Mac Studio vs. Mac Mini Buyer’s Guide

Mac Studio vs. Mac Mini Buyer's Guide

The all-new Mac Studio is Apple’s most powerful custom silicon standalone desktop computer, overtaking the entry-level M1-based Mac mini that Apple launched in November 2020.


The ‌Mac Studio‌ starts at $1,999, dwarfing the $699 starting price of the Apple silicon-based ‌Mac mini‌, so do you need the latest high-end Mac, or is the humble ‌Mac mini‌ sufficient for your needs? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two desktop Macs is best for you.

Comparing the Mac mini and the Mac Studio

The ‌Mac mini‌ and the ‌Mac Studio‌ share some fundamental features, including a silver aluminum design, Apple silicon chipsets, and two rear USB-A ports. Apple lists these same features of the two devices:

Similarities

  • Apple M1-series chip
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • HDMI port supports multichannel audio output
  • Two USB-A ports
  • 10Gb Ethernet (optional on ‌Mac mini‌)
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Built-in speaker
  • Silver aluminum design

Although these Macs share some features, the two machines have much more in contrast than they do in common, including different chips, memory capacities, ports, and external display capabilities.

Differences

Mac mini

  • M1 chip
  • 8-core CPU
  • 8-core GPU
  • Up to 16GB unified memory
  • Up to 2TB storage
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Support for one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K
  • Starts at $699

Mac Studio

  • M1 Max chip or ‌M1‌ Ultra chip
  • Up to 20-core CPU
  • Up to 64-core GPU
  • Up to 128GB unified memory
  • Up to 8TB storage
  • Media engine with two video decode engines, up to four video encode engines, and up to four ProRes encode and decode engines
  • Up to six Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones
  • Support for up to four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K display
  • SDXC card slot (UHS-II)
  • Starts at $1,999

What About the Intel Mac Mini?

Apple continues to sell its older, Intel-based ‌Mac mini‌, starting at $1,099. This high-end ‌Mac mini‌ model features two additional Thunderbolt ports, up to a six-core Intel Core i7 processor with Intel UHD Graphics 630, up to 64GB memory, and support for up to three 4K displays or one 5K display and one 4K display. It is also demarcated by its Space Gray enclosure.

mac mini intel gray

Despite theoretically being the ‌Mac mini‌ high-end model, it is effectively an aging 2018 model and is often surpassed by the ‌M1‌ chip in the ‌Mac mini‌. Unless you definitely need more Thunderbolt ports, more memory, the ability to connect to additional external displays, or have a specific need for an Intel-based system, you should buy the ‌M1‌ model.

The‌ ‌M1‌ ‌‌Mac mini‌‌ is a more modern device that will be the best option for the vast majority of users. Not only is the ‌‌M1‌‌ ‌‌Mac mini‌‌ markedly more powerful in practice, but it is also much less costly than its Intel predecessor.

As an older Intel-based machine, the high-end ‌Mac mini‌ does not directly compare to the ‌Mac Studio‌, and any prospective customers who are confident they need more Thunderbolt ports, more memory, or the ability to connect to additional external displays will be much better off buying the ‌Mac Studio‌ if they can afford it.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is clear that the ‌Mac mini‌ and ‌Mac Studio‌ are very different machines intended for different customer bases. To some extent, purchasing decisions should be driven by budget, but it is worth bearing in mind that any savings on the desktop computer itself can be put toward a good external display such as the Apple Studio Display, which starts from $1,599. For example, a ‌Mac mini‌ paired with a Studio Display comes to $2,298, which is just $300 more than a lone base model ‌Mac Studio‌ with no display.

You should only consider the ‌Mac Studio‌ if you have a professional workflow that can leverage the extreme power of the ‌M1 Max‌ or ‌M1‌ Ultra, as well as its wider selection of ports. If you need the ‌Mac Studio‌, you will likely know that you are looking for a highly powerful machine that is capable of supporting an intense workflow.

For some workflows, the ability to upgrade the ‌Mac mini‌ to 16GB of memory, up to 2TB of storage, and 10Gb Ethernet can make it a very capable machine. This may be a good option for professionals or “prosumers” that have specific needs or can’t stretch to the ‌Mac Studio‌. Nevertheless, the ‌Mac Studio‌ has greater potential, making it a better long-term option if you can afford it.

For most users, the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ is still a powerful and versatile machine that can tackle all but the most intense tasks. It still has useful ports such as USB-A and Ethernet, which are absent from Apple’s laptops, and boasts excellent performance that surpasses the ‌M1‌ MacBook Air or the ‌M1‌ MacBook Pro.

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