The next Mac mini: Smaller, speedier, and more expansive
When the Mac mini launched in 2005 as the first BYODKM Mac (bring your own display, keyboard, and mouse) it had the potential to be one of the most popular Macs ever made. Nearly two decades later, it hasn’t really lived up to its hype, as specs, prices, and performance never quite reached the heights we expected. But with rumors mounting that Apple is preparing a refresh to the high-end Mac mini that could blow our minds and finally deliver the tiny Mac of our dreams.
2021 Mac mini: Design
The Mac mini has had a similar square design ever since it burst onto the scene, and that isn’t likely to change this year. However, it has gotten thinner. When it launched with a CD drive, it was two inches high, and now it’s just 1.4 inches (without an optical drive). According to reports, it could get even thinner. Jon Prosser claims that the next Mac mini will shrink even further, which could put it at less than an inch tall, based on renders.
The body could be getting a change too. While the Mac mini has had its aluminum chassis since 2010, Apple is reportedly considering a “plexiglass” top, according to Prosser. That could mean Apple will bring a little pizzazz to the Mac mini, which is limited to silver and space gray. Finally, the circular rubber pad on the bottom will reportedly be replaced with two horizontal strips like we see on the underside of the 24-inch iMac stand.
2021 Mac mini: Apple silicon
The Mac mini was among the first Macs to get the M1 processor, so it makes sense that the 2021 model would be the first to get the follow-up. Prosser reports that the new chip will be an “X” variant of the M1, which “will greatly outpace the performance and capabilities of the current M1 chips,” according to a report by Mark Gurman in Bloomberg.
Specifically, the new chip may feature “eight high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores for a total of 10.” The current M1 chip in the Mac mini features four high-performance cores and four energy-efficient cores. With such power, this new machine will likely replace the 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 model.
2021 Mac mini: Graphics
The Mac mini’s GPU is almost certain to be integrated into the system on a chip, but it will reportedly be much more powerful than the current Mac mini’s 8-core GPU. Gurman reports that the new chip will come “in either 16 or 32 graphics core variations.”
2021 Mac mini: RAM and specs
The M1 in the Mac mini has just two RAM configurations—8GB and 16GB—while the Intel version maxes out at 64GB. Gurman says the new chips will also include up to 64GB of memory. Storage is likely to be the same, starting at 256GB and topping out at 2TB.
As far as ports, the new Mac mini could get two additional Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports for a total of four, along with the other ports on the current model: two USB-A ports, ethernet, and HDMI. However, Prosser says the new mini won’t bring back the SDXC card slot that is rumored for the MacBook Pro.
2021 Mac mini: Price and release
Apple actually lowered the price of the M1 Mac mini from $799 to $699, so it’s possible that the higher-end Mac mini gets a price cut too. Apple currently sells it for $1,099, so it could drop to $999.
The new Mac mini is all but certain to arrive sometime in 2021, but the timing is unclear. The industry is facing chip shortages, so that could affect production of the new chip. We originally expected that the M1X/M2 Macs would most likely arrive in the fourth quarter of the year, around the same time the original M1 mini launched, but recent rumors have suggested they could land over the summer, possibly as early as WWDC.