The curious state of Apple RAM pricing

“While it’s disappointing to have soldered Apple RAM on the MacBooks, most Apple customers accept the limitation as a fair trade for slimmer and lighter designs, and Apple has certainly delivered on that end with the Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air,” Jim Tanous writes for TekRevue. “But when it comes to desktops, the consumer doesn’t get much in return for losing the ability to upgrade RAM after purchase.”

“We’ve recently discussed the terrible 2014 Mac mini update, and while many factors contribute to the system’s sorry state, a big one is soldered RAM,” Tanous writes. “Despite some improvements in recent years, Apple is notorious for high RAM prices on custom configurations. This was easy to overlook when all Mac models offered user replaceable RAM, but it’s much more of an issue now that the majority of the company’s Macs utilize soldered or practically inaccessible memory. That means you’re stuck paying whatever Apple wants for RAM on all MacBooks, the 21.5-inch iMac, and, now, the Mac mini.”

“Compared to the lowest current price, Apple charges almost double for a 32GB RAM upgrade, and well more than double to go to 16GB,” Tanous writes. “So what’s the good news? Well, it looks like Apple has finally acknowledged the insanity of their RAM prices and taken some steps to address the issue. Thanks either to lower component costs or a desire to be seen as a bit more customer-friendly, Apple has indeed decreased RAM upgrade prices on some Mac models with soldered RAM. The 2014 Mac mini, for example, saw its $300 cost for a 16GB RAM upgrade at launch quietly lowered to $200 in recent days (we’ll just go ahead and take credit for that). The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display also offers a 16GB max upgrade for $200, which is about market price for memory with identical specifications.”

Read more in the full article here.

36 Comments

  1. This is standard sales tactic. Offer a base product for as low a price as possible and try to up sell customers to better products with higher margins.
    RAM is cheap and I bet Apple get huge discounts. So sure they could lower the RAM price for custom upgrades but that will make less money in the long term.
    As far as the Mac Mini is concerned, the $699 unit offers a faster processor, 2X ram and a larger hard drive. Overall a much better value for the additional $200. I was initially disappointed in the specs for the $499 but after looking at the options, the mid range model will be my choice. FWIW I will likely buy that in January.

        1. Roget’s seems to disagree with you, Professor:

          tactic
          noun
          1 a tax-saving tactic: strategy, scheme, stratagem, plan, maneuver; method, expedient, gambit, move, approach, tack; device, trick, ploy, dodge, ruse, machination, contrivance; informal wangle; archaic shift.

    1. Sounds like a standard fanboy post to me.

      The clear-headed thinker does not find Apple’s latest Mac mini to be a significantly better value. And since Apple has made it clear that users can’t have a mini be a server anymore, the wise shopper would compare the mini + necessary accessories to the equivalent tech spec linux box. Guess which one blows the other out of the water by all objective measures?

      1. “And since Apple has made it clear that users can’t have a mini be a server anymore,” YOU CAN’T?

        “OS X Server is just a $19.99 add-on to OS X Yosemite — for an unlimited number of clients. That’s a fraction of what other server operating systems cost. Best of all, you don’t need expensive hardware to run it — you can use a Mac Pro, an iMac, or even a Mac mini. With OS X Server, you can deploy the server that’s right for you.” https://www.apple.com/osx/server/servers-made-easy/

  2. I agree with pretty much everything the article states. I have upgraded RAM in every Mac I’ve ever owned going back as far as a 1988 Mac SE. I don’t need a screen bigger than the 21.5″ iMac, so why do I have to pay for the bigger screen model just to get upgradeable RAM.

    And RAM upgrades aren’t the only issue. I’ve upgraded the hard drives in nearly every Mac I’ve owned at the same time I did the RAM upgrade and got a few more years of solid use out of the machines.

    The prices Apple charges for RAM and drive upgrades drive their prices to ridiculous levels.

    1. I upgraded the 4GB on my early 2011 13″ MacBook Pro last summer to 16GB from OWC for only $195. If I remember correctly I had upped my 1999 iMac to 128MB for $220. My old iBook had one of the two RAM slots soldered and that really ticked me off.

    2. You can still buy and 21.5″ iMac with upgradable RAM – you just have to opt for 2.7GHz quad-core one rather than the 1.4GHz dual-core cheapest iMac available.

      I don’t know about you, but out of all the Macs I’ve bought over the years, I’ve never once gotten the cheapest model available – the slower specs are too limiting, especially over the computer’s whole lifespan.

      But many people do buy the cheapest Macs available and are very happy with them. If all you need to use it for is light computing, like email and word processing, it’s a good deal. I’m willing to bet the same people who opt for the cheapest models available also don’t replace their RAM and hard drives every couple of years (like us computer geeks do). Apple probably has statistics on this, and it’s acting on it to reduce the cost of their cheapest Macs.

      1. Good points. I never buy the cheapest model either.

        Also I didn’t know that the 2.7 GHz quad core had the upgradeable RAM. Thanks. Where did you find that info?

        Do you know if the drive slots are reachable without tearing the thing apart?

        Just for grins, RAM for the ’88 SE was $35 per Megabyte!!! The SE was $3300 in 1988 dollars. That’s $6623 in today’s dollars. So we’re still getting some pretty great deals.

        1. And I upgraded the original 20 MB hard drive to a 40 MB one for about $350 (if I remember correctly). And the LaserWriter printer we got was about the same price as the SE.

  3. The problem here is that traditionally with computers, you could buy them new with lesser storage and memory than they were capable of and then later upgrade when prices come down and sizes go up.

