Surprise! Ultra-Powerful M1X Mac mini Might Also Be Unveiled This Fall

M1X Mac mini Concept Credit: Front Page Tech / YouTube
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Although it’s the new 14-inch and 16-inch M1X-powered MacBook Pro models that most of us are waiting for, it looks like Apple may have another Mac surprise up its sleeve for this fall — a more powerful Mac mini.

As Apple’s smallest and most affordable desktop computer, the Mac mini often gets overlooked alongside more exciting systems like the MacBook Air and 24-inch iMac, but it’s long been one of Apple’s most powerful little workhorses, offering an easy foot into the Mac ecosystem, while still delivering enough power to handle all but the most demanding media projects.

In fact, the Mac mini arguably contends not with the MacBook Air, but the MacBook Pro when it comes to its capabilities and target customer base, and nowhere was this more obvious than when Apple released its new M1-powered Macs last fall.

While the M1 MacBook Air was a wholesale replacement for the previous models, Apple continued selling “higher-end” Intel versions of the MacBook Pro and the Mac mini alongside the new M1 versions.

While that seemed slightly odd, considering that the new M1 chip already runs circles around any Intel Mac, the first-generation of Apple Silicon still has some potentially show-stopping limitations for professional users.

M1 Mac Limitations

For one thing, as insanely powerful as the M1 is at crunching through complex workflows, it can’t handle more than 16GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. It’s also limited to only two Thunderbolt 4 ports; even the higher-end 24-inch iMac, which includes four USB-C ports, only offers Thunderbolt 4 capabilities on two of them — the others are just plain old USB 3.

So, when Apple unveiled the new M1 Mac mini last fall, it kept the 2018 Intel-based model in the lineup for those users who needed more than two Thunderbolt ports, more RAM, or larger internal storage.

While only Apple knows how many of those Intel Mac minis have sold over the past year, at least it was giving customers the option. Like the Intel MacBook Pro models, however, we knew from the beginning that this was temporary to hold users over until Apple could get even more powerful Silicon ready.

Now that the M1X is ready to go for the new MacBook Pro, it looks like Apple plans to also phase out the old Intel Mac mini in favour of an even more powerful, “high-end” Mac mini.

In the latest issue of his Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggests that the Intel Mac mini will “go away in the next several months,” and while he doesn’t provide an exact timeframe, we’d be surprised if it doesn’t debut alongside the new higher-end MacBook Pro lineup.

The Mac mini is used for more basic tasks like video streaming, but many people use it as a software development machine, as a server or for their video editing needs. Apple knows that, so it kept the Intel model around. Well, expect that to go away in the next several months with a high-end, M1X Mac mini. It will have an updated design and more ports than the current model.

Mark Gurman

Gurman also suggested that Apple will take this opportunity to update the design of the Mac mini, although it’s unclear what form that might take. The Mac mini got its last major redesign in 2010, when it moved to a thinner aluminum unibody casing and internal power supply with the third-generation model.

While the Mac mini saw minor annual refreshes from 2010 to 2014, it languished after that until 2018, when it saw a major upgrade with Apple’s T2 security chip, new Intel Coffee Lake CPUs, standard SSD storage, and four USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

However, apart from a change in colour from silver to Space Grey and an array of new ports around the back, the design remained identical to the 2010 model.

Based on what we’ve seen of the M1 chip, Apple could conceivably make the Mac mini thinner and smaller than previous models. Since Apple’s own silicon runs much cooler than Intel chips, there’s less need to leave room for ventilation or use larger fans.

Arguably, Apple could have already done this with the first M1 Mac mini, but we got the general sense last fall that Apple preferred to retain its physical hardware designs to make sure that it was the new M1 chip that got all of the attention.

Notably, however, the M1 Mac mini also made the switch back to a silver casing, which leaves us wondering if Apple will do the same with the M1X, or use this as a way to distinguish the entry-level model from the upcoming higher-end M1X.

Rumour has it the new M1X chip will feature at least eight high-performance CPU cores, and up to 32 GPU cores, along with support for four Thunderbolt channels, up to 64GB of RAM, and SSDs of up to 8TB.

This is not to be confused with the M2 chip that Apple is reportedly developing for next year’s colourful MacBook Air. That one will be a direct successor to the M1, intended for Apple’s entry-level machines, and we’ll undoubtedly eventually see an M2X as an upgraded version of that as well sometime in late 2022 or early 2023.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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