Mac Mini 2022: A new design with better performance, extra ports, and more

If you’re looking to get into Apple’s Mac ecosystem, the superb Mac Mini is one of the best-value ways to do it. After 2020’s M1 model, expectations are high for how Apple could follow up with new chips and new features, including a high-end model for more demanding users.

We’ve put together this roundup with as many details on the next Mac Mini as we can find. Simply read on to see what Apple has planned for its smallest desktop Mac.

Release date

the latest apple mac mini on a wooden desk.
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

For a while, there were rumors of two Mac Minis being in the works, with one high-end model and one entry-level version said to be coming. After Apple’s Peak Performance event in March, it became apparent that the rumored high-end Mac Mini was almost certainly the Mac Studio, which essentially looks like several Mac Minis stacked on top of each other.

With that out of the way, we’re still waiting on updates to the main Mac Mini line. Not only has the M1 Mac Mini not been updated since late 2020, but Apple is still selling an Intel-based Mac Mini on its website, despite promising to have almost completed its transition to its own Apple Silicon chips. That means both versions could be updated sooner rather than later.

But when specifically can we expect these changes? Well, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is a good bet, with this year’s show scheduled to begin on June 6. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has claimed the Mac Mini is a strong contender for that event, and considering Gurman’s reputation for accuracy, we wouldn’t rule it out.

That idea was bolstered by a discovery made by iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who unearthed an interesting clue in firmware for Apple’s Studio Display monitor. The firmware made mention of an as-yet-unreleased Mac dubbed “Macmini10,1,” which Troughton-Smith believes could be referring to an M2 Mac Mini. Having it mentioned in official firmware is a strong indication that Apple is almost ready to deploy the Mac, and with WWDC on the horizon, that would be as good a time as any to release the new Mac Mini.

As for the high-end Mac Mini that is set to replace the Intel-based version, the timing of this model is less certain. It might appear at WWDC, or Apple might wait until later in the year to give it its day in the sun. We’ll have to wait and see.

Price

the latest mac mini, sitting under a pc monitor.

Now for the price. The current M1 Mac Mini starts at $699, with a second model costing $899. The Intel version starts at $1,099, meanwhile. That pricing structure makes sense, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple stuck with it for the new models.

The only caveat is that there are rumors swirling that the forthcoming high-end Mac Mini will get a redesigned chassis. When Apple has done this in the past, it has sometimes come with a price increase — see the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro for a recent example — so we could see a similar situation hit the Mac Mini.

A familiar design?

renders of the next mac mini, complete with a new design.

As we outlined above, one rumored Mac Mini — complete with a redesigned chassis — turned out to be the Mac Studio. However, there is another rumor that has not yet been disproved that suggests the Mac Mini will still get a new look.

In May 2021, leaker Jon Prosser released renders depicting the next Mac Mini with a much slimmer design than its current iteration (largely due to the more power-efficient Apple Silicon chip inside), with an aluminum body topped with a plexiglass-like surface. He also asserted Apple has been experimenting with different color options, but whether this will make it to the finished product is unknown.

As well as that, in August 2021, Mark Gurman stated in his Power On newsletter that the Mac Mini “will have an updated design and more ports than the current model.” However, he did not go into specifics regarding the shape and size of the upcoming device.

The slimmed-down design attested by Prosser makes sense. With the advent of the M1 chip, Apple has been able to design its computers around the chip’s greater efficiency compared to Intel processors by cutting their bulk. We’ve already seen the results in the totally overhauled 24-inch iMac, which was reduced to a minuscule 11.5mm in thickness, and the Mac Mini could be next to get this treatment.

It’s also believable for another reason. The Mac Mini is a popular computer in server farms thanks to its small size, which is one reason we doubted the rumored “multi-stack” Mac was actually a Mac Mini (and in the end, it was released under the Mac Studio name instead). If Apple thins down the Mac Mini’s chassis, it will be good news for server farms, which will potentially be able to squeeze even more of the machines onto their racks.

