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Why Are The Memory Options So Limited on Apple’s New M1 Macs?

m1 vs intel mac memory options

The title of this post raises an interesting question.

There has been some chatter from people complaining that the new M1 Macs from Apple have lower memory options available than their Intel counterparts. But I have also seen folks say that perhaps memory works differently or is more efficient with an SoC architecture.

So, what gives?

Let’s take a look at the memory options of the latest M1 (ARM-based) Macs and their previous Intel processor counterparts:

Maximum RAM Options – M1 vs. Intel

Mac miniMacBook Pro 13″MacBook Air 13″
Most Recent Intel:
Current M1 SoC:
64GB
16GB
32GB
16GB
16GB
16GB

As you can see, all but the MacBook Air have lower memory maximums. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro has 1/2 the available memory, and the Mac mini a mere 1/4!

Is there something magical about Apple silicon? Perhaps some sort of magic-mojo is baked into the M1 chip like the semi-sweet chocolate in a Tollhouse cookie? This could be big news, after all.

I opened up a chat session with the 2nd smartest guy I know – OWC Product Marketing Manager, Chris Haeffner.

Step One – Chat With Chris

[11:58 AM] Mark Chaffee
So, I’ve been hearing some chatter about people complaining that the new M1 Macs have limited memory options available. But I have also seen folks say that perhaps memory works differently or is more efficient with an SoC architecture. Do you have any insight into this? I think it would make for a good blog piece.

[12:23 PM] Chris Haeffner
Well, this is an intricate subject I think. Typically RAM in ARM (RISC) processors is very important, more important to performance than x86/64 (CISC) processors. What Apple is doing with their RAM management though might be the key here, I just haven’t looked into it in detail.

[12:28 PM] Mark Chaffee
You used a lot of fancy words in there. Kinda gave me the chills! Would there be any value to us knowing this as a company (i.e. putting the effort into a deeper understanding)? I know our readers would love to know more.

[12:30 PM] Chris Haeffner
lol

ok, so this is first a comparison of RISC v CISC and how RAM factors in. Then it maybe could be a look at how the chip being SoC factors in, possibly with Apple’s memory management techniques. At the end of the day, I think we may have the ability to say our understanding of RAM with these new Macs needs to shift a little.

admittedly a lot of this is over my head – for the record

[12:34 PM] Mark Chaffee
Well, that put’s my head about 2 miles below the earth’s core…

[12:37 PM] Chris Haeffner
This will probably fall to Tim. Maybe start an email saying you and I discussed some basics and recap what I wrote. I don’t have a problem saying that that is where my understanding severely diminishes 😊 Copy me and Anderson too.

Step Two – Email Tim

So I did just that and reached out to the 1st smartest guy I know, Tim Standing (OWC’s Vice President of Software Engineering), to see if he could shed any light on this quandary. Perhaps he could crack the code and unlock the magic and let the world know what Apple has been cooking up in its secret kitchen. I posited the query just as I did to my friend Chris. The same also appeared in the second paragraph of this post, so I won’t three-peat myself.

This was Tim’s response…

Mark –

The memory limit for the ARM Macs probably comes from the maximum size of the memory die that they can place in the MCM, which contains the CPU. The MCM (Multi-Chip Module) is several dies (separate silicon chips), all placed in one package. MCMs allow a much faster connection between the separate chips and make manufacturing easier as there is one package to solder rather than 3.

I don’t see there being any difference between the Intel and ARM Mac mini, for instance, in terms of memory usage. They both use integrated graphics, meaning they have GPU cores which share RAM with the CPU. They will both use about the same amount of memory.

I think the limit on RAM on the ARM Macs is therefore due to what Apple could design and manufacture in the schedule they gave themselves rather than due to a difference in the architecture of the M1. They probably think, correctly, that 95% of users need 16 GB or less of RAM.

