Even though it has not received any major design refresh for more than a decade, Mac mini remains one of the best Apple products you can buy in 2023. This compact desktop with essential connectivity options and impressive performance has always had an enthusiastic fan base.
However, it is also true that the public often underestimates what a Mac mini can do and where it can be used. This guide explains what a Mac mini is used for and why the device becomes a suitable option for these purposes.
Which Mac mini Should You Buy Today?
At the time of writing, Apple officially sells only the M2 variants of the Mac mini. It means you cannot buy the Intel or M1 model of the compact desktop. So, you must choose between Mac mini models with the M2 and M2 Pro chips.
We believe the M2 Mac mini is the best entry-level Mac you can buy in 2023. Considering the power it packs and the affordable price tag of $599, you cannot go wrong with the base model of the M2 Mac mini. But as always, you can upgrade the RAM, storage space, and connectivity options if your budget allows.
On the other hand, if you need an uber-powerful compact desktop for your workstation, you should upgrade to the M2 Pro Mac mini, which will set you back at $1,299. In its defense, the base model of the M2 Pro Mac mini packs 16GB of unified memory, 512GB of storage, and a 16-core GPU.
You can also consider getting the M1 Mac mini from third-party sellers, which you can find on Amazon and eBay, for instance. Since the M2 Mac mini has replaced the older model, you may get the first Apple Silicon model at a lower price. It is a great option if you plan to bring multiple Mac minis for your business.
Meanwhile, we recommend avoiding Intel Mac mini models even if you can find one at extremely low prices. Since Apple has almost completed the transition to Silicon chips, you cannot expect the best software/tech support from the company.
What is a Mac mini Used for in Personal Setups?
Let’s consider some use-case scenarios where the Mac mini becomes an excellent choice for personal setups.
1. Home/Office Desktop
The Mac mini is most widely used as a home or office desktop that does not compromise performance. So, if you need a WFH setup that does not cost a lot, you can get the base model M2 Mac mini. Because it comes with standard connectivity options, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, you can connect almost everything.
Even after the additional money spent on the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, the Mac mini setup for home stays affordable enough. You can also set up and manage multiple users on macOS, making the Mac mini a suitable option for families.
2. Coding/Development Desktop
Many people use the Mac mini as a beginner/standard development desktop. Depending on the Mac mini model, you can connect up to two (M2 model) or three (M2 Pro model) displays. As long as you configure it with sufficient resources, the Mac mini can power a multi-display setup for coding and development.
Even the base model M2 Mac mini is a great choice to get started with coding/development, more so if you are into iOS/macOS apps. You should also appreciate the compact design of the Mac mini, which means you can carry it in your backpack if need be.
3. Entry-level Video and Music Production
Thanks to powerful apps like GarageBand, Logic Pro X, and Final Cut Pro, macOS has been a great environment for music and video production. Because the Mac mini is the cheapest (new) Mac you can get, it is used as an entry-level video and/or music production setup.
Once again, features like multiple display support and diverse connectivity come in handy, especially when connecting MIDI keyboards and other accessories. In addition, since the M2 and M2 Pro chips do not hold back on performance, you can expect best-in-class rendering times and smooth workflow management.
4. Content Streaming
Though the Mac mini is not the primary choice for gaming, it is often used as a content-streaming PC. With the right streaming software, you can leverage the performance from the M2 or M2 Pro chips. At the time of writing, OBS Studio is updated with native Apple Silicon support—a huge relief.
You can use this Mac mini setup to manage multiple video sources to stream on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Many live steamers have praised the Apple Silicon Mac mini models for their thermals as well. And it is great that your streaming gear does not take up the entire desk, isn’t it?
5. Personal Media Server
You can also use the Mac mini as a personal media server, but it is almost downplaying the power of the M2 chips inside. On the bright side, if you want to set up a media server to stream high-fidelity content, the Mac mini models are an excellent choice.
You also have multiple options to turn an old (or new) Mac mini into a media server. One, you can use macOS itself to use a Mac mini as a media server. Two, you can consider third-party apps like Plex, which offer more control and additional features.
What is a Mac mini Used for in Business Setups?
The Mac mini opens up a few more options in the business setups. Some options are:
1. Web Server
The compact design and underlying performance of the Mac mini make it a suitable choice for a local server for your business. You can easily convert your Mac mini into a file server, Time Machine server, or caching server. Fortunately, macOS offers built-in support for all these tasks.
There is even a business—MacStadium— that uses Mac minis to offer affordable yet performance-friendly server resources for the public. So, with the proper setup and infrastructure design, you can combine the power of multiple Mac minis to create a small data center for your business.
2. Compact Workstation
The Mac minis are also used as compact workstations in business setups. The compact desktop becomes an incredible option for businesses that struggle with physical space. With the M2 and M2 Pro chips inside, the Mac mini lineup is better suited for this purpose.
Considering the efficiency of macOS for workflow, it is no wonder the custom-configured Mac mini models make an excellent case for productivity. Even so, it does not become as expensive as the Mac Studio, which we think is more suitable for heavy-duty workstations.
3. Digital Signage
As surprising as it may be from a performance utilization perspective, Mac minis are also used as digital signage devices. As you can guess, multiple-screen support of Mac minis comes in handy in such setups. And there is no holding back on video processing power.
Of course, you need dedicated digital signage software to get the most from a Mac mini signage setup. So, if you have an old Mac mini that you barely use for work, you can consider turning it into digital signage with the right accessories, like a display and speakers.
Understanding the Power of the Mac mini
The Mac mini is more versatile than it looks! It packs the right blend of performance, connectivity options, and design to make an excellent choice for personal and business setups. However, you should also see how the Mac mini compares to other Macs before making the final decision.
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