With the Apple March 8 event right around the corner, there's understandably a lot of attention being paid to the MacBooks, iPad, and the iPhone SE that might be revealed. It's possible, however, that a new M2-powered Mac Mini could be a star in the product show.
The Apple Mac Mini (M1, 2020) breathed some much-needed life into this fan-favorite mini PC, thanks to the powerful new Apple M1 chip that allowed it to punch way above its previous Intel-powered weight, easily earning it a spot on our best computers list after it debuted.
It wasn't a perfect device by any means. However, it was a great step in the right direction toward converting those long-time Windows users who might be Apple-curious but wary of making too big a financial commitment.
An M2 Mac Mini might be an offer they can't refuse.
An M2 Mac Mini could be powerful enough to win over skeptics
The M1 Mac Mini was no slouch when it came to performance but it was essentially a MacBook Air processor powering a whole PC. It impressed us when we benchmarked it, and we've since become believers, but it was nudging up close to the limits of what the M1 chip could do.
The Apple M2 should clear that hurdle pretty handily. Even if the M2 features the same number of performance and efficiency cores as the M1, which is expected, those aren't the only things on the chip.
A more robust GPU could make the Mac Mini a competent gamer, since many of the best Mac games are pretty demanding, graphically. And while the catalog of games still has a way to go, the number of Mac-ports of popular AAA games over the past few years has been steadily growing. The currently available lineup of games fits in well with what the M2 processor will be able to power.
Fortunately, the same hardware needed to run the best PC games is also the same kind of hardware you need to produce creative content, which is right in Apple's wheelhouse.
When it comes down to it, an M2 Mac Mini could be a much better balance between work, play, and price than its predecessor. Such a mix could have a much larger appeal than the M1 Mac Mini did.
Ultimately, it will come down to just how powerful the Apple M2 chip is, but given how well the M1 Mac Mini performed, there's really nowhere to go but up.
An M2 Mac Mini is the perfect way to win over Windows users
The jump from the familiar Windows 10 interface to a much more unfamiliar Windows 11 is the kind of thing that could work in Apple's favor. If you have to learn a bunch of new stuff to use Windows 11, an affordable Mac Mini with a powerful M2 might be a tempting proposition; especially once a good bit of FOMO kicks in.
After all, if you've got to acclimate to a new OS, does it matter which one it is? With Apple's seamless device integration, a Mac Mini M2 running macOS could look like an open invitation to an easier desktop experience.
This would be especially true for Windows users who already have some Apple devices like an iPhone or iPad. Trying to get Windows and Apple products to play nice together is a challenge at best. Anyone who has an iPhone and uses a MacBook for the first time is usually pleasantly surprised to find that FaceTime is built right into macOS and that your contacts are already synced from your phone.
While a Mac Mini on its own doesn't have a webcam or microphone for FaceTime, chances are that a Windows PC user has those things already (especially after two years of working from home because of the pandemic). Swapping in a Mac Mini for an old Windows PC comes with an immediate advantage that they wouldn't otherwise have.
This extends to Apple Music, To-Do lists, browser bookmarks, and Apps that you might have on your phone, but which are missing from your home PC. They call it an ecosystem for a reason, after all.
The success of the Mac Mini is up to Apple, ultimately
Given that the performance demands for the majority of computer users lie somewhere between streaming Netflix and running productivity software, offering a fast, lightweight, and affordable machine for the masses in a small, easily managed package seems like an exceptionally easy sell.
But even as the stars are aligning for an Apple Mac Mini breakout moment, the stars alone can't do the heavy lifting. The M1 chip was nearly powerful enough to totally replace a typical home PC, so the M2 chip absolutely should clear that bar.
The problem, then, won't be the quality of the device, it will be whether customers know that the Mac Mini exists and that it can offer better performance than their current home or small business computer.
If Apple wants the Mac Mini to be a success, it will have to make it the priority that it can and should be, rather than the also-ran of the Mac lineup that it has traditionally been.
- Check out the best MacBook and Macs of 2022
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John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY.
Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.
You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.
Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).