First Impressions: Mac Mini M1 with Apple Silicon
I’ve had a few people ask me about my initial experiences with my new Mac Mini M1 with Apple Silicon, so I thought I would write down my first impressions after the first week or so of use. This isn’t an in depth technical comparison post… if you want that, have a look here, and on YouTube. With people asking, it is worth giving some honest feedback for those maybe looking to go down the path of buying one. I am a converted Apple fanboi, but this purchase wasn’t made just because it was a new Apple device… lots of factors went into the decision to go down this road.
Why a Mac Mini?
Firstly, why did I choose to go with a new Mac Mini M1? My 2014 MacBook Pro was well and truly starting to show her age and with the year off travel I hadn’t carried it out of the house for a while. the battery has become spicy, so I went to work replacing the battery with a new one with full intention to keep it running as my desktop PC for a while longer. The problem was that it was becoming painful to use… and with only 8GB of RAM had reached its limit. The one thing that was keeping it on my desktop was MacOS.
I am just a huge fan of its UI and integration into the wider Apple ecosystem. I use to joke that the best thing about MacOS was that it had dig (a Hosting guys best friend) built into the command line… and while not being far from the truth, the decision to go with the Mac Mini was tied to my love of MacOS.
The other reason I went with a Mac Mini over a new MacBook Pro was that I already have a work laptop and if we ever travel again, this will be my portable computer. So once I decided I wanted a desktop PC, I did some research on mini-form factor PCs that might be comparable to the Mac Mini, but ultimately, after reading the reviews and the bang for buck on offer, I decided to go with the Mac Mini M1 16GB.
Below are the specs of the Mac Mini M1 and shows the displays I have connected (more on that below)
Another thing that swayed my decision was that my existing MacBook Pro 2014 was able to fetch a decent trade in value which effectively wiped out the upgrade to 16GB of RAM and some, making this purchase a tick over $AUD1000 which I think is extremely good value and brilliant bang for buck. Note that this will vary depending on the model and condition of the trade in unit.
In terms of delivery times, I ordered it online from the Australian Apple store and it arrived from China within 7 days. No local stock of the 16GB, so that is why it came from China to Perth. The initial setup, once unboxed form the typically amazing Apple packaging was straight forward and the initial MacOS Big Sur configuration was as per usual. From there I went about downloading and installing my base applications, with almost all of them working on Apple Silicon natively, with some (Like Microsoft Teams) running under Rosetta 2 Emulation.
All the reviews I read up online mentioned that this Apple Silicon was fast! This thing really does fly! Now, this could just be because I was directly comparing it my 2014 MacBook Pro, but when I look at my Dell Latitude which is an Intel Core i7 8th Gen with 16GM of RAM, overall things are quicker. General web browsing, load times, graphical performance are all impressively sharp. Comparing my previous applications like Microsoft Teams, I no longer have to wait between clicks. As a side note, the NVMe SSD is quick and I got results up about 2100MB/s for writes and 2800MB/s for reads.
Connectivity and Display
A lot of the reviews make mention of the more limited connectivity options on the new M1 Macs (MacBooks and Mac Mini) There are two USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.0 port and there are two Thunderbolt/USB 4/ USB-C ports. There is support for dual displays display via HDMI, and displays via Thunderbolt. This works ok for me and I have two DELL 27″ displays attached, one direct via HDMI and the other is a HDMI connected through a Thunderbolt.
One of my biggest gripes comes from the 3.5 mm headphone jack being located at the back and not the front. This does limit the orientation of the box on my desk as I need to access the port.
The Mac Mini M1 has 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) and I also have a hardwire plugged into the 1GB Ethernet.
Quick Wrap Up:
The form factor, the speed and the MacOS factor means means overall I am extremely happy having used this in anger for more than a week now. Time will tell in terms of how this performs moving forward as I add bloat to the Operating System, but I have zero regrets in spending, what I believe is great value on a brilliant desktop PC. I’ll give another update once i’ve done some more video content creation and other heavier processing work… but for the moment, hoped this helps those tossing up weather to buy a Mac Mini M1 with Apple Silicon.