All the Macs that Apple has introduced of the new generation of computers with Apple Silicon use the same chip: the M1. This leaves us with two variables with which to configure our computer, the amount of storage and the amount of RAM. At Max Tech they compare this last variable and they evaluate the performance of two 13-inch MacBook Pros with the M1, one with 8GB of RAM and the other with 16GB.
Better more RAM? It depends on what we want to do with our Mac
In the video we can see how the two machines perform a series of tests, starting with Geekbench. In this test, although the Mac model with 8GB of RAM uses it all while the model with 16 leaves slightly more than 6GB free during the process, the test result is identical. In export with Final Cut Pro, the results are also extremely similar.
Running Cinebench, even if the comparison that the video is doing is slightly different, it is mentioned that both machines are at about 60º Celsius in temperature. A temperature that is more than remarkably low if we compare it with what a computer with an Intel processor would reach during the same process. The result of both tests is, again, practically identical.
Where we are already beginning to see differences is in the Xcode compilation test. The 8GB machine completes the test in 136 seconds versus 122 for the 16GB model. In LightRoom Classic, where they export a 42MP RAW photo we also see a slight difference: the 8GB model takes 3 minutes to complete and the 15GB model takes 2 minutes and 43 seconds.
We see the biggest difference in performance in a Final Cut Pro export test. In the video a RAW is exported in 8K R3D that takes 13:57 minutes in the 8GB RAM model and 5:59 minutes in the 16GB model.
It is clear that RAM and speed do not always go hand in hand. It depends on the task we are doing. Let us remember, on the other hand, that the M1 is a SoC, that is, several specialized components within the same chip. Thus, we have a section in charge of video processing, for example, which is responsible for freeing the CPU from the process, relegating it to simple coordination.
If we add the unified memory architecture to these specialized and high-efficiency components, we see it as even an entry-level or prosumer computer, such as the 13-inch MacBook Pro delivers impressive performance.
The conclusion is clear, 16GB is not necessarily better, it depends a lot on the type of tasks that we are going to perform. Of course, we could ideally have 128GB of RAM, but if we value the price and the advantages of the extra memory, it is possible that in most use scenarios the model with 8GB is perfectly left over. The memory usage optimization in macOS Big Sur coupled with the M1’s unified memory structure and components make for a normal specs into a more than impressive PC.