Mac Mini M1 2020
I permanently became a remote worker in March of 2020, visiting the data center only about five times since March. I say permanently because I worked from home two to three times a week before the pandemic. This is not my first experience working from home; I was with an international employer from 2006 until 2012 that moved their workforce remotely whenever possible. So for several years, I had been working entirely from home, and I had already acquired a workspace within my house and a desk that met my needs via trial and error. I use a custom standing desk that I designed and assembled from various Ikea parts and have a barstool style chair when sitting. I had already acclimated to working remotely years ago and knew what works for me. My at-home work computing setup was an aging iMac that had plenty of speed but had some display issues. I started to investigate replacing the iMac with a Raspberry Pi or other cheap Linux desktop with the thought that if I kept the price low, I could routinely update it to meet my needs. The issue is that I was not very happy with the Citrix Workspace behavior the last time I had used it on a Linux desktop, and that is my primary means of connecting to my work environment. I wanted two displays, one for my remote work desktop and the other for local work with a Unix-like operating system. I wanted either macOS, FreeBSD, or Linux; Windows still does not feel right, bores me, and the command line still feels beta. I knew the current Citrix Workspace worked great on macOS, and when Apple released the Mac Mini M1 with the cost reduced by $100, I became very interested.
I had an unused iPhone from one of the kids that had been replaced and an iMac that I was able to trade in and got the cost down to just over $100, which at this point had the price close enough to the kind of money I would have to layout to get the Raspberry Pi setup I was looking for. I owned the first-ever Mac Mini, the PowerPC G4, and a third-generation Mac Mini, and I have to say that the Mac Mini M1 is the first Mac Mini I have used that has felt like a true Mac. The Mac Mini M1 is fast, which I do not think I would have ever described the others as fast. I am running two monitors, one via USB-C and the other via the HDMI port, and it has been outstanding. The setup has been flawless, and I am still rocking my Model M Keyboard, which fits right in with the computing aesthetic I wanted. In operation, the Mini never gets warm, which means that the fan is never heard, and the Mini performs with consistent excellent speed with multiple apps running. The sleek minimal footprint makes ideal available space, allowing me to sit the computer between my two monitors.
I am in a state of awe at the consistently excellent performance with 8GB, my old iMac had 16GB, and I decided to go with the base model, thinking that with Apple's trade-in feature, I could get into a consistently low cost upgrade every few years if I need to. Based on my research of those that seriously load-tested the Mac Mini, the 16GB may be a waste of money for most users. I think a strategy of frequent lower-cost upgrades will provide a better value than a single maxed-out upgrade now. I run Office, Xcode, and Firefox with lots of tabs and streaming music and Citrix Workspace without the device getting warm or even slowing down. I also think I benefitted from buying a few months after release; I have only read one or two bad experiences where folks had crashes on their new Mac Mini M1, I have had zero, but I suspect they had a lemon or an update fixed any issues. When buying brand new hardware, especially with a new chip, one should expect some problems. The only consistent con among everyone, and it is genuine, is that an external speaker is necessary. There is absolutely no way I would have been as happy with a Raspberry Pi build as I am with this, granted that is not a fair comparison. It just so happens that because of the discount, I was able to get nearly the exact cost of Mac Mini M1 as the build I was planning. The Mac Mini M1 is one of the best Apple purchases I have ever made, and due to the cost, I feel like I stole this thing.