All that said, there is a dissenting voice in the form of well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a tweet from March 2022, Kuo explained that “the new Mac Mini in 2023 will likely remain the same form factor design,” as well as suggesting that Apple will not go for a slimmed-down appearance. Kuo also seems to allege that there will be no new Mac Mini at WWDC 2022, since he says 2023 will see the next new Mac Mini. As well as that, releasing a Mac Mini with a new form factor at WWDC 2022, then going back to the old design a year later makes little sense, so Kuo’s tweet seems to throw cold water on the idea of a redesigned Mac Mini coming this year.

Even better performance

the apple mac mini 2018 under a monitor with two external speakers.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We can’t be certain of the next Mac Mini’s performance for one big reason: It’s not yet clear what chip it will use. Right now, rumors suggest it could be either the as-yet-unreleased M2 chip or the M1 Pro.

Right now, the M2 seems to be making the stronger case. That’s because the M2 MacBook Air is the most likely new Mac to launch at WWDC (according to the rumors, at least). It would seem odd for Apple to launch an M2 Mac — its next generation of chip architecture — then also launch a previous-generation M1 Pro Mac Mini alongside it. Such a move could potentially make the Mac Mini instantly feel out of date. For that reason, an M2 Mac Mini feels much more likely, with an M2 Pro Mac Mini perhaps following later in 2022.

So if the M2 is the most probable chip we’ll see inside the next Mac Mini, what kind of performance can we expect? According to Mark Gurman, the M2 will have the same number of CPU cores as the M1 (that is, eight CPU cores), but with a heavier weighting toward performance cores. The M1 has four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, but Gurman believes the M2 will change the balance to six high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores.

As for graphics, Gurman has chimed in here too, stating that the M2 could have nine or 10 GPU cores, an improvement over the seven or eight you’ll find in the M1.

When we eventually get a high-end Mac Mini, its M2 Pro chip (assuming that’s what it comes with) will be a noticeable upgrade over the M2. The current M1 Pro and M1 Max have various options, with memory ranging from 16GB to 64GB. They also include the following core options:

  • M1 Pro with eight-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU
  • M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 24-core GPU
  • M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU

The M2 Pro and M2 Max (if the Mac Mini gets it) are likely to upgrade those core counts, although it’s too early to say what the complete lineup might look like. However, Mark Gurman has stated Apple is working on a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 Pro chip featuring 12 CPU cores and 38 GPU cores. A previous newsletter from Gurman had also suggested Apple was planning an M2 Pro chip with 12 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores. It’s possible that one or both of these will be offered inside the upcoming Mac Mini.

Note that both Gurman and 9to5Mac have separately claimed that Apple is testing an M2 Pro Mac Mini but have not mentioned an M2 Max version, so we’re skeptical that the Mac Mini will get that chip at this stage.

Features: More ports and monitor support

the port selection in the rear of a mac mini.

The new chips won’t just mean more power — they will also affect the features you can expect to find in the upcoming Mac Mini. That’s because they control a number of things beyond simply raw performance, such as the port selection and external monitor support.

While the M1 Mac Mini was a step up over its Intel predecessor in almost every way, it had one notable drawback: Instead of the four Thunderbolt ports the Intel model offered, the M1 edition only came with two. The most likely explanation is that that was a limitation imposed by the chip itself.

There are no such worries on Macs with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, for example, offer three Thunderbolt ports compared to the two found on the M1 MacBook Pro. And according to both Mark Gurman and Jon Prosser, the Mac Mini will also get a more generous port selection.

While Gurman has been coy about the exact port arrangement, Prosser has laid his cards on the table: Four Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, two USB-A slots, one Ethernet port, and one HDMI port is his prediction, and that matches the offering on the current Intel-based model. There could also be a MagSafe-style power adapter like the one on the 24-inch iMac, Prosser believes.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips could fix another annoyance linked to the M1 chip: The poor support for external monitors. Every M1 Mac is limited to one external display (barring the Mac Mini itself, but that’s only thanks to its HDMI port). That’s something we lamented in our M1 MacBook Air review, and it isn’t really good enough these days.

Luckily, the latest Apple chips have remedied this situation. The M1 Pro allows up to two 6K displays to be attached to the 2021 MacBook Pro, while the M1 Max can support up to four monitors (three 6K and one 4K). With the Mac Studio, meanwhile, you can attach up to five external displays (four 6K and one 4K). The Mac Mini doesn’t come with its own display, so external monitor support is crucial — and the more you can connect, the better.

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