New Mac mini
The new Mac mini could be announced with a complete redesign. It could be thinner, use a magnetic power connector, and have several ports. Rumors are divided on when and how Apple will announce this device. It could be a high-end Mac mini with an M1 Pro or M1 Max processor announced in the summer, or act as an updated consumer model announced in the fall with the M2.
● New glass and aluminum design
● M1 Pro and M1 Max, or M2 and M2 Pro
● Thunderbolt 4
● External power supply, possibly with Ethernet
● Expected starting price between $699 and $1,499
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Apple has been transitioning the Mac lineup to custom Apple Silicon processors for nearly two years. Some expected a high-end Mac mini with the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors sometime in 2022, however, the Mac Studio may have taken its place. Now, rumors point to a fall launch of a redesigned Mac mini with an M2 processor.
The 2020 Mac mini gained the M1 processor, but it was limited to consumer-focused users since it didn't offer pro-level power or connectivity. Apple kept higher models of the Intel variant around to satisfy those customers' needs, but a better model was expected to arrive later down the line.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors were announced in fall 2021 for the MacBook Pros. These processors are more powerful versions of the original M1 and offer what pros need in high-end machines.
Rumors indicated that Apple would release a Mac mini with these high-end processors in the spring of 2022, but that didn't pan out. A redesigned Mac mini is still possible in the fall of 2022, but it would likely sport a consumer-grade M2, not the M1 Pro, M1 Max, or M1 Ultra.
New Mac mini Features
Apple hasn't changed much about the Mac mini since the unibody design debuted in 2010. However, it has been a favorite for those seeking a headless Mac for server operations, and it acts as the lowest-priced Mac on the market.
While the M1 Mac mini is still best-in-class compared to other PCs in its price range, the M2 or M2 Pro chip upgrade would make this a compelling machine for new buyers.
The designs of the original M1-based Macs didn't change to maintain customer trust during the Apple Silicon transition. Instead, Apple recycled the old device casings and added the new processors to keep the narrative focused on the processors.
Since then, Apple has introduced radical new designs for its iMac and MacBook lineups. The 24-inch iMac is now 11.5mm thin, weighs less than 10 pounds, and comes in multiple colors. In addition, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and 14-inch MacBook Pro have more rounded designs with notched displays.
Apple is expected to take a similar design approach with the new Mac mini in 2022. It will likely be thinner, have more port options, and have slight design changes for improved cooling and device access.
It isn't clear how much thinner Apple could make the desktop, but the limitations will likely be provided by the ports used, not the cooling requirements. The magnetic connector on the 24-inch iMac may also be used in the new Mac mini, which is rather large in diameter. This connector alone may be the determining factor for the Mac mini's thickness.
The most specific design leaks came from Jon Prosser in May 2021. He shared renders based on schematics and internal sources shown to him. He described it as a thinner device with glass, or plexiglass-like, materials used for the top case. The rest is shown as aluminum, even on the underside and rear of the device, which used to be plastic.
On the 2020 Mac mini and prior, users could unscrew a plastic plate from the bottom of the case to perform maintenance. However, leaks show that this has been replaced with an aluminum bottom cover held in place by Apple's proprietary pentalobe screws. A vent opening and two long rubber feet are also found on the bottom.
Apple last used plastic to cover the top of the Mac mini in 2009, so the plexiglass-like material would be a return to this design. It isn't clear why Apple would change from aluminum to plastic beyond cooling or aesthetic purposes. The top case could be darker than the aluminum, enabling a two-tone color similar to the iMac.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max build upon the M1 with improved processing and graphics performance. These processors combine the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and Media Engine onto a single SoC with unified memory.
The Mac mini was one of the first Macs to get an M1 processor, and it could be among the first to get the M2 in 2022. Apple might use the new rumored design in a consumer-grade machine running the M2, which means it might get color options similar to the 24-inch iMac.
If previous rumors pan out, however, the new Mac mini would have pro-grade chips and a space gray finish. The M1 Pro and M1 Max could make their way to the Mac mini for a decent option landing between the M1 Mac mini and M1 Max Mac Studio.
Apple isn't likely to use the M1 Ultra in the Mac mini because the Mac Studio is specifically designed to cool that massive chipset.
Rumors haven't fully confirmed the port arrangement and availability for the new Mac mini. The Prosser leak from May 2021 suggested that there would be a magnetic power connector, four Thunderbolt Type-C ports, two USB Type-A ports, Ethernet, and HDMI. He doubled down on the fact that there isn't an SD card.
Several questions have arisen since these renders were revealed. First, the Thunderbolt ports are too close together and wouldn't allow enough space for use. Second, the magnetic connector used in the iMac doesn't serve much purpose in the Mac mini. Third, there isn't a headphone jack.
Despite the seemingly impossible port spacing, Prosser's render artist says this is what he saw in the leaked images. There have been no other leaks to corroborate this.
The use of the magnetic connector raises multiple questions as well. The iMac is too thin for an internal power supply, so Apple created an external 143W power supply attached to a unique magnetic connector. This isn't quite MagSafe since the iMac isn't a mobile computer, but it seems the purpose of the magnetic port is for simplifying setup when running a cable through the iMac's stand.
The same logic doesn't apply to the Mac mini. It has plenty of space for an internal power supply, and attaching a power cable to such a small device isn't an issue. Previously, Apple used the standard A/C power adapter found in many electronics. It is the same one used in the Apple TV.
The complexity of the iMac's magnetic connector is also owed to the optional Ethernet port found in the external power supply. If the Mac mini does not need an external power supply, it won't have a place to attach Ethernet outside of the device's chassis, which explains why both ports are shown in the leaks.
The lack of a headphone jack is also questionable. While Apple has removed the port from its iPhones and iPads, it is still present in the Mac. Audio professionals use this port, and it is also a convenient place to attach speakers, since the Mac mini doesn't have user-facing speakers.
The majority of the leaks surrounding the new Mac mini are based on the renders provided by Jon Prosser. Other accurate leakers have said little about the device beyond a spring 2022 release and a redesign.
All rumors pointed to an M1 Pro and M1 Max processor being used for the model, replacing the existing Intel variant still for sale. However, what ports will be used, how they are arranged, and a reliable source hasn't mentioned the external design since the May 2021 leaks.
Since the Intel Mac mini is still for sale even with the Mac Studio available, it is possible that Apple plans to release a higher-end Mac mini to replace it within that price range. One rumor even suggested that Apple would release an M2 and M2 Pro model eventually.
Price and release
Since the M1 Pro and M1 Max are preconfigured with 16GB of base RAM, the starting price of the Mac mini may be closer to $1,499 if it uses those chipsets. If the new Mac mini uses the M2, it may be announced in the fall of 2022 and have the same $699 starting price.