AppleInsider may receive an affiliate commission for purchases made through links on our site.
The M2 Pro Mac mini bridges the gap between entry-level and high-end models. This is how it compares to the basic Mac Studio.
On January 17, Apple announced an expanded specification Mac mini lineup that supports the M2 and M2 Pro processors. It’s the first time the higher chip configuration is available on the tiny desktop, giving users more options from low-end to high-end. Quit desktops.
To compare the two machines, we configured the Mac mini with 32GB of RAM, making it closer to the entry-level Mac Studio in specs and price. Customers in the market for both computers still have a $300 price difference that can be used for accessories, an upgrade in memory, or more processing power.
And yes, we are aware that the image above shows an Intel Mac mini. The case dimensions have not changed due to the switch to Apple silicon, but the front LED is now at the bottom.
The M2 Pro hasn’t been benchmarked yet, so a one-to-one comparison isn’t possible. However, even without benchmarking, each model has clear advantages and disadvantages. We will add benchmarks as they become available.
Here’s how the M2 Pro Mac mini with 32GB RAM and 512GB storage compares to the M1 Max Mac Studio with 32GB RAM and 512GB storage.
M2 Pro Mac mini versus Mac Studio – Specifications
|M2 Pro Mac mini||M1 Max Mac Studio|
Check Mac mini prices
Check Mac Studio pricing
|processor||Apple M2 Pro 10-core CPU||Apple M1 Max 10 core CPU|
|graphic||16-core GPU||24-core GPU|
|ports||Four Thunderbolt 4
Two USB A
|Four Thunderbolt 4
Two USB A
SDXC card slot
The spec-to-spec comparison looks tight, at least on paper. However, a customer’s choice between the two depends on priorities and use cases.
M2 Pro Mac mini versus Mac Studio – Design
Apple didn’t change the design of the Mac mini for the 2023 chip update. That means it retains the same square shape as its previous generations.
The biggest differences between Mac mini and Mac Studio are their height and internal volume. The Mac Studio is larger overall, so it has more ports and more cooling options.
That size and improved cooling aren’t necessarily positives, however. Mac Studio users have reported that the fan runs continuously even with no load. While the fan can be very quiet, this can be an issue for some users.
The size of the fan and the complexity of the cooling system is also much larger on the Mac Studio. However, how this affects performance between the two has yet to be determined. The Mac mini doesn’t have access to the more powerful M2 Max, likely due to limited cooling.
Mac mini’s compact size also means it’s easier to store in more places. It is also much more portable and can be put in a backpack for travel.
M2 Pro Mac mini versus Mac Studio – performance
There aren’t any benchmarks available for the M2 Pro processor yet, so we can’t do a direct comparison with the Mac Studio in this regard. However, some specifications are available for a basic performance overview.
The M2 Pro base processor features a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU with a 16-core Neural Engine. That’s compared to the M1 Max, which has a 10-core CPU and a 24-core GPU with a 16-core Neural Engine.
We configured both machines with 32GB of RAM. However, memory bandwidth is doubled on the M1 Max processor at 400GB/s vs. 200GB/s on the M2 Pro.
The media engine is also more powerful on the M1 Max simply because it has twice as many encoding and decoding engines. The media engine for the M2 Pro has been improved over the M1 Pro, but not enough to outperform the M1 Max twice as much.
Apple doesn’t offer hard numbers, but it did compare these machines to a similar Intel iMac with a Core i7 processor. The Mac Studio with M1 Max saw a 2.5x CPU performance boost over this iMac, while the Mac mini with M2 Pro is closer to 2x for certain tasks like compiling code.
The M2 Pro with a 19-core GPU is said to be 2.5 times more powerful than the M1 processor when it comes to graphics tasks such as games or image rendering. The M1 Max with a 32-core GPU has four times the GPU performance of the M1, so with 16 cores it might have comparable performance to the maxed out M2 Pro graphics. For our comparison, the 16-core GPU in the M2 Pro is less powerful, but not by much.
Note that these are estimates provided by Apple PR and actual performance will not be understood until testing is performed. If price isn’t an issue and maximum performance is the goal, the Mac Studio wins in that department regardless of benchmark results.
M2 Pro Mac mini versus Mac Studio – Connections
The size of the Mac Studio leaves plenty of room for connections on both the front and back of the machine. Apple didn’t change the Mac mini’s port configuration, but did bring back the four Thunderbolt 4 ports for the high-end chipset.
Mac Studio users on the base model get four Thunderbolt 4 ports, 10Gb Ethernet, two USB-A, HDMI, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the back. There are two USB-C ports and an SDXC card slot on the front. It simultaneously supports four Pro Display XDRs and one 4K monitor via HDMI.
The M2 Pro Mac mini features four Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI, two USB-A, Ethernet, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It supports two Pro Display XDRs and one 4K monitor via HDMI.
The M2 Pro processor brings some new benefits that the Mac Studio doesn’t have in terms of connectivity. The HDMI port has been updated to support higher resolutions and frame rates depending on the monitor used.
The M2 Pro Mac mini supports either a single 8K monitor at 60Hz or a single 4K monitor at 240Hz via HDMI. When a 6K monitor is connected via Thunderbolt, it can also run a 4K display at 144Hz via HDMI.
M2 Pro Mac mini versus Mac Studio configurations
We compare specific models of Mac Studio and Mac mini. However, there are a number of configurations for each model.
The M2 Pro Mac mini with 32GB of RAM is a mid-tier configuration, while the Mac Studio we’re comparing it to is the base model. This means that customers who are interested in the Mac mini can actually reduce the price significantly by reducing the RAM or chipset configuration according to their needs.
On the other hand, customers can also increase the Mac mini’s storage to 1TB and still come in at $100 cheaper than the Mac Studio. Those looking for absolute performance without the price tag can check out the Mac Studio, but otherwise the Mac mini fits a wider range of use cases and prices.
Both machines can be configured with up to 8TB of storage. The Mac Studio with M1 Max can have up to 64GB of RAM, while the Mac mini has a maximum of 32GB of RAM.
M2 Pro Mac mini vs. Mac Studio – Pricing
That $300 difference might be enough to convince most to pick the Mac mini for its lower price point. Unless you’re working with high-resolution media like 4K HDR video, you probably won’t notice a huge performance difference between the two devices.
Customers also have the option to upgrade the Mac Mini CPU up to 12 cores for a total price of $1,999, which adds two efficiency cores that the Mac Studio doesn’t have in the base M1 Max chipset. This means a small performance gain for certain tasks, but probably won’t be overly noticeable in day-to-day use.
As always, the decision depends on the needs of the user. If you previously needed a Mac Studio, that probably hasn’t changed.
For those on the fence, the Mac mini is a lot more powerful than before at a better price.