M1 Mac mini Unboxing and Impressions
A while ago Apple announced they’re moving their Macs away form Intel chips and to their own Apple Silicon chips that they’ve been using in iPhone & iPad for a long time. Fast forward to November and Apple finally announced the first chip the M1 and the first products that will have them in, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro & Mac mini. As soon as I saw it I knew the Mac mini was the computer for me and pre-ordered it with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. In this video I’m going to show you the unboxing experience, discuss Apple Silicon in general, how it was setting up my apps (native & intel), some benchmarks how Final Cut Pro performs and my round up and what’s next!
The unboxing experience is classic Apple, right the way from the brown box it ships in you can just see they do things differently. There isn’t too much too it but you obviously have the mini, a few instruction leaflets a single Apple sticker and the power cable. Ports wise we’re looking at a figure of 8 for power, 2 thunderbolt 3 / usb 4 ports, a single hdmi, two usb-a ports, gigabit ethernet and headphone jack, it’s not dead yet! There has been some disappointment about this only having two thunderbolt ports as opposed to 4 in the Intel version but I think this and the lack of space grey colour indicates that we’ll be getting higher end versions of this and the MacBook Pro somewhere down the line with 4 ports and maybe an M1X or an M2.
Apple Silicon in General
In 2005 Apple announced they were moving from the PowerPC architecture to Intel and now 15 years later they’re moving on to ARM chips designed and built by themselves. One of the thigns that was good about Macs using Intel was if you bought the right parts and did enough research in the right places you could build a ‘Hackintosh’ which runs macOS which is what I did. My Hack has an i7-8700K (6-cores) and RX580 8GB GPU & 32GB of RAM and lots and lots of RGB. This has been my main system for the last 2 years but it’s not without it’s foibles, as it’s not officially supported by Apple there are things that don’t always work such as USB, sleep and sometimes updates can be a challenge too. While these have all improved over the years they still can’t match the stability of a real Mac. What drives people to hackintoshes is that for a while Apple didn’t offer machines that were of particularly good value when compared to the competition and in my opinion they now do with this mini in particular. So let’s talk about how the move has gone for me.
Setup / Rosetta
I’ve been a Mac user for 7 years so I have certain apps that I will always install when setting up a new Mac and the worry with a processor transition is that not all of these will be supported. In comes Rosetta 2, it’s a translation layer that takes apps designed for Intel systems and makes them run on Apple Silicon. So far for me it’s been excellent. There’s already a lot of apps that have been updated for AS including Chrome, BetterTouchTool and others so that’s been great. Others like Photoshop are running through Rosetta and frankly I can’t tell the difference, performance is still excellent. The only app I’ve had an issue with is Google Backup & Sync which is crashing on occasion for me but I’m going to reinstall that to see if it solves the issue. Everything else has been flawless!
Benchmarks obviously don’t show real world performance but as these chips are very new we can get a decent idea of how powerful the chips are by looking at some of them. Apple claim the M1 has the worlds fastest CPU core and the Geekbench benchmarks seem to back them up! The M1 has 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores and achieves single core scores of .... and a multi score of .... The single core score is unbeatable amongst intel macs and the multi score is only beaten by machines with a huge amount of cores and are extremely expensive like the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro. So that gives us a good indication of what to expect so let’s move on to some real world test!
Final Cut Pro
One of the main things that keeps me on a Mac is Final Cut Pro, it’s Apple’s ‘Pro’ video editing software and it’s my favourite out of all the one I’ve tried. It was already well optimised for previous Macs and for Apple Silicon the story is the same. Anything I’ve thrown at it FCP handles it with no problems whatsoever with buttery smooth scrubbing even with Better Quality footage selected for the timeline. Rendering times are also excellent and it does this all without the fan kicking in at all. The whole time I’ve had the mini so far I’ve not been able to get the fans to come on at all which just shows how efficient these chips are!
Final Thoughts / Next Steps
Look this isn’t a full review as I haven’t had the mini for long enough to come up with a full judgement but so far Apple Silicon is off to an amazing start. The optimisation Apple are able to do by controlling the entire stack is incredible and it’s going to be hard for others to compete in my opinion. There are other benefits that I haven’t discussed yet like the ability to now run iOS apps on the Mac that I will go into detail on in future videos so stay tuned for that. I’m also going to test some games and some other creative work like podcasting and maybe some more in depth video editing tests. If that’s something you’d like to see let me know in the comments!
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