I need to return the loaned M2 Pro Mac mini to Apple. So this article is the last in my five-part series exploring this device, sharing my final thoughts and recommended configurations. (The other articles are linked at the end.)
First, and probably the most important but least appreciated, is that using this new Mac mini is exactly the same as using any other Mac. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. No strange quirks or surprises. It works just exactly the way you expect. Only faster. In some cases, much faster.
I suspect Apple works very hard for us to take that interoperability for granted.
(The 2023 M2 Pro Mac mini sitting on my desk. The white light indicates I’m busy working.)
As I work with this new device, I find myself torn. It’s 8 – 10% faster than the M1 Pro MacBook Pro that is my main computer today. That’s not enough of a speed bump to tip me over to upgrade. But, if my main system was Intel, the benefits to upgrading would be obvious.
I prefer desktop systems to laptops. When Apple announced the Mac Studio, I knew in my heart that was the machine I needed. Given the work that I do, I will never need the power in an Apple silicon Mac Pro – whatever that is and whenever that gets released. But the Mac Studio – that was exactly the “power system” I needed – especially running the M1 Max SoC.
Then the M2 Mac mini showed up.
The M2 Pro SoC is seriously faster than any Intel-based Mac, including the 2019 Mac Pro. It has features – such as the media and neural engines – that Intel does not have. And it is small, taking less desktop space than a cookbook.
It won every speed test I ran on it, yet is extremely quiet and doesn’t get hot. According to GeekBench, the only Mac systems faster are three high-end configurations of the Mac Studio – at far higher prices.
M2 vs. M2 PRO
(The four Thunderbolt ports on the M2 Pro Mac mini – along with HDMI, USB-A, Ethernet & power.)
So, if I need to choose, which do I pick: the M2 or M2 Pro SoC?
While the M2 Mac mini is a solid performer, and much less expensive, I recommend video editors consider the M2 Pro version. Why?
Since we can’t upgrade the hardware once we take delivery, we need to think about how to best optimize the gear before we buy.
While the M2 Pro is the more capable choice, sometimes the budget gets in the way. If you need to save money get:
Total price: $1,199 (US)
Video editing takes advantage of more RAM, up to a point. 24 GB is a good option for both HD and 4K editing. SSD speed doubles with the 512 GB or larger capacity options. And the M2 SoC is no slouch in the power department.
If you have a bit more money, upgrade to the 1 TB storage option.
If you need a good mid-range system:
Total Price: $1,899 (US)
This doubles the number of Thunderbolt ports, doubles the amount of storage and increases RAM. If you are doing multicam editing, this is the better system.
If you want the system I’d personally pick (and the one I used for testing):
Total price: $2,599 (US)
For this option, I took the high-end M2 Pro SoC, maximum RAM and doubled the storage. Since we almost always use external storage for media and projects, there’s no big advantage to mortgaging your house to get even higher capacity storage from Apple. If you are editing multicam projects with lots of high-resolution streams, the processing power of this system gives it the advantage.
NOTE: Because my network is optimized for 10G Ethernet, I would also get the 10G Ethernet port for another $100. Most local-area networks, though, don’t support this speed.
However, the price of this high-end Mac mini matches the low-end Mac Studio with an M1 Max SoC. The Mac Studio, with the M1 Max, will be faster than the Mac mini, even though it uses the M1 chipset. Still, for most editing, you don’t need the Mac Studio. The Mac Studio comes into its own when processing compute-heavy effects like 3D rendering or Topaz Video AI for up-scaling or Neat Video for visual noise reduction.
NOTE: Remember, the Mac Studio doesn’t provide higher quality, just more speed.
(The Mac mini is still sitting on my desk and wide awake. I’m still typing.)
Where I find myself caught is the never-ending debate between what I want and what I need.
If your daily editing system is an Intel-based Mac, this new Mac mini will redefine your concept of speed. It is anywhere from two to seven times faster than what you are using now. And, in Apple terms, the new Mac mini isn’t that expensive.
As I was running my speed tests, it exceeded what I could do on my M1 Pro MacBook Pro. But, more importantly, it excelled at every task I could imagine using it for in my daily life.
But… it’s small. It doesn’t look impressive. Maybe what I really need is a big hulking piece of metal on my desk that says “Here is a Power User!” That mind-set is very hard to shake. I mean, what if I am suddenly called to edit a Taylor Swift concert consisting of 20 8K camera streams?
Well, first, I’d suspect they had me confused with another editor… Then again, if I’m hired to edit a Taylor Swift concert in 8K, I’m buying bigger and faster storage to celebrate! Whatever computer I have will be fast enough to edit it.
Most of my time is spent writing, testing software, editing screen shots, browsing the web, bookkeeping, calculating spreadsheets, developing Keynote slides, reading email – ALL tasks which any computer made in the last ten years easily handles. In addition to that, I also edit audio and video. The new Mac mini has all these tasks covered with power to spare. After three weeks of testing, I still haven’t found the top end of this machine’s performance.
