M2 Pro Mac mini review: Apple Goldilocks’ semi-professional desktop

Zoom in / The 2023 Mac mini from Apple. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, but it’s what’s inside that matters.

Andrew Cunningham

Mac Apple Studio It was the most interesting desktop in years. It lacks the internal expandability of a Mac Pro, but the raw performance and power efficiency of the M1 Max and M1 Ultra plus its great port selection make it a viable option for many who would have bought a fully loaded 27-inch iMac or a low-to-midrange Mac Pro. ​In the Intel era.

But a $2,000-and-up desktop is still too much for a lot of people, even for professionals and power users. There was plenty of room between the cheapest Studio and the best M1 Mac mini for a cheaper but more capable system, something for people who can benefit from professional performance and the occasional extra ports but don’t need them often enough to justify dropping money on a Mac Studio.

Enters Your new Mac. Both the M2 and M2 Pro have been beefed up in ways that will benefit multitasking, multi-monitor workstations, and they can do so for much less money than a studio—the M2 mini starts at $599, which is $100 cheaper than the M1 mini and cheaper than any other. The Mac mini has been in the works since 2014. Apple sent us the M2 Pro version of the mini for review, and for the many price-conscious power users who prefer or need macOS, it injects just the right amount of Mac Studio performance into the mini’s 13-year-old design.

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Design: Throwback 2018

The new mini (middle) has the same ports on the back as the Mac Studio (bottom) and 2018 Intel Mac mini (not pictured).  Compared to the standard M1/M2 mini (upper) port, this means two more Thunderbolt ports.
Zoom in / The new mini (middle) has the same ports on the back as the Mac Studio (bottom) and 2018 Intel Mac mini (not pictured). Compared to the standard M1/M2 mini (upper) port, this means two more Thunderbolt ports.

Andrew Cunningham

It’s impossible to tell the M1 from the M2 Mac mini apart from the outside. Both have the same measurements, the same finish, and the same set of ports: two USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one HDMI port, a Gigabit Ethernet port (configurable up to 10G), and a headphone jack.

The M2 Pro version adds an extra pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports, making it look exactly like the old 2018 Mac mini from the back (technically, the M2 Pro mini is an upgrade of the 2018 mini, which Apple kept selling throughout 2021 and 2022). I wish the 2018 mini’s space gray was an option here instead of the standard silver, but it’s a minor cosmetic complaint.

Apple puts the ports on the front of the Mac Studio, but not on the mini.
Zoom in / Apple puts the ports on the front of the Mac Studio, but not on the mini.

Andrew Cunningham

As for functional Complaints I wish Mac Studio’s recognition that the ports on the front of the computer could be useful were extended to the mini. Sure, there’s less space inside a small case than in the studio, but that’s a 2010 chassis design with 2023 parts inside—the USB-C ports and card readers have been used in tighter spots. Apple’s silicon-era designs have subtly tilted Apple’s design philosophy toward function over form, with its front-mounted ports, HDMI and MagSafe connectors, and reliable keyboards, and it’d be nice to see the mini get a dose of that, too.

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The design is otherwise unsurprising. The M2 Pro has an internal power supply that’s marginally higher than the regular M2’s internal power supply (185 watts, up from 150 watts). But there is no difference in weight between the M2 and M2 Pro models, which indicates that both versions use the same fan and heatsink design. And in our testing, the M2 Pro mini ran just as quietly and quietly as the M1 mini did.

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