Apple M2 Mac Mini – Who Should Buy The Cheapest Apple Mac?

The M2 Mac Mini is Apple’s smallest and cheapest computer, but who should buy it? In this video, we’ll look at 7 personas or use cases for whom the M2 Mac mini is a perfect choice.

The Everyday User

The first persona is also the most general. You do basic computing tasks, browse the web, watch or even edit some videos, and light productivity or office work. The Mac mini has everything you need from a connectivity and expansion standpoint.

All of the ports are on the back, including the power button, HDMI port, 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2 USB-A ports (perfect for a non-Bluetooth mouse and keyboard), Gigabit Ethernet (upgradeable to 10Gb, which everyday users won’t need), and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Despite having 3 ports capable of video output, the non-Pro M2 Mac mini only supports up to 2 external displays, but that should be enough for most. Invisibly, we’ve got Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 support as well.

The base model uses the M2 chip, which has 8 CPU cores, 10 GPU cores, and 16 neural engine cores that are all faster than the M1 model it replaces. It also comes with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. While there might be reasons to want or need more memory or storage, I feel the base model should be sufficient for the everyday user.

You CAN still do relatively “heavy stuff” on the Mac mini, up to an extent. The everyday user doesn’t care if rendering video takes a bit longer, since they’re willing to wait. But even if you’re wiling to wait for processing, there are times the usage experience won’t quite work out. For example, you may see slow downs and freezes while actually editing the video or jumping around on the timeline due to the limited power of the CPU and GPU or not having enough memory, causing frustration if you’re trying to use many complicated effects and heavy processing.

This “real-time performance” bottleneck is especially a factor when it comes to gaming, which brings us to our next persona.

The Non Triple A Gamer

You can game on a Mac, if the games you play are supported on Mac OS, or you find a way to run them through compatibility layers. For the Mac mini specifically, you’ll also need to stick to games that don’t push the boundaries of 3D graphics.

Most AAA (Triple-A) computer games aren’t directly supported on Mac OS anyway, so even if you did get the more expensive Pro, Max, or even Ultra level chips with many more GPU cores, you may still not be able to put them to good use on the titles you want to play.

An exception to this may be the emulation scene, where plenty of emulators with native Apple Silicon support are available, and the M2 chips are emulation powerhouses.

And while intensive games may cause it to struggle, our next persona deals with another media format that the M2 Mac mini should have no problem with.

The Movie Watcher

If you love to stream movies and videos, the Mac mini is a great computer to do it on. You can use it as a regular computer and also play videos on it no problem, with hardware-accelerated video decoding support for HEVC and H.264 formats to ensure smooth playback. The M2 chip also has the media engine, which supports ProRes decoding, but the videos you’ll be watching probably won’t be using that. The support for HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG, however, could be useful depending on your display and content support.

You can also use the Mac mini as a more dedicated Home Theater PC if you have a large screen setup. Since the base model Mac mini has only 256GB of storage space, you’ll likely want to have an external or network drive to store the media files.

One trick you may not know, is that Mac OS has built-in support for connecting and outputting audio to 2 Bluetooth audio devices simultaneously. That means with 2 Bluetooth headphones, you and your partner can enjoy movies at full volume at night without waking up the kids.

Now, besides wanted noise like movies and music, our next persona deals with unwanted noise.

The Noise Hater

I absolutely hate computer noise. If you’re like me, then you’ll be glad that the Mac mini is pretty much silent almost all of the time. Apple’s official tech specs list the M2 Mac mini as emitting 5 decibels of noise at idle and browsing the web, which basically means you can’t hear it. If you start to do more intensive things, then the fan will start to ramp up. While it’s not the base M2 mini, I made a video that shows what the fan on the M2 Pro Mac mini sounds like, if you’re interested.

Basically, the Mac mini should remain silent as long as you aren’t putting too much sustained load on the CPU and GPU, and even then the fan isn’t that bad. For such a small computer, being able to achieve such low noise levels is an impressive feat.

Speaking of size, that leads into our next persona.

The Space Lacker

If you don’t have enough space in your room or on your desk for a large computer, the tiny size of the Mac mini may be all you can afford, space-wise. As Apple’s smallest Mac, the mini is a square aluminum block with rounded corners. The width and depth are 7.75 inches each, while the height is 1.41 inches, allowing it to fit underneath most monitors or risers with ease.

The small size actually means you can mount it directly to the back of your computer monitor to save even more space. There are several VESA mount adapters you can buy to do this. Just be careful that you can still reach the power button on the occasions when you need to. That’s why I chose to not mount my Mac mini behind my 48″ LG C1 OLED TV, since I wouldn’t be able to get to it easily.

Even if your monitor isn’t a good option, you can also choose to mount it somewhere else, like on the wall, or under the desk. Either way, the Mac mini is one of the best power to size ratio computers you can get. So much so, that you may want to get more than one computer, which is our next persona.

The Dual Wielder

You have a need for a second computer, whether for your own use, or for your family members. If you have a main computer, that would usually be fitted out with enough power for most of your intensive tasks. In that case, the Mac mini would be a great choice for a second computer, which should only need to handle more basic things. The M2 chip should have no problem here.

Its compact size and low price make it an ideal machine for families or anyone who needs a second computer for a home office. And besides the physical dimensions being small, so is it’s price, which leads to our next and final persona.

The Value Seeker

You want the best value a computer can offer, so you feel that you’re money is well-spent. After all, there are an infinite number of things we could spend money on, and spending it on a computer means not spending it on vacations, great food, or anything else that brings you joy.

Luckily, the M2 Mac mini is an amazing value. The Mac Mini starts at $599, making it Apple’s cheapest desktop computer, but can regularly be had at a discount for $499.

Even at the retail price, the M2 Mac mini’s value cannot be denied. Compared to it’s more powerful siblings, the M2 Mac mini’s single-core GPU scores are no worse than the M2 Pro’s, while the multi-core M2 Pro’s score is 24% faster. However, the price of the M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1299, which is $700 or 117% more expensive!

Compared to the M1 Max Mac Studio, which is 27% faster in multi-core, but actually 9% slower in single-core due to being an M1 generation chip, the M2 Mac mini is an even better deal as the Mac Studio is $1400 or 234% more expensive!

Of course, you don’t get the same amount of memory, storage, or ports as the more expensive machines, but the performance-to-price ratio of the M2 Mac mini is simply remarkable. And at $500, quite affordable as well.

So there we have it, 7 personas for whom the M2 Mac Mini would be a great buy. If you fit into 1 or more of these use cases, definitely put it on your consideration list.

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