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Boost 2011 MBP Performance with 1600MHz RAM

Right now, everybody’s talking about the MacBook Pros announced at WWDC earlier this month. That’s great; it’s always fun to talk about the latest and greatest. However, not everybody can afford to get the newest model every year. Most of us have to content ourselves with getting the most out of what we already have.

It’s in that line that we’ got some great info for those of you who bought a MacBook Pro last year. In an interesting development, it seems that although Apple sold and marketed the 2011 MacBook Pros as using 1333MHz memory, they are, in fact, capable of utilizing 1600MHz memory, just like the current crop of MacBook Pros.

Lloyd Chambers of Mac Performance Guide did some in-depth testing and found that a 2011 MacBook Pro with 1600MHz memory saw a 2% average performance boost over the same configuration with 1333MHz memory.

We’ve long established that adding more memory to your Mac is the most cost-effective way to get the most out of your Mac. For the 2011 MacBook Pros, it looks like using the faster compatible RAM speed can get you that extra little bit of speed you may be seeking.

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • Some are saying on the Apple forums that these Macs are capable of running 2133 MHz RAM! Some Sandy Bridge computers run 2600 MHz RAM in desktop models I have read. Anyone try 2600 MHz in this unit?

  • Does this apply to EARLY 2011 13″ Macbook Pros (8.1)? I’ve only found comments on Late 2011 MBs, 15 and 17″, but nothing on early 2011 13″.

  • Happy to report that I’ve been using 1600MHz RAM (2x8GB) in my MacMini 5,3 for several months now without any issues. “About This Mac” reports it as being 1600MHz as well. Am also using OS X Yosemite. The extra RAM allowed me to allocate plenty to Win 8.1 in Parallels 9.

  • I have an early 2011 MacbookPro 13′, I’m not sure it is a good idea to put 1600MHz RAM. I’m scared that the the machine will seems strange to Apple OS… Also I would like to be sure it will be reliable.
    Is there any feedback of putting 1600Mhz CL9 RAM on this mac ? i5 2?3 GHZ Early 2011 13″ – MC700LL/A – MacBookPro8,1 – A1278 – 2419* Thanks

    • We have performed extensive testing on this and have found no reliability or performance issues using 1600Mhz DDR3 memory in the 2011 MacBook Pros. There are only benefits to the performance when using the 1600Mhz RAM instead of the 1333Mhz.

        • Hi, Joe. The 2011 MacBook Pro is not compatible with 2600MHz memory, so this is not recommended.

  • Does the same apply to a MacMini 5,3? It is specced for 1333Mhz but 1600Mhz RAM is slightly cheaper. Not really concerned about a 2% speed increase – just that can I replace 2x2GB of 1333RAM with 2x8GB of 1600 RAM. Thanks

    • 1600MHz memory should down clock to the computer’s 1333MHz, however we have not tested this for stability. We only recommend 1333MHz memory for the MacMini5,3.


  • I have upgraded my to this 16GB memory set (1600Mhz)for my early 2011 MAcbook Pro thats supposed to use the 1333Mhz, but now my computer when running Adobe Premiere cs6 is seriously unstable.

    I have a standard 2 minute autosave on seeing that it crashes so often ….

    I have also installed the mercury 240gb Electra 3g in the optical bay via Data Doubler and the 240gb Mercury Extreme 6g in the normal hard drive bay.
    I’m booting of the optical bay -Sata 3 …

    When video editing with I also use a belkin single fan laptop cooler to help keep the temp down.

    But still very often I get the black screen that says – your computer needs to shut down …

    This did not happen as often as when I installed this RAM.

    I’m assuming this could be a heat problem – although the standard outside temperature is around 20 degrees celcius in Cape Town South africa at the moment….

    Do I have a bad memory set or memory/harddrive combo? Or is it just working too hard with the memory/graphics card/ 2x ssd’s running at full tilt to give me real time playback of my 1080p h264 DSLR footage?

    Its completely fine when not running premier- but of course nothing pushes it this hard? Photoshop Lightroom uses about a 1/4 of the power …

    Any help? Is this an adobe issue?

    • It’s kind of hard to troubleshoot individual issues in our comments section; that’s something our Tech Support specialists would be best at working out. However, here’s a couple of things you can double-check with.

