet port on this thing which, if you need a lot of storage, is highly recommended. This way, you can have a huge amount of cheap storage on a NAS, or in my case, a repurposed PC. 10-gigabit Ethernet is fast enough to edit directly off of. In my case, I’m using SFP+ cables, but it’s the same in principle. Adding this option means that you don’t have to purchase a fairly expensive dongle separately, and it also won’t take up any of the Thunderbolt ports.
The Mac Mini also has five-gigabyte-per-second USB-A ports, which is pretty convenient. All the ports on this thing are in the back. I feel like it would be nice if some of them, especially the USB ones, were on the front like how it is on the Mac Studio, but overall I think the amount and variety of ports is great, especially if you make use of 10-gigabit Ethernet.
Mac Mini Performance
So, I want to point out that although the M2 Pro does have two more cores than the M1 Pro, the two extra cores are both the much less powerful efficiency cores. So, the maxed-out M1 Pro and the M2 Pro actually have the same number of performance cores. Even with the new generation of core design, it ends up only about 15% faster than the M1 Pro in multi-threaded workload on Geekbench, which is honestly still quite a big improvement. But it’s just not the over 20% gain that you would assume by just looking at the core count.
However, in some multi-threaded workloads, such as building Firefox, it actually did surprisingly well, taking around 28% less best time to finish when compared against the M1 Pro and 44% less time when compared against the base M2 with only four performance cores. And in terms of single-threaded performance, the M2 Pro is really close to the M2. Depending on the task, it can be faster at times since it has a bigger RAM bandwidth. For example, in Speedometer which measures web performance, the M2 Pro does score quite a bit better than the M2 in both Chrome and Safari. It also beats the M1 Pro by 30% to 40% depending on the browser.
But honestly, I don’t really tell a difference in actual use in terms of why browsing. All these numbers are big enough that no matter how many tabs I have opened or how many things I’m trying to do at once, it never feels slow on any of these machines. They’re all primarily bottlenecked by the speed of the server that hosts the websites and also your internet connection. Only really complicated websites will show a slight difference, such as loading Google Earth, where both the M2 and the M2 Pro loads it noticeably faster than the M1 Pro.
But the same core performance does have some useful real-life impacts, such as applying filters in Photoshop. Here, the M2 Pro is able to get it done faster than the M1 Pro, but it’s basically the same speed as the M2 for most of the filters. So, for me as a comp size student, I don’t think picking the M2 Pro over the M2 is worth it for just programming unless you know that you will be compiling large projects often. But most of the assignments that I did in school were single-threaded and would have run at the same speed on both the M2 and the M2 Pro. So, I think for most basic programming and general compute, the M2 is likely to deliver the same experience as the M2 Pro. But for making larger software projects, the M2 Pro will give quite a nice boost to the speed.
However, I feel like the main reason to get an M2 Pro will be for the GPU cores this time. It can go up to 19 GPU cores, and in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme Unlimited test, it scored more than twice the points of M2. And it beat my 16 GPU core M1 Pro by 25%. So, on paper, this thing has great GPU performance. But in real life, the scaling is far less impressive.
For example, for a simple 10-minute render of 4K footage to a 4K video, the M2 Pro and M1 Pro took basically the same amount of time in both DaVinci Resolve and Final Cut Pro. They’re both only about 7% faster than the base M2, and they both got beaten by the M1 Max with 24 GPU cores by a large margin.
This is also the case when stabilizing a one minute clip in DaVinci Resolve. The M2 Pro is basically tied with the M1 Pro. Again, this could be due to the software not being optimized for the M2 Pro yet, but I feel like it’s more likely to be some other bottleneck. Especially since Final Cut Pro is made by Apple.
And speaking of other bottlenecks, I don’t think the SSD here will ever be an issue. I have the one terabyte model and it’s extremely fast. It’s not substantially faster than last gen, but it’s more than fast enough for pretty much all the things that I can think of.
Also, one huge benefit of this over a traditional laptop is how quiet it is. Here, I have it rendering a video next to my M1 Pro MacBook and it’s a lot quieter. It makes me think that even an M2 Max can definitely be cooled adequately in this type of chassis. But unfortunately, the Mac Mini only goes up to the M2 Pro. I think the M2 Max chip will probably be in the Mac Studios, but you have to wait a bit longer for those to get the new M2 series SOCs.
Mac Mini Price
Alright, in terms of price, when spec matched, the Mac Mini is $700 less than the new 14-inch MacBook Pro, which is a significant difference. Depending on your needs, this might make the Mac Mini a better value for you, especially if you already have your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Additionally, the Mac Mini might be more pleasant to use at home due to its quietness. On the other hand, the MacBook’s screen is quite good, and for $700, you cannot even purchase a high-resolution, high-refresh-rate 1600-nit screen. So, if you require portability or want a nice HDR screen, then the new M2 laptop is not overpriced.
Overall, for those in need of GPU performance and don’t require a portable laptop, the M2 Pro option in the Mac Mini is a good choice due to its lower cost compared to the M2 Pro in the MacBook. However, currently, the M2 Pro does not offer significantly better real-life GPU performance than the M1 Pro. It remains to be seen whether future software optimizations can improve its video rendering performance to match its GPU benchmark scores. For CPU performance, if your work mainly involves single-threaded tasks like Photoshop or programming, the M2 performs comparably to the M1, making the M2 Pro not worth it in such cases.
But if your work primarily involves multi-threaded applications like code compile, the M2 Pro would be a significant upgrade over the M1 series and the base M2, and it is likely comparable to the M2 Max and only slightly lagging behind the M1 Ultra. Overall, the Mac Mini M2 Pro offers pretty good value in such a small box. That’s it for this video. Subscribe to watch more here.
M2 Pro Mac Mini Review
Overall, for those in need of GPU performance and don't require a portable laptop, the M2 Pro option in the Mac Mini is a good choice due to its lower cost compared to the M2 Pro in the MacBook. However, currently, the M2 Pro does not offer significantly better real-life GPU performance than the M1 Pro.