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12 Days of #BTChristmas, Ep. 4: Mac Mini M1

The new Mac Mini with the Apple Silicon M1 processor is a beast. And it isn’t just be who says it – people on the internet have been raving about its performances against high-end machines. But the little details which sparked my curiosity and ultimately made me FOMO and pull the trigger on the “BUY” button concerns the system’s incredible performance in synchronizing the entire Bitcoin blockchain.

According to Bitcoin Core developer and maintainer Jonas Schnelli, the $699 Mac Mini M1 was able to sync, validate, and download 12 years of Bitcoin transactions in 6 hours and 14 minutes. The performance is incredible not only because the inexpensive, tiny and quiet computer has managed to outclass more expensive Intel-based machines (a $3000 MacBook Pro with the i9 processor is 1.3 times slower), but also because it does it in emulation mode.

See, the M1 processor is ARM-based. So whenever it runs x86 applications such as Bitcoin Core, it uses a proprietary translation system that’s called Rosetta 2. So in theory, it should not be faster than an Intel processor which drains a lot more energy, costs more, and is designed for professionals. Yet we should never underestimate the power of optimization.

Now here’s another crazy fact (and I swear I’m not sponsored by Apple and they are responsible for ruining my savings): price-wise, the Mac Mini M1 is on par with the $850 Nodl Dojo (a machine whose hardware is dated and inexpensive, but is packed with pre-installed software that you can add yourself). So you can either purchase a new generation system which beats computers which cost 5-6 times more, or you can opt for the overpriced Rockchip RK3399 that’s packed in a nice box).

Now you might be asking yourself: the Mac Mini M1 costs about 12 times more than a Raspberry Pi 400. Is it 12 times faster to justify the cost?

And the answer is “YES!”. This computing machine is the bang for the buck, and it will only get better when developers catch up with the new hardware and update their applications. As soon as Rosetta 2 x86 emulation gets replaced with native software, everything is going to become faster. So will we be able to sync a full Bitcoin node in 4 hours? Sure, why not?

If someone called me last year to let me know that today I would be shilling an Apple computer, I would have laughed in his face. But this machine really is something special and I’m excited for the future of hardware and software development. Maybe that king Intel has been lazy lately, but the competition is rapidly catching up.

So in this video I’m doing an unboxing of the Mac Mini M1 and I’m providing some commentary on the meaning of this machine. And yes, I will soon get to Bitcoin-specific devices. But I wanted to get this one out of the way (and possibly prepare you for holiday shopping).

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