Comparing laptops against a desktop PC may seem easy, but not with systems like the MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini. These are two of Apple’s newest computers, and while they are aimed at different audiences, there are some striking similarities. Our guide covers the differences and likenesses between these Apple PCs from performance to price.
MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini: Side-By-Side Comparison
|MacBook Pro||Mac mini M2|
|Release Date||January 2022||January 2023|
|Form Factor||Laptop||Mini PC|
|Display||13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600||None, support for two displays|
|Processor||Apple M2 8-core||Apple M2 8-core|
|Memory||8GB,16GB, 24GB||8GB, 16GB, 24GB|
|Storage||256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD||256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB SSD|
|Dimensions||0.61”H x 11.9”W x 8.3”D||1.4”H x 7.7”W x 7.7”D|
|Weight||3 lbs.||2.6 lbs.|
MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini: What’s the Difference?
When you’re buying a Windows PC, there are dozens of manufacturers to choose from — each with their own configurations. Apple keeps things nice and easy by comparison. That’s one reason you’ll find comparable hardware in the MacBook Pro and Mac mini, despite the fact that one is a laptop and the other is a mini PC.
When Apple first introduced the Mac mini to the world, it brought a unique product to the company’s lineup. It also allowed consumers to get into Apple’s ecosystem at a fraction of the cost when compared to the iMac or MacBook. While the design has changed slightly over the years, the new Mac mini is an attractive system that leaves a small footprint behind.
At only 2.6 pounds, the Mac mini M2 is lighter than most laptops, but three times as thick. The design is reminiscent of a streaming media like the Roku, but with Apple’s style. The MacBook Pro has a similar vibe but in laptop form. It’s a beauty that you’ll hate to keep in a case, and it measures 0.61” H x 11.9” W x 8.3” D with a weight of 3 pounds.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Mac mini line, there first thing you’ll need to know is that it doesn’t come with a monitor. You’ll need to furnish your own whether it’s one you already own or a new monitor like the Apple Studio display. It’s an advantage to some as it allows you to upgrade your system, but will increase the overall price if you need to purchase one.
That’s not an issue with the MacBook Pro. This powerful laptop is designed for professionals, so you’ll get an accurate IPS panel with a wide color gamut. True Tone technology is a perk, and pixels will jump off the Retina display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. While you can’t replace this 13.3-inch panel for a larger one, you can upgrade to the 14” or 16” MacBook Pro models.
When it comes to features, you’re not going to find many on the Mac mini. If you want a webcam, you’ll need to pick one up separately and there’s no Touch ID on this model or Siri without some extras. The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is packed to the brim with flagship features.
Clicks and taps are smooth on the MacBook Pro M2 thanks to the backlit Magic Keyboard and Force Touch trackpad. They are two things synonymous with Apple, and so is the Touch Bar that sits behind the number keys. Want to video chat with colleagues or family? You can do that out of the box with the HD FaceTime camera.
This laptop is ready to stream and cast with a studio-quality microphone and a solid set of built-in speakers. Their new active cooling system also maintains thermal efficiency while the new chip enables ProRes encoding and decoding while you’re on the go. Battery life on this laptop is also top-notch with up to 20 hours of juice depending on your usage.
The MacBook Pro is more expensive than the Mac mini M2 in every configuration. That’s not a negative considering the features and display, but something to keep in mind if you already have peripherals ready for the Mac mini.
We used the 13-inch version of the laptop for our MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini showdown, which starts at $1,299 for the base configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. Doubling the RAM and hard drive doesn’t quite double the price, although the 16-inch MacBook with the M2 Pro chip is considerably more expensive.
The Mac mini M2 is on the opposite end of pricing at $599 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Just like with the MacBook, the more you upgrade the Mac mini, the more expensive it becomes. It has the edge with pricing, but only if you have a monitor and keyboard on hand.
Given the design of the Mac mini M2, Apple had to keep connectivity in mind. While the little box doesn’t look like much, there are a variety of ways to connect this mini PC to devices including monitors and headphones.
On the back of the Mac mini M2 are dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, an Ethernet port, and two USB-A ports. There’s also an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm advanced headphone jack. Wireless capabilities include Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. The HDMI port can handle multichannel audio and while it has a built-in speaker, you’ll want to pick up a new set.
The MacBook Pro M2 also has the same type of high-impedance headphone jack, but Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. That’s a bit of a downgrade, although it still has an Ethernet port and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. As for the processor, RAM, and storage; we’ll touch on those below.
- Take on demanding projects with the M2 Pro or M2 Max chip --- M2 Pro has 12 CPU cores, 19 GPU cores, and up to 32GB unified memory and the M2 Max has 12 CPU cores, up to 38 GPU cores, and up to 96GB unified memory
- Up to 22 hours of battery life thanks to the power-efficient design of the M2 Pro or M2 Max chip
- Delivers exceptional performance whether it’s running on battery or plugged in
- All your pro apps run lightning-fast — including Adobe Creative Cloud, Xcode, Affinity Designer, Microsoft 365, and many of your favorite iPhone and iPad apps
- The 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display features Extreme Dynamic Range, over 1,000 nits of brightness for stunning HDR content, and pro reference modes for doing your best work on the go
- Look sharp and sound great with a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, a studio-quality three-mic array, and a six-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio
MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini: What’s the Same?
Apple put a lot of thought into the design of both of these PCs, which run the latest version of the company’s operating system. They may look different and come with different price points, but one of the more important aspects between the MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini is completely the same.
The Mac mini gets its power from Apple’s fast new M2 processor — just like the MacBook Pro. It’s an 8-core chip with a 10-core GPU and 100GB/s memory bandwidth. Needless to say, it’s powerful and the best processor the company currently makes.
They also kept things uniform with memory, so you can choose from 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of RAM depending on your needs. The MacBook Pro and Mac mini both have 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB solid-state drives as well.
MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini: 4 Must-Know Facts
- Previous generations of the MacBook used Intel processors.
- Apple produced a Server Mac mini version for several years until 2014.
- The fourth-generation MacBook was the first to utilize an M-series chip.
- Originally, the Mac mini used a PowerPC G6 CPU.
MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini: Which One is the Better Value?
Apple makes a number of products geared toward different consumers, and the Mac mini is one of its most versatile PCs. It’s highly configurable and allows you to add your own components, even if they aren’t made by Apple.
That will be a bonus for some people and a hindrance to others who prefer something more portable and ready to go. You’ll get that with the MacBook Pro, which is regarded as one of the better options for professionals. Both are powerful with Apple’s new processor under the hood, so this is a decision we feel comes down to price and preference for many.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©D_Zheleva/Shutterstock.com.