It’s about a year and a half since Apple introduced two Mac mini models with the M1 chip (reviewed here: M1 Mac mini review). The Mac mini starts at $699/£699 and offers the exact same processor and graphics options as more expensive MacBook and iMac options. Of all the M1 Macs on offer from Apple the Mac mini is our favourite as we think it offers the best in terms of specs coupled with a low price.
By the fall of 2022 the M1 chip will be two years old though, so attention is now turning to the next generation of Apple silicon – the M2 system on chip. In this article we will look at what the M2 Mac mini might offer, and when it will launch.
Work on the new M2 Mac mini is evidently taking place at Apple. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has reported that Apple is testing an M2 Mac mini, codenamed J473, with eight CPU cores and 10 GPU cores. Gurman also indicated that Apple is testing a Mac mini with an M1 Pro, codenamed J374 and an M1 Max Mac mini, but it’s possible this model won’t ship. We discuss the M1 Pro Mac mini separately, so if that’s the Mac mini upgrade you are most interested in read: New Mac mini 2022 with M1 Pro: What you need to know.
Mac mini M2 release date
A M2 Mac mini is expected in 2022 – perhaps in October.
Apple introduced the M1 chip in the Mac mini, MacBook Air and 13in MacBook Pro at its One More Thing event on November 10 2020. As we near the two year anniversary of that launch, the introduction of the M2 chip in the fall of 2022 doesn’t only look likely, it looks tardy.
But there are many reasons why the Mac chip development isn’t happening as fast as we might have expected. For one, the past few years have been a little unusual and the pandemic has lead to global component shortages and factory shutdowns.
We could be waiting until 2023 though. In March 2022 an unverified Twitter account for analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated that a new Mac mini will ship in 2023. He doesn’t offer specifics, but it’s possible this 2023 Mac mini could be the M2 Mac mini.
It’s also possible that we could see the M2 Mac mini and other M2 Macs at WWDC in June. In a February 2022 PowerOn newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman stated that “several new Macs” will be revealed at WWDC22 in June. It’s possible that the M2 Mac mini could be among these new Macs.
Mac mini M2: Design
The Mac mini has had a similar square design ever since Apple introduced it in 2005, over time it has gotten thinner, lost the CD drive, and had a color change. The new Mac mini could get a brand new look, according to reports.
Jon Prosser claimed back in June 2021 that the next Mac mini will shrink even further, which could put it at less than an inch tall. The body could be getting a change too. While the Mac mini has had its aluminum chassis since 2010, Apple is reportedly considering a “plexiglass” top, according to Prosser. That could mean Apple will bring a little pizzazz to the Mac mini, which is currently limited to silver and space gray.
Prosser shared the news in a May 2021 edition of Front Page Tech, embedded below:
It should be pointed out that Prosser has been wrong on several occasions before – he’s had some big hits, but his misses include one so severe that he had to shave his eyebrows – so the information should be taken with a pinch of salt. AppleTrack currently gives him an accuracy rating of 74.2% (that score changes all the time). Read more about the Apple leakers in our round up: The Apple leakers worth following.
Ian Zelbo made some illustrations based on Prosser’s findings. The renders indicate that the new mini will come in silver and white, rather than one of the new bright colour options seen on the 24in iMac. These renders are based on information from Prosser’s sources, but they may still give a good idea of what Apple could unveil.
Prosser isn’t the only one expecting a new look Mac mini. In August 2021, Mark Gurman of Bloombergreported that the Mac mini will have “an updated design and more ports than the current model.”
Finally, the circular rubber pad on the bottom of the new Mac mini is said to be replaced with two horizontal strips as we see on the underside of the 24-inch iMac stand.
However, there may be no redesign in the pipeline. In March 2022 a tweet from an account claiming to be for analyst Ming-Cho Kuo stated that the 2023 Mac mini will have the same form and design as the current model.
Mac mini M2: Spec
The Mac mini was among the first Macs to get the M1 processor, so it makes sense that the it would be the first to get the follow-up M2 chip.
The M2 will likely be based on TSMC N4P enhanced 5nm process similar to the A15 processor, according to a report by The Information. There are indications that production of N4P processes won’t start until the second half of 2022. So the M2 Macs may not be released before autumn 2022.
The M1 chip offers eight CPU cores, four of which are high efficiency cores and four are high performance cores. It is thought that the M2 CPU will feature the same eight CPU cores as the M1, evenly split between performance and efficiency.
In May 2021 Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggested that the M2 (apparently codenamed Staten), will include the same eight cores as the M1 chip, but it will run faster.
However, the N4P process that Apple is said to be using for the M2, could allow a transistor density that’s about six percent higher, which could enable Apple to integrate 10 CPU cores into the M2. These individual cores could be clocked a little faster than in the M1 as well.
Another possibility is that Apple could adjust the number of high performance and high efficiency cores. The M1 has four high performance cores and four high efficiency cores, while the M1 Pro and Max have twice the number of high performance cores (eight), but fewer efficiency cores (two). The next gen M2 could also increase the number of high efficiency cores.
The M2 offers 7 or 8 graphics cores. This could be set to increase: In the May 2021 report mentioned above Gurman suggested that the M2 could offer 9 or 10-GPU cores.
A 10-core GPU would be double the 5 cores in the A15.
RAM & Storage
The M1 in the Mac mini has just two RAM configurations—8GB and 16GB—while the Intel version that’s still on sale maxes out at 64GB. The M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro machines, on the other hand, start at 16GB and top out at 64GB of memory.
We’d like to see an M2 Mac mini that could support up to 32GB memory, but we think that such an option is more likely for the M1 Pro Mac mini, which we hope Apple will introduce at WWDC. It seems more likely that the M2 Mac mini will support 8GB RAM as standard and 16GB as a build-to-order option. If you want more then hopefully the Mac mini Pro will fulfil that need.
Storage is likely to start at 256GB for the M2 model, with a maximum of 4TB or so.
The current Mac mini models offer two USB-4/Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A port, an HDMI 2.0 port, as well as Ethernet snd a headphone port. It’s likely that this will carry through to the new iteration. The M1 Pro version of the Mac mini could get two additional Thunderbolt/USB-C ports for a total of four.
Prosser says the new mini likely won’t bring back the SDXC card slot that appeared on the MacBook Pro and Mac Studio.