When the Mac mini launched in 2005 as the first BYODKM Mac (bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse), it had the potential to be one of the most popular Macs ever made. Nearly two decades later, we think it’s a great option as an entry-level Mac, but it hasn’t really lived up to its hype, as specs, prices, and performance never quite reached the heights we expected.
Rumors that Apple was intending to enhance the Mac mini were verified when Apple introduced the Mac Studio in March 2022. The Mac Studio has a similar shape to the Mac mini, but is roughly equivalent to three Mac minis stacked on top of each other in height. The Mac Studio features M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors and is a fantastic computer, but there is now a big gap in the lineup with no desktop Macs offering the M1 Pro (which is only found in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models).
Now Mac fans who were hoping that Apple would enhance the Mac mini with the M1 Pro chip are hoping that instead Apple will launch a Mac mini with an M2 Pro. And there is a Mac mini ripe for an update: Apple still sells a $1,099/£1,099 Mac mini that features an ageing Intel processor. Apple could have discontinued this model when it introduced the Mac Studio, but it didn’t, indicating that there is still hope for a Pro Mac mini. Indeed, there is evidence that an M2 Pro version of the Mac mini is coming. Read on to find out when we might see the M2 Pro Mac mini.
Another reason to expect an update to the Mac mini soon is that at WWDC in June 2022 Apple updated the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with M2 chips, but it didn’t updated the M1 Mac mini at the same time. This may be because Apple intends to announce a M2 Pro version of the Mac mini alongside an M2 Mac mini.
We hoped to see a new M1 Pro Mac mini replace the still-on-sale Intel-powered model at WWDC 2022, but Apple failed to update it. Crucially Apple didn’t update the Mac mini at all, but it did update the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with M2 chips. The Mac mini’s absence from that line up does indicate that Apple has something different in store for the Mac mini.
The arrival of the M2 chip does suggest that there won’t be a M1 Pro Mac mini, but the arrival of a M2 Pro Mac mini does look plausible.
There is some evidence that an update to the Intel-powered Mac mini could be coming. In April 2022 developer Steven Troughton-Smith pointed out that the Studio Display’s latest software update includes a reference to a Mac mini that’s not yet available. Troughton-Smith first speculated that “Macmini10,1” could be a Mac mini with a new M2 processor, but later he changed his mind to suggest it could be an M1 Pro or M1 Max Mac mini.
A couple of days after Troughton-Smith’s tweet, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple is internally testing a a Mac mini with an M1 Pro, codenamed J374, along with an M1 Max Mac mini, but it’s possible this latter model won’t ship. He also indicated that Apple is testing an M2 Mac mini, codenamed J473, with eight CPU cores and 10 GPU cores (which matches the chip Apple launched at WWDC) and a Mac mini with an M2 Pro chip, codenamed J474.
M2 Pro Mac mini: Release date
In a June 2022 Power On newsletter Gurman indicated that Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips are coming soon. Gurman wrote “Apple will get more momentum from the launch of new Mac minis and high-end MacBook Pros later this year.”
Gurman suggested that there would be a “deluge coming between the fall of 2022 and first half of 2023.” Among the products he predicted will appear in that time scale are:
An M2 Mac mini.
An M2 Pro Mac mini.
M2 Pro and M2 Max 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
The M2 Ultra and M2 Extreme Mac Pro.
On that basis a fall 2022 launch for the M2 Mac mini and an M2 Pro Mac mini look likely. We expect to see something at an October Apple event.
We could be waiting until 2023 though. In March 2022, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated that a Mac mini will ship in 2023 (the 2022 Mac mini he refers to in the tweet is the Mac Studio).
M2 Pro Mac mini: New design
The Mac mini has had a similar square design ever since it arrived in 2005. Over time it has gotten thinner, lost the CD drive, and changed colors. There are claims that the next Mac mini will shrink even further, which could put it at less than an inch tall, based on renders. However, these more compact design rumors seem to relate to the new M2 version of the Mac mini.
Further rumors about a larger Mac mini are clearly related to the Mac Studio that Apple announced in March 2022. From the top, it looks the Mac Studio looks like a Mac mini, but it is a few inches taller. The larger form factor allows for the better cooling required by the M1 Max and M1 Ultra. Would the Mac mini need to be larger to accommodate the M2 Pro? We don’t think so—the chip works just fine in the MacBook Pro after all.
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.
The new model is likely to offer the same array of ports as the Intel model does currently: up to four Thunderbolt/USB-4, two USB-A, ethernet, HDMI and 3.5mm headphone jack. Apple doesn’t ship the Mac mini with an Apple keyboard, right now you need to provide your own or buy one from Apple. That’s unlikely to change, but Apple does offer the new Apple keyboard with Touch ID as an upgrade for the M1 Mac mini.
We still expect Apple will introduce a replacement for the Intel-powered Mac mini that will feature an M2 Pro chip. We don’t expect to see the M2 Max or M2 Ultra in it, although the company is said by Gurman to have been testing models with the M1 Max as well as the M1 Pro.
If Apple uses an M2 Pro, we could see between 18-GPU cores and 20-GPU cores, while the CPU cores could increase to 12. There are reports that Apple may use a new 3nm process for the M2 Pro chips, which could make the gap between the M2 and M2 Pro even greater than the gap between the M1 and M1 Pro was.
We may also see support for more than 32GB RAM for the M2 Pro. The M2 supports up to 24GB, so 48GB Unified Memory is conceivable.
M2 Pro Mac mini: Price
The Mac mini starts at £699/$699 and another model with more storage comes in at $899/£899. The Intel variant, which we expect to be replaced by a Pro model, starts at $1,099/£1,099.
It’s possible that we could see a price rise with the introduction of the M2 Pro-powered model. Such a price rise would serve to narrow the gap between it and the $1,999/£1,999 Mac Studio with M1 Max. Apple won’t want to make the Mac mini too attractive an option for those it wants to sell the Mac Studio to.
One place to look for clues as to how Apple might price this new Mac mini is the 14in MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip, which starts at $1,999/£1,899 (a full $500/£400 more than the most expensive M1 model). With that pricing in mind, we estimate a $1,399/£1,399 starting price for the M2 Pro Mac mini.