Downgrade from a Mac Pro to a Mac Mini or Mac Studio?

I am a recently retired research scientist. I used my Mac Pro7,1 (late 2019, 12-Core Intel Xeon W) as my computational platform. At times I was running up to 10 Fortran programs simultaneously. Some of these calculations would take a day or two to complete. Now I am thoroughly retired and no longer need a compute engine. This Mac Pro sits here taking up space and using more power than appropriate.
I’m thinking about replacing the Pro with either the M3 Mac Mini that is probably coming out this month or the M3 Mac Studio that may appear later this summer. Currently, I have one 32 inch LG monitor attached and only plug in external drives when doing a backup. The number of external ports on a Mini is probably enough, but I like the flexibility of the added ports on the Studio.
When I enter the data for my Pro into Apple’s web site they will give me a trade in credit of almost $1000. Every month that number goes down slightly. By summer I don’t know how much Apple will credit me.
Should I get the Mini or wait for the Studio? I’m not poor, so money is not really a problem, but I do hate to waste money or have technology sitting around unused. My wife uses an Apple laptop which I also use. However, we need separate machines.
Which one should I buy? M3 Mini or M3 Studio? Thanks, Gordon

What would you be using it for, now that the heavy compute load is gone? That would make a difference to the recommendations.

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Having considered a similar trade-off a few months ago, I’ll note that a pretty much maxed-out Mac mini configured with an M2 Pro chip, with maxed-out memory and, say 2TB storage (costing just above $3k) has performance characteristics pretty close to a minimal Mac Studio (with M2 Max chip) configuration with 2TB of storage costing just about $3k. Although at this point, I’d wait for a M3 Mac Mini myself to see how that compares. [Although useful performance benchmarks may not be available right away.]

Whichever you choose, and whichever chip (processor) you get,I’d suggest opting for considerably more than the base memory, and base storage. Those can often be bottlenecks for performance and even UI responsiveness.

[FYI, my choice was a loaded-up Mac mini which I’m happy with. Except for wishing I’d opted for at least twice as much storage “elbow room”. But that’s with not really doing anything very demanding (beyond using Xcode with fairly modest-sized projects, plus maybe some un-related very simple simulations). If I’d ever want to try running any serious models or even just testing out some other types of numerical analysis, I’d really want to use Mac Studio that could be loaded up with processor chips, memory, and storage beyond what a Mac mini could provide. I.e., a Mac Studio costing more than $6k for sure. The workload you want to run should determine the configuration – even if that’s kinda hard to figure out sometimes.]


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My planned uses are email, web browsing, and general photo processing. I occasionally download and read a research paper. So far I haven’t been tempted back into research calculations. At 72 years old, that part of me is worn out. I stopped using Photoshop years ago and am happy with GraphicConverter for photos. The applications I am using and plan to use would run just fine on a Mini. If I wanted to get back into research, then I might justify a high end Studio. Gordon

A current M2 mini will outperform your MacPro7,1 significantly on general single core benchmarks and will be as fast or faster on multi-core benchmarks. Anything with an M3, including a MacBook Pro, generally will be noticeably faster than your Mac Pro.

In other words, if your computational requirements have declined, a current M2 mini should be more than adequate, and anything with an M3 would be a very nice, largely future-proofed step up, given sufficient RAM and internal storage.

Assuming you can wait, I suggest that for the same amount of money, an M3 mini with more RAM and storage will be a better value than a Mac Studio. I suggest a minimum of 24 GB RAM and at least a 1TB SSD. Regarding ports, if you end up needing more later, you can add a Thunderbolt dock.

PS. FWIW, my main work machine is an M1 MacBook Air with 16 GB RAM and a 2 TB SSD. I generally have a lot of browser tabs and apps open at any given time. Your planned use of “email, web browsing, and general photo processing” lies well within the capacity of any current Apple Silicon machine, including mine, again assuming sufficient RAM and storage.


Get the mini, bud. That’s where you are now.

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Your computing demands indicate you’d be fine with a state-of-the-art mini. Apple Silicon will blow the doors off your old Intel. If you’ve waited this long, you might as well wait until the mini gets its M3 update. Make sure to spec it with enough RAM and SSD to last you. If money is no issue, I’d get an M3 Pro over the M3 for future proofing, otherwise (if money were an issue), I’d usually suggest putting it towards sufficient RAM/disk before getting M3 Pro over vanilla M3. The extra ports you mention on the Studio you can get via hub (should you indeed run out of ports on the mini) for a whole lot less than the extra cost of a Studio.

For those pushing the higher end, I think the Studio (Max, not Ultra) usually offers enough extra value considering how close in price the mini gets when you really deck it out. However, in your case it appears your requirements are modest so the mini does make quite some sense.


Thank you everyone for your comments, questions, and suggestions.
I’m leaning toward the M3 Mac Mini. Gordon


And they can’t be upgraded without replacing the computer. You can use external storage (which will be slower than internal storage), but there’s no workaround if you find yourself needing a RAM upgrade.

These are the key sentences for thinking about a new system. I’m 71, I still have a couple clients (publishing systems) but I no longer deal with debugging 500M, 30-layer Photoshop files. I’m about to upgrade so have been sashaying about looking at systems and have realized that I keep applying my old metrics for production systems (of course you should get a Mac Studio & Pro Display XDR!) when in fact my needs are now vastly more modest.

I’m settling in on a Mini M2 Pro. For future proofing the key component is RAM. 16G minimum but more if you like. Storage? Not so important—you can get additional external drives that on these high-speed interfaces are just dandy. You could even get spinning iron but if the sounds distract you, get SSDs (which would then allow you to leave them connected all the time for hourly backup [cough] and easy access to larger storage).

