Offered as a part of a Mac Developer Transition Kit (DTK) and aimed to get devs up to speed with the ins and outs of Apple’s big transition to its own silicon, the Mac mini has an A12Z Bionic chip, 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD, and “a variety of Mac I/O ports.”
The program also provides access to beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, as well as access to documentation and forums support.
Given the price of admittance to the program is $500, this sounds like a great deal, especially considering a regular Mac mini starts at half the RAM and half the storage for $799. Sure, you can beef up the regular mini with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but then the price jumps up to $1,119, which is more than double the price of the DTK mini.
Of course, it’s not quite the same, as the A12Z Bionic chip inside the DTK mini probably isn’t as powerful as the Intel chip offered in the regular mini. There will almost certainly be many bugs and incompatibilities, too, as the program is aimed for developers who will be testing their apps on this thing.
Still, it sounds so good that even a very casual developer or a commoner like me might think about getting one. But there are many, many catches. First, Apple needs to approve your application, which likely won’t happen if you don’t have some serious developer experience. Priority is given to applicants with an existing macOS application, Apple says, and availability is limited. Not all countries are permitted; see the list here. And finally, the biggest catch of all: Developers are expected to return the DTK Mac mini at the end of the program. So no, you’re not really getting a Mac mini at half the price, at least not to keep.
A potential silver lining for developers who participate: The Next Web reports that last time Apple did a transition of this scale – from PowerPC to Intel chips – it gave Intel-based Macs to developers when they returned the testing kit. There are no guarantees, though.