I’m a hardcore Windows fan, but the M1 Mac Mini converted me
I’m not going to lie. I am a hardcore Windows fan. I love my Surface Laptop Studio and I listen to every new Windows 11 update. It’s not that I don’t stray from the Microsoft ecosystem every now and then, but I find myself always brought back to his familiar embrace.
But then the M1 Mac Mini arrived. I sold my old MacBook Pro and “traded” it in for the M1 Mac Mini, eager to test out the latest hardware myself. As much as it sounds like heresy to say, this little machine won me over after just two months.
I’ll start with the most obvious thing – performance. After using a Surface Laptop Studio as my primary machine, I’m quite shocked at how well the Apple M1-powered Mac Mini performs.
My $2,000 Surface Laptop Studio is powered by an Intel Core i7-11370H processor, along with the Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. It’s a beefy machine for what it is, but the M1 Mac Mini matches that performance for me and sometimes surpasses it.
Considering the sub-$700 price tag, this really surprises me. Not to mention that the Mac Mini doesn’t have a dedicated GPU inside like my Surface Laptop Studio does.
Goodbye MacBook. I’ll trade you for a Mac Mini M1. Maybe that will get me to use my iPad more. pic.twitter.com/kLZhPVTplL
— Arif Bacchus (@abacjourn) March 29, 2022
How is this possible, you ask me? Well, my tests aren’t exactly scientific (for that, check out our M1 Mac Mini review), but I use my Surface Laptop Studio for video editing. When I edit my podcast using Wondershare Filmora on Windows 11, a one-hour episode and around 1.5 GB of media files usually take 8-9 minutes to encode. The process is quick, but the fans kick in to help cool the power-hungry GPU. And it’s noisy. Like standing next to a noisy airplane turbine.
Using the exact same files, audio/video streams and application on my Mac Mini, this encoding time was reduced to 5-6 minutes, sometimes closer to 4 minutes. Again, this is all done without a dedicated GPU and using the integrated M1 processor. The system even remained quiet with no fan noise and was pleasant to use. I was very blown away after years of using noisy Windows desktops and laptops.
Outside of video editing, the base model Mac Mini I’ve always held up very well for day-to-day tasks. I would have thought that with only 8GB of RAM, running more than 10 tabs in Microsoft Edge, with Microsoft Teams, might slow down the machine. This is something I experienced often on my Intel MacBook, with apps taking a while to load and fans kicking in when the system got hot.
But that wasn’t the case at all on the Mac Mini. Teams and Edge are optimized for the Apple M1 silicon, and both apps run smoothly without the case heating up. It’s crazy how Apple has optimized the thermals of its new M1 chips.
But that’s not all. As a Windows fan, I also wanted to install Windows 11 on my Mac Mini. Although I couldn’t run it natively because Microsoft doesn’t license an ARM version of Windows to Apple, I ran it during the 30-day free trial of Parallels 11 – and got was impressed.
Again, my tests aren’t very scientific, but running Windows 11 on Parallels on a Mac M1 really freaked me out. Despite being virtualized, the apps in the Windows 11 setup were quite fast to load and very responsive. Microsoft Edge, Widgets (the built-in system apps), Teams for consumers, and the Microsoft Store all performed better than on the most budget-friendly Windows PCs or even ARM-based systems like the Surface Pro X.
Alright, I just installed Windows 11 on my M1 Mac Mini. Quite impressed with the performance, even though it’s a virtual machine. I had my doubts, but now that I’ve tried… I’m a believer. Ha ha. These numbers even exceed budget Intel Celeron PCs 😮 pic.twitter.com/Acg4i5lLig
— Arif Bacchus (@abacjourn) April 23, 2022
While it’s true that Geekbench 5 scores aren’t representative of actual performance, running the test under Windows on the M1 Mac Mini produced good results that confirm my experience. It got a single-core score of 1508 and a multi-core score of 4832. I went to check it out, and it tops even the Surface Go 3, which got a single-core score of 828 and a multi-core score of 1819.
When it came to the latest ARM-powered SQ2 Surface Pro X, the results weren’t pretty either. That got a single-core score of 722 and a multi-core score of 2623. Again, it’s really amazing how fast and optimized the M1 Macs are.
Find some of my own ways to boost my multitasking
One of the reasons I hated using Macs so much has to do with multitasking. It’s something I complained before. Windows 11 has amazing multitasking tools, such as Snap Layouts and Snap Assist. That’s part of the reason I liked Windows 11 so much when I first reviewed it. Unfortunately, macOS lacks true multitasking features like these. But by buying a Mac Mini and committing to using it long term, I found some workarounds that really helped me use my Mac.
The first of these is a tool known as Show. With my M1 Mac Mini plugged into a 4K monitor and with tons of free space, Spectacle brings some of the keyboard shortcuts I’m used to with Snap Assist in Windows 11 on macOS.
The app is free to install, and once set up I can use the Command + Option + Left or Ordered + Option + To the right keyboard commands to stack my windows side by side, evenly. It’s like Windows Key + Left or Windows key + Right in Windows 11. There are also additional controls for tiling windows at the top right or top left of the screen.
Another tweak I’ve used is using Apple’s virtual desktop feature. Since tiling windows and multitasking aren’t as efficient on macOS as they are on Windows, this feature allowed me to stack apps that I would normally tile in Windows into their own space. For me, that includes my two Teams installs (PWA and desktop app) so I can keep track of what my colleagues and colleagues are telling me. I created a new desktop space, opened Teams in that new space, and switched to the space when I needed those apps. Control + Right and Control + Left I easily jump between spaces.
Also, when I get a notification, clicking it automatically sends me to the correct desktop. It’s been a great way for me to improve my macOS multitasking. Along with being able to access texts from my iPhone, send photos between my Mac Mini and my iPhone, and retrieve tabs in Safari from my phone on my Mac, this has been a really great experience for me.
Tempted to buy a MacBook
Seeing the power of the Apple M1 chip in a Mini desktop system even made me consider buying a newer MacBook. I love Windows PCs for things like the 2-in-1 form factor, touchscreens, pen support, and super-vibrant OLED displays, but the processing power of the M1 chip really intrigued me.
I know, I know – it sounds reckless. But believe me, if you had told me that I had become so invested in the Mac ecosystem a few years ago, I would never have believed you.