For a couple of years (as it seems to me) I've noticed that Apple has been working towards welcoming a new generation with high quality but more affordable products. Think their "air" products and "se" phones, and such. However, and I want to get that out of the way now; it is NOT cheap. Affordable is relative of course. Note also that for years Apple has been moving away from the desktop, their focus was "This iPad is your new computer, you don't need a computer, and for like $500 to $1500 you can get a modern computer called the iPad". And while there's truth to that, HELLO, I still want windows management for my apps, HELLO, I still need 32 tracks+ for my logic project in a studio .. there's just technical limits an iPad type device has, over a prosumer/professional user with work at home to a full fledged couple million dollar studio.
Since 2020 Apple has been releasing their own silicon and created M1 products. This allowed them to have affordable products outperform, and boy they sure do. Every single experience from their cheapest product and up has not disappointed in the performance. Any M1 product from 2020 is still very very comparable in 2022, and will keep doing so for the same OS for a couple of years, and time will tell, but for upcoming OS updates as well.
Knowing how 5 year old phones, ipads specifically, and macOS products behave after 4+ years, I think the M1 products can change the average of that period to 5+ or 6+ years ~ especially on iPads and computers if you decide to not upgrade to every newer version.
The latest M1 products have more hardware under the hood than ever on a single chip. And I have always been against this, for valid reasons, for a bunch of reasons. And that attitude is now changing. Why? Well, because back in the day it felt that Intel powered devices or other ARM powered devices would have power consumption issues, heat issues, and performance issues. Too much on a small chip requires limitations and sharing resources. It's just not dedicated enough for big power to do what it is made to do. You get systems to slow down as its CPU and GPU start to get more to do. With Apple silicon M1 it seems they've found the balance that works with their chip architecture, power consumption, heat dispersion, they take away the latency with their architecture, and their software integration allows them to do a lot (a LOT) of smart (caching) tricks.
If they know what their hardware is, if they know what their software is, as it has always been. And you put your own chipsets on there, and in all your devices, from phones, ipads to computers, you have a unified system. And Apple has done exactly that.
100's of Watts of less power consumptions in some cases, and shared resources that work well with the efficiency chips, and they've removed the distance between the two, so throughput is doubled and no longer the technical bottleneck. All sorts of stuff.
Allowing laptops to do more with less battery sucking performance. To have less power needed, and so less heat on average use to get rid of. And meanwhile peak performance is possible due to the architecture of both the chipsets and the hardware they're in (laptop case) etc.
What we have now is that even if you buy a 2020 M1 mac mini, you get basically the same performance as end user 'actually using the device' as the iPad Pro, or MacBook Pro, or iMac 24" or even the Mac Studio. You won't get a 'damn this already feels old', as we did with older Intel devices.
Back in the Intel days when someone wanted a laptop for school but also for gaming, we'd still recommend a Windows laptop, because then for less money they would get an os friendly for school, while still not compromising for at home performance for kids to game on. Or we would say, if you want mac, and this is your low end budget, forget about gaming, just .. accept you get what you get - because otherwise it's 2000 bucks more to get close and then it's just worth to get a windows laptop.
Now in the M1 days the GPU seems to be comparable, the gaming question is simply 'what is actually available', and that landscape can change now as well. And in the M1 days the affordable low end is actually kinda a power house.
The question was: What's your budget, before I asked; what do you want to do with your computer, and expect that only these 3 are an option)
Now the question is: What do you want to do with your system, and what is the cap on your budget, and don't worry, the low-end affordable macs can probably do what you want ~ there's at least 3 options now.
Are Mac devices expensive? Yes. Of course. But, for the 'tech' that you get, it's actually.. weirdly affordable. Yes, I can't afford most of it, I don't want to spend more than say 1500 on a machine or maybe if it's for a serious project or for work .. 2500, but not 3500 or even 10k ! And trust me, apple has laptops and desktops that get way over the 5k mark. But the tech you get for your money is actually pretty affordable.
Today's Mac Studio for 5000 bucks with comparable performance, just the video card for windows is nearly 2000, the cpu is around a 1000, and the whole stable combo as a machine keeps ending up in computer-config-sites for me at 6500+ The apple mac studio solution is actually cheaper for me. That's crazy. But fuck is it expensive.
Can you game on the Mac Mini 2020 M1?
Yes, the minecraft game for example with all settings maxed out performs at 700 to 1000 for a Mac Mini - the same as fully maxed out iMac intel 27" system from 2017 which is over 3000.
Note: apple JUST removed their iMac intels from their site, but let's pretend you can still get it.
Would you ask me: Should I get a 2500 to 3000 iMac with 32gb ram, 2tb ssd and 27" monitor, .. intel i9 and pay extra for the good video card? .. or should i get the mac mini m1 with 16gb ram, 512gb ssd, buy a 27" UHD monitor for 200, and an extra 2tb ssd for usb-c port?
