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The surprise Mac Mini M2 is Apple’s most tempting desktop in years

OPINION: Apple wiped away some of the January blues this week by unveiling a surprising slew of updated Mac machines – alongside the eagerly awaited M2 Max and M2 Pro chips.

Those ridiculously powerful Apple Silicon chips – updates to the M1 Pro and M1 Max from 2021 – find themselves nestled inside new iterations of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, allowing for up to 96GB of memory, improvements to both the CPU and GPU and up to 22 hours of battery life.

As you’d expect, these machines come at a steep cost – especially if you’re in the UK, where the base 14-inch model has risen to £2149 – and considering the current rising price of, well, pretty much everything my eyes were instantly drawn to Apple’s third announcement.

The new Mac Mini M2 might seem like the least interesting of the new products, but for me, it’s the most tempting desktop Apple has launched in years – arguably more so than the colourful iMac 24-inch, a machine I loved when I reviewed it.

For those new to the Mac ecosystem, the Mac Mini is the budget Apple computing option. It’s a basic machine, with a simple silver design and a clean look. There are a few ports on the back (HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, Gigabit Ethernet, USB-C and USB-A ports) and you provide your own monitor, keyboard and mouse.

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The new M2 Mac Mini

The latest model starts at $599/£649, making it comfortably the cheapest way to get an M2-toting machine and for that price, I can’t see there being a better Mac deal available in 2023. The M2 is a stunning chip and offering it in a budget machine for home use makes a lot of sense, especially now more people work from home and might not be so keen to put down £1000+ on a laptop.

That base $599/£649 model is modest on spec, but it’s perfect as a family machine, for students and for those who simply want a speedy computer that’ll stay fast for a number of years. It comes with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB memory and a 256GB SSD. That’s the same setup as the base MacBook Air M2, which starts at £1249.

Usually, I would instantly dismiss anything with such low storage, but for a desktop machine that’ll stay in one place, hooking up a large external drive will comfortably sort that and allow for more storage of photos, videos and other files. I’ve also found 8GB memory to be perfectly adequate in M-series machines, especially for basic use.

There are pricier and more capable versions of the new Mac Mini if you’re after something a little more speedy for tougher creative work. Even though it starts at $1299/£1399, the top-end M2 Pro Mini still feels like a cracker of a deal with its 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine and 4x Thunderbolt ports. You’d have to spend $1999/£2149 to get a similarly-specced MacBook.

But seeing as it’s just a desktop, extra money will need to be spent on a monitor, keyboard and mouse. But unlike with the iMac, you can go for a larger (or smaller) screen that fits into your space and choose the accessories that suit you. There are plenty of better mice than the version Apple provides, for example. I would also assume a lot more people have these peripherals at home after those long years of pandemic living.

Whenever Apple launches new tech, it’s usually the most powerful, most expensive products that get the most headlines. But in this instance, it’s the cheapest of the bunch that should really get most people excited.

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