Should you get 8GB or 16GB of RAM on the new Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Mac mini?
My recommendation is this — get the 16GB if you can possibly afford it. Macs last a long time, for years, and even if you don’t need 16GB now, you may need it eventually, and you cannot add more RAM to these Macs later. It’s literally part of the chipset. What you buy is what you’re stuck with.
I get that 16GB costs an extra $200 up-front in the U.S., or around $17 more a month on installments, and that can be more money than you have handy. Over the course of 3 years, 5 years, more, though, it will more than pay for itself in both the potential of the Mac and the reduction of your personal stress and anxiety level.
If you think M1 Macs having unified memory will magically make them behave as though they have double the RAM. It won’t. Unified memory just means the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine — all the compute — has access to that same pool of memory. It has a huge amount of performance and efficiency advantages that can’t be overstated. But that pool of memory is still limited to exactly what it says on the tin.
Now, Apple does a lot with memory compression to fit as much into RAM as possible, with machine learning for intelligent memory management based on anticipated work patterns, and with fast SSD to make swap invisible to the point that most people won’t even know it’s happening if you don’t know precisely what to look for. But Apple did that with the Intel Macs these new M1 Macs replaced as well.
Again, no magic, no pixie dust, you will get as much out of whatever configuration you buy as technologically possible, but that’s all you’re going to get.
And if you’re someone who’s just super into technology and really wants to see all the tests to measure all the memory pressure, I’ll humbly submit to you that if you know what memory pressure is, you just pretty much self-selected into the get 16GB of RAM group by default.
If you have any concerns or doubts or questions at all, again if you can possibly afford it, get 16GB of RAM.