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Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: Which Compact Desktop to Get?

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: Which Compact Desktop to Get?

Key Points

  • The Intel NUC and Mac mini are compact desktop computers that offer small size and great value for your budget.
  • The biggest difference between the two is their operating system, with the NUC running Windows 11 Pro and the Mac mini running macOS.
  • The Mac mini has a sleek design and limited connectivity ports, while the NUC 13 Pro has a more expandable design with more connectivity options.
  • The NUC 13 Pro has a more powerful processor and graphics capabilities compared to the Mac mini.
  • Both computers offer similar storage options, but the NUC allows for easy upgrades while the Mac mini does not.

The battle of Intel NUC vs. Mac mini might seem like a simple choice between operating systems —Windows or Mac. But the nuances of each platform go much deeper than that. Micro desktop computers are a fairly recent phenomenon. Within the past decade or so, trends have steered towards creating smaller tech pieces that still pack a major punch.

Consumers are happy to shell out large amounts of cash for tiny products as long as they live up to the hype. Intel’s NUC line has wowed fans since 2013. For a decade, the Intel mini PC has lightly rested on business, personal, and gaming desks. Apple was a few steps ahead of Intel, releasing their mini Mac in 2005.

They encouraged people who already owned computer accessories like monitors and keyboards to explore. Still, these worthy competitors have gathered passionate audiences, leaving newcomers to ponder which option is best for them.

In today’s article, we are going to compare these two compact desktop platforms and weigh all their pros and cons. We’ll discuss specs, features, OS differences, and design choices. Let’s dive in!

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: Overview

The longstanding “Mac vs. PC” debate has impacted consumer shopping habits for decades — for better or worse. People are dedicated to their favorite computer brands, becoming loyalists based on a number of qualities. 

There are many comparable Apple and PC products out there, but the most surprising are the NUC 13 Pro and the Mini Mac. First established in January 2005, the Mac mini pioneered micro desktops, putting them at the forefront of home computing. After some time, Windows-based brands like Intel began to notice the effectiveness of tiny-but-mighty computers, replacing the giant towers that were once the gold standard.

Intel Core i7-1360P
Intel NUC 13 PRO
$599.00
  • 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1360P
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1TB M.2 SSD
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Supports 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and 4K@60Hz four-screen display
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01/17/2024 07:29 am GMT

Intel’s NUC 13 Pro is about the same size as the Mac. The mini Mac is just a bit larger than the NUC 13 Pro, but both will take up very little space on your surface area (like a desktop or shelf). One of the biggest selling points for both computers is their small size. Though they aren’t meant to be portable like a laptop or tablet, users can maximize their desk at home or work by minimizing their computer.

They are also nearly the same price, with only a small difference between the two. You can find both computers for less than $700, which is an incredible value for your budget. There are many upgraded configurations available for under $1,000. So, they are both a great bang for your buck when it comes to desktop systems.

The biggest difference between the two microdesktops is their operating system. The NUC 13 Pro gives you Windows 11 Pro, which is worlds apart from any macOS version. People tend to argue that macOS is easier to use than Windows, but it’s really up to personal preference. Otherwise, the two computers are more similar than most Apple computers and PCs.

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: Side-by-Side Comparison

SpecificationsApple Mac mini “M2” 2023Intel NUC 13 Pro
ProcessorApple M2, 8-Core (3.49 GHz)Intel Core i7-1360P, 12-Core (up to 5.00 GHz)
Graphics10-Core GPUIntegrated Intel Iris Xe
RAM8 GB (upgradable at time of purchase to 24 GB)Up to 64 GB
Storage256 GB or 512 GB SSD (upgradable at purchase)M.2 or SATA SSD (upgradeable anytime)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, Gigabit EthernetWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, Intel Ethernet Controller i226-V
Ports2x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A, 1x HDMI 2.0 (pending confirmation), 1x 3.5 mm headphone jack2x Thunderbolt 4, 4x USB (various generations), 2x HDMI 2.1, 2x DP 1.4a via Type C
Max Display Support2 Displays (6K and 5K resolutions)4 Displays
ExpansionNonePCIe slots for M.2 storage, M.2 slot for wireless
Weight2.6 pounds1.9 pounds
Price Range$599 – $1199 (based on specs)$587.00 – $949.00

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: What’s the Difference?

There are plenty of subtle differences between the two microdesktops. However, they go beyond the surface-evel Apple vs. PC debate that you might be used to seeing. In fact, you may be more surprised to find out how similar the computers are, rather than how different they are!

This is one of the few instances where Apple and PC computer programmers had the same overall idea, and executed it in a similar way. However, it is important to identify the core differences that would influence which computer you purchase for yourself. Let’s look at each aspect of these computers in a little more detail.

