In Apple’s third major product launch event in as many months — it follows the new iPad in September and the iPhone 12 line in October — the company Tuesday revealed much-anticipated laptops based on its homegrown 5nm silicon, the M1 chip, along with a Mac Mini refresh that also incorporates the new internals. And like the laptops, aside from Apple’s claimed performance boosts over the low-end Intel-based models they replace, the Mac Mini retains its previous design and Apple still offers old 8th-gen Intel Core i5 and i7 options for the higher-end versions.
The new models are available for preorder now and begin shipping next week starting at $699 (£699, AU$1,099) with 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive; there’s also an M1 model starting at $899 (£899, AU$1,399) with 8GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. The Intel Core i5 begins at $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,699) with 8GB of memory and a 512GB SSD.
Apple’s claims about performance improvements aside — as far as I can tell, its performance comparisons are based on the most recent model’s 8th-gen Intel processors, which don’t include any AI acceleration, use the ancient Intel UHD integrated graphics and are far less power-efficient than modern processors — there are only a few updates the new system board supplies to the system, primarily the USB4/Thunderbolt connections, Apple’s most recent security silicon and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity. Oh, and the M1 models are silver while the Intel versions are space gray.
If you use multiple displays, one potential drawback to the M1-based model is it’s limited to two simultaneous displays, one up to 6K/60Hz and one up to 4K/60Hz. The current Intel models support up to three 4K/60Hz monitors or up to one 5K and one 4K display simultaneously. Another consideration for power users: The M1 models max out at 16GB of memory, while the Intel versions can be equipped with up to 64GB. It’s not clear yet how the new unified memory architecture, which means all memory is shared by the CPU and GPU, will impact the choice of memory configuration.