For other than all-day, heads-down Pro users, ZDNet’s Robin Harris found that 8GB of RAM is plenty for most Apple’s M1 MacBook Air users. If you’re using the MacBook Air to make money, Harris advises to splurge on 16GB.
I had a 64GB 12.9″ iPad Pro with Magic keyboard as my mobile workstation for over a year. Performance and battery life was great, no fan noise, and it ran almost every app I needed.
But the MacBook Air does all that and more, in a lighter and less costly package. Better performance. Two times the memory and 4x the storage. Dead quiet. Great battery life. Larger trackpad and display. Flexible multitasking and window layout. Excellent I/O options with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4…
Apple charges an exorbitant $25/GB for RAM. However, the excellent performance of the 4GB iPad Pro gave me the confidence to buy the 8GB MacBook Air.
One day I wanted to see what it would take to overwhelm 8GB of RAM, so I left every app, window, and tab open all day. Safari and Firefox each with a dozen tabs open, Mail, Messages, Preview, Calendar, one or more Notes apps, Scrivener, and Final Cut Pro, and utilities including Copyclip, iStat Menus, Magnet, Default Folder, Typinator, Thesaurus, and a VPN.
After several hours of adding load I started seeing beach balls. I killed a few unused apps and all was good. I interpret this casual test to mean that for other than all-day, heads-down Pro users, 8GB of RAM is plenty. If you’re using the MacBook Air to make money, then splurge on 16GB. Everyone else, save your pennies.
MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s “Unified Memory Architecture” (UMA) has changed the way we think about RAM. Used to be, you’d load up as much RAM as you could afford, especially if you were a heavy multitasker who need to run multiple apps concurrently. Not anymore. Apple’s M1 is a system on a chip (SoC) that unifies its high‑bandwidth, low‑latency memory into a single pool within a custom package. As a result, all of the technologies in the SoC can access the same data without copying it between multiple pools of memory. This dramatically improves performance and power efficiency, meaning, bottom line, that 8GB of RAM is plenty for most MacBook Air users.