Danish Kapoor
Danish Kapoor

Apple claims that its 8 GB “are analogous to the 16 GB” of other PCs. But that is not the problem

When Apple launched its MacBook Pro with the new M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips a few days ago, it did so with several unpleasant surprises. The largest of all, the cost of capacity expansions: a 2 TB unit costs 100 euros anywhere, but on these devices the cost of the expansion is 690 euros.

However, for other users the complaint comes from the part of the unified memory that Apple offers from the start in these devices: we are talking about the MacBook Pro with that theoretical orientation for professionals, but still these devices, the cheapest of which It costs 2,029 euros and comes configured with 8 GB of unified memory.

Expanding to 16 GB costs 230 euros, and it is possible to reach 24 GB if we pay the 460 euros for that expansion. Since unified memory is part of Apple’s SoC, it is not possible to expand the RAM on these devices after the fact: once you buy them, the memory you have is the one you will have. Forever.

Unified Mem

Although the diagram is from the M1 Max, the concept of unified memory has not changed in Apple processors.

The main problem, in fact, is not that these devices include 8 GB of memory. The undersigned uses a Mac mini M1 with 8 GB of unified memory on a daily basis.

I have no complaints at all: both macOS and the applications move happily, and my Firefox sessions, which tend to be filled with tabs, are not particularly affected by that amount of memory, which a priori might seem somewhat fair in 2023.

I even edit 1080p and 4K videos on a regular basis in DaVinci Resolve, and I continue to be surprised by the leeway Apple chips offer. Would more memory help make everything a little more fluid? Probably, especially in issues such as opening multiple tabs in any browser. Here each user has their preferences and their own experiences, both good and bad, but in my opinion (and here, I insist, there are surely other experiences, my own colleagues at TechGIndia are the proof) the Mac mini M1 8 GB, which cost me about 700 euros, is an excellent machine to work with.

The real problem, as I said, is not that. The problem is that Apple is selling us a 2,029 euro device with 8 GB of unified memory. Doing it on a Mac that costs less than 1,000 euros can almost be forgiven—I can because my experience is good—but on a “Pro” computer that costs at least twice as much? That is the real affront for many.

Screenshot 2023 11 10 At 12 47 30
Screenshot 2023 11 10 At 12 47 30

To have a MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM you will have to pay 2,259 euros (2,029 + 230 memory expansion). Apple, we have a problem.

Apple does not usually speak out in this area, but one of its managers, Bob Borchers, defended precisely this decision to include 8 GB of unified memory in the MacBook Pro. He did so, as indicated in MacRumors, in an interview with YouTuber Lin Yilyi, which commented that this decision was “a great concern” for potential buyers of this equipment, something that Borchers commented with this statement:

In reality, comparing our memory to other systems is not equivalent, because we use memory very efficiently, use memory compression, and have a unified memory architecture.

In reality, the 8GB on an M3 MacBook Pro is probably analogous to 16GB on other systems. What happens is that we can use them much more efficiently. So what I would say is let people come and test what you want to do on your systems, and I think you’ll see incredible performance. If you look at the raw data and the capabilities of these systems, it is truly phenomenal. And this is where I think people have to look beyond the specifications, and really go and look beyond the capabilities, and listen to trusted people like you who have actually used the systems.

People have to look beyond the specifications and really understand how that technology is used. That is the real test.

The argument can be debated, but my feeling after years of using various equipment is that Borchers’ claim, which may seem weak, is (at least in my experience) reasonable.

I’m still using my old 2015 Dell The Dell has a hard time with the workflow I do today, especially when the tabs start flooding my Firefox sessions, while the PC is much looser in that department, but I must say that the feeling I get The fact is that the Mac mini M1 is no worse (or better) than my PC with 16 GB of RAM, at least for those browsing sessions.

There are also technical analyzes that defend Borchers’ theory. Since the first M1s appeared, its unified memory architecture has been praised in terms of efficiency and bandwidth, and while more memory always helps, that 8 GB of unified memory may be considered sufficient for most current users.

But those who buy a MacBook Pro probably belong to a niche of more ambitious and demanding users. They are willing to invest more in these computers to do more and do it better (and faster), so why include those 8 GB in computers of 2,029 (and 2,259 euros if you want 10 GPU cores)?

On the YouTube channel Max Tech they compared the performance of a MacBook Pro with 8 GB of unified memory with one configured with 16 GB of RAM and there were scenarios in which the 8 GB fell somewhat short. This validates that the 2,029 euro model, despite its price, does not seem like a “Pro” device, depending on what tasks. But ironically, on the same channel they published a video a year ago in which they stated that Apple’s unified memory “humiliates Windows 11’s DDR4 RAM.”

In my opinion the MacBook Pro M3 does not have a memory problem.

It has a price problem.

Image | Daniel Korpai

Danish Kapoor