Apple’s M1 Macs have shown just how power-hungry Intel CPUs had become over the last few years while delivering very little performance improvements. John Gruber of Daring Fireball has now taken the official power consumption figures of all Mac Minis starting from the 2005 PowerPC G4 variant and compared it to the M1 Mac mini.
The figures show just how efficient the 2020 M1 Mac Mini is and just how terrible the 2018 Mac Mini was in terms of power efficiency. At idle, M1 Mac Mini consumes 7W of power while the 2018, 6-core Core i7 Mac Mini consumes 20W of power. The 2014 2-core Core i5 model fared better at 6W. At full load, the M1 Mac Mini can pull around 39W of power while the 2018 Core i7 Mac Mini required as much as 122W of power.
Look closely at the table and you will realize that the M1 Mac mini’s max consumption is just a bit higher than the idle power consumption of the 2005, PowerPC G4 model.
The table shows how Apple was able to reduce the power consumption with every new Mac Mini model starting with the PowerPC G4. The 2018 Mac Mini, however, was an outlier with its high idle and peak power consumption. In retrospect, the increase in power consumption explains why Apple took four years to release a Mac Mini refresh after launching the 2014 model. The power requirements of Intel CPUs had increased tremendously which posed a challenge for Apple. No wonder then that the fans in the 2018 Mac Mini start spinning at full speed even at the slightest load.
Gruber sums it up beautifully in his article:
But then came the very well-regarded 2018 Mac Mini. It was still an important product in Apple’s lineup! But well-regarded or not, look at the thermals in the table above. The 2018 Mac Mini has three times the power consumption and thermal output of the new M1 Mac Mini — and much higher numbers than the 2014 Mac Mini models it replaced. It’s an outlier on the trendline. And keep in mind that the M1 Mac Mini is also a much more performant computer. Apple does not like to talk about stuff like this, so we’re left to conjecture, but it’s not hard to look at this simple table of power consumption and thermal output and consider that those “gap years” in Mac desktop hardware — the Mac Mini in particular — were to a large extent the result of Intel’s chips running way too hot for Apple’s standards. And that in 2017, Apple bit the bullet and did the best they could with what Intel had to offer, realizing then that they needed another generation of Intel Macs (desktop and laptop) before Apple Silicon Macs would be ready.
Given the excellent power consumption figures of the M1 Mac Mini, it is not surprising that the fan inside the machine is never audible to consumers. What’s also impressive is that Apple has been able to drastically reduce power consumption while also bringing a major jump in performance with its M1 chip.[Via Daring Fireball]