Apple announced two fan-cooled M1 Macs, the Mac mini starting at $699 and the 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $600 more. Which to go for and why?
Apple announced three M1 Mac computers at its November 2020 event, but only the Mac mini and MacBook Pro have fans. This means the most expensive and least expensive M1 Mac can deliver higher sustained performance than the fanless MacBook Air, which sits in the middle price-wise. Obviously, one is a laptop and the other is a desktop, but there are other considerations when choosing between these new M1 Mac computers.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro has always represented the best value Apple can offer in a laptop, but the 16-inch model typically has better specifications. The Mac mini, meanwhile, is its lowest cost computer, which might suggest the lowest performance among its desktops. Now that Apple Silicon is here, though, the usual scenario may not apply. For example, some early benchmarks suggest these new M1 Mac computers may outperform the Intel Core i9 16-inch MacBook Pro at times.
Apple’s new M1-powered Mac mini is the least expensive computer to use Apple Silicon. For $699, it is expected to offer fantastic performance. Of course, it doesn’t come with a monitor, keyboard, or mouse, so that is an extra cost to consider unless replacing another computer, allowing the reuse of peripherals with the new system. The M1 MacBook Pro is a laptop, so it is complete and usable right out of the box. Starting at $1299, it could mean as much as $600 more to choose the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Of course, there are advantages to a laptop that may help offset that cost. Performance differences aren’t known as yet, since both use active cooling, however, the MacBook is battery-powered and that usually means performance may not sustain at the highest level during extended use.
Pros & Cons of Mac mini & MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro is portable, so it can be carried from room to room, used when traveling, and makes a mobile office possible. Since the MacBook Pro has up to 20 hours of battery life, power isn’t even necessary for more than a day of use. For example, it could be taken to the beach, while avoiding water and sand, of course. The MacBook Pro also has a unique Touch Bar at the top of the keyboard that allows apps to highlight keyboard shortcuts with customized icons, rather than forcing the user to memorize command key combinations. This is only available with a MacBook Pro.
On the other hand, saving $600 extra with the Mac mini would allow the purchase of a 32-inch HDR monitor with enough left for a nice keyboard and mouse. Having the screen closer to eye-level is a real advantage when spending a long amount of time at a computer. Of course, an external monitor can be used with the MacBook also, but it’s an added cost on an already more expensive Mac. When using a Mac in a fixed location, the Mac mini is the clear winner, unless the Touch Bar is a requirement. If the greater need is for portability, the best choice is a MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the highest performance laptop to use the M1.
Next: M1 MacBook Air Vs. MacBook Pro: Which Apple Silicon Mac Should You Buy?
Mac mini: How Small Is Apple’s New M1 Silicon-Powered Desktop?
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