If you’re interested in a Mac Mini, there are number of choices available to you – Intel or M1, and copious options for storage. Which should you go for? But first, why should you buy a Mac Mini in the first place?
Why should I buy a Mac Mini?
If you’re after a powerful desktop, then a Mac Mini is ideal, particularly if you already have an existing monitor. It has all the capability of an iMac but at a much smaller cost and in a small footprint.
If you’re already used to MacOS, then this a bonus, as moving away from Windows is often a concern. From personal experience, it took me a while to get used to using a Mac, but now I find Windows to be clunky and difficult. Your experience may vary.
Intel or M1 Mac Mini?
When buying from Apple, you currently have a choice of either option, although this is likely to change in the future. The M1 sees Mac products switching from Intel chips to ARM. A lot of apps have been re-written specifically for the M1 chip, but many others haven’t. Don’t worry though, as emulation, baked into the OS, converts them on-the-fly. And because the M1 chip is so much faster, even after having gone through emulation the result can often be quicker than running the program natively on the Intel equivalent.
I’ve recently moved my daughter from playing Sims 4 on a powerful Windows desktop to an M1 Mac Mini. The game hasn’t been converted for the M1, so goes through emulation – yet, it runs quicker on the Mac. Thanks to the M1.
If you have the option, then I’d say to go for the M1. If nothing else, you’ll help to future proof your investment a lot more. However, if there’s something particularly “specialist” that you need to use (especially when it comes to games), check first that it will work on the M1 – a smaller number of applications don’t.
Having said all of that, there are some bargains to be had by sticking with the Intel version, as it’s no longer the latest, shiniest version.
Can you upgrade the Mac Mini’s memory or storage?
Whether you’re buying the M1 or Intel version then the answer is a resounding no. Well, unless you want to perform some major surgery on your device (e.g. the SSD storage is soldered onto the board). So, when purchasing be wary of not just your current requirements but what they may be in the near future too. Of course, you can use external storage (plug-in drives or cloud storage), so all is not lost.
If you have an older Mac Mini (3rd Generation to be specific) then the memory can be user upgraded.
Which storage option?
Apple currently offer M1 Mac Minis with a base storage of 256GB or 512GB, or an Intel i5 version with 512GB. All of them can be upgraded, at the time of purchase, to 512GB, 1TB or 2TB.
How much storage you need is entirely a personal choice depending on your intended usage. If you want to use it as not much more than for browsing the internet and creating a few Office documents, then the 256GB would be ample. However, if you’re photo or video editing, or using it for games, then a much roomier version would be best.
How can I save money on a Mac Mini?
There are a number of ways to save money when you buy a Mac Mini…
- Buy the M1 version! Yes, the M1 is a lot cheaper than the Intel equivalent. For example, the 512GB M1 is £899, compared to the 512GB Intel i5 at £1099.
- Don’t buy from Apple! Buying elsewhere may bag you some extra money off. For example, you can save 6% buying the 512GB M1 from Amazon or 7% on the 256GB M1. The best deal, though, is on the 512GB Intel model, which can bag you a cool 18% saving. If you definitely want the Intel version but are happy with less memory then the 256GB Intel i3 model is available from Amazon – a model that you can’t even buy from Apple.
- Look at refurbished! Apple does a fantastic range of refurbished products and you genuinely can’t tell that they’re not new. For example, right now you can save £140 on the 512GB M1 Mac Mini. This is how I bought mine.
- Buy used! Whether Amazon, CeX, musicMagpie or just eBay, there are plenty of places where you can pick up a used Mac Mini, of all ages and condition.