The Mac Mini is now one of Apple's fastest computers and I still can't believe it

Mac Mini M2 (2023) on a blue background
(Image credit: Apple/TechRadar)

Apple's new Mac mini has been turning a lot of heads since its release, and that's not the least bit surprising. 

The Mac mini has always been a popular mini PC and with the introduction of the Apple M2 and M2 Pro chips, it is honestly the best computer you can buy that isn't running Windows. 

As we said in our Mac mini (2023) review, "Apple has improved its most affordable Mac by every metric." And if a new benchmark result is true, it's also now better than some configurations of the 2019 Mac Pro that cost significantly more.

A new video by Max Tech put the 2023 Mac Mini with M2 Pro head-to-head with Apple's 2019 workstation PC, and the results are both shocking and not a little infuriating for those who dropped the down payment on a house's worth of cash to buy Apple's premier workstation just three years ago.

As Digital Trends notes, the Mac mini with M2 Pro in Max Tech's video only costs 15% of what you'd have spent on the 2019 Mac Pro with a respectable configuration, including a then-top-of-the-line GPU and an Apple Afterburner card.

Despite that, the Mac mini was roughly 50% faster creating HDR photos in Photoshop and 44% faster compiling an Xcode project. Worse still, it was an absolutely shocking 40% faster than the Afterburner-powered Mac Pro in exporting 4K ProRes RAW video to ProRes, which is exactly the kind of workload that you'd spend $15,000 to do as quickly as possible in an industry setting.

A fully configured Mac Pro can come with a 28-core Intel Xeon W processor, two AMD Radeon Pro W6800X Duo GPUs with a total of 128GB GDDR6 VRAM, and 1.5TB of DDR4 ECC memory. To be clear, this system would absolutely destroy anything on the market right now, including the Apple Mac Studio with M1 Ultra. You simply can't compete with two industrial-grade discrete GPUs and 1.5TB of RAM.

But that configuration runs you about $50,000 right now on Apple's website, and few people would be ready to put down that much cash on a workstation outside of a major Hollywood studio. It's therefore likely that most users were at least a bit more restrained in their spec choices and budget, and they are the ones who are most likely to get burned by this new comparison.

Apple had to know its lower-level 2019 Mac Pro configs were going to quickly become obsolete

Mac mini (2023) in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

What's so shocking about these results is that Apple must have known in 2019 that Apple Silicon was just around the bend. Processor roadmaps take years to plan, and while there's going to be some degree of obsolescence risk whenever you buy any computer, this has to be a gut punch for a lot of people who bought a Mac Pro.

It's one thing for a next-gen Pro workstation to hit the scene and make your very expensive purchase four years ago look downright weak in contrast, but a Mac mini? If I'd bought a Mac Pro in 2019 or 2020, it'd be the last Mac Pro product I ever bought from Apple, simply out of pique.

Now, some will rightfully point out that the 2019 Mac Pro uses non-Apple hardware pretty much throughout. It has AMD Radeon graphics and an Intel Xeon chip, so the cost of the Mac Pro is going to be highly dependent on what Intel and AMD are charging Apple for their components. 

In fact, Apple being able to produce a mini PC capable of competing with these companies' workstation-class products for significantly less is a great thing for customers, without question - just not the customers who bought a $15,000 Mac Pro back in 2019 and 2020. Once bitten, twice shy, after all.

Pity the poor Mac Pro users?

Now, it's also true that anyone who spent $15,000 on a Mac Pro workstation in 2019 has probably made that money back already, so what's the issue? These are most likely businesses or freelance professionals, after all, who can write off the cost of high-end products like a Mac Pro quite easily. It's also not like anyone's grandmother got conned into taking out a mortgage on their house to buy one or anything.

But there is something audacious about charging this much money for a professional workstation that gets badly beat out just three and a half years into its working life, if that. Not to mention the fact that Apple is still selling these lower-end configurations is metaphorically criminal at this point.

It's the nature of tech that this year's best laptop or best workstation will be 2026's latest clearance item, but still, this one hurts - even if I never had any intention of using, much less buying, a Mac Pro in my life. In the end, at least it should serve as an object lesson as to why investing so much money into any technology is inherently risky and needs to be considered carefully.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

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).