Apple Mac Mini M1 10GbE Gets 10Gbase-T

11

Apple Mac Mini M1 10GbE Performance

Folks have discussed the performance of the Apple Mac Mini’s M1 SoC at length. What has been less well documented is the performance of the 10GbE NIC since this just started shipping. As we can see, we have an “Apple AQC113” which is a Marvell-Aquantia AQction, based NIC.

Mac Mini M1 Apple AQC 113 10GbE NIC
Mac Mini M1 Apple AQC 113 10GbE NIC

Something several folks have noted is that the “Link Width” is stated as x1. Often in MacOS, this is tied to the PCIe link width, especially given the Bus is listed as PCI. With a PCIe Gen3 x1 link, we would not have enough bandwidth to handle 10GbE speeds. We fired up iperf3 with -P 4 to push enough traffic, and we got between 9.4-9.5Gbps.

Apple Mac Mini M1 10GbE Speeds
Apple Mac Mini M1 10GbE Speeds

We normally get just below the rated speeds. We are also above PCIe Gen3 x1 speeds so it seems like, if this is indeed a PCIe x1 device, it is a PCIe Gen4 device. The current public Marvell AQction line with the AQC107, for example, is a PCIe Gen3 x4 offering. We could not find information on this part, but it may be a PCIe Gen4 x1 part based on what we are seeing in MacOS.

We also wanted to note that we validated 2.5GbE and 5GbE operations on this NIC. Apple states that there is support, but we did validate the NIC operated at those lower speeds as well. We are going to quickly note that the power impact we could not swap NICs for to get a true apples-to-apples comparison, but it seems to be in the single-digit watts range for the 10GbE part so a relatively small impact.

Configuration Impact

Perhaps the biggest challenge with the M1 Mac Mini is the lack of upgradability (or easy upgradability.) The RAM is soldered, the SSD is soldered, and we do not get a standard PCIe expansion slot. Adding the 10GbE option is about $100. This is about the same cost as getting a lower-end single port Aquantia-based PCIe NIC which makes it a relatively reasonable upgrade in Apple terms.

Mac Mini M1 10GbE Upgrade
Mac Mini M1 10GbE Upgrade

Memory in the M1 Mac Mini is soldered. As a result, it is not upgradeable as we see in TinyMiniMicro nodes. We have 16GB M1 Mac Minis and MacBook Pros and two 8GB Mac Mini versions. We strongly suggest that if you want to use this as more than an Apple silicon test vehicle that you pay the steep premium of $200/ 8GB for 16GB of memory. Just for comparison, we buy 32GB SODIMMs for around $150 for Project TinyMiniMicro nodes and often put 32GB or 64GB in those ~1L PCs.

Mac Mini M1 16GB Upgrade
Mac Mini M1 16GB Upgrade

The storage side is highly impacted by the 10GbE networking. With the faster network access, one is more likely to be able to just have MacOS and applications on the internal SSD. An external USB 3 SSD can be used for local SSD capacity. 10GbE can be used for mass storage over the network. We just reviewed an Inland Premium 1TB NVMe SSD that was $118 for 1TB. The $200 for 256GB of storage or $400 for an incremental 768GB can be saved by using 10GbE and USB SSDs. Unlike on the MacBook Pro, the Mini is not designed to be portable so this makes more sense.

Mac Mini M1 Storage Upgrade
Mac Mini M1 Storage Upgrade

For our readers, we suggest getting the 10GbE option before the SSD upgrade unless there is a specific requirement not to.

Final Words

Overall, of our four Mac Mini M1’s, this is now the favorite solution. Having 10GbE really helps add to the value of this solution by unlocking NAS options without needing a 10GbE adapter.

MyElectronics.nl Apple Mac Mini And Raspberry Pi Rack 5
MyElectronics.nl Apple Mac Mini And Raspberry Pi Rack 5

Something we will note is that we really wish Apple would have gone with 2.5GbE as the base networking option for the M1 Mac Mini. It is time to offer that upgrade and the incremental pricing is not much. Apple could have been ahead of the Windows 1L PCs in this class, but now we are starting to see options on the HP EliteDesk 800 G6 Mini as an example and the Intel NUC 11 Pro have 2.5GbE and a similar port configuration as standard (while being upgradeable.) For our readers who are looking at the M1 Mac Mini as a development vehicle, or to use as a Mac/ Arm PC, get this 10GbE option.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the review! We looked into rack mounting some (x86 64GB 10Gbps) Mac Minis in the DC for users during lockdown. Previous versions could run VMWare, but the T2 chip broke compatibility.

    I’d prefer everyone move to flexible NBaseT rather than 2.5Gbps.

