The Mac Mini has been one of Apple's hidden treasures almost all of its life. No, there's nowhere near the press frenzy or public discourse surrounding the little aluminium box as there is with the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac or even the leading product of them all; the Mac Pro. But the Mac Mini is still the cheapest way to access the macOS ecosystem, and remains a pretty solid bargain.
It wasn't always that way. Precisely because the chassis itself is so small, and cooling options so limited, the Mac Mini itself has been limited by which generation of Intel chips led the way that year, but after Apple replaced their entire line-up with Mac Silicon, the Mac Mini has been a key option to get a lot of horsepower, for less money, and in more space-saving fashion.
The latest Mac Mini continues in the same vein, upgrading to the new M2 chip, which in our remaining tests of the MacBook Air, iPad Pro and most recently the MacBook Pro 16-inch delivers Apple's promised roughly 20% increase in base horsepower, that is if your workflow directly supports Apple's architecture.
And how much does it cost? You can get a base Mac Mini with M2 for £649. No, it doesn't come with a keyboard or a mouse, but the computer is otherwise ready to go, and here you get the basic artificially limited M2 with 8 CPU cores, 10 GPU cores, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD space. From there, the price can rise rather exponentially, to the point where you can equip it with an M2 Pro for £1,399. That's a very, very different price, and while 8GB of RAM seems sluggish and 256GB seems little, cloud space notwithstanding, it's still pretty easy to recommend a brand new Mac for so little.
It's also exactly the one we tested, and for basic Photoshop, even a bit of Premiere editing of various EV Hour videos, the Mac Mini works absolutely flawlessly. You've got two Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2.5G ethernet, and several USB-A ports, as well as HDMI 2.1. Of course, you'll particularly notice the amount of RAM when you're throwing yourself into tasks like 3D rendering, various forms of app development or CAD work, but the whole point is that these tasks can easily be reserved for those who set aside more money than £649 for their Mac. The low-cost Mac Mini is for those who want a jack-of-all-trades, and this one is that to a tee.
And it's just so infinitely small, too. It's just 3.58 inches tall and is 19.70 centimetres long. It's easy to carry around in a bag, should you need to, and is light on weight too, weighing just 1.18 kilos. What's more, we've never heard the Mac Mini, even under pressure, and it's never been hotter than "lukewarm".
Sure, there's more eye candy in the fancy MacBook Pro machines, but when it comes to what Marques Brownlee calls "performance-per-dollar", you get more... well, Mac, for far less money, with the Mac Mini, and the fact that the end product is so easily accessible, so small and space-saving, and so well-performing, it's hard not to love the Mac Mini.
It has to be said that Apple's add-on pricing is pretty silly, to the point where an additional 8GB of RAM costs you £200, and the same to get an upgrade to a 512GB SSD. 10GB ethernet will only set you back a further £100, though, which seems far more reasonable.
But the Mac Mini is a fabulous little machine, and even though Apple mostly just chats about them through anonymous press releases, they deserve the spotlight.