Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7 comparison – which is good for gaming?

Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7 comparison

Need a gaming laptop, a business notebook, or a 2-in-1 that can convert from a laptop into a tablet? Which processor should you prefer – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7? The new M1-powered MacBook Pro and MacBook Air offer outstanding performance and battery life. On otherside, Intel Core i7 can support upto 64GB memory, which of almost double of Mac Mini M1. They have premium designs, good displays, fast performance and long battery life. Get details in Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7 comparison.

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Pros & Cons – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7

Mac Mini M1

Pros

  • Improved overall performance
  • Reasonable price
  • Quiet and cool operation under load

Cons

  • No longer upgradable post-purchase
  • Fewer Thunderbolt ports than previous Mac mini

Intel Core i7

Pros

  • Upgradable RAM
  • Large storage (2TB) and RAM (64GB)
  • 3 displays support

Cons

  • No option for a 2.5-inch hard drive as internal mass storage.
  • Higher starting cost

Specs – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7

M1 Mac mini

  • Eight-core Apple ‌M1‌ chip with eight-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 16GB unified memory
  • Support for one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
  • Silver

Intel Core i7

  • Up to six-core Intel Core i7 processor with Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Up to 64GB memory
  • Support for up to three 4K displays or one 5K display and one 4K display
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Space Gray

Price

Apple is presenting the Intel-based ‌Mac mini‌ as a high-end option, starting at $1099, which is substantially more than the $699 starting price of the Apple Silicon-based ‌Mac mini‌. 

What are the key differences – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7

Design

The first laptop chip by Apple is the M1 which featured 8-core, 4 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores, 16-core integrated graphics, a Neural engine and all connected through their own I/O controller, the Apple Fabric.

Intel i7 was used in the older generation MacBook Pros. The previous MacBook Pro is only six months old with a 13.3-inch screen, which means it’s still based on modern technology. Intel i7’s quad-core processor supports heavy processing at a faster pace. With a bright and sharp true tone display, the Intel processor features retina resolution. 

Connectors

The ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ has two Thunderbolt and USB 4 ports, while the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ has four Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3 ports. So, if you need more ports the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ is better, but if you need to connect USB 4 devices at maximum speeds, you will need the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌.

Both models come with Gigabit Ethernet as standard, with 10Gb Ethernet available on both as a $100 upgrade. On the other hand, the ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ supports 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, while the older Intel ‌Mac mini‌ only supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Display option

The picture between the ‌Mac mini‌ models is also mixed when it comes to external display support. The ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ can support one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K, while the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ can support up to three 4K displays, or one 5K display and one 4K display.

Processor

Apple offers the ‌Mac mini‌ with two different Intel processors, a 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, and a 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz. Both come with Intel UHD Graphics 630.

The main ‌Mac mini‌ Apple now sells contains the M1 chip, which is Apple’s first custom silicon SoC for the Mac. The ‌M1‌ has an eight-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores, and an eight-core GPU.

Intel supports higher memory

While 8GB or 16GB should be sufficient for most users given the efficiency of having everything integrated on one chip, some pro workflows demand much larger amounts of memory. The ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ only supports configurations of 8GB or 16GB of unified memory, but the Intel ‌Mac mini‌ can support up to 64GB of memory.

Gaming – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7

We used the GFXbench to test out the raw gaming performance between both of these Macs. And, once again, the M1 chip proved its power and efficiency with 78 FPS when compared to 13.4 FPS on the Intel Mac.

The MacBook Air ran Rise of the Tomb Raider (1440 x 900) on Very High graphics settings at 29 frames per second. That’s playable though short of our 30-fps threshold. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (1440 x 900) ran at a smooth 37 fps with the graphics set to Medium. That is right around where the Yoga 9i with Intel Iris Xe graphics landed (25 fps), but again, PCs with discrete graphics or an eGPU are the way to go.

Honestly, this is a big leap from a “non-game” system to a system that you can run games on now! So, it’s clear that the M1 Mac mini is more powerful than the Intel ‌Mac mini‌. But, you might wonder who will buy the Intel processors and why Apple keeps selling them? 

Turbo frequency

Despite Intel processor having a higher TDP, higher turbo frequency and higher base frequency, The M1 still manage to beat Intel higher end laptop processor even in single threaded performance. It is more impressive the the M1 has a TDP around 5-10W which allows Apple to introduce a fanless laptop, which is the MacBook Air.