I also like that I can bring my own keyboard and mouse. I don’t like wireless keyboards or mice. If something goes wrong with my computer, as happened with this Mac mini on installation, the only way to fix it is to plug in a wired keyboard. Yes, wireless is sexy. But I prefer the reassurance that if something breaks I have the tools on hand to fix it.
NOTE: The Mac mini was fine. The batteries in the keyboard and mouse were dead and couldn’t connect to the computer. Once I attached a wired keyboard, installation went fine. I then charged the keyboard and mouse and used them with no problems then on.
If you are creating massive 3D worlds, rendering hour-long After Effects comps or processing graphics measured in gigabytes, you’ll need more power – especially more RAM – than in this Mac mini.
But, if you want power to burn in a space small enough to fit on your desk and still have a desk left, the 2023 Mac mini with the M2 Pro SoC is impossible to ignore. I like the additional ports, the 32 GB of RAM, the speed of the internal storage and the ability to add a 10G Ethernet port.
What I find truly fascinating, though, is that once I started using it, the Mac mini disappeared. It became just me and my screen getting work done — a whole lot faster than ever before. I will miss this system when it’s gone.
Here are the articles I’ve written reviewing and testing the M2 Mac mini:
14 Responses to Thoughts and Configurations for the 2023 Mac mini for Video Editing
There is good cause for apple M but sometimes apps just don’t work with M, so i keep an apple intel mini on the side. But for fcp and family, and M-optimized apps, wow, way to go.
I find it a good idea to keep an older computer, running an older version of the macOS, on hand, but on the shelf – just for those occasions when you need to run software that no longer runs on the current OS.
Hold RUNNING computer!
A harddrive WORKING clone of the macOS that works for that computer.
Good point. No sense keeping gear that doesn’t work.
With my troublesome/limp-along 2017 27″ iMac (yes, tried everything) being ever so slow – am I the eternal but ultimately foolish optimist hoping that Apple rethink and produce another or should I go the Mac Mini route and use the existing as monitor?
Predicting what Apple with do and when they will do it is a fool’s game. Websites display headlines like: “What Apple Will Announce at WWDC 2023” as if they actually know. But they don’t. They’re guessing. If the last two years have taught us anything is that reality is not under control by any one or any one company.
Will Apple release another iMac? Probably, because it is an effective design. Will they release it in the next (mumble mumble) years? We have no clue.
Your 2017 system is costing you time and aggravation. Any computer you buy today will be faster, more capable and more reliable. How much is your time worth? FAR more than the money you are saving by “waiting for the perfect iMac.”
You have a need now. You should buy a computer today that meets that need. An M2 Pro Mac mini will be FIVE TIMES faster than the system you use now – and much more reliable. Or an M2 MacBook Pro laptop would be equally fast and portable.
Personally, I’d wait until we hear what – if anything – is announced at WWDC the first week of June. Then, it will be time to make an informed decision and buy a new computer. Sure, you can wait. But all you are doing is wasting time.
What is so slow on your iMac?
Do you do your monthly maintenance?
Titanium Onyx does that well and is “free”.
Also, how about cloning your current system and starting a fresh system?
Firstly, many thanks Larry for the sage words.
Secondly, Patrick I’ve tried everything in the manual since it went pear-shaped updating Monterey. Finally reverting to a full wipe of the HD and installing the latest OS. All apps are up to date and I do try speaking nicely to it each day. Admittedly, with a little hint of sarcasm for good measure.
Read your excellent review of the MacMini, but I decided to go for the Mac Studio Ultra, even if it going to be obsolete soon.
Have you noticed that macOS Ventura has problems with CinemaDNG-files ? Editing sequences with ColorFinale Transcoder and FCP, but the result is terrible. I’m getting “rainbow-banding” in the projects. This is not happening with macOS Monterey installed.
Contacted Apple about this issue, but they could not help. ColorFinale-support was able to recreate this, by testing my files…..
Interesting that CinemaDNG files would have this problem. Thanks for letting us know.
And, if you can afford it, the Mac Studio Ultra is a AMAZNG system! Congratulations. And it won’t be obsolete. It will continue delivering a serious amount of performance to you and your projects for years to come. New machines may be faster – but your machine will never slow down.
In order to work with my cinemaDNG-files, I´ll have to switch over to DaVinci Resolve (which I do not know very well….).
Opening one of the .dng-files in Preview, clearly shows the problem (“rainbow-banding”). Opening the same file in Adobe Lightroom Classic, shows NO problem. This happens only in macOS Ventura (13.3).
Delivery time on the Mac Studio Ultra is 3-5 weeks, and maybe I’m not able to run Monterey on this……(?)
I just checked Apple’s website:
And the Mac Studio CAN run Monterey.
It feels like with the release of this product Apple is at that point or only a year or two away, that outside of enterprise level customers or the roll of super sophisticated AI at the consumer level, a product like this is as powerful as you need a computer to be.
Personally, I think we are there now. However, I want to see if Apple updates the Mac Studio, which I’m still leaning towards – mostly for ego reasons, I suspect – and I want to hear their pitch for the Mac Pro – if and when.
But this M2 Pro Mac mini is a real powerhouse.