From Mac mini to MacBooks and iMac (Pro)s to Mac Pro, Apple offers a computer for every application, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. We try to navigate you through the offer and give you a decision support.
On this page, we go into detail about the Mac mini and Mac Studio desktop models (with mention of the MacBook Air as an alternative). For an overview of the different MacBook and iMac models, follow the links in the overview below.
The display is a quick decision criterion: Do you want a large display, but don’t have one yet and want a tidy desk? Then the iMac is the first choice. No desktop computer has established itself as a designer furnishing item with its beauty and good usability like the iMac.
We have also created a separate detail page for the distinctions between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. The criteria for the mobile Macs is portable computing power, webcam quality as well as display brightness and color reproduction. We show you the best choice for your budget.
Alternative: MacBook Air and Mac mini – M1 vs. M2
Since the criteria for the iMac and the mobile MacBooks are quite clear, we refer directly to the detailed pages for these computers above. The decision between the Mac mini M2 and the MacBook Air M1 is more interesting, which we will briefly discuss here.
If you already have the peripherals such as mouse, keyboard and monitor, you are well prepared and perhaps have a Mac mini in mind – this is then a good purchase. However, it looks different when you don’t have any hardware at all. If you buy the keyboard and trackpad from Apple, you’ll have to add over $300. Together with the smallest M2 Mac mini, you’ll end up around $900 – a complete MacBook Air M1 only costs about $50 more and includes screen, battery and webcam.
The M2 is a bit faster, of course. The Mac mini has the advantage that it still has an active fan, which ensures that the chip does not have to throttle its performance during long periods of load – but that hardly makes a difference for normal office work.
Maybe it is more attractive for you to buy a complete MacBook Air and use it with an external monitor. Keep in mind that a Mac mini has more ports on the back. The MacBook Air only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
The whole range of possible models and sensible equipment for the Mac mini can be found here: MacBook Air details on the MacBook details page.
When to buy a Mac mini?
The Mac mini M2 was released in January 2023.
- first Mac mini with Apple Silicon M2 and M2 Pro Chip
- silver color
- max. 32 GB RAM
Which Mac mini to buy? Decision criteria.
The Mac mini has found two new places in the portfolio in the M2: on the one hand, it has become cheaper and now serves as the cheapest entry-level computer with an M2 chip, and on the other hand, it offers a very powerful alternative with the M2 Pro chip for all those who need a lot of computing power, but the demands or the budget do not justify a Mac Studio – besides, the flat case of the mini still looks more pleasing.
The M2 Pro model also comes with more ports on the back (as many as the Intel model used to have). Also, the latest edition of the Mac mini now supports up to three monitors, so CAD enthusiasts or day traders should be happy with the display options.
Lots of power and low power consumption.
The main difference is the fact that the normal M2 model comes with fewer interfaces and can also control one less monitor. However, a 10 Gbit network is optionally available for both models. The M2 Pro models can be ordered with up to 64 GB of working memory, whereas the M2 models stop at 24 GB.
The processors have at least eight cores in the small model, the M2 Pro comes with ten cores. The smallest SSD storage size is a fair 256 GB – but we would invest some money to upgrade it – or simply connect an external SSD for your archives.
When choosing the memory, make sure that it is not upgradeable – you have to choose the right size right away.
Three popular monitors for Mac mini
- Dell: 4K, HDMI, no USB-C
- Samsung: affordable widescreen
- LG: innovative display format
Mac mini can be combined with numerous monitors.
What has changed?
As already mentioned, the M2 model comes with fewer interfaces: there is one Ethernet, two Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A ports, one HDMI 2.0 and an audio connection. The advantage of the Pro model: it can drive three monitors instead of only two.
The connectors on the back of the Pro model: There are four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB 3.0 and one HDMI port, plus a 3.5mm jack connector. The network is connected either with 1 GBit/s or with 10, which then costs extra.
Mac mini M2 Pro
- 8-Core-Processor (max. 12)
- 12-Core GPU (max. 19)
- 16 GB RAM, optional up to 64 GB
- 256 GB, optional up to 8 TB
- four Thunderbolt 4 ports
Mac mini M2
- 8-Core processor
- 8 GB RAM, optional up to 24 GB
- 256 GB SSD, optional up to 2 TB
- two Thunderbolt 4 ports
The same over all models:
- audio out
- two USB 3.0 ports
- one Gigabit Ethernetport
- ax 6E Wifi and Bluetooth 5.3
- HDMI port
Mac mini vs. iMac
The current edition of the Mac mini is no longer a beginner’s computer, but a professional one with a lot of computing power that is an alternative to the iMac.