Hope this helps

Tim

What We’ve Learned

Admittedly, that wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping it would be—kind of anticlimactic, TBH. But at least we got an answer! Apple will likely re-tool their manufacturing as time allows and open up additional memory options for the rest of us 5%-ers somewhere down the road.

Perhaps the bigger question is, are you planning on waiting? Or is 16GB enough, and you are going to take the leap? Leave a comment below and let us know!


OWC Mark C
the authorOWC Mark C
Content Marketing Manager
A creative by nature, Mark is a writer, programmer, web developer, musician, culinary craftsman, and interpersonal artisan. He loves the outdoors because greenspace is to the soul as whitespace is to the written word. He does not like Diophantine geometry or mosquitos. Most everything else is okay. Oh yeah, he is also the managing editor of the Rocket Yard blog.
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72 Comments

  • I currently have a Mac mini 2018 with 64gb memory. I have noticed speed throulding under heavy loads and high processor temperatures. I have bolted a fan under the 2018 mini to force air for additional cooling. The Mini can get very hot.
    I understand the 2020 Mac mini runs much cooler and probably does not have the same heat issues and throttling. Since the 2020 only has 16gb memory, how well does the paging work under load? Does it have any throttling issues? Guess the Mini is too new to have answers yet…

  • If there’s nothing “magical” about the way Apple’s system-on-a-chip (SoC) uses RAM (“magic” defined as “vastly more efficient…like, by a factor of something like 4x), then I’ll wait until more RAM options are available.

    I run Logic Pro with lots of plug-ins with an occasional project in Final Cut Pro. My MacPro 6,1 Black Trash Can with handles it well enough with 64GB of RAM, but I would take a performance hit with anything less, and 16GB is as much out of the question as the $8.5K cost of replacing the Black Trash Can with a New Cheese Grater.

    But my spousal unit’s hardware requirements aren’t as hefty, which is why I’ve just ordered a Mac Mini M1 with 16GB to replace her aging 2012 Mac Mini Intel. With the SoC and SSD, I’m sure there’ll be a noticeable performance boost relative to the old Mac Mini.

  • Recently I made my own FileMaker based monitoring tool for my servers and certain other computers. I collect the memory pressure data from the Macs, and I was surprised to see, how little memory Catalina is actually using.
    Even my wifes old MacBook Air 11″ with only 4 GB ram is only using about half of it running ordinary apps like Word and Safari.

    My own computers are a mix of 8 and 16 GB configurations, and even though I have tons of apps open, it seems like 16 GB is way overkill.

    Of course heavy graphic work would benefit from more ram, but the memory management from OS X 10.9 and up seems to do a pretty darn good job.

    So I didn’t hesitate when I ordered a Mac mini with M1 and 16 GB of ram.

    One thing you didn’t take into consideration is the M1’s onboard SSD controller. With even higher access speeds to the SSD, I guess that swapping will be so fast, that we might not even notice it.

  • Oh to the hell no! I just upgraded my IMac 2017 to 32 mb of RAM. As long as major companies, side-eyeiing you Adobe, continue to grow their memory bloat-ware, up is the only feasible way to continue to operate. Ok, and larger RAW image files but still…

  • RISC instructions are simple instructions with minimal addressing modes and functionality. CISC instructions are packed with complexity especially in terms of addressing modes. It takes a lot more RISC instruction to do what one CISC instruction will do.

    On the flip side, RISC architectures have much higher compiler efficiency for optimization. Thus, they can be made to run faster easier.

    Apparently the compiler efficiency had a greater impact than the need for more instructions and by all benchmarks I have read, seem to run much faster implying less page swapping etc.

    It would be very useful for someone to profile a few programs and especially see what memory footprint is needed. I would have guessed that 16GB would be an impediment but it seems not to be true.

    Yes, close coupling of memory to processor helps but that is not enough for what we have seen IMHO.

    • Apple has changed the paradigm of memory management. While I suspect the next wave of M1x or M2 Macs will be available with more RAM, these entry level M1 Macs seem to be competitive with most of the higher end Intel Macs on many tasks.

