M1 Mac Mini vs Intel Mac Mini-review

Apple just released its new Apple Silicon Macs back in November. But, unlike the 13″ MacBook Air and Pro, older Intel-based Mac mini is still available on the shelves. So, what makes Apple do that and which Apple Mac mini is actually better? Here’s our M1 Mac mini vs Intel Mac mini comparison.

M1 Mac mini vs Intel Mac mini

Apple mini Mac

Similarities

The M1 ‌Mac mini‌ and the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ share some important features like design, storage capability, and USB-A ports. Here is the list of the similarities between these two devices:

  • Compact industrial design
  • Up to 2TB storage
  • Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
  • Two USB-A ports
  • HDMI 2.0 port

Differences

Even though the two Mac minis look pretty much the same, there are still some major differences, such as memory capacity and external display capability.

M1 Mac mini Intel Mac mini
  • 8-core Apple ‌M1‌ chip with 8-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 16GB unified memory
  • One 6k displays and one 4k display support
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Up to 6-core Intel Core i7 processor with Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Up to 64GB memory
  • Three 4K displays or one 5K display and one 4K display support
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet or optional 10Gb Ethernet 

 

Performance

The main difference between these Mac minis is the processor. Now, the new ‌Mac mini‌ models feature the M1 chip, which is the first Apple’s SoC chip designed especially for the Mac. This ‌M1‌ chip offers an 8-core CPU (4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores) with an 8-core GPU.

On the other hand, there are two Intel variants of Mac Mini:

  • 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
  • 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz.

Now, you’ve known the key difference in terms of the specs between these two models. Let’s move on to the M1 and Intel Mac mini performance test results!

Geekbench 5

Intel Mac mini multi-core test results

In the Geekbench tests, while the Intel Core i5 reached a single-core score of 998, the more powerful Intel Core i7 model came in slightly better with 1,101 points. Moving on to the multi-core, the i5 model scored at 4,651 while the i7 model achieved an average score of 5,474.

On the contrary, the ‌M1‌ Mac mini‌ achieves much higher performance with 1,682 points in single-core and 7,097 points in multi-core. These early benchmarks are extremely impressive.

Graphics

Metal Benchmarks

As you can see, the M1 Mac mini offers more than 4.5 times better graphics performance than its previous version. However, the M1 model lacks support for external GPU, which is a major flaw when compared to the Inter counterpart.

OpenCL Benchmarks

We also tested these Macs on OplenCL, a benchmark for apps that haven’t been optimized. Surprisingly, the new Mac mini is still more than 3.5 times faster than the Intel model.

SSD Speed Tests

M1 Mac mini 256GB vs Intel Mac mini 2TB

In these match up, we compared the based model of the M1 Mac mini vs the high-end Intel version.

Looking at the difference in speeds, while the Intel-powered Mac is faster in “Write”, the M1 Mac mini is stronger in “Read”. This means you can still get a really good SSD speed even with the based-model of the new Mac mini.

Logic Pro X Benchmarks

Despite the big difference in RAM, the new M1 Mac mini handled 90 tracks while the i7 Mac mini can only deal with 76 tracks. Not to mention the new model ran silently compared to the loud Intel Mac mini.

Web Browsing Performance

We used the web-based Speedometer to check the web browsing performance in this matchup. Here, the Intel Mac mini scored 146 runs/min when compared to 236 runs/min on the M1-powered Mac mini.

4K Video Editing

In this test, we played back a 4k footage with color-grading applied on both devices. The Intel Mac mini was glitching up, whereas the new Apple Silicon one was playing back perfectly smoothly, thanks to that much better graphics performance. And, when it comes to exporting, the M1 mini is 4x times faster, taking just 3 minutes instead of 12 minutes in the Intel mini.

Photo Editing

In this test, we used Lightroom to render 42-megapixel images on both machines. And, the result is totally not what we expected. 

With the advantage of 64GB RAM, the Intel Mac needed 2 minutes and 44 seconds to do the task. Meanwhile, the M1 Mac still faster at 2 minutes and 37 seconds. Even though the difference was minimal, note that the Lightroom app loves RAM. And, it is optimized for Intel Macs.

Gaming

We used the GFXbench to test out the raw gaming performance between both of these Macs. And, once again, the M1 chip proved its power and efficiency with 78 FPS when compared to 13.4 FPS on the Intel Mac.

Honestly, this is a big leap from a “non-game” system to a system that you can run games on now! So, it’s clear that the M1 Mac mini is more powerful than the Intel ‌Mac mini‌. But, you might wonder who will buy the Intel processors and why Apple keeps selling them? 

Actually, if you need to run Windows via Boot Camp or your workflow is dependent on older technologies, then it’s better to own an Intel ‌Mac mini‌. However, for the majority of users, we would recommend the M1 Mac mini for the best performance.

Memory

While the ‌M1‌ mini only has 2 options of low-unified memory (8GB and 16GB), the Intel mini‌ can support up to 64GB of memory. Besides, the new M1 chip makes it impossible to upgrade RAM on the new Mac mini now.

Although the 8GB and 16GB should be sufficient for most users, some workflows still demand larger amounts of memory. So, in this case, the Intel ‌Mac mini‌, which offers significantly higher RAM, is clearly the winner.

Connectivity and Ports

  • M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌: 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports.
  • Intel ‌Mac mini‌: 4 Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3 ports. 

You can connect up to 4 devices using USB ports at maximum speeds with the M1 Mac Mini.

Additionally, despite having the same Gigabit Ethernet, only the Intel model is configurable with 10Gb Ethernet. Meanwhile, the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ supports Wi-Fi 6.

Honestly, neither of the ‌Mac mini‌ models is better here. So, choosing between the two models will depend on what specific connectivity requirements you have.

External Display

The Intel ‌Mac mini‌ supports up to three 4K displays or one 5K display. Meanwhile, the M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ supports both 6K and 4K displays at the same time.

This means if you use a 6K display such as Apple’s Pro Display XDR, the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ is the only option here. But, if you want to use 3 displays, then you should buy the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ because the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ doesn’t support 3 displays.

Pros & Cons

  Pros Cons
M1 Mac mini
  • Reasonable price
  • Improved overall performance
  • Quiet and cool operation under load
  • Fewer Thunderbolt ports than previous Mac mini
  • No longer upgradable post-purchase
Intel Mac mini
  • Large storage (2TB) and RAM (64GB)
  • Upgradable RAM
  • 3 displays support
  • Higher starting cost
  • No option for a 2.5-inch hard drive as internal mass storage.

Price

Apple is still presenting its 2020 Intel-based ‌Mac mini‌ as a high-end option. Starting at $1099, this Intel version is almost double the price of the Apple Silicon-based ‌Mac mini‌, which is only at $699.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ comes in Silver. Meanwhile, the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ is a bit darker with the Space Gray color. Sadly, there are no other color options for both machines.

Related article: M1 Mac Mini Hands-on Review

The Bottom Line

Overall, you should only consider getting the Intel-based ‌Mac mini‌ if you heavily rely on Intel-supported apps that do not work with ‌Apple Silicon‌. Similarly, if you need 10Gb Ethernet or a large amount of RAM, the Intel-based Mac mini is the go-to choice here.

However, the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ is obviously better when it comes to processing power. And, it will be the best option for most users. The M1 Mac mini is not only more powerful, but it also has a more reasonable price than Intel-driven models.

We hope this article helps you decide which of these two Mac minis is the best for you now. Also, just let us know if you have any questions in the comments!

Read more: M1 MacBook Air: 8GB vs 16GB RAM

LEAVE A REPLY