      1.) Go back to your original RAM configuration – You mentioned that the machine was working fine eofre the memory upgrade. See if the problem goes away after reverting to the original configuration. If your problem still remains, then it stands to reason that the problem is probably somewhere else.

      2.) Run a memory testing application – If you want to test the modules themselves, you can use a program such as Rember to run tests on the modules themselves. You should also be able to do this using Apple Hardware Test (hold down the D key at startup). If a module returns an error, swap the memory in the slots and run it again to see if the problem follows the module or if it stays with the slot.

      3.) Try reinstalling Premiere – Since the only problems seem to happen when you’re running Premiere, try reinstalling it; you could have a corrupted file somewhere – this is especially so if the first two tests don’t show any problems. Or, there could be a problem somewhere else in your system.

      If you try these options and still can’t seem to resolve or at least pinpoint the problem, then you’ll want to get in touch with our Tech Support department and they’ll get you on the right track.

  • When you speak of the 1600MHz memory being compatible, is that the “L” (low power) memory, as used by the new models? And, if so, would someone get better battery life (and perhaps less heat generation) on a 2011 model by switching from the (regular, non “L”) 1333MHz memory? And, would the differences (if any) be negligible or noticeable? All the various cases would, of course, be compared using identical amounts of memory.

    I’m assuming there must have been some reason for Apple to switch to the “L” memory, or is that just what manufacturers are making now? I’m always afraid something will “blow up” when I open the computer anyway, especially with memory, and I had never before seen the “L” designation on memory.

    On a side-note, I want to compliment the instructional videos provided by OWC. They gave me the confidence to add one of their SSD disks, even with my hardware-phobia. :-)

  • I just upgraded my MBP 2011 with OWC 16GB 1333MHz RAM. Only if this article was published a week back.

    • BTW, I was able to use my 8GB 1333MHz RAM that I took out from my MBP (2011) in my MBP (2009). So you can also recommend 1333MHz RAM for MBP 2009 models.

  • If I owned a 2011 MacBook Pro I’d probably not be spending any more money on it especially as it looks like going forward the memory isn’t going to be compatible with newer models. It’s simply not worth the cost for that 2% gain.

    • Robert for users who haven’t upgraded to have more RAM yet and feel now is the right time, the faster RAM is a very attractive choice. If a user has already upgraded to 16GB (2X8GB) RAM then I’d agree there’s little incentive for most to upgrade again. As RAM prices continue to fall, 16GB (2x8GB) is becoming an increasingly attractive option for those for whom it was previously unaffordable.

    • “If I owned a 2011 MacBook Pro I’d probably not be spending any more money on it especially as it looks like going forward the memory isn’t going to be compatible with newer models”

      Newer models – as in the new 15″ Retina Display model – have the RAM soldered in, so it’s not an issue of compatibility; you can’t upgrade with after-market solutions on those models anyway.

      People will still want to upgrade their 2011 models. There’s no reason to stop doing that just because a newer laptop has been released.

      • Fully agree. I even purchased a barely used 2011 hi-res 15″ MBP again. a) Because i don’t like the price tag of the retina models, b) even the newest models are only marginally faster than a maxxed out 2011 cMBP c) the retina models only have glossy displays.

    • What a ridiculous statement…of course it is worth updating an Early 2011 MBP. You wrote your comment in 2012…as I type this it’s July, 2016 and today I am upgrading the RAM on my early 2011 15″ MBP to 16GB RAM for well under $100.

      In addition I recently upgraded the 750GB HD to a 512 GB SSD.
      My computer is faster than the day I bought it…and these upgrades cost me nothing compared to buying a new MBP, whichm, by the way has solkdered RAM and can’t be updated.

      I plan on using my MBP for another 2 yrs. This MBP is by far and away the best computer purchase I’ve ever made.

      • That’s right Clint, the same goes for me as well.
        I updated my late 2011 15″ MBP with 16GB 1600mhz RAM and a 500GB SDD. 5 years of age and fast as $%@. :)
        I can also recommend swapping your SuperDrive with your old HD or even better, a new SSD!

        • Same here – January 2017
          These 2011 MBP machines have the same 6GB/s SATA interfaces as computers sold today. With an SSD and RAM, they seem to perform great even with Sierra.