If you want to wait for the M3s, fine, but for your usage the jump may not be all that useful unless, of course, you decide you really want to revisit that 8-hour Monte Carlo analysis. . . . :grinning:



Just make sure you get the Apple studio display as the other displays are kind of crappy, take a while to wake up from sleep and have color problems etc. I’m using a Phillips creator series around $500 and it’s not bad technically but the wake from sleep issue, and funky colors no way to really change your brightness without installing the third app, etc. makes me want to spring for the $1500 apple monitor. I know it sucks iMac 27 inch M3. Where are you?

I’m even older than you, olson99gl, and have a similar workload although I also do a lot of Keynote and Powerpoint work, occasional video editing, and some MatLab programming. I have an M2 Mac mini with 1Tb storage and a Studio display. This has more than enough power. However, there is something flaky between the mini and the display. The display goes black sometimes for a fraction of a second sometimes it remains black and has to be powered off and on. I’m still trying to diagnose this and have not seen other reports. Naturally, the problems started shortly after the warranty ended.

In theory a mini + Studio display will be fine for you.

To be fair, the Philips display is $1000 cheaper than the Apple display, and I’ve been comparing it to a 5K Apple display on a 2017 iMac so I’m spoilt. If you’re unsure about it, you could always purchase it from Amazon and return it if you don’t like it within 30 days.

PHILIPS Creator Series 27E2F7901 27" 4K UHD IPS Black Display, USB-C, Built-in KVM, Height Adjustable, Daisy Chain, PD 96W, MacBook/PC Compatible, 4-Year Advance Replacement

Displays are a very pesonal and subjective preference. The fact that @schnell isn’t happy with cheap monitors doesn’t mean you won’t be. If you can, go to a good store that has many different display models. If possible, see if you can bring your computer (laptops are obviously more convenient here) and try it out on the display models.

I’m sure the Apple displays will look better, but whether they’re better-enough to justify the higher price is a decision that nobody else can make for you.

I’d also ask yourself what you might find yourself pulled towards with newly available time on your hands. Any computational projects? Volunteering some of your analytical skills with non-profits? Would you find yourself training/tuning any AI text or image models to play around with new technology? Or was technology simply a tool for your work, and not something you would likely be drawn towards for personal interest projects?

If you’re considering a tricked out Mac mini, personally I’d opt for the flexibility of the Studio for roughly the same money:

Mac mini M2 Pro (10 CPU, 16 GPU, 16 NE) w/ 32GB RAM, 512GB: $1699
Mac Studio M2 Max (12 CPU, 30 GPU, 16 NE) w/ 32GB, 512GB: $1999

That’s only if you’re trick out a mini. The base minis are great for general use (email, web, etc), though I’d always opt for 16GB RAM minimum.

And if you’re not in a hurry, I’d wait till the M3 versions are released. I’d bet the Studio will be updated around WWDC, less willing to bet on the mini but possible. Either way the M3 has some solid upgrades in the GPU and is more power efficient on a 3nm process (see other TidBITs Talk thread with links to Howard Oakley’s detailed evals) so would be a good longevity investment. Or take advantage of the new releases to get a discount on the M2 models.

Apple’s trade in values are never the best deals. A quick search shows recent sales of 12 core 2019 Mac Pros for over $2k on eBay, more than enough to completely cover either model I mentioned and might justify having some extra computational power just in case for future needs, while still being much more power efficient if not used.

On a side note for all the comments about Apple Silicon running rings around the older Mac Pro…the OPs use case might just have been the exception to the rule until recently. Wasn’t fortran a sticking point for a while after the release of Apple Silicon?

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True, some people are completely satisfied with Chromebooks and inexpensive Windows laptops, but once you’ve experienced the touchpad with a glass surface on all MBPs compared to plastic ones on other computers, there’s no going back!

My LG HDR (high dynamic range) 4K 32 inch monitor is still working quite well and I don’t plan to buy a new one at this time. The screen goes dark for a few seconds randomly every few days, but other people report such things with no long term problems. I see no reason to buy an Apple monitor. Lots of competitors out there.

Since I am not in a hurry to buy a new computer, I will certainly wait for the M3 version of the Mini. Currently, a M2 Pro Mini with 10-core CPU, 32 GB memory, and 1 TB SSD storage cost $1899. I hope the M3 Pro will be a similar price.

I haven’t written or executed Fortran code in more than a year. I don’t miss it. Gordon

One pitch for the Mac Studio: according to tear-downs, the internal ssds in a Mac Studio are not soldered in place and could be replaced by Apple if necessary. Also as our operating systems evolve, I think they generate more activity and thus more heat. I think the Mac Studio computers have a more robust cooling system than the Mac Minis.

But you’d have to opt for the Ultra model to get the beefier copper heat sink. That’s an extra $2k right there.

I skipped the Ultra model and its beefier copper heat sink in my M1 Mac Studio, but I am glad that I have a more robust cooling system vs those in the Mac mini or the M1 MacBook Pros. I forfeited portability and I guess time will tell if I was paranoid about our computers getting too hot . My wife still uses a 2012 MacBook Pro in the evening at home and we have a TG Pro App (added when I swapped out the Apple hard drive for an SSD) that notifies her every time the computer starts up that it is too hot due to Dropbox, and other start-up processes. I plan on having my Mac Studio for 10 years and I will let you know how it does. :slight_smile:

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