Tuesday, Nov 09, 2021, 16:26 Mac: Hardware

MacBook Pro 2021 With 32 GB vs. 64 GB RAM

The first M1 Macs were restricted to 8 - 16 GBs of unified memory, however, the new 14 and 16" variations of the MacBook Pro come with either 16, 32, or 64 GBs of unified memory. The new MacBook Pro comes with two processor options, the M1 Pro or M1 Max, and only the M1 Max supports 64 GBs of unified memory. The M1 Max is available in either 32 or 64 GB configurations, both of which support a memory bandwidth of up to 400GB/s. A discussion thread making the rounds on Reddit has sought to answer the question: Is there any considerable difference in the performance of the 32 vs. 64 GB configurations? In terms of general, daily usage, there obviously won't be much of a difference. Those using their Mac for simple tasks such as browsing the web, e-mail, or using other such programs would barely notice a difference between 16 and 64 GBs of unified memory.

32 vs. 64 GB – Some Numbers For Comparison
Things look a little bit different when more resource intensive applications or processes are at work, take for example the task of rendering an 8K format video. In such cases, the advantages of a max configuration MacBook Pro become more evident. For example, an 8K test was completed after 11.06 minutes on the 32 GB version of the M1 Max and in only 8.47 minutes on the 64 GB version.

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The performance differences were less drastic when it came to an Adobe Lightroom export under full RAM usage – 1 minute and 33 seconds for the 32 GB M1 Max, and with double the memory – 1 minute and 24 seconds. Final Cut Pro X was a different case entirely and both configurations required the exact same amount of time to process a 30 minute clip. In Blender, there was a 7 second time difference between the two versions (with the 64 GB variant coming out ahead) to accomplish the same task. The M1 Max w/ 32 GBs managed 28 seconds and 21 seconds for the M1 Max w/ 64 GBs. For Xcode, there was only a 1 second time difference between the two processors. 99 seconds for the 64 GB variant and 100 for the 32 GB variant.



No Matter How Much RAM – Perceived Performance Still Excellent
In the "perceived" versus "precise" tests, there was apparently no difference in perceived performance between the two configurations. The system always remained responsive, no matter the task, and immediately responded to any input. However, anything else would be unexpected, as the M1 Macs are already difficult enough to slow down to get the infamous "beachball" (system loading cursor icon) to appear. Thus, anyone pondering whether or not 64 GBs is a sensible expansion can accept a resounding "no" as the correct answer in the vast majority of situations. It may sound a little bit safer for the feature to purchase a "high performance" variant MacBook Pro (so that future, even more demanding applications will still run problem-free), however, this really only makes sense for users active in graphics or video-editing departments.

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