      All the old assumptions about clock speed, memory usage, heat, battery power, etc. are tested by Apple Silicon! Early reviews by a wide range of folks using both Apple and Adobe software seem to indicate that 8GB is enough for 90% of people, and 16GB is plenty for >95% of us. That leaves extreme power users to wait for the Apple Silicon higher end pro machines coming in the next year or two, or hang on to their recent high end Intel machines for some time to come.

      PLEASE go to all the usual review sites and read or watch. Dozens of independent assessments generally concur with each other. These are incredibly powerful machines for the price, portending many good things to come. I’m sorely tempted to buy one, now. But I’ll wait for at least round 2. AS GOOD AS THEY ARE, these are bound to be the WORST Apple Silicon Macs that will ever be made.

      • Keep in mind that “new silicon” might be a while. The mask costs for a new chip is incredibly expensive. I do not know what it would be for 5nm but 28nm is probably $3m to $10M for a complex chip so i would extrapolate that to $100 – $300M for a possible M2. That is a lot even for Apple.

        Imagine you are Apple and you have produced a chip that completely blows away ALL expectations and competition. You would not be inclined to rush out and try to obsolete it yet.

        As an aside on cache memory and main memory let me relate a story: Decades ago when I was with a major chip company calling on SGI, they wanted a 5ns cycle cache chip. In that 5ns budget was the complete round trip including rise and fall times, interchip travel and of course access time. I sat there trying ti figure out how we would possibly move forward fighting the laws of physics with that budget, let alone what would be next.

        The laws of physics have not changed but Apple has managed to live within them for a massive improvement. I suspect that LEAP will be followed by incremental changes yet again.

  • On my ancient iMac 2013, I had it ordered with 16Gb to avoid the dreaded beachball.
    So far so good most of the time. Granted the new architecture will compensate slightly with speed for lack of memory. All depends on how much tolerance you have for waiting. Perhaps I am spoiled with 16Gb.

  • As always, I appreciate the article, but I’m not sure anything stated in the comments means much. I decided to have some fun with my 2020 Mac mini (M1/16GB). I disabled AppNap globally. I opened every application (59 total) in my Applications folder (ignoring the Utilities except for Activity Monitor). Next, I opened my most demanding Xcode project (solar system orbit determination and propagation of 10K+ minor bodies) and the build and run still took 50% less time to compile than it does on my Mac Pro (2013/12core OWC upgrade/64GB). All of this while FinalCut Pro simultaneously crunched through 1.5 hours of 4K video and Remote Desktop had two open sessions to remote Macs. Activity Monitor showed that I still had plenty of fuel in the tank (~6GB RAM) and the majority of the CPU was idle. As a pro, I have no issues with this computer.

      • Hi Mark. I didn’t take screenshots the first time, but after reading your post, I went back and did pretty much the same thing and took some. Of course, I covered up some potentially, sensitive information, but all-in-all you can see from the Activity Monitor that it’s having no issues. Also, the aluminum case of the mini never got warm. It stayed cool through the whole process. Sorry, I don’t have any benchmarking software installed yet, but that’s a great idea that I’ll follow-up on next week. This has been a lot of fun. I’m impressed.

        How do I send a link to the screenshots? If I try to post the URL, I get an “Access Denied” error.

  • I’ve watched about 30 YouTube reviews and tests and comparisons of the new M1 Macs. I kept watching different channels, because I wasn’t believing what I was seeing.

    Of course, the benchmarks are impressive. But the real world tests of what it takes to “choke” these new machines are pretty dramatic, too. In some tests, the M1 MacBook Pro smoked a 16″ MBP with an Intel i9 chip (almost literally… It got very hot (100°C), and the fans got blow-dryer loud). Yet the M1 MBP was barely warm. The M1 had a quarter of the memory of the Intel MBP, yet finished first in most of the tests. It was even competitive in graphics intensive operations, losing only a few of them to the MBP.