    So a 4 year computer can be purchased one year at a lower cost, and 2 years later updated at a relatively lower cost.

    This contrasts with consumer electronic devices like an iPhone/iPad where the life of the product isn’t as long and the tradeoffs in size/complexity outweigh the benefits of upgradeability.

    Unfortunately, we’re now at a time where there’s fuzziness between consumer electronic devices and computers. The MacBook Air is a perfect example of this… the Mac mini, not so much.

    As someone who did things like buy a MBP 15″ with base memory and storage, and eventually upgraded it to 2TB with one being an SSD and 16GB of RAM, I’m a little bummed by this transition, but as an outlier I can adapt.

    1. What “tradeoffs in size/complexity”?
      The competitors can do it. Why can’t Apple?
      Answer: Because it’s all about Apple increasing profits to the detriment of the users.

      1. Take a look at the MacBook Pro pre-Retina versus post-Retina. Open them up and look inside. The post-Retina MacBook Pros, like the MacBook Airs don’t have things like RAM slots. Imagine adding RAM slots to an iPhone.

        The difference may not outweigh the benefits for you… they mostly don’t for me, especially on the MacBook Pro, but it’s clearly the direction Apple is going in, and has been for a while.

        And it’s not about profits directly. It’s about building what the executive team at Apple believes is a better product. Now it’s easy to argue that the executive team may be out of touch with some of the power-users, but clearly, they see a solid, slotless, thinner, lighter device as a better product…. and the better product results in more sales and depending on configuration higher margins, but that’s not the motive.

  4. Well hell, Apple doesn’t care about making money; at least according to an earlier post today on MDN. Of course this is a lie. They did not listen to thousands of customers that wanted antiglare screens. And more recently they came up with the abortion called Yosemite. Some of the new features are great, but the visuals are fugly. Mr Ivy should get the boot. If Steve was still around he would not stand for what Apple has been doing lately. And if Apple doesn’t pay attention, they will go the way of Microsloth.

  5. As a Mac Mini user, I am actually okay with the built in RAM since Apple is pricing the RAM close to market value ($300). I will be paying $200 to upgrade my brand new 2012 Mac Mini to 16GB. The lack of a Quad-Core Processor and the removal of the second hard drive bay are my biggest gripes about the 2014 Mac Mini’s. These two reasons (more so the lack of a Quad Core Processor) caused me to purchase a brand new 2012 Model (2.3 GH, Quad Core Machine).

    Both of my Mac Mini’s cost more than $700 a piece. I would be very interested in a Mac Mini Tower / Headless iMac device type of machine with a starting price of around $800.00 or more provided the specs were good and the machine offered some user upgradeability.

  6. When I replaced my old MacPro tower last year, I replaced it with a 27″ iMac specifically so I could upgrade the RAM.

    User installable RAM is not just a way to save some money over Apple’s exorbitant RAM prices, it is also a way to extend the life of your machine. You may not need more than 8 GB RAM now, but in 4 years, 32 GB might be standard.

    In our office, we have four late 2009 iMacs that are now loaded with 16 GB of RAM. 16 GB allows these machines to work well with Parallels/Windows 7 running simultaneously with Mavericks. When these machines were purchased in 2009, 4 GB of RAM was the amount offered, and in 2009, who needed more than 4 GB of RAM?

    So Apple, please start making your desktops with user upgradable RAM. I’m sure Ive can create an opening to the RAM compartment that doesn’t detract from the aesthetics of the iMac or Mini.

  7. My problem with Apple and soldered memory is that I had modules go bad in every computer I owned after years of heavy use.

    Since I buy only big name quality memory with lifetime warranty, the replacements have always been free, but after AppleCare expires 3 years down, a single faulty memory chip means shelling out several hundreds of dollars for an OOW logic board repair.

    1. Another example of Apple creating disposable electronics. Apple makes all this hoopla about using recyclable materials. The reality is that Apple products end up in the landfill sooner than your typical electronic product because of practices such as this. Think about how many resources could be saved if we made an effort to extend the lifetime of the products.

      All this “green” talk comes out of Tim Cook’s mouth but, at the same time, his actions are blowing it out of his shorts.

  8. Sing It Jim Tanous who writes for TekRevue! 🎶♬♪♪

    I’ve upgraded every single Mac I ever bought, as long as I was able. (Thank you for helping out OWC!) Now I can’t with my sparkly new MBP. I planned ahead and maxed out the RAM at purchase. But it did cost a bit more than if I had DIY upgraded it. It sure is great to see Apple at long last making a step to reduce their reputation of RAM price gouging. I like Apple’s RAM! But offering it at a more reasonable price is very welcome. 😎

  9. Though my source is not proven I heard some possible explanations. 1) Soldered memory may be lower cost and more efficient to manufacture 2) the memory used many be a lower power build.

    There may be some possibility to this, and Apple’s renowned process engineering may be at play?

    1. LPDDR3 offers more bandwidth per channel, at far lower power. Until DDR3U hits the market, there’s no slotted memory that will match LPDDR3 for idle power consumption.

      Further, the lack of connectors and interface chips remove several common failure points.

      On balance, I’d still rather stick with socketed RAM – especially on the mini – but there are valid technical reasons to go with soldered LPDDR3. Soldered DDR3, however, is pure money-grab.

      When DDR3U or DDR4 come out, I’d like to see Apple switch back to socketed low-power memory, at least on the Mini and the Macbook Pro. May as well switch to it in the iMac too, to simplify the lineup and drive volume discounts.

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