    There’s space in a market for a small (several liter) x86 with internal power supply, NBaseT, & IPMI. XeonD ITX would be ideal, but frustrating scarce. The upcoming Ice-Lake XeonD would be a homelab dream.

  2. Wonderful review Patrick! Quick confirmation: the previous M1 MacMini (and all of the other M1 devices) have only been able to run one external monitor (even if you try to use a USB or thunderbolt to display adapter). Has that limitation been removed on the M1 MacMini with the 10Gbase-T NIC?

  3. <>

    There is no AQC113 there:

    https://www.marvell.com/products/ethernet-adapters-and-controllers/fastlinq-edge-ethernet-controllers.html

    So should we guess it’s a special version for/from Apple?

    <>

    As you said, PCIe Gen 3 1x at 8.0 GT/s is not going to approach 10GbE. So it’s Gen 4?

    Does anything useful show up in the I/O Registry Explorer or using the ioreg command?
    Note: I know nothing about this two, I just looked for lspci equivalent on Mac OS.

    What speed do you get with one client stream?

    Which machine was server, which machine was client? Did you try both directions?

  4. […As we can see, we have an “Apple AQC113” which is a Marvell-Aquantia AQction, based NIC…]

    There is no AQC113 there:

    https://www.marvell.com/products/ethernet-adapters-and-controllers/fastlinq-edge-ethernet-controllers.html

    So should we guess it’s a special version for/from Apple?

    […We fired up iperf3 with -P 4 to push enough traffic, and we got between 9.4-9.5Gbps…]

    PCIe Gen 3 1x at 8.0 GT/s is not going to approach 10GbE. So it’s Gen 4?

    Does anything useful show up in the I/O Registry Explorer or using the ioreg command?

    Note: I know nothing about this two, I just looked for lspci equivalent on Mac OS.

    What speed to you get with one client stream?

    Which machine was server, which machine was client? Did you try both directions?

  5. The marvell website lists the following chip:
    AQC113/AQC113C/AQC113CS: Single-port 6speed, 10Gbps PCIe to Multi-Gig Ethernet controller integrates MAC and PHY with I-grade support.
    Did they update the listing or am I mistaken.

    And while I agree that 2.5 Gbe on the base model would be nice, the recent TrendNet reviews showed that the pricing is not there yet for the casual use and that it’s probably better to offer full 10G nbase-T as an upgrade to those willing to pay.

  6. 2.5 and 5 gb ethernet are nothing more than a means to extend the price bump for faster networking a few more years. Seriously, stop supporting it. The same logic that gave us 10 then 100 then 1000 baseT still applies. Go to 10 gbaseT or go home.

  7. @Patrick Kennedy, love the “old models meets new model” kitchen fun ! We need some fun in these serious times 🙂

    Nice review!

  8. How is it with audio when you access network through WLAN and 10 Gbps interface.
    Under Windows I am sometimes getting audio drops on my Supermicro X10SRi-F mainboard.
    It became better when replacing the Microsoft network driver in Win10 with the latest one from Intel v26.2.
    The question behind it is .. I have the feeling my system was more stable in regards to audio under Windows 7 compared to Windows 10. Especially before all the changes because of Spectre and Meltdown. I am questioning myself, whether I could have an advantage for audio processing (DAW work) when using Apple. I know that ASIO drivers are working a little bit more efficient compared to Apple where everything has to go through their audio stack, so they usually need some more safety buffers because audio requires a few more system calls.
    But when I notice on the other hand, that audio is not so stable anymore under Windows 10, then I am questioning myself, whether Apple could solve such issues ….
    Does anybody know what I mean and has a wise answer ?

  9. @Paul: oops, you’re right. I missed it. Forgot to scroll the page.

    Found answers to my questions there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akqx0F5-gs4

    $1,400 for Mac Mini M1, 16GB memory, 1TB storage, 10 GbE, I’m almost tempted for iOS development workstation to replace aging iMac. I don’t care about graphics for games. I would wish 12 or 16 cores and 32GB of memory for < $2,000. Fat hard disk via Thundebird OK.

  10. Thanks for the review. Good to see the 10Gb option from Apple. The 2.5Mb (& 5Mb) are good forward thinking Base Options, I think, since Laptop owners & some older desktops with limited PCIe slots might only have the USB 3 port option with 2.5 & 5Mb NIC Adapters (see STH reviews). That is a really fast upgrade along with 2.5Gb Switches (see STH reviews).
    So if you r hardware limited (PC, Laptop, etc) then 10Gb isn’t always an easy option.
    Sir Patrick, Keep up the good work.

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