This can come into its own if you need a lot of computing power, but want to provide all the peripherals yourself. It is therefore the most compact version of computing power and macOS that Apple offers. But also friends of free monitor choice can now get CPU performance on the level of iMac and can freely assemble their system.
When to buy a Mac Studio?
The Mac Studio was introduced early 2022 with M1 Max and Ultra Chips.
- first Mac with Apple Silicon M1 Ultra Chip
- Keyboard with Touch ID
- max. 128 GB RAM
Which Mac Studio to buy? Decision criteria.
Apple has built several processor variants based on the M1 chip: The M1 for beginners, which is already very powerful and extremely frugal, and the M1 Pro, which is found in the MacBook Pros, for example. The latter comes with twice as powerful graphics as the base model.
The M1 Max doubles the graphics unit’s performance again: instead of up to eight or sixteen, there are 24 and a maximum of 32 computing cores as standard. In addition, there are 10 CPU cores and 16 for the Neural Engine. It is, if you look at many benchmarks, the most sensible choice for the Mac Studio.
The M1 Ultra doubles this performance again on paper, and you get 20 CPU cores and up to 64 GPU cores. However, this does not exactly double the performance in everyday use. On the one hand, this can be due to the fact that there is always a corresponding coordination overhead in parallel processes, and on the other hand, not all programs are 100% adapted to this chip architecture yet.
This does not mean that this chip is not useful for some special applications. You should take a look at the corresponding tests beforehand. However, even for extremely complex video projects, the M1 Max is an excellent choice.
Three popular monitors for the Mac Studio
- Apple: the highest resolution
- ViewSonic: large with precise colors
- Dell: one of the best Widescreens
There is no shortage of high-quality monitors for the Mac Studio.
What has changed?
Essentially, Mac Studio has changed Apple’s approach to design and performance somewhat. In many areas, the Mac Studio puts the Mac Pro, which is still based on Intel technology, in its pocket and looks like a big Mac mini. There are even interfaces on the front.
Technical progress that does not focus on design.
In addition, you can get the excellent performance of the M1 Max chip starting at a fair 2299 Euros – and save the significantly more expensive Mac Pro. As well as its power consumption. The Mac Studio also remains quiet (although not completely inaudible). Apple’s Silicon Architecture has led to an extreme leap in performance with very low power consumption. The Mac Studio offers the performance in the form of the M1 Max and M1 Ultra at a very fair price.
Technical Specs Mac Studio
Mac Studio M1 Max
- 10-core CPU with 8 performance cores and 2 efficiency cores
- 24-core GPU
- 16-core Neural Engine
- 400GB/s memory bandwidth
- 32 GB RAM, optional 64 GB
- 512 GB SSD, optional up to 8 TB
- two USB-C ports (front)
Mac Studio M1 Ultra
- 20-core CPU with 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
- 48-core GPU
- 32-core Neural Engine
- 800GB/s memory bandwidth
- 64 GB RAM, optional 128 GB
- 1 GB SSD, optional up to 8 TB
- two TB4 ports (front)
Bei beiden Modellen gleich:
- four Thunderbolt 4 ports
- one audio jack
- two USB 3.0 ports
- one HDMI 2.0 port
- one 10 Gigabit Ethernetport
- ax WLAN and Bluetooth 5.0
- SDXC card reader
Mac Studio M1 Pro vs. Mac mini M1
The M1 chip is so powerful that it is perfectly adequate for everyday office work and is very energy efficient as well as capable of handling 4K and occasional 8K video projects with ease. This makes a Mac mini the logical choice for the average user.
If the M1 is not enough for you, you only have the Mac Studio with M1 Max and M1 Ultra. This is at least three times as expensive as the mini, but almost cheap for the performance shown. In addition to generally higher performance, all chips from the M1 Pro onwards come with the Media Engine. This accelerates video codecs on the hardware level. The M1 can handle H.264 and H.265 (HEVC), the larger chips for professional use also ProRes and ProRes RAW. So if you work with these, at least get an M1 Pro (in a MacBook) or an M1 Max (in a Mac Studio).
Those who would like to see the M1 Pro in a Mac mini are currently still disappointed. It can only be found in the MacBook Pros. Perhaps Apple will add a Pro chip to the Mac mini variant with the M2 chip – that would be the ideal computer for semi-professional users.