    In one test, the M1 MBP played back 95 audio tracks in Logic Pro, with several plug-in processors on each track, before it choked. Meanwhile, the 16″ Intel Mac choked at 75 tracks!

    Several reviewers showed the M1 base 8GB models starting and running nearly every stock Apple app in the dock, plus Office 365, Chrome with 20 tabs open, playing videos, and several more apps doing rendering tasks. It took a HUGE load to choke them.

    Clearly, there is some fancy memory management going on there!

  • I look at two key statistics to determine whether or not a machine has sufficient memory, memory pressure, and swap used. When I compare the figures between my 2018 Mac mini with 32GB memory with my new M1 Mac mini with 16GB, both running Mac OS 11.1 beta, I notice three things:
    1. Memory Pressure on both machines is very comfortably in the green
    2. Both machines are using about the same amount of swap file
    3. Swap file usage on the M1 changes much more often than the Intel Mac

    Overall I don’t see any indication the smaller memory is causing any performance loss. If I were running a major memory hog, such as Final Cut, my experience might be different, but the M1 processor appears fast enough to more than compensate for any lack of memory.

  • We also tend to forget the other memory services within the system! Virtual RAM where a portion of the storage is used to extend the RAM page. To add to this we have OS & application caching and some apps use scratch space to hold the work all within the primary drive (boot).

    While the on MCM RAM does offer shorter distances for the fetch and write operations, the way the RAM is leveraged I think has a greater importance. Having a single memory space has its advantages! In years past we used dual ported RAM to speed access. I’m wondering if Apple is leveraging something like this in a three port design!

    For the first models I think Apple is on track! I agree most people don’t need more than 16GB for general use computing. It’s only deep creative types who compose music, video creation and deep object modeling.

  • Interesting. I wonder if the M1 page swap mechanism is faster than Intel; if so ram size is less critical. I admit to total ignorance of the cache structure in current systems, being an old mainframe fossil. I suspect that SSD’s have made swapping much faster [no rotational delay] .

    Our Macs are fairly recent with SSDs or at least fusion drives, so M1 machines aren’t in our near future.

  • With Memory Clean 3 on a 2014 Mac mini, I never ran out, so 16 GB is working out fine for me. But I’m definitely in that 95%er category.

  • I use C1 and PS with large photo files and worry 16GB could limit my processing with just 16GB versus the 64GB I currently use on my 2013 MacPro with OWC 2TB Aura.

  • Interesting article. The memory issue had been a big deliberation point with me on my most recent purchase. I wanted to be able to virtualize Windows and have found that I need at least 8 Gb to do that, but 16 GB would be better for some of the software that I can’t get on the Mac (Designsoft TINA 11) especially when using the PCB routing features. I’m also finding the newer IDE’s (Pycharm and CLion) are snappier with the extra memory.

    Also at the price points for a new M1 Mac the inability to upgrade RAM in the future was bothersome since I try to hold onto my equipment as long as possible.

    I ended up going with one of your 2013 Mac Pro specials with 32 GB of RAM and a 6 core CPU, it was in the same price point as a new Mac and if I hit a wall, I can always add RAM or swap out the CPU.

    • I think you should scour the YouTube reviews of the three M1 Macs and allay your fears! They all seem to run circles around the 2013 Mac Pro, save for very high end graphics uses such as gaming and render farming.

      It is very hard for many folks to understand that this M1 SOC is a paradigm shift. It took me quite a while to believe what I saw on the Web.

      What we have thought about memory needs is based off of what we have experienced with Intel processors and discrete components scattered around a motherboard. Apple is taking a very different approach in the M1.

