$14,000 Mac Pro vs $900 Mac mini – Video Editing Performance Comparison

How about we do the Mac Pro vs M1 Mac mini comparison one more time? Honestly, it seems no amount of testing will get us a definitive answer. Software is evolving, more people are weighing in with new testing methodologies, and it is still fun to see. 

In this case, we are seeing Parker Walbeck from Full Time Filmmaker working in Premiere Pro CC v15.2 – the latest full release version. It’s not fully optimized for Apple Silicon just yet, you’d need the latest beta for that, but it should be a real-world test for video editing performance using the tools people are already using.

This specific test is using a $900 version of the M1 Mac mini, which is just the base model with a memory bump to 16GB RAM. The Mac Pro is a lot more expensive as it comes in at $14,000 and is spec’d up to the 16-core CPU, 96GB RAM, and the Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB HBM2 memory. The M1 chip is well known at this point as an 8-core CPU with 8-core GPU.

Going over the basics, the Mac mini is a tiny machine. It also has some limitations with only two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI out, headphone out, and Ethernet. The Mac Pro has eight ports of various types, including USB Type-C, Thunderbolt, and more – a benefit of being a full-size computer.

Image Credit: Apple

Upfront, Parker is willing to claim the Mac mini is one of the best values and is totally capable of doing serious video editing for some workflows.

Initial tests are simply opening up the Premiere app and a project. The optimizations of the Apple Silicon actually had the Mac mini beating the Mac Pro in open time by 12 seconds to 16 seconds. 

Next is just checking playback with a variety of codecs. We are using some DJI 4K footage, some 10-bit 4K XF-AVC from a Canon C70, and some 8-bit H.264 from an R5. As Parker points out, sometimes what is more important is checking compatibility and optimization rather than exact specifications.

Here is where you will start to see where the Mac Pro’s value comes in as it has no problem with any of the footage. The Mac mini appeared to have some dropped frames or stuttering with the DJI and C70 clips.

Image Credit: Adobe

Similar but just different enough is scrubbing. This is a big part of quick editing as you’ll want to sort through your footage as fast as you can. The Mac mini doesn’t handle this too well and is not smooth. The Mac Pro wasn’t perfect either, but it only really stumbled with the C70 footage.

Click response is an interesting point. Apparently, Parker noticed that when making adjustments it would take a half second to actually apply the command. It can be frustrating. The Mac Pro had little to no lag on anything.

Render speed is an important test. It’s also another point for the Mac Pro as it accomplished its goal in just 4 seconds while the Mac mini took 10 seconds. The same seems to hold for effects, as applying a Warp Stabilizer showed the Mac Pro taking 75 seconds versus the Mac mini’s 125 seconds.

Image Credit: Apple

Exporting a 1-minute video is about the same as the Mac Pro did it in 50 seconds and the Mac mini took 125 seconds. This can make a huge difference as waiting for export could be the longest period of downtime for your edit.

Even with these comparisons, the Mac mini holds up extremely well considering the price difference. Professionals will benefit from splurging on the Mac Pro, you will just need to decide whether those benefits are worth it for you.

A nice thing is that if you want this power in another form factor the M1 chip is used in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and new iMac. Get what works best for you as the performance differences will not be massive.

[source: Parker Walbeck]

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