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In January 2023, Apple announced updated Mac mini models and high-end MacBook Pros. The Mac mini not only received the base M2 chip, but also the M2 Pro, a really powerful processor for professionals.
Apple also offers the Mac Studio for professionals who want a more powerful system, but now that the M2 Pro Mac Mini is here, is the Mac Studio redundant? Are there advantages in buying the Mac Studio over the Mac mini? Here we will compare the Mac Studio to the M2 Pro Mac mini to see which machine is perfect for you.
The Mac mini was one of the first Macs to feature Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, revolutionizing the small form factor desktop market. As much as we loved the compact machine, the Mac mini fell behind when Apple released more powerful chips like the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which are included in the 2021 MacBook Pro models.
But now, with the M2 Pro, Mac mini has a much more powerful chip that caters to power users. While the Mac mini also offers the standard M2 chip, it’s now a device that can be great for power users who would originally go straight to the Mac Studio.
The M2 Pro chip that powers the Mac mini is available with 10 or 12 CPU cores, but you can configure the Mac Studio with either the 10-core M1 Max or the 20-core M1 Ultra. The 10-core variant of the M2 Pro is just behind the M1 Max in multi-core CPU benchmarks, but is surpassed by the 12-core variant in various tests. However, the 20-core M1 Ultra chip is drastically ahead of the M2 Pro, as expected.
Now you must be wondering if the applications you use will take advantage of the M1 Ultra’s extra cores. If you plan on doing some moderate video and photo editing, the M2 Pro Mac mini is more than adequate. However, if you intend to do a lot of rendering with your computer, Mac Studio’s CPU power can be worth the extra money.
If graphics performance is important to you, the Mac Studio is the obvious choice – provided you’re willing to pay the premium tag. Again, this depends on whether you’re configuring the machine with the M1 Max or the M1 Ultra.
According to Apple, the M1 Max in the base Mac Studio delivers similar GPU performance to the RTX 3060 at one-third the power consumption, while the M1 Ultra delivers comparable performance to the RTX 3090 while consuming 200W less power. Now let’s compare this performance to the M2 Pro chip in the Mac mini.
Even the M1 Max delivers better graphics performance than the M2 Pro in the Mac mini, despite the M1 Pro’s solid GPU improvements. However, if you don’t want to leverage additional performance beyond the M1 Max, then the M1 Ultra isn’t worth the money. The base Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip is the perfect sweet spot for most professionals.
The M2 Pro Mac mini starts with 16GB of unified storage, but you can go one step further and configure it with 32GB of RAM. This would be beneficial if you tend to run a lot of programs in the background and need a bit more headroom.
The good news for potential Mac Studio buyers is that the base model comes standard with 32GB of unified storage. But if you think you’re a productive power user and need more, you can go all out and configure it with up to 128GB of unified storage alongside the M1 Ultra.
ports and connectivity
Both the Mac Studio and Mac mini have enough USB ports for most people. The M2 Pro Mac mini has four Thunderbolt 4 ports and two USB-A ports. On the other hand, the base model Mac Studio also includes four Thunderbolt 4-capable USB 4 ports, two USB-C ports, and two USB-A ports. And if you go for the M1 Ultra variant, you get six Thunderbolt 4 ports and two USB-A ports.
You also get HDMI and Ethernet ports on both machines. However, the Mac mini supports the Gigabit LAN standard, while the more expensive Mac Studio offers 10 Gigabit LAN as standard. In addition, the Mac Studio offers an SDXC card slot that allows you to conveniently transfer photos and videos.
You can connect Mac mini to two 6K displays and another 4K monitor at the same time. But if you can afford the Mac Studio, you can connect it to four 6K displays and another 4K monitor at the same time for a crazy desktop setup.
As for wireless connectivity, Mac mini has updated wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, while Mac Studio supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Mac mini and Mac Studio share a similar footprint, so they take up the same amount of space on your desk. However, the more powerful Mac Studio is taller than two Mac minis stacked on top of each other. As a result, the Mac mini is easier to carry around and wins in the portability department.
Internally, the Mac mini features a single-fan setup to cool its M2 Pro chip, and honestly, it does a pretty good job when it comes to thermals. To match the performance of the M1 Max or M1 Ultra, the Mac Studio features a dual-fan setup with bottom air intake and rear perforations to push hot air out.
Whether you choose the Mac mini or the Mac Studio, you don’t have to worry about overheating issues like many small form factor Intel-based PCs do.
In the end, it all comes down to price. Sure, the Mac mini doesn’t deliver the same performance as the Mac Studio in some categories, but at the same time you’re paying significantly less money and still getting a powerful machine.
The M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1,299 for the base model with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. In comparison, the Mac Studio starts at $1,999 for the base M1 Max variant with 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. However, things start to change when you update the Mac Studio.
The M1 Ultra model starts at a whopping $3,999, and if you want to go all out with the 64-core GPU, you’ll have to pay a grand extra. The Mac Studio falls into a completely different category in this price range and is harder to compare to the Mac mini. You might as well measure it against the Intel-based Mac Pro.
Not everyone needs the powerful Mac Studio
As much as we could say about the Mac Studio’s performance, we’d have a hard time recommending it to most people. It’s a machine aimed at professionals; Anyone eyeing the Mac Pro should seriously consider investing in this portable powerhouse.
For someone who wants the best combination of performance and value, the M2 Pro Mac mini can handle almost any task you throw at it. But if you really need the extra GPU power or want a more future-proof desktop, the base Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip is worth considering.
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