      Exactly WHAT is happening may become clearer as the next few Macs become available. Will we ever see a need for aftermarket RAM again? Will Apple put 64GB RAM in some newer ARM-based Macs? Tune in next year, for: The Bleeding Edge…

      • Thanks for the feedback Bill. We’ll see how things go next year, right now the new Mac Pro is working great. If this pandemic ever ends and I start travelling again then I’ll likely pick up a new M1 Macbook air to replace my 2011 version.

        Regards,
        Jeff.

        • I think a lot of pros are going that route. The Mac Pro is still a phenomenal machine, especially for sustained loads and multi-tasking. Its versatility is still king, since you can open it up and reconfigure it.

          The M1 Macs are consumer level machines, but they are powerful enough now to suffice for many content creators who post on YouTube, do commercial production, audio mixing, and other short works.

  • I just wanna know what performance benchmarks between a $900 new MacMini with 16GB and the latest Intel version with 64GB.

    For a lot of us looking to invest in an upgrade now, knowing how they objectively compare would be valuable in helping us decide what we need to do. If you could let us know what you discover, that’d be great to know along with this informed discussion.

      • While that might be true for power-users (who also may simply be on pause waiting for larger RAM configs), it doesn’t seem to be so for the vast majority of Apple’s end users.

        What I noticed in my business was that more and more people are less and less concerned with HOW their computers operate and WHAT is actually in them. I think the iPhone is partially responsible for that because 99 out of 100 owners couldn’t likely tell you how much RAM or even HD space is in them. They just want to know THAT they work.

        Communication and computing technology is looking more and more like appliances for the vast majority of consumers (most of whom would not be here writing on OWC’s site about RAM configurations). Based on my own personal and professional experience with Apple tech, most consumers are concerned with practicalities. How long does my the battery last when I’m using my iPhone all day long? How slow (or confusing) is it is to get the data I need? How easily does it connect with my bluetooth headset or car system? Is the GPS easy to call up. Where was that podcast/album I was listening to? Why is the LTE signal so lame during that stretch of highway I always drive?

        That’s all iPhone stuff, of course, but I see it coming to the Mac too.

        I’ve rarely been an Apple apologist, but I really don’t think what we’re seeing with regard to the M1, is a “carrot” or marketing trick. I think we’re seeing the “best,” most popular and profitable machines that Apple can produce just prior to the biggest shopping season of the year, for the largest percentage of their client base.

        These also look like they’re aimed at crossover people. Folks who love their iPhones, but might be tempted to dump their crappy PC laptops.

        It seems certain Apple’s margins on M1 machines will be greater than their Intel ancestors and Apple’s never met a generous profit margin it didn’t like. Its share price reflects that and has made it one of the most lucrative stocks for investors to have ever owned in the past couple of decades. My humble purchases from the late 90s and early aughts have grown 6000%. Now that Apple doesn’t have to pay Intel for chips, there are estimates that the M-series will save Apple $150 per machine, or 2.5 billion a year according to a recent 9-5Mac article.

        I agree there is nothing Apple does without an eye on marketing. How can any company (average or otherwise) not pay attention to marketing? But I don’t think this particular offering is designed to trick users into buying an under-configured machine they will have to upgrade in a year or three. Every computer you buy from anywhere will likely feel “slow” and “old” in 3-4 years anyway. That’s (in part) attributable to smart phone upgrade cycles as well. When was the last time you did NOT make a crack about someone’s old iPhone?

        Apple’s marketing technique appears to be to keep making things noticeably different, cooler, better as a way of seducing/attracting people into upgrading. Granted, the smart phone market is still less mature than the computer market (and there have been some shenanigans Apple’s been called out for, slowing down older iPhones), but it still think their corporate philosophy is still part of their internal belief system.

        More to the point, this mostly is a win for advanced/professional users as well.

        The more that Apple is able to grow and expand the Mac market, but the more options we’ll likely have as well. I remember feeling genuine despair about Apple disappearing in the mid/late 90s. I was truly dreading the possibility I might have to one day {gulp!} switch over to Windows. That is simply not going to happen since the unprecedented “Second Coming” of Steve Jobs. He indisputably saved the company he started and was later fired from.

