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Mac Mini 2021: Release date speculation, rumored specs, and what we expect

Mac Mini 2021
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The debut of Apple's powerful M1 chip in the revamped Mac Mini with M1 (pictured above) still feels fresh, but it's closing in on a year since its November 2020 release, meaning we're about due for a new and improved Mac Mini 2021.

While Apple has been cagey about what it plans to do with the next iteration of its powerful mini Mac, the fact that it's an Apple product means we've seen lots of trustworthy reporting and reasonably credible rumors about what the Mac Mini 2021 will look like. 

Early reports suggested we might see it show up on store shelves as soon as fall 2021 packing a new and improved version of the M1 chip: the M1X. However, over time we've seen new leaks which claim it may arrive later and have even more powerful components. Read on for the latest rumors, leaks, and reports about the next Mac Mini, which we're referring to throughout this article as the Mac Mini 2021.

Mac Mini 2021 release date rumors

Back in May, around the time the M1-powered Apple iMac 2021 launched, reliable Apple reporter and tipster Mark Gurman reported that Apple was planning to release a number of new laptops and desktops with revamped designs and Apple silicon. 

He claimed we might see the launch of a new MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 and MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 as early as summer of 2021, followed by a new MacBook Air 2021 and a few other Apple computer products, including a "higher-end Mac Mini desktop" with Apple silicon that could "greatly outpace the performance and capabilities of the current M1 chips," according to his trusted sources.

That gave us reason to believe we might see a new Mac Mini packing the sequel to Apple's M1 chip as soon as the fall of 2021, roughly a year since the debut of the M1 Mac Mini. And we still pretty much believe that, although the fact that the summer of 2021 has come and gone without so much as a peep from Apple about the reported 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro redesigns has us recalibrating our expectations.

It's very possible that a Mac Mini 2021 release was planned for the end of the year, but foiled by the vagaries of the tech industry (including the ongoing chip shortage and global supply chain issues) and internal dealings at Apple.

Indeed, an August 17th tweet from the occasionally correct Apple leaker LeaksApplePro claims that the launch of an "M1X Mac Mini" has been delayed for "marketing reasons" and will now launch in the first half of 2022, alongside a redesigned MacBook Air. If that proves true, we'll have to start calling it the Mac Mini 2022.

Mac Mini 2021 price speculation

No official pricing details have been announced for the Mac Mini 2021 yet, but based on Apple's Mac Mini price strategy to date we can make a pretty educated guess about what the next iteration of its tiniest desktop will cost.

The original Mac Mini was launched in 2005 with an introductory price of $499, but the latest Mac Mini, the 2020 model with the M1 chip, cost $699 at launch. However, that's recently been cut down to $649, suggesting Apple may be trying to move stock ahead of a new product launch.

Mac Mini 2021

The entry-level M1 Mac Mini is now just $649 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Since we presume the Mac Mini 2021 will be an incremental upgrade over the current version with beefier internals and a revamped design, we have good reason to believe it will be sold for the same starting price as its predecessor: $699. Pushing the price of the entry-level model up past $700 seems like a big risk for Apple, though we'll have to wait and see what the Mac Mini 2021 offers in terms of features before we can rule out a price hike.

Mac Mini 2021 potential design and specs

What little we've heard about the guts of the next Mac Mini suggest we should expect redesigned internals with more ports and either an M1X or M2 chip.

The difference between the Apple M1X vs M2 chip is still nebulous, as Apple has formally announced neither. However, the gist of what we've heard so far is that the M1X could be an improved version of Apple's incredible M1 chip that may debut in new 2021 MacBook Pros, while the M2 chip is a sequel to the M1 that's much more performant (thanks in part to rumors of it being built on a 4-nanometer process rather than the 5nm process of the M1) and will debut in the MacBook Air 2022.

While it's possible the next Mac Mini could have an M2 chip, especially if it gets delayed into 2022, as of now we're still pretty certain the Mac Mini will ship in 2021 with an M1X chip. If what we've heard about the M1X chip is true, it will have more CPU and GPU cores, more Thunderbolt channels, and more power draw. 

Mac Mini 2021

Artist Ian Zelbo's render mock-up of what the next Mac Mini might look like, based on leaks by Jon Prosser (Image credit: Jon Prosser & Ian Zelbo)

That all lines up with Gurman's afore-mentioned May report, in which he claimed that the next Mac Mini would be a more powerful version packing the same chip as the next MacBook Pro, as well as double the M1 Mac Mini's paltry 2 Thunderbolt ports. While Gurman did allow room for Apple to delay or even cancel the next Mac Mini, he was confident the company will eventually replace the Intel-equipped Mac Mini it currently sells for $1,049 with a high-end model packing Apple silicon.

As far as what it might look like, the most reliable rumors come from established leaker Jon Prosser, who claimed back in May that the next Mac Mini might be smaller and would sport more ports. Specifically, he claimed it will feature the same magnetic charging connector that is included with the new 24-inch iMac 2021, as well as four Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A ports, plus Ethernet and HDMI ports.

Mac Mini 2021 outlook

All signs point to the launch of a new Mac Mini looming on the horizon — right now our only questions are when, and what will be waiting for us inside. Early this year we heard a lot of reliable reporting and rumors pointing to a late 2021 launch of a Mac Mini with M1X power, and right now we're still expecting that to happen.

However, new leaks warning of a delay have prepared us to accept that we might not see a new Mac Mini until 2022. On the bright side, that means it's possible the next Mac Mini could arrive packing a completely new and improved M2 chip.

Either way, we're eager to see what Apple does with the next big release of its smallest computer. 

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.