REVIEW: Apple Mac mini (M1)

Most Mac users view the Mac mini as a poor step child compared to the iMac or MacBook models.  The mini has always had a small footprint (8” x 8”) but only comes with the basic guts of a more expensive Mac but without a monitor, keyboard or mouse.  One needs to just add these peripherals to get a complete Mac system.

Mac mini

Traditionally, the mini series has had a slower processor, less RAM, and hard drive space to account for its lower pricing.  But in November of last year, Apple introduced the mini with Apple’s own M1 chip at the same price point.  Most retailers offer the mini at $699 with 256GB storage or $899 with 512GB of storage.  Both models come with 8GB RAM.  However, if you want larger RAM or storage, you need to order your mini from Apple.  A 16GB RAM is an extra $200—non-user serviceable.

256GB Storage512TB Storage1TB Storage2TB Storage

In the past, I owned an iMac and was considered upgrading to the new 2021 iMacs with Apple’s M1 chip. Checking the pricing of the newly released 24-inch models, I expected to upgrade to a newer 27” or larger iMac closer to $2000.  I considered this as a financial decision to upgrade to a mini and transferring the same peripherals to the new Mac to give me a similar performance level. I never expected betterperformance!


To make this system complete, I also needed a new computer monitor with similar specs to iMac’s Retina 5K display.  I could easily find a monitor in the $150-200 price range that would do the job, but I preferred one that would approximate the resolution and brightness I obtained with my iMac.  My research led me to the LG 27UN850, a 27” 4K display.  This monitor offered 2 USB-C inputs as well as 2 HDMI inputs.

Although this monitor originally sold for $600, discounts can be found around $400 or less.  An alternative would have been the LG 27MD5KL-B monitor, a 27” 5K model designed for Macs.  The only problem with this monitor is the price – $1100 or more at most vendors!  I’m just not sure how much of a difference that resolution would make to the naked eye.


Hooking up this system was extremely simple but time consuming.  After attaching the power cords of the mini and monitor, I hooked up the HDMI cable (included with the monitor).  Then the display from my mini appeared on the LG monitor.  No settings needed to be made—just insert the cable!

I wish the software activation would have been as simple!  Updating from one Mac to another requires theMigration Assistant app.  Like many Mac owners who have tried to upgrade their Macs using this app find this problematic.  

In previous versions, you could not transfer data unless you first updated your new Mac to the same OS as on your old Mac.  However, with the current version of Migration Assistant, the app lets you update your software within the app itself.  Both the OS update and Migration Assistant decided to quit in the middle of both updates and so I needed to restart the entire process that took 2-1/2 hours just in itself.  Setting up the monitor, mini and software took about 3-1/2 hours in total.


The whole idea about going from an iMac to a Mac mini was originally a financial consideration. I suspected that the M1 chip would provide some speed benefits as well.

Frankly, I did not perform a serious of scientific test to verify my thinking.  However, I did a speed test comparing my 2019 iMac with the new mini using the exact same software on board.  To my surprise, the mini took 30 seconds to boot up from pressing the start button compared to nearly 3 minutes with the iMac.

My 512GB M1 mini was priced at $699 with discounts.  Adding the monitor at $400 and keyboard, mouse and webcam at $200, this was a complete Mac system priced at $1300.  This compares to a new 24 inch iMac with 512GB internal storage at $1700. You don’t need to spend a lot over that amount in order to get a fully functioning Mac system!

For those looking for a complete Mac system, an iMac or MacBook is definitely the way to go.  However, if you are into components purchasing the Mac mini would not only be a financial bonus but a speed boost as well.

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