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The base model M1 Mac Mini is enough for me.

On August 3, 2021 I purchased a base model M1 Mac Mini. The M1 was presented at launch like a revolution in processing power. Initial reviews said the M1 is nimble and MacOS feels fast. Selling a computer with 8GB in 2020 raised the ire of some. People rightly asked if 8GB is even viable? Opinions were polarized. Does RAM behave equivalently between Apple Silicon and Intel x86 processors? My

I wasted at least 5 hours online searching with phrases “8GB M1 enough;” “M1 8GB for casual use;” “Regret 8 GB M1 Mac;” “Mistake 8 GB M1 Mac.” There were opinions for and against 8 GB M1 Mac models. Finally, I bought an 8 GB/256 GB M1 Mac Mini for $829 with a free pair of Airpods. This was the best option for me because I have all the hardware I need to complete a Mac Mini. I have an LG UltraFine monitor (22MD4KA-B), a Magic Keyboard, Trackpad and a Logitech MX mouse. If the Mini were to be a bust I could return it to Apple or pass it along to my sons to play Mini Motorway and code with Scratch.io.

How do I use a computer day-to-day? For work I use Airtable, Google Workspace, SalesForce, Slack, and Zoom. For my volunteer work I use Zoom, Mail.app, and Excel. I am best defined as a casual user.

I am not a developer nor do I edit video/images for a living. Little I do challenges the M1 Mac or any computer for that matter. It should be noted that Zoom and Google Meet turn my MacBook Pro into a noisy space heater. Typically, a large XLSX file for me is 1-10MB. Opening a 1.45 GB CSV file from Kaggle for data analytics class was the most computationally intensive operation performed by any of my computers in the last 2 years. Here I describe my impressions of the M1 Mac Mini’s performance. My Mac Mini has Apple Silicon M1 with 8GB RAM/256GB storage. I use my MacBook Pro as comparator (14,1; i5, 16GB/512GB, 2017).

Mac Mini (9,1; M1; 2020) and a 1.45 GB .CSV file
Intel MacBook Pro (14,1; i5; 2017) and a 1.45GB .CSV file.

The M1 opened the file in 66 seconds. The MacBook Pro opened the file in 165 seconds. My MacBook Pro became warm while loading the file – the A-L row on the keyboard radiated heat. The Mac Mini remained cool to the touch and its fan did not engage. In fact, I have yet to hear its fan(s) with at least 5 Zoom calls a day.

I never have more than 10 – 20 tabs open between a maximum of two web browsers. I was interested to see how the M1 performed when opening many tabs simultaneously. I opened a bookmarks folder containing 53 websites. The results are shown below

M1 Mac Mini (left) and the MacBook Pro after opening 53 tabs in Safari.

Interestingly, some websites appear to use more memory on the Mac Mini. In the example above, CitationMachine.com and Youtube.com use more memory on the Mac Mini. Pechakucha.com uses less memory on the Mac Mini. The MacBook Pro uses about 140 MB of swap, the Mac Mini uses 960 MB. Despite this difference, the Mac Mini was completely useable.

Subjectively, after a day running Firefox with the aforementioned web applications, Zoom, and Slack, the Mac Mini remains nimble. There are no perceptible issues while sending video to my 4K monitor with multiple windows open for Firefox and other applications. The MackBook Pro by comparison becomes slow and feels sluggish; when connected to my monitor for a day, resizing or shifting windows around is slightly choppy and delayed.

The Mac Mini is not perfect. The Bluetooth is not perfect. My Magic Keyboard and Trackpad work well all day everyday. I do not experience noticeable lag or missed clicks/key presses. I do have trouble with my AirPods though. Using the wireless wifi, keyboard, trackpad and Airpods results in poor audio – I switch to my wired headphones.

The Mac Mini is an excellent value. It provides tremendous power for basic tasks. If your living depends on Google Workspace and other web apps as well as Office 365, Slack, Acrobat/Preview, and Zoom you will have a difficult time finding a more capable computer at $829/$899. If your use case is similar to mine then 8 GB is enough RAM.