Apple Silicon M1 Macs have an upper limit of 16GB RAM. The lower-end MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini models feature 8GB RAM, which is non-user-upgradable, however, you can configure them with 16GB RAM for an additional $200. With the price premium that Apple charges for RAM upgrade, it is important to know whether additional RAM is worth the cost, and if it provides actual benefits in benchmarks as well as real-world usage, involving multitasking with professional apps.
Apple Silicon M1 Macs: 8GB vs 16GB RAM
This question has been addressed in a few YouTube videos which test out how much RAM is used during normal usage, how much of it is compressed, and how much of it is left free. These videos also look at how much SSD swap occurs during such usage, which might increase the wear and tear on the SSD.
The first video is by Max Tech, and is the most comprehensive of the two that we cover in this post. It addressed the questions that are in every Apple Silicon M1 Mac buyer’s mind: do you need 8GB RAM or 16GB RAM? As per the testing performed in this video with apps like Chrome, Final Cut Pro, Xcode, Photoshop beta for Apple Silicon, Logic Pro, and Lightroom, the YouTuber was able to slow down the 8GB M1 Mac. However, it took a lot more apps to slow down the 8GB M1 Mac, compared to an Intel Mac which would start slowing down much earlier, which was attributed to the unified memory architecture in Apple Silicon. The 8GB M1 Mac performed as well as a 16GB Intel Mac, while the 16GB M1 Mac performed as well as a 32GB Intel Mac, as per the YouTuber.
The video sums it up well: if you want to use multiple professional apps, and Chrome, and you also want to use the Mac for many years, 16GB RAM would be beneficial. Whether you get the 8GB or 16GB model, you should not have to worry about swap having any impact on the wear and tear on your Mac’s SSD longevity.
The second video is by Created Labs, which mostly addresses swap memory usage by explaining what it actually is, and how it impacts the SSD, if ever. The YouTuber recommends 16GB RAM after putting his Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Pro through some very heavy multitasking workloads which included professional apps, along with browsing with many tabs for hours.
Our take on the swap memory is simple – all operating systems use it, whether the computer has a spinning drive or an SSD. Modern SSDs are rated for a long lifetime of reads and writes and do not wear down as easily as they used to back in the day. The primary reason for your decision to go for 8GB vs 16GB RAM should depend on your usage. If you use professional apps like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and the likes, you will see an improvement. If you only write and browser on your Mac, 8GB should be perfect for you.
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