Design

This is a major difference between the two computers. The Mac mini features Apple’s classic sleek, futuristic appearance in a Space Gray finish. It includes a good number of connectivity ports, all located on the back of the computer.

Intel Core i5-1340
Intel NUC 13 PRO
$699.00
  • 512 GB SSD, 16 GB RAM
  • Windows 11 Pro
  • Clock speed: 4.60 GHz
  • 13th Gen Intel Corei5-1340P processor
  • Built-in 35W Intel Iris Xe Graphics can handle 3D animation, CAD models, and video rendering
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The NUC 13 Pro is a thicker-styled cube shape in a more subdued black finish. There are two ports in the front, as well as a headphone jack — which is on the back of the Mac mini. There are several more connectivity ports on the back of the NUC 13 Pro, too. In line with the NUC’s overall theme of expandability, Intel’s option features significantly more ports than Apple’s. 

These computers are designed with the future in mind. Aesthetically, Apple’s Mac mini takes the cake. Its sleek appearance is reminiscent of a science fiction film, or the world The Jetsons predicted we would be living in now.

Intel NUC vs. Mac mini
The Mac mini is Apple’s smallest, most adaptable, and most affordable desktop computer.

Processor

Of course, we can’t ignore that Apple has been migrating away from Intel to its own chips, the M1 and M2. The Mac mini is no exception. While you can still buy one with an Intel Core processor, you can opt for an M1 or M2 model for more efficient performance. If we’re comparing the M2 to the 13th-generation i7 in the newest NUC, they are still pretty close in terms of performance.

However, the i7 powering the NUC is more capable than the M2 by a small margin. With more four more physical cores than the M2, it delivers marginally better performance and can even address substantially more RAM — up to 64GB.

Intel NUC vs. Mac mini
The Intel NUC 13 Pro sports plenty of USB and HDMI ports for your peripherals.

Graphics

Most people would not use the mini Mac for gaming. This is largely because the graphics card was not really designed for it. You get clear graphics and fast processing speeds, but most of your favorite games are definitely more of a PC experience. The M1 GPU offers 8 cores, whereas the M2 offers 10. These are pretty good stats, but PC wins this round simply because you can use an external GPU.

The NUC 13 has improved performance compared to its predecessors, with Intel aiming to market towards gamers. But without an external GPU, you won’t be gaming much. The integrated Intel Iris will only allow you to enjoy older or less demanding games. Luckily, you can plug in an external GPU via any of the Thunderbolt ports. You can play most high-end games on the NUC 13 Pro once you do this.

RAM and Storage

Surprisingly, these computers come with the same amount of overall storage. The latest M2 Mac mini comes with either 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. 512GB is a decent amount to start with, and upgrades would only enhance your experience if you plan on running large applications or files.

Apple M2 Chip
Mac Mini M2 Chip
$999.00
  • 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
  • 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • Clock speed: 2.1 GHz
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The problem here is that you can’t upgrade your Mac mini’s storage later — only at the time of purchase. It’s the same way with the RAM. You can buy your Mac mini with up to 24GB, but you can’t upgrade it later. In comparison, the Intel NUC gives you complete freedom.

You can buy it preconfigured with 256GB, 512GB, or even 1TB of storage. If you want to upgrade later, simply remove the case and add an additional M.2 drive or an SSD via the SATA slot. Compared to the Mac, you can get a lot more storage capacity in this little device. The RAM is similar. Whereas you can’t upgrade the Mac, you can upgrade the NUC to as high as 64GB of DDR4 RAM.

Intel NUC vs. Mac mini
The RAM and SSD are easily upgradeable on the Intel Nuc 13 Pro.

Price

One of the most shocking commonalities between these two microdesktops is their price. They are just a few dollars apart. At its most basic option, the NUC 13 Pro is available on Amazon for $500 to $900. The Mac mini is available for a similar price point.

These are great budget-friendly options. You could save several hundred dollars upgrading your home or work computer if you already have monitors and speakers. Compared to a standard desktop computer or a laptop, the pricing options for both of these desktops is very attractive.

Age

The biggest downfall of the Mac mini is that Apple tends to ignore it. They focus more heavily on staples like the iPhone, which gets updates yearly these days. Their computers are similar. But the operating system version tends to make or break the system. Apple will come out with a new update and notify its users that older models are not compatible with it.

Apple M1 Chip
Mac Mini M1 Chip
  • 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD
  • 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • Clock speed: 3 GHz
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Intel’s NUC 13 Pro came out this year, in 2023. So, it is quite new. The latest M2 Mac mini also dropped in 2023. The issue here is that Apple devices tend to be dropped from official support much sooner than Windows and Linux devices. You can install Windows 10 even on a 12-year-old computer. Try installing the latest macOS on any Mac older than five or six years, and you will have trouble.

