Tech Info 192: Apple M1 Mac mini testing for server use

HELIOS Tech Info #192

Tue, 2 Mar 2021

Apple M1 Mac mini testing for server use

Test setup: Mac mini 01/2021 - macOS 11.2.1

We did additional testing of the new Apple Mac mini. All testing has been performed with the HELIOS G8 server release, its tools and included sample images. The HELIOS G8 release runs natively on Apple M1 processors (no Rosetta!).

Performance testing: (4 cores in parallel)

Using our “imageconv” script, we tested four image conversions in parallel, which involves processing of all major image formats, PDF rendering and ICC color conversion. The reason for testing with four parallel tasks (4 CPUs) was because the M1 has four high-performance CPU cores, the remaining other four cores are for low-power only. Since our server applications use CPU features only, we didn't do any GPU performance testing.

The performance is about 30% faster compared to an Intel i9 Mac (2.3 GHz).

That the entry-level M1 Mac outperforms the high-end Intel Macs is very impressive.

Network performance testing for file server use

We carried out these tests using the HELIOS G8 Universal File Server installation and its included HELIOS LanTest G8 tool. The goal was to measure network performance and the reliability for network file server deployment.

Network reliability

The M1 networking was very reliable during our final testing period.
However, we had Ethernet problems in a previous testing round (Mac mini uptime was 12 days). About once every two minutes the Ethernet network interface got stuck (no ping, no activity) for about 6 seconds. We switched the network ports to the switch, and used different cables – no change. After a reboot of the M1 the problem disappeared, even after very extensive testing the network worked reliably.

HELIOS LanTest file server testing

We did continuous testing of a single Mac client against the Mac mini, using 1 Gigabit Ethernet and the HELIOS LanTest tool. The LanTest testing profile was set to Gigabit Ethernet, with all test options active but “Seek” and “Print”. We specified 1000 test cycles for nonstop testing, and tested more than 700 test cycles with two clients.

HELIOS LanTest disk latency tests

The standard random seek disk latency using the Gigabit Network setup with a 100 GB test file worked fine. We had a random disk access latency of about 0.6 milliseconds.


All testing has been completed with good performance data. The computing power in particular was convincing. Our initial network reliability problem disappeared after a reboot. Our testing shows that the Mac mini M1 can be used for small server environments with the HELIOS G8 server solutions.

For larger and mission-critical environments the HELIOS Virtual Server Appliance 3 is preferred due to its continuous data protection (regular snapshots) and more powerful servers/storage/network options.

For the Apple based M1 systems we expect that macOS software updates and future new Mac hardware open additional opportunities to deploy M1 based Macs as servers.

We will update this Tech Info upon changes.