To M1 or Not to M1: That Is the Question

I have a 2014 Mac mini that is my desktop home computer. It’s showing its age in that I get occasional crashes and lockups.

I have a 2014 iMac at the office. Since we’re completely PC driven, the only reason I managed to get this was that it was donated to the university I work at and nobody else was interested in Apple. So, I jumped on it. However, it is also feeling its age I end up doing a nuke and pave about every 1-2 months) and they will definitely NOT buy me a later model Mac, let alone a new one. If I want another Mac, I’m on my own.

I do have a 2012 MacBook Air that is at the minimum specs you could get at that time (I bought from my boss, who was not interested in any high-performance stuff when he got it). It has been, essentially, retired due primarily to not traveling much these days but also since the department did pop for a 2018 12.9 iPad Pro. I got a Magic Keyboard for it and it’s really more than adequate if I do need to travel.

All that is leading up to the question of how should I deal with these gadgets? My thought is to get an M1 MacBook Air with a 500GB drive (no doubt enough since I don’t store photos or movies on my internal drives) and 16GB Ram (which may be overkill from what I hear about the M1 chip…I don’t do any graphics-intensive work). It would replace my Mini at home. Since I have the display, keyboard and mouse from that, I would really have a desktop.

I have the iMac at the office which, if I understand it correctly, I could strip to the basics, software-wise, and use the monitor as a remote display for the MBA. I have an external keyboard and mouse from that.

I’d get hubs for home and office so I could just unplug the hub cable and the power cable, toss the MBA in my bag, and move from one location to the other.

Forgive the long-windedness, but I would really appreciate another view on this situation, or confirmation of my plan if that’s warranted. I’ve gotten so much help here in the past that I naturally come running here first.

Thanks so much for your opinions, not to mention taking your time to read all this!


The short answer is to wait a few months and see what choices are revealed. Unless you really can’t. (My observation - from what you’ve said - is you can wait a bit longer.)

@MartinPacker Thanks for the comment. I assume you’re talking about the MacBook Pro that’s being discussed, maybe call it a V.2? It looks like there are significant improvements that are being speculated on by the tech world. It looks like a huge improvement, but, and here’s the catch, my budget is pushed by the MacBook Air, especially with the HD and RAM upgrades. That said, I may wait, as you suggest. The new models might drive down the price of the current ones or they may have a new model that’s not too much more that the current ones. Food for thought.

1 Like

Using an iMac as just a display is limited to just a few models: Use your iMac as a display with target display mode - Apple Support

If you don’t want a notebook, you could save money by getting an M1 Mini and taking that to and from work. You might find you don’t need the docks too.
The screen on Apple notebooks is gorgeous, and adds quite a bit to the price.

$899.00 for the Mini
$1,399.00 or $1,449.00 for an Air

Just a thought.

I wouldn’t expect the price of the current stuff to drop, but two things to consider…

(a) M1s may start showing up in the refurb store. In my experience you don’t save a ton of money on the base models there, but you can frequently get things like a RAM or a drive upgrade for a minimal additional cost.
(b) People who bought an M1 and really want an M2 or whatever might be liquidating their lightly-used M1s for a good price. If outright secondhand Macs are amenable to you, you might snag a good deal.

Also, if you’re replacing your Mini with the Air, you could always skip the 500GB upgrade and throw on an external 500GB SSD. They’re super small and light, so if you can spare the port that might be an option for you. Definitely cheaper than the drive upgrade. :slight_smile:

Interesting thought. I like that. Thanks. I’m going to have to give that some serious thought. I’ve got the iPad Pro for travel, so a laptop really isn’t necessary.

Thanks, Stephen. I checked and the 2014 iMac is OK (uses a Thunderbolt between the machines). Just have to drop back to High Sierra, but a clean install with nothing else added will make a pretty stable machine.

The refurb store is seldom an option for me. I live in Thailand and the refurb store here usually doesn’t have too much, certainly nothing recent. If I’m buying something with a built-in keyboard, e.g. a MacBook, I need the “bi-lingual” keyboard. If I got it through the US store, which I could do, I’m sure they wouldn’t have it. Something like Craig’s List (they have a Thailand outlet) might be an option.

That’s another reason that @GraemeS 's idea about a “moveable Mini” makes a lot of sense. I’ve already got the keyboards I need. If I took reasonable care in moving it in my daily trips, there shouldn’t be any problem with damage. I think they’re pretty tough little machines and that’s what Apple Care is for. :+1:

Agree 100% about the Mini being a good portable machine. DJs and such put them in equipment racks all the time, and if you wanted to go a little overboard you could get a Pelican style case for it for not too much money. That same case, incidentally, would also hold an external hard drive or any other things that you wanted to move with your computer. A couple terabytes of SSD is pretty reasonable when you’re not paying Apple for it. :slight_smile:

If you can get an educational discount, then curiously the equation swings a bit more to the Air in Thailand.
For whatever reason, the edu discount is B3300 for the base Air, and only B700 for the Mini.

Oh, and in my opinion Apple Care+ for a Mac, is terrible value in Thailand (unlike for an iPad).

This would be a great argument to add MagSafe to a Mac mini :slight_smile:

I like the idea of being able to take a Mac mini back and forth to work, but I would be concerned about the daily plugging and unplugging and wear on the power port over time.

I suppose you could just keep the power cord plugged in to the Mac and take it with you. There’s no big adapter, so it wouldn’t be too bulky. A velcro fastener would keep it neat without putting any stress on the power port.

1 Like

I can get the educational discount, but I haven’t done a real price comparison. I’ll have to make a table of the different models and configurations with their retail and discounted prices. Could be very interesting.

I also haven’t priced the Apple Care+ here. I got it for an iPad I bought a few years ago and it seemed pretty reasonable, but that’s the only new device I’ve bought since I’ve been here. I’ll throw that into the price evaluation.

The downside with that is the restarting after each journey. So twice in one day.

If you were to do that you’d presumably want to automate restoration - with eg Keyboard Maestro. Which might be a net cost to you.

I think if it’s shut down properly, there shouldn’t be much of a problem. Remember the days when we’d shut down computers when we left the office? Then they said, “No, leave them on. Better for the HD.” I still shut down my iMac 2 or 3 nights a week and usually on the weekend.

As far as restoration, I have a lot of KBM macros running different groups of actions now. It would be pretty easy to have a macro for work and one for home set to trigger on the respective wifi network for each location. Most of the apps I use regularly launch on startup and are in both locations, anyway, so not too many changes between the home and office configurations.

1 Like

Remember the Winchester MFM drives, where you had to type the “park” command? I think “park” was deprecated with MS-DOS 3.x…

Parking drives. Now there’s a memory. Probably did it just after I shut down my 1200 baud modem.

1 Like

Hayes Command: “ATH0”.

1 Like