Why Apple’s new MacBook Pros don’t need 32GB of RAM

“Isn’t more RAM always better?” Robin Harris writes for ZDNet. “Random access memory (RAM) is a computer’s scratch pad where work in process is stored. RAM is power hungry, hot, and – less relevant at MBP prices – expensive. When RAM fills up, the operating system starts paging least recently used blocks of data out of RAM into storage to free up capacity.”

Two “major changes have made macOS much less dependent on DRAM capacity,” Harris writes. “First, Apple has pushed SSD performance to the max, writing at over 2GB/s and reading at over 3GB/s. That’s important because the faster the storage is, the more fluid moving pages from DRAM to a drive becomes. The storage is literally an extension of the memory, and fast storage reduces paging overhead. Second, macOS does memory compression, and has since Mavericks was released in 2013. Memory compression has two important benefits: 1) it expands the effective RAM capacity by 50 to 75 percent, and 2) and shrinks the page file, freeing up more DRAM capacity.”

“The main application that folks assume needs more than 16GB is video editing, especially 4k video,” Harris writes. “But that’s not true either.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yup.

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  1. SolidWorks on Win7 on my Old 2010 MBPro didn’t even need more than 16 megs for complicated designs.

    I do admit that if you run a complicated FEA program that might run for an hour or more, you need lots of RAM, but then you shouldn’t be wasting your time for a laptop to give those results.

  2. Exactly. Its extremely hard to come up with scenarios wear you’ll need to address over 16GB of memory in Under 10 seconds. Unless you have 8 or more cores.

    Between Memory compression and Super Fast SSDs, you’re talking about fractions of a seconds difference. Even for people running lots of VMs

    1. Now why does that sound so familiar… oh yeah, Android fanbois used those excuses a few years ago about not needing 64-bit processors on a phone when Apple did it first.

      Android fanbois were wrong then, Apple fanbois are wrong now.

      1. I think you need to weigh how many users need 32GB RAM. 25%? 50%? 75%? 90%? There’s a point of diminishing returns for Apple. Apart from that, Apple was still insisting upon lowering energy consumption which has become their mantra. Is it a lie to conceal something more nefarious? Who knows for certain? I have no idea.

        1. That would be an interesting benchmark. Have computers running the same suite of Apps (within reason) over the same period of time and measure the App response time and required energy consumption of the computer.

    2. I didn’t even read your second line, I was so focused on your first.

      I can say with absolute certainty that my coworker was constantly running in the yellow “memory pressure” zone and ran into system unresponsiveness time and time again trying to run over a half dozen VMs in addition to his development tools on his top-of-the-line MBP with 16 GB RAM. Memory compression and super-fast 1TB SSD helped only in the sense that it would’ve been totally unusable if he’d been using a spinning HDD.

      And no, a Mac Pro wasn’t an option. Not when having to visit clients every other day.

  3. One memory hog is Safari. MacOS has the same issues as windows not releasing memory when the app closes. And yes video apps do hog memory. Adobe Preimere is one app that requires everything else to be closed when running else you get to watch the spinning wheel.

    1. While maybe true of most not true of all. Photoshop, After Effects, 3D animation programs all could use more RAM. I wonder though will SSD, PCIe, Unobtainium, etc. storage someday get so fast (we’re almost there) will having dedicated RAM become superfluous & unnecessary?

    2. Android users in 2013 justified their lack of 64-bit CPUs in much the same way.

      How sad to see Apple “fans” resort to Android and Windows user tactics to apologize for Apple’s shortsighted decisions, when they should be demanding Apple do better instead.

      On the other hand, we saw the same short-sighted apologists defend Apple for their 3.5″ and 4″ screens. They were good sizes, but it was arrogant and stupid to insist those were the *only* sizes that made sense and everyone should be happy with it.

      1. Apple is using the minimalist strategy on users. Users had better fit within a narrow range because that’s all Apple is willing to support. It may have something to do with the greening of Apple products and keeping energy consumption as low as possible. I’m willing to bet Apple products are far more energy efficient than their Windows PC counterparts. In some ways that could be seen as a noble gesture to the ecology. I’m not sure if any power user is actually going to appreciate such a strategy but if that’s Apple’s goal then I suppose that’s the way it will have to be. Accept it or buy another brand. I’m sure any of Apple’s products suits at least 95% of their users needs.

        Most of you don’t realize how wasteful past Windows PCs were with massive power supplies and all those wasted card slots and drive bays. They used up a lot of raw material and most users never filled all those empty spaces. Most desktop PCs never needed to be the size and weight they were. Most users could have easily worked with mini-PCs. I just think it’s stupid trying to argue about Apple not building workhorse computers to suit everyone. I only think Apple is wrong when it comes to building the Mac Pro as a crippled computer. Apple pro users should be able to build as powerful a computer as they desire. I know Apple doesn’t want to support gaming computers but when GPUs can be used for more than that and it’s not allowed, then something is definitely wrong with Apple’s thinking.

        Apple appears to be disallowing all aftermarket upgrades and that certainly runs counter to the Windows PC world. It seems like a huge hindrance to sell more computers in my opinion. I’m hoping they’re doing it to simplify customer support but who knows for sure. It’s not helping tinkerers, but I’m sure most Apple product users are not tinkerers.

        Look, this a similar problem I had with my first Mac 128K, upgraded to 512K, finally upgraded to Plus all at a relatively steep cost at a time when I could easily upgrade my IBM-AT with multifunction cards and all the RAM a RAM-Card could handle. Apple appears to have come full circle even without Steve Jobs help. Who ya gonna call? Ball-busters. Either accept it or leave. Apple isn’t going to give in to customer’s demands when it’s following it’s own path to enlightenment.

  4. Upcoming MDN articles:
    Why Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t need modern GPUs.
    Why Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t need big screens.
    Why Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t need fast CPUs.
    Why Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t need large SSDs.
    Why Apple’s MacBook Pros don’t need fast interconnects.

  5. 16GB is enough – for NOW. But Macs are expensive items and we can’t all upgrade every year. My mac is getting long in the tooth now. I bought it in 2010, but that was in the days when a quick trip to the OWC website got you a midlife RAM upgrade, from 4 to 12 GB in my case. Will 16 GB still be enough for the applications of 2022?

    Hmm, can a Razer Blade Pro be Hackintoshed, I wonder?

    1. I think this hits the nail on the head. 16GB is good for NOW. The problem is, because we can no longer update RAM, our choices are to ride out the 16GB or buy a new MBP.

      I’m not yet complaining about needing 32GB RAM, but there will be a day when it’s preferable.

  6. Apple knows best. Apple websites tell you how Apple knows best.

    Seems like that philosophy is starting to break down. Now excuse me, anyone have a USB dongle?


  7. Of course, when SSD and RAM are no longer separate entities, that might prove for a far more interesting setup. I don’t know the reality or feasibility of such a thing, but surely something like that would fix the problem and allow “RAM limits” to be software controlled.

  8. Well, I am sick of Apple making this particular RAM decision for me. I want to buy a Mac with as little RAM and disk drive as possible, then upgrade both to the max!! I wish I could buy a MacBook Pro with 0 RAM and 128GB SSD, then buy from OWC, etc. and install meself. Max that sucker out! Noooo, design boy Ives knows better. Thin. Thin. Thin. Daggnabbedit.

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