        If the M-series can continue to grow the Mac market, pulling more and more PC users over to Macs, we all will benefit. MacOS global market share is between 17-18%! That’s HUGE! It was somewhere around 2% when Steve Jobs returned. Interestingly enough, it’s only about 15% in the U.S. [If you throw iOS into the mix, it gets very rosy, but I’m more invested in a thriving MacOS over what has to run on my phone] Just imagine what it might look like at 30% or 40%.

        I don’t think Apple is saintly. Greed is still in play. Apple’s ambivalence about the professional user has bothered me too. I’ve had to accept that Apple essentially makes non-upgradeable machines with glue instead of screws. Sucks, but I don’t see it changing anytime soon…

        I have a ready list of the top 20 things Apple needs to change as soon as Tim Cook calls.

        But I think this SoC M-series, if it’s really what it appears to be from early reports, is a good thing for everyone who prefers to work and play on a Mac. I’ve been worried about the MacOS for some time and this is extraordinary news if it’s noticeably (by end users) faster, cooler, more energy efficient than ever before.

        I feel certain we’ll see larger RAM configs and more powerful M-chips if they’re necessary for Final Cut Pro, Logic and more. But I’m also curious to see if most of us really need more than 16GB. We might, but it’s just too soon to tell at this juncture in the development cycle.

        I think this is just the first salvo. It’s not a marketing trick. If anything, it’s a marketSHARE trick. It’s an initial test run aimed for the hands of people who can drive Apple’s sales and grow marketshare. I’m content to watch and wait to see what happens as the software industry pivots to the new chip, but a little bit giddy that Rosetta 2 is getting such raves early on.

        It’s not psychic to say with vaccines on the way that 2021 will likely be a better year for us all.

        I’m excited to see what the next wave of Macs will look like, particularly if there is an M2 being tested for the iMac and higher end MacBooks.

  • Mark, The error in this equation is we comprise more than 5% of Apple’s customer base. I will definitely wait to see how this plays out. Always contemplating a return to a Microsoft environment. It remains to be seen if BigSur/Apple silicon have a negative impact on the versatility of Apple hardware. I’ve been with Apple since 2008. If it weren’t for OWC, I’d like have returned to Microsoft about 2 years ago. Thank you for providing what Apple has chosen to abandon. Options!

    • Very possibly Apple understands that giant main memory is unnecessary in RISC machines. Keep an open mind on this. When SSDs arrived the world changed. With a clean RISC implementation it may have changed even more. We should have dumped the x86 and CISC decades ago. Compiler efficiencies apparently have vastly improved apps and really efficient OS multithreading are showing us what we can do with much less brute RAM.

  • 16 gig memory has always worked OK for me, on my 3 Mac Mini’s & late 2013 Mac Pro.
    But their upgrade prices are a bit spendy, when compared to OWC’s SSDs and memory upgrades. And the fact that all that is soldered in, pretty much means an expensive repair or replacement if the SSD or memory has to be replaced. I long for the old days!

  • The very question I was trying to find the right source to ask. I already had the Mini specked to 32 GB for my (pending) order – waiting for the other shoe to drop. (I do not need 64 or above) When it hit the floor – 16GB? Waiting for the answer to “does RAM work differently,” believing the real answer would be NO. Been waiting for almost two years. Can’t wait any longer. Time to move forward, not holding fast. And “holding a lot of data locally” has nothing to do with it.

    • We used to tell our clients that the resale value of used Macs (especially those with AppleCare) is always the best in the industry. We’d say get what you need now if it’s a work machine, and if something dramatically different comes out in 6-18mos. just sell it and buy the newer model. Depending on your comfort selling things on CraigsList or even eBay, you can often get about 70% of your investment back and then look at the 30% in the way you would a lease.

