The M1 Mac mini may be faster than the portable M1 MacBook Air, but it doesn’t include a monitor, mouse, or keyboard, making the cost about the same.
Apple has three new Mac computers that feature the M1 chip, with the two least expensive models being the 13-inch MacBook Air and the Mac mini. Clearly, those needing a computer on the go will choose the notebook computer, the MacBook Air. However, many use a laptop at home and in the office but rarely travel with it. Since the Mac mini costs less, is it a better choice?
The M1 chip is an exciting new system on a chip that’s designed for laptops and low-power desktops. Apple announced the new processor in November along with two MacBook laptops and a Mac mini that are the first of the family to use Apple’s new chip. Within two years all Mac computers will use a similar Apple processor, instead of Intel’s CPU. Whether discrete graphics cards will be available in future Mac computers is unknown, but for these first offerings, the GPU is included with the M1.
Both the new Mac mini and MacBook laptops use the same M1 chip. On the base-level MacBook Air, the GPU has seven cores, while every other M1 GPU has eight cores. This may not make a big difference, but it’s worth noting. Of course, the laptop includes a 13.3-inch display with True Tone technology and P3 color space, a backlit keyboard, and a force-touch trackpad. The Mac mini is more like a micro tower, with no keyboard, mouse or monitor included. At $699, the Mac mini has an extra $300 to spare for those items compared with the $999 MacBook Air. That means price-wise, the Mac mini has the potential for lower cost, but the total cost will likely be very close to that of the MacBook Air.
mini & Air Performance & Usage Considerations
When it comes to performance, Apple doesn’t really make it clear on the website which would be faster, however, one would expect the desktop to win in most cases. A recent interview with Apple VP’s was posted by the Tech Chap YouTube channel, in which Tim Millet, Apple VP of Product Architecture, stated that a greater thermal capacity does allow better performance with the M1. The MacBook Air is a very thin, fanless laptop, so that means speed will be restricted when compared to the Mac mini, which includes a fan and room for ventilation. This is not meant to imply the MacBook Air is slow. It still outperforms the previous generation by three and half times and the GPU is five times faster, according to Apple.
When choosing between a laptop and a desktop, there are usage considerations to keep in mind. The MacBook Air is easily portable from room to room and can even be used when traveling. However, the screen is attached to the keyboard, so it isn’t the best ergonomic design for long term use. Ideally, a screen should be close to eye level and the keyboard at the level of the hands when the arms are bent. The Mac mini allows a very comfortable set up for a fixed location. Of course, an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse can be used with the MacBook also. The Mac mini also has a performance edge and offers more ports for peripherals. If using in a single location, the Mac mini is the best choice for most, but those that wish to use a computer in more than one location should choose the MacBook Air.
Next: M1 MacBook Air Vs. MacBook Pro: Which Apple Silicon Mac Should You Buy?
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