Though my current Mac lineup has been more than adequate for heavy-duty photo work, I’d be lying if I haven’t given an M1 mac a look or seven.
But while initial reports seemed to be glowing, and the Rosetta 2 translation of Intel-based apps seemed to work well for initial testers, some longer-term tests have revealed that while the lineup is solid, there are definitely some first generation kinks to work out.
From what I read and saw at launch, it seemed like I should just chuck all my other Macs (including my 2019 MacBook Pro) into a trash bin and get an M1 Mac Mini. Jeff Benjamin at 9to5 Mac did just that (minus the trash bin) and gave an honest, real world look at the mightier Mini. He got the base model with 8 GB of memory and his comments were middling at best.
“If you just plan on using it to browse the web and do spreadsheets and word processing, the base model is definitely up to the task; it’s a good everyday computer for basic things,” Benjamin wrote. “But if you plan on doing work that’s heavy in nature – which is definitely how I use my Macs — then I recommend that you opt for the 16GB upgrade.”
No surprise, but even then, when he talked about 4K video and such with the computer, he added the qualifier, “within reason.”
He also discusses some of the limitations of the M1 chipset, namely the number of ports it’s able to support. In the case of the Mac Mini, it’s down two Thunderbolt ports, and the same is the case for the MacBook Air and Pro. Undoubtedly this is something Apple will be looking to fix in future iterations; Two ports isn’t enough and it would be nice to live the dongle-free life.
More than that, there is no external GPU (eGPU) support for M1 Macs. While standard video editing is probably fine, high end work, such as 360 footage, might be difficult to work with without the extra performance boost.
Another issue that could plague M1 Mac users in the future is the SSD write issue. It’s been widely reported that M1 Macs excessively write data to the solid-state drives on the computers, which in turn can shorten the lifespan of the drive. SSDs have a limited number of read/write cycles before they go kaput, and so something that can wear down one of these drives faster is a big issue.
For what it’s worth though, I have Macs with SSDs that are going on 8 and 10 years, so this might be a non-issue since it seems the longevity of Apple’s drives are so good in the first place, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, and the M1 chips are so new that it’s too early to tell how many will fail (much like the disastrous butterfly keyboard from previous generation MacBooks).
Photographers with large photo catalogs will probably hit their hard drives with a lot of data from just opening up and browsing through photos in programs such as Lightroom or Adobe Bridge. The programs constantly write previews and other data into temporary files.
None of these are small issues, but are they big enough to prevent you from buying an M1 Mac? Leave your thoughts in the comment below.