Mac Mini, MacBook Pro Get M2-Refresh, Finally
New models of the Mac mini desktop and MacBook Pro laptop with an upgrade to Apple’s M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max chips were announced by the company Tuesday.
In addition, Apple has lowered the price of an entry-level mini with an M2 processor to US$599, $499 for the education market.
“That was one of the more interesting parts of the announcement,” observed Ross Rubin, the principal analyst with Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.
“It’s not often that you see Apple announce a lower entry price point,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld.
“At $599, the price is designed to bring in new users, but the higher configurations can also go up in price pretty quickly,” added Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC, an international market research company.
Those higher configurations with the M2 Pro chip start at $1,299, $1,199 for the education market.
The muscle that the M2 Pro adds to the mini could potentially cannibalize the market for Apple’s premium desktop, the Mac Studio, Ubrani told TechNewsWorld. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.
“The mini can appeal to budding creators or consumers who have started to appreciate the desktop a bit more, especially as desktops saw a bit of an uplift during the pandemic,” he added.
More Video Editing Muscle
The M2 mini features an eight-core CPU — four high-performance and four high-efficiency cores — and a 10-core GPU. With the new chip, the mini is 50% faster than previous models, according to Apple.
The maximum configuration for its unified memory is 24GB with a bandwidth of 100GB per second.
The Mac Mini M2 model features two Thunderbolt 4 ports and support for up to two displays. (Image Credit: Apple)
With the M2, ProRes acceleration is added to the mini, giving it some real punch for handling video. Apple says the M2 mini can handle tasks like video editing in Final Cut Pro more than twice as fast as previous hardware models and simultaneously play up to two streams of 8K ProRes 422 video at 30 fps or 12 streams of 4K at 30 fps.
Overall, Apple boasts that the M2 mini is five times faster than the bestselling Windows desktop.
The M2 Pro brings to the mini a 12-core CPU with eight high-performance and four high-efficiency cores and a GPU with up to 19 cores.
The Mac mini M2 Pro model includes four Thunderbolt 4 ports and support for up to three displays. (Image Credit: Apple)
Memory in the Pro models can have a maximum of 32GB with a bandwidth of 200GB/s.
The M2 Pro also gives the mini more video handling power, allowing it to play five streams of 8K ProRes 422 video at 30 fps or up to 23 streams of 4K video at 30 fps.
Apple stated that the M2 Pro mini is 14 times faster than the fastest Intel-based mini.
Undercutting Mac Studio
“The fact that Apple is allowing these chips in the existing Mac Mini is interesting,” observed Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.
“It makes the Mac mini a much more formidable content creator solution versus the much higher priced Mac Studio,” Vena told TechNewsWorld.
Rubin added that getting a more powerful chip into the mini closes the gap between it and the Mac Studio.
“The mini can do more professional-level workflow,” he explained, “so it can be a match for people who want to mix and match peripherals but can’t justify an expenditure on a Mac Studio.”
“It also provides a way for people still on Intel Macs to get into Apple Silicon and experience its advantages,” he said.
When he heard Apple was refreshing the mini, David McQueen, a research director at ABI Research, an international technology advisory company, thought the move would be designed to satisfy customers already invested in the Apple ecosystem. “But the improvements in performance and drop in price could entice new consumers to the product,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Boosting Leader’s Lead
The new MacBook Pro laptop will also offer an M2 Pro model and an M2 Max version.
The Max chip has the same 12-core CPU as the M2 Pro but an expanded GPU of up to 38 cores and a larger L2 cache.
The chip can also address more unified memory — up to 96GB — at a faster bandwidth — 400GB/s.
Prices for the MacBook Pros range from $1,999 for a 14-inch model with the M2 Pro chip to $3,499 for a 16-inch model with the M2 Max chip.
The new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro feature M2 Pro and M2 Max, Apple’s next-generation pro silicon. (Image Credit: Apple)
“Adding the new M2 chips make these new Macs powerful alternatives and, in the laptops, gives them more battery life and additional graphic speeds,” Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology advisory firm in San Jose, Calif., told TechNewsWorld.
Ubrani maintained that the new chips would advance Apple’s position in the market.
“Apple’s last generation MacBooks were already ahead of many other laptops in the market, as they offered productivity and battery life that very few devices could compete with,” he said.
“The newer generation is likely to widen Apple’s lead in this perspective, and it further puts pressure on Windows PC makers and silicon makers to up their game,” he added.
Ready for Prime Time
Those competitors, though, have begun to up their game, and this announcement, which seems out of cadence with the typical Apple calendar, could be a sign that the company is looking over its shoulder with some concern.
“At CES, we saw a lot of announcements by Intel and AMD about laptops and claims that they are catching up to Apple,” Rubin noted. “With this announcement, Apple is responding to those processor introductions at CES.”
“It will be interesting to see how these M2 chips compete against the likes of AMD’s new Ryzen offering, which may offer comparable — or even better — performance in terms of battery life and processing speed in the Windows space,” Vena added.
Image Credit: Apple
However, Bajarin asserted that the new chips were just too good to keep under wraps until later in the year.
“The M2 chips are such an improvement over the M1s Apple wanted to get them to the market as soon as possible,” he said. “That is why the launch is earlier in the year than normal. The new M2s were ready for prime time.”
Releasing new products when the PC market is in one of the worst declines in its history might give some computer makers pause, but that’s not the case with Apple.
“Apple positions itself differently from its PC competitors,” observed Mikako Kitagawa, a director and analyst with Gartner, a research and advisory company based in Stamford, Conn.
“It is determined to win the market despite the challenging environment,” she told TechNewsWorld. “That’s the message behind the new product release today.”