Should I Get 8GB Or 16GB On My New M1 Mac? And What About The Storage And GPU Options?

My inbox got flooded with questions about the M1 Mac starting moments after I posted this review on the MacBook Air with the M1 processor. The main question being if one should get 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

Here’s the short answer: If you can afford it get 16GB of RAM.

Here’s the detailed answer: The Apple M1 processor is a SOC or system on a chip which is similar to what they do with the iPhone. Meaning everything is integrated on the chip. CPU, RAM, GPU (graphics processing unit), everything. That means you get whatever is on the chip and you can’t upgrade it later. That makes deciding on how much RAM you need a big decision. Here’s the thing, Macs last a long time. I am typing this article on a 2015 15″ MacBook Pro which is still is able to run the latest operating systems, and it still gets security updates, and doesn’t feel slow (by Intel standards) despite being five years old. It’s not unusual to get as many as six or even seven years out of a Mac. Thus by going to 16GB regardless of what you are doing, you are truly future proofing things and avoiding the possibility that you may need to buy a whole new computer should your needs evolve.

Now, here’s the only caveat that I will point out. If you’re using these M1 Macs as a bridge to get a quick speed increase while waiting for the Apple Silicon Mac of your dreams, then you might have an argument to only get 8GB. But the flip side of that is that this is dependent on your workflow. If your workflow is RAM intensive, photo or video editing is a great example of this, then you’re going 16GB regardless.

While I’m here, I’ll also help you with your storage requirements. All of the M1 Macs that Apple has released come with 256GB of storage. Will that work for you or do you need more? Here’s my rule of thumb for that:

  • If you currently have a computer with 256GB of storage, get 512GB.
  • If you currently have a computer with 512GB of storage, get 1TB.
  • If you currently have a computer with 1TB of storage, get 2TB.

The reason being that storage creep is a thing. As in you slowly tend to run out of storage as you use your computer because you save more music, more movies, more pictures and the like as you use it. Thus getting more storage than you need now will save you headaches later.

There’s one final thing. When it comes to the MacBook Air specifically, the base model comes with 7 GPU cores and the more upscale model comes with 8. Neither the 13″ MacBook Pro or the Mac Mini with the M1 processor have this option. Does it matter? Given my experience with a base MacBook Air with 7 GPU cores, I would say no. The computer was so insanely fast that I suspect that the 8th core would only give you marginal gains unless you were using your MacBook Air to edit 4K video or something like that. The flip side to that is that if you’re really interested in editing 4K video on a regular basis, you should really be looking at the the 13″ MacBook Pro with the M1 processor as that comes with cooling fans that will give you a bit better performance on top of the fact that it comes out of the box with 8 GPU cores.

Hopefully that helps you to configure the right M1 based Mac for your needs. If you still have questions, email me and I will help you as best as I can.

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