With the new M1-based Macs, Apple has debuted a new unified memory architecture for RAM which works in a different manner compared to Intel-based Macs. There’s a lot of confusion among potential MacBook Pro and Air buyers as to whether they should buy the 8GB RAM variant of the machine or bump the RAM to 16GB.
It is important that one gets the M1-based Mac with the right amount of RAM since it is not user upgradeable. Apple also charges $200 for the RAM upgrade which might tempt many people to save money and get the 8GB RAM model. A comparison video from YouTuber MaxTech now clearly shows the difference in performance between the 8GB and 16GB RAM variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Right off the bat, the 8GB 13-inch MacBook Pro has notably less free RAM than the 16GB RAM variant when running benchmarks and other apps. In real-life use scenarios like compiling code in Xcode, exporting RAW photos from Lightroom Classic, the 16GB M1 MacBook Pro was faster than the 8GB RAM variant by 20-30%. While exporting 8K RED RAW footage, the 16GB M1 MacBook Pro was over 2x faster than the 8GB RAM model.
The 8GB RAM variant never felt slow or sluggish due to the lack of free RAM though, but the tests in the video make it clear that the machine’s performance is being affected by the limited RAM. What’s impressive is that despite the limited RAM, the 8GB 13-inch MacBook Pro managed to come close or beat the 27-inch iMac and 16-inch MacBook Pro with 32GB and 64GB RAM in many tests.
Overall, the video makes it clear that if you are a power user, you should get the 16GB MacBook Pro as the additional RAM does have an impact on performance.