What Is a Mac Mini? A Guide to Apple’s Tiny Desktop Computer

You’re browsing the Apple Store and you see the Mac mini. But what is the Mac mini? What does it do? And should you buy one? Here, we’re going to look at everything you need to know about the tiny desktop computer.

Bear in mind, Apple currently still stocks an older 6-core model with an Intel chip. This is a much older model, and is likely going to be discontinued soon thanks to Apple’s Silicon plans. We’re only going to focus on the latest Mac mini models with the M1 chip.

What Is the Mac mini?

The Mac mini is pretty self-explanatory–it’s a mini Mac. Apple offers the desktop computer as a consumer-level desktop computer. The company does also offer the Mac Pro, but the Mac mini is much more affordable.

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Mac mini with display

Image Credit: Apple

Apple’s Mac mini works similarly to a typical PC. You buy the computer, and then you can use it with your own accessories to turn it into a fully fledged PC. It’s a great option for a desktop computer if you’re looking for an Apple device.

The Mac mini’s Design

When it comes to the Mac mini’s design, there’s not much to say. The product is very simple–it’s essentially just a small metal box. In Apple fashion, it’s got a nice finish, rounded corners, and the Apple logo on the top. It’s a metal box that looks as nice as you can make a metal box look, but there’s not much more to it.

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Mac mini Design

Image Credit: Apple

You’ll find the ports on the back of the device (we’ll get to this later), and a small power LED on the front. The device measures 1.4 by 7.7 by 7.7 inches, and weighs 2.6 pounds. It’s a really small device, so will fit easily on a desk.

Mac mini Performance

The Mac mini comes with the latest game-changing M1 chip. In case you’re unfamiliar, the M1 chip includes eight CPU cores and six to eight GPU cores. In reviews and performance tests, we’ve seen the M1 chip work faster, more efficiently, and quieter than any of the previous computers with Intel chips.

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Apple's M1 event components graphic

Image Credit: Apple

You’ll find 8GB of RAM in the Mac mini, along with 256GB of SSD storage, and a 16-core Neural Engine. Apple does allow you to configure the device with up to 512GB of storage. There’s no option for extra RAM with the M1 chip, but based on the processing performance, you’re unlikely to need it.

Mac mini Ports and Connectivity

Apple’s diminutive desktop comes loaded with plenty of the latest ports. On the back you’ll find two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. It’s nice that Apple included some USB-A ports for those accessories that haven’t been upgraded to USB-C yet. One notably missing port is an SD card slot, so you’ll need an accessory for that.

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Mac mini ports

Image Credit: Apple

In terms of connectivity, the Mac mini supports both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, as you’d expect. All of Apple’s official keyboard and mouse accessories connect via Bluetooth, so it’s nice to have the latest connectivity.

Mac mini Pricing and Availability

The baseline Mac mini retails for just $699, and the higher-memory device for $899. The Mac mini is a lot cheaper than any other Mac product, including the entry-level MacBook. It is worth noting that the only difference between the two devices is the extra storage. You’d be better off buying the cheaper model and spending much less to buy an external drive for the extra storage.

Before getting too excited, bear in mind you’ll have to purchase accessories and a display. The Mac mini is only the computer. You still need to purchase a monitor, keyboard, and mouse or trackpad separately after you’ve bought the device. Adding up all these accessories could increase the total price by at least a few hundred dollars, perhaps much more if you’re looking at Apple’s own display.

Related: What’s So Great About Apple’s Pro Display XDR?

Mini But Mighty

The Mac mini is the ideal desktop computer if you already own your own accessories. It’s got a very small footprint to take up space on your desk and comes with the latest hardware.

Thanks to the M1, the Mac mini matches the performance of most premium Macs as well, but for a lot less. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a Windows PC that matches performance for the same price.

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MacBooks and Mac mini

Mac mini vs. MacBook Pro: Which Should You Choose?

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