Apple sells a variety of Macs that target different users. Unlike the more popular MacBook product line, the Mac mini and the iMac are intended for desktop use. Thanks to Apple Silicon, these Macs are now more similar than you might think.
Since both models target the desktop market, some of you may have trouble choosing the perfect Mac for your use case. Hence, we’ll compare all the differences between the Mac mini and the iMac so that you can make an informed decision.
1. Mac mini vs. iMac: Internal Hardware and Performance
The Mac mini and the iMac are very different from the outside, but you’ll be surprised to know that they share nearly identical internal hardware.
The current models of the Mac mini and the iMac house the Apple Silicon M1 chip, which is an 8-core processor. They both pack the same 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage across all the standard configurations.
However, there’s a tiny difference when we compare the base models. The base M1 Mac mini has an 8-core GPU, whereas the base M1 iMac has a 7-core GPU. This indicates that the Mac mini is getting a binned M1 chip with all GPU cores unlocked. Both the base models come with an internal fan to keep the temperatures down during intensive workloads.
All in all, you’ll get identical performance whether you choose the Mac mini or the iMac. But since the iMac is an all-in-one unit, you’ll get a high-resolution display and an integrated camera for FaceTime calls. You’ll need to purchase those separately if you choose the Mac mini.
2. Mac mini vs. iMac: Size Comparison and Portability
Apple’s Mac mini is the smallest Mac you can buy. It looks like a bigger Apple TV at first glance, but to fit an entire computer into a device that small is seriously impressive. On the other hand, the iMac looks like a monitor, except that all the hardware is integrated into the bottom chin. It’s very thin and sleek-looking too.
Due to the lack of a display, the Mac mini is easily the more compact and portable Mac out of the two, but the iMac isn’t a heavy machine by any means. It weighs just under 10 pounds, meaning you should still be able to carry it around if you want to, as long as you can fit that screen somewhere.
The Mac mini can fit into your bag when you’re traveling, and you’ll be able to use it anywhere, as long as you can connect it to a TV. You’ll have a tougher time traveling with your iMac like that. So, the Mac mini wins in this department.
3. Mac mini vs. iMac: Port Selection and Connectivity
This is another area where the Mac mini wins easily. With the base M1 iMac, you get two USB 4 ports with Thunderbolt, and that’s it. To get Gigabit Ethernet on your iMac, you must purchase the optional power adapter with the integrated Ethernet port for $30.
You can get two more USB 4 ports and the Ethernet adapter if you purchase the mid-tier or high-end iMac configurations.
On the other hand, the Mac mini gets two USB 4 ports, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and Gigabit Ethernet. So, if you don’t want to use dongles to connect your peripherals and accessories, the Mac mini is a no-brainer.
4. Mac mini vs. iMac: The Accessories You Get
Apple never bundles the Magic Keyboard or the Magic Mouse with the Mac mini lineup, to keep the prices down. So, keep this in mind and be prepared to shell out a couple of hundred dollars. Of course, you can connect your existing PC keyboard and mouse to the USB ports if you don’t want to spend any more money.
When you buy the base model M1 iMac, you get the Magic Keyboard and the Magic Mouse in the box. So, you’re ready to go for the price you pay. However, it’s worth noting that you need to get the more expensive models if you want the new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t sell this new keyboard separately yet, so you cannot get Touch ID on your Mac mini even if you want to.
5. Mac mini vs. iMac: Desktop Experience
Now, let’s discuss which Mac offers the better desktop experience. If you go with the iMac, you get a minimalistic setup. You’ll only see a single cable on your desk, for power, which is neatly hidden away.
The included accessories, like the Magic Keyboard and the Magic Mouse, are wireless. Also, since the Gigabit Ethernet port is integrated into the power adapter, you shouldn’t have to worry about cable management at all.
When it comes to the Mac mini, your desktop experience will depend on the hardware and accessories you use it with. For instance, if you connect wired keyboards, your desk may look like a mess because all the cables plug into the back of your Mac, including the one for your display.
In most cases, you’ll struggle to get the minimalistic setup that the M1 iMac can provide.
6. Mac mini vs. iMac: Price
Pricing is a tough topic to discuss when you compare two completely different Macs. On paper, the Mac mini is the most affordable model you can buy, starting at just $699.
However, you need to consider that it doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse, or monitor. When you factor in all the accessories and peripherals, the total price will be upwards of at least a thousand dollars.
In comparison, the M1 iMac costs $1299 for the base model, but you get an all-in-one desktop with a beautiful color-accurate 4.5K display. Plus, you get the wireless Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. That said, the base iMac model has some limitations that can force you to consider the Mac mini.
You can easily save a few hundred dollars by purchasing third-party peripherals with your Mac mini. And, don’t forget that the Mac mini packs an 8-core GPU and has more ports than the iMac.
You Can’t Go Wrong With Either of These Macs
Both of these Macs perform equally well, and Apple has priced them in such a way that you cannot go wrong with either of these models. If you want a clean desk setup, the iMac would be the ideal choice, but the compact Mac mini is the way to go if you want more flexibility.
Now that you know all the similarities and differences, it’s up to you to make an informed decision based on your specific needs.
Image Credit: Apple
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