Unfortunately, Intel has also decided to discontinue the NUC line. So, the NUC 13 Pro is the last model by the brand. However, it has been taken over by ASUS, who plans to continue making more NUC models. If you want a classic NUC instead of the ASUS variation, you can still opt for the Intel NUC and expect to have Windows and Linux support for the better part of a decade, or longer.

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: 8 Must-Know Facts

NUC 13 Pro:

  • Released in 2023
  • NUC is not going to be owned by Intel moving forward
  • Designed for personal use, business use, and gamers
  • Significantly faster than older models of NUCs

Mini Mac:

  • Released in 2023
  • Uses Intel Core Processor
  • Can access apps on a TV screen
  • Good for content creation

Intel NUC vs. Mac Mini: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Simply put, the NUC 13 Pro is better for gamers, while the Mac mini is better for content creation. Apple’s user-friendly interface gives people the chance to learn basic computing skills or improve upon existing ones. Windows 11 Pro, however, is good for anyone who wants to take things to the next level.

Apple vs. Windows will be debated for the rest of time. The answer is obvious: it all depends on personal preference. What is a life-changing tech for someone might be a nightmare for someone else. So, the NUC 13 Pro could be someone’s dream computer, or versa. 

Ultimately, your choice will be dependent on what you need the computer for. Are you pursuing higher education? Any Mac product is highly recommended for college students, and sometimes, you can even get a discount for your studies. Are you trying to set up a home theater system? Are you a gamer? The NUC 13 Pro is your best bet. You will be amazed at how much power can be found in such a small package, in either case!

NUC 13 ProMac Mini
What It IsPCMAC
Primary UseMultimedia/Business/Personal/GamingMultimedia/Business/Personal
Name13 ProMac mini
Release20232018
BrandIntelApple
SizeCompactCompact
Operating SystemWindowsmacOS Monterey
ManufacturerIntelApple
  1. Intel NUC 13 PRO
    $599.00
    • 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1360P
    • 32GB DDR4 RAM
    • 1TB M.2 SSD
    • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
    • Supports 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and 4K@60Hz four-screen display
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 07:29 am GMT
  2. Intel NUC 13 PRO
    $699.00
    • 512 GB SSD, 16 GB RAM
    • Windows 11 Pro
    • Clock speed: 4.60 GHz
    • 13th Gen Intel Corei5-1340P processor
    • Built-in 35W Intel Iris Xe Graphics can handle 3D animation, CAD models, and video rendering
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 07:29 am GMT
  3. Mac Mini M2 Chip
    $999.00
    • 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
    • 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD
    • 16-core Neural Engine
    • Clock speed: 2.1 GHz
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 07:39 am GMT
  4. Mac Mini M1 Chip
    • 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD
    • 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU
    • 16-core Neural Engine
    • Clock speed: 3 GHz
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Mac or PC better?

Mac computers and PCs offer vastly different user benefits. You can do nearly anything on both computers, ultimately changing your life with potential. Modern computing has made it possible for people to start businesses, create content, and develop complex programs on both Mac and PC machines. The choice is yours when it comes to which is “better”!

Is Intel discontinuing NUC?

Unfortunately, yes, NUC has plans to discontinue the beloved NUC line. But fear not! ASUS is picking up where Intel left off. You can expect to see a NUC 14 Pro hit shelves someday. It simply will not feature any Intel branding since it’s now an ASUS product!

Is NUC a good pc?

Yes! The range of NUC computers is beneficial for a variety of circumstances. People use NUC for their business, gaming, home theater systems, multimedia editing, and more! More recently, Intel has improved the overall NUC experience. In previous models, users complained about slow processing times. This was especially common with the 12 Pro. Thankfully, Intel listened to fan feedback; the improvements made for the 13 Pro were palpable. You can use a NUC for almost anything!

What is NUC?

NUC stands for “Next Unit of Computing!” NUC introduced this line of micro desktop PCs over a decade ago. After some trial and error, they became incredibly popular. People who already owned monitors and speakers seemed to benefit the most. Their preexisting setup was simply upgraded with their NUC computer.

What is a micro desktop?

A micro desktop is, essentially, a very tiny computer. You can tuck it away on a shelf or desk surface while still getting a traditional computing experience. Previously, large tower computers were the gold standard. Now, manufacturers are able to take the same big features on standard desktops and turn them into compact powerhouses. You’d be amazed at the cool things a micro desktop can do without taking up too much space or being too loud.

Should I get a Mini Mac?

The Mini Mac is the most affordable iteration of the traditional Mac experience. You can get almost everything that is available with an iMac or MacBook but in a much smaller package. The only downside to the Mini Mac is that it doesn’t get much love from Apple.

Their other products get yearly updates that are difficult to keep up with, but the Mini Mac’s last update was in 2018. It’s also more common to find a refurbished Mini Mac because of its age — but it’s still a wonderful computer worth checking out.

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