Battery life

When Intel pitted a MacBook Air M1 against an Acer Swift 5 with a Core i7-1165G7, however, it found both basically dead even. The MacBook Air came in at 10 hours and 12 minutes, and the Acer Swift 5 lasted 10 hours and 6 minutes.

Apple’s official claim gives the M1 MacBook up to 18 hours of battery life using Apple TV app to watch a 1080p video with the brightness set to “8 clicks from the bottom.” Apple also claims up to 15 hours browsing 25 “popular” websites with the same “8 clicks” criteria.

The difference? Intel said it used Safari to watch a Netflix stream with tabs open with the screen set to a relatively bright 250 nits. On the Acer, Safari was subbed out for Chrome, but the brightness and Netflix remained the same.

Intel did add that Apple’s “8 clicks up” is about 125 nits of brightness on the MacBook Air which is pretty dim.

Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7 Performance review

We use Geekbench 5 as our flagpole for overall system performance. Even when running the benchmark through an emulator, the MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM scored a 5,962, topping the latest XPS 13 (5,319) with 11th Gen chips. Even Lenovo’s Yoga 9i, which uses the most powerful 11th Gen Intel chips for ultraportable laptops, fell short of the MacBook Air with a score of 5,312.

In the Geekbench tests, while the Intel Core i5 reached a single-core score of 998, the more powerful Intel Core i7 model came in slightly better with 1,101 points. Moving on to the multi-core, the i5 model scored at 4,651 while the i7 model achieved an average score of 5,474.

On the contrary, the ‌M1‌ Mac mini‌ achieves much higher performance with 1,682 points in single-core and 7,097 points in multi-core. These early benchmarks are extremely impressive.

This translated into some compelling real-world advantages for the MacBook Air, which converted a 4K video to 1080p resolution in just 9 minutes and 15 seconds whereas the XPS 13, our top Windows 10 laptop, needed 18 minutes and 22 seconds and the Yoga 9i took 14 minutes and 24 seconds.

Available in models – Mac Mini M1 vs Intel Core i7

M1

Apple’s M1 processor was introduced in November 2020 and it featured inside these Macs:

The M1 has eight processor cores (four of which are high performance and four are high-efficiency). It also has up to eight graphics cores. All on the same chip. The M1 was Apple’s first chip designed by Apple specifically for the Mac. It made shockwaves in the industry with giant leaps in performance. We discuss the M1, also known as Apple Silicon in more detail below.

On thing to bear in mind, if you get an M1 Mac you can only run macOS Big Sur on it. Sadly it isn’t possible to run older versions of macOS on M1 Macs.

M1 Pro

Apple introduced the M1 Pro in October 2021.  It features in these Macs:

  • 14in MacBook Pro (2021)
  • 16in MacBook Pro (2021)

The M1 Pro is an enhancement to the M1 with more processor cores and more graphics cores. You’ll find more detail about the M1 Pro below.

M1 Max

The M1 Max was also introduced in October 2021. It is a standard option for the 16in MacBook Pro, and a build-to-order option for the 14in MAcBook Pro:

  • 14in MacBook Pro (2021)
  • 16in MacBook Pro (2021)

The M1 Max adds even more processor cores and more graphics cores to the M1. You’ll also find more detail about the M1 Max below.

Intel

All other current Macs – and all Macs since around 2006/2007 feature Intel processors.

The only Macs Apple currently sells with Intel processors include:

  • 21.5in iMac, 7th generation, 2.3GHz dual-core
  • 27in iMac, 10th generation, 3.1GHz 6-core; 3.3GHz, 6-core; 3.8GHz 8-core
  • Mac mini, 8th generation, 3.0GHz
  • Mac Pro, 8-core Xeon W, 3.5GHz 8-core (and various build-to-order options)

Apple has used various generations of Intel processor over the year, bringing benefit such as improved speed, support for more cores, support for more RAM, improved power consumption and energy management, and so on.

What are the similarities?

  • Compact industrial design
  • Up to 2TB storage
  • Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
  • Two USB-A ports
  • HDMI 2.0 port
  • Gigabit Ethernet or optional 10Gb Ethernet

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