The answer will be: You get the same if not more performance out of that less than 1500 mac mini than you will out of that 2500+ imac. Go with the M1.
Mac Mini M1 or iMac 24" M1 ?
Well, the iMac is an all in one, very pretty, sure, go ahead if the budget allows it.
But the same config, more ram, more SSD, 27" monitor .. is also between 1250 to 1500
iMac 24" with 8gb ram is 1500 .. So I would recommend going with the mac mini.
It's literally the same M1 chip ..
But need to be mobile? I need a laptop, i dont want to drag my mac mini and monitor everywhere.
Sure, different ballgame/situation. Same principle applies. Budget? Go with the M1 you can afford, it will NOT be a bad buy.
Shifting gears now:
But what if it's for work, for prosumers, for people who really really need more, the professional.
Well, first: try what you can afford, tell me if you really run into limits. Maybe bump the RAM to the max, and if you know you're going to edit 4 to 8k video constantly, maybe make sure there's enough fast-internal-storage, rather than buying cheaper 6gbit max external storage. So that's where and why the price will go up.
But do that first, before jumping straight into a 5000 bucks high end ULTRA MAX PRO BANANA version of whatever they offer.
Whatever CPU higher than the M1 you get: Will be really great for prosumer work.
Whatever CPU hardware combo you get for the M1 that's pro, max or ultra, will be fantastic for prosumers and professionals.
And if you know what you need out of memory, storage, and CPU/GPU eating tasks, then go with the M1 Max enabled machines, pay for the upgrade, you know your job will earn it back in no time.
And sure, why not, if you have that type of work, investing in the ultra is a no brainer, pay the extra ~ and fuck it will be helping you.
But your kid at home doing homework, should not buy the max or ultra M1, it's ridiculous. They really don't need it. Show me first how the regular low end mac mini 2020 M1 with 8gb ram can't do for them what they need to do. SHOW it literally to me, because i will need convincing.
Okay, leaving it here, because I haven't even started comparing "which is better than what" yet, and I have strong opinions about that as well.
Should you buy a Mac Mini M1, even if it's from 2020?
If the question is budget first: yes.
If you can't wait: yes.
Will there be a Mac Mini M2 in 2022/2023?
I can't answer that, I have 2 opinions that are the extremes for both ways.
The Mac Studio goes alongside an iMac and Mac Mini, would the world end if they phase out the mac mini and say: ppl can still get the iMac? no... so i expect this to be a reasonable possibility.
Will they update? Of course, they always update, but .. sometimes they skip a few years to put emphasis on other products.
Will you regret buying it now and then in 6 months they have an m2? Yes, the m2 will be the next generation of these fantastic chips, it will probably allow m1 pro + more efficient .. equal type of performance for the same price, but this is always the case, wait a few years, we will have m3
Will there be a Mac Studio that I can afford? Say 1000 ..
I can't answer, it's aimed at being more pro, fucking hell it outperforms the mac pro they sell for 5000 ..
Why on Earth would Apple offer a $1000 version of it.
But then again, it's Apple, if they do phase out mac mini and have 1 powerhouse, I can imagine and i kinda hope that the mac studio desktop will be like this with the M2:
No Mac Mini, but instead M2 powered Mac Studio for 1000 to 1250 with 8gb ram (16 max)
Then M2 Pro for 1750 to 2000, with 16gb (32 max)
And M2 Max for 3000, with 16gb max, with option to bump to 32 and option for M2 Ultra bump for 64/128gb bump.
This way serious enough ppl who want mac at home might be willing to pay a bit more and not go with affordable mac mini for equal performance, but they know they get a beast from the get go for a bit more..
And prosumers dont go broke buying a monitor and mac studio with m2 prmax, it's still 2500 or less.
And professionals can go up to 10k in price, by bumping it to ultra basically with 128gb.
Then they have a mac studio desktop for home/studio.
And macbooks that are equal, but mobile.
And a mac pro server for everything that nobody ever needs.
As in some previous blog posts: i dont mind simplification of product line, they have too much right now.
Btw, for disclosure, i have a intel imac 27" at home, and a mac mini m1 from 2020. I wish i had the m1 ultra maxed out mac studio of course, but that's always the case. haha.
To buy something: What are you going to use it for, what's your budget, and if you dont trust that cheaper means "still good" then buy it, use it, and prove me wrong when i say that the M1 or M2 or M3 cheapest mac they will offer is not meeting your performance standards. Because i truly think it's just old thinking based on old experiences.
I will write another post going through the imac setup they have now, ipad setup, iphone setup.. etc, even though I know it will SOON change