Here’s more proof that Apple is wrong about MacBook memory

The MacBook Pro's keyboard and trackpad.
Luke Larson/

Apple has made some big claims about its integrated memory over the years. This became clear this week when an Apple representative was asked why it had started selling the 8GB starting configuration of its new M3 Pro MacBook Pro, a laptop that has already been under scrutiny recently. The interviewer responded by saying that 8 GB on a MacBook is equivalent to 16 GB on a comparable system. But is this really true? This has been hard to test so far, but a recent video posted by Max Tech shows that in practice, at least, it’s not that simple.

YouTube channel M3 Pro is testing 8GB and 16GB configurations of the MacBook Pro. This is the first time that these exact models have been compared side by side, and the reported results appear to contradict Apple’s broader claims.

The video shows how easily 8GB of memory is used by a single instance of Google Chrome, and what a huge impact this has on the performance of other applications. For example, Max Tech shows that with 20 Chrome tabs open, Lightroom Classic was 79% slower to complete a media export, even though it only had 8GB of RAM to work with. This means that a task that took just one minute and 6 seconds to complete took five minutes and 16 seconds to complete.

However, this isn’t too surprising, and reflects how past Mac memory has behaved. Once memory is completely used, Macs become dependent on SSD swap, which dramatically reduces performance. Watch the full video above for more information on other tests conducted by Max Tech, all of which are quite reliable.

A screenshot from a Max Tech video comparing how RAM affects performance.
max tech

While 8GB will generally be enough for tasks used on entry-level MacBook Air models, the situation described above is extremely common for creative professionals working on their laptops. The idea that someone could spend so much money on a system with only 8GB of RAM is a big problem. Suffice it to say, if you’re buying a MacBook Pro, you should plan to start with at least 16GB of memory, which will cost an extra $200. It should be noted that the M3 Max version of the MacBook Pro starts with a minimum of 36 GB of RAM, which can be configured up to 128 GB.

That’s not to say Apple’s integrated memory subsystem isn’t impressive. The company is right that the ability to freely share memory between the CPU and GPU makes it significantly more efficient than competing systems. But that doesn’t change the fact that these high-end MacBook Pros really shouldn’t be sold with only 8GB of RAM. This isn’t the kind of experience that anyone looking for a powerful computer will be happy with.

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