      I’m surprised there is not more leasing going on in the Apple ecosystem. Especially for more robustly configured systems. Cars are a lot more expensive, it’s true, but the main reason I will likely lease my next Toyota is that the technology is moving so fast that it doesn’t make sense to hang onto a car for more than 3 years. Especially the advancing driverless and safety tech. My 2017 Rav Hybrid is seriously out of date when you compare it to the 2021 plug-in hybrid.

      I’m sure Apple could find a way to make more money on leasing than selling if they wanted to, particularly if there was no money down, no interest for the first year and they were putting computers in people’s hands instantly.

      In the meantime, I think looking at work-related purchases as something that woud be counterproductive to try and “time” is the way to go. I would guess a Mac mini with more ports, more RAM, faster ethernet (and possibly an M2) will arrive at least by this time next year, or maybe as soon as late Spring.

      You have to look at how much money you will earn or save with the computer available today, before the one of tomorrow finally arrives and may or may not have been worth waiting for.

      • I have my answer for now.

        I might lease a car. Even a full-house A/C. Leasing an item that costs a couple of grand is somewhat self-defeating. Unless, I needed a Pro…

        The only one-last-thing is to see how long it takes MS to make Office compatible. Don’t mean the Apple version ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzNqaexeNis ) but the Arm version MS is supposed to be working on. Not a deal killer. The only program I spend time with in pure Windows is Access. Windows in Parallels in under development, according to their website. Considering the speed of M1, might be enough. We’ll see.

    • Just watch the 30+ YouTube videos from the usual product review sites who have beat the heck out of benchmarks and real-world productivity app tests. I’m convinced that the M1 is a whole new world.

      Life is full of little trade-offs. You might get only 16GB RAM, but it’s so close to the processor and SSD storage, and so well integrated with everything else, including the MacOS, that having 32GB or even 64GB is probably a waste of money and space for most people. I know I’d be happy with the 13″ MBP… I’m happy with this 21.5″ Late 2013 iMac I stuck a 2TB SSD and 16GB RAM into with OWC help!

  • I am getting tired of Apple not supporting a better computer for those who need it. I understand they made their money with millennials and genzies looking for more ways to satisfy their primal needs. Since Jobs left, those of us who use a device to work, are left behind. I am rehabilitating my old machines.

    • Eugenio, I cannot speak for Apple with any authority whatsoever, but I “think” this launch in time for Xmas shopping during a pandemic, was aimed at the entry-level “low-end” and crossover consumer. The least expensive models were released to get them out in the world while Apple prepares the higher-end MacBook Pros, Mac minis, and iMacs. What I’m hearing is that there might be an M2 released for those? The MacPro? Who the heck knows?

      Anyway, perhaps by Spring there will be more powerful work computers released. These all look like entry-level Macs for those who don’t store a lot of data locally.

    • These M1s, including the Air, beat the processing power of all Intel Mac Books, better battery life, less heat generated, good keyboard, more cores for CPU, GPU and added AI cores, much faster SSD so I’m a bit confused with your response. If the memory isn’t enough, wait.

      • I hope “Someone” is right about about everything said above! However, Apple did fix the horrible keyboards (HATED ’em–who would ever think you could hate a butterfly?….). I’m typing on a 2020 MBP that I can finally type on again.

        But I really, really DO hope that these speed, heat and battery gains are NOTICEABLE in daily usage. It’s like the EPA mileage stickers on cars. They’re always much higher than anything most of us get with normal use. I have to say I’m a little bit bothered by how hopeful I am these M1s will do all as advertised. Hope can be a duplicitous ally…

        It may very well be because of those open browser tabs, but I’ve never had a MacBook Pro EVER last more than maybe 4 hours of regular use simply reading and writing on them. No heavy app lifting, not even video watching most of the time. I expect that to remain the case, that my user experience with battery life will come nowhere near the Apple EPA sticker, but that’s okay. I can live with that if they’re noticeably fast and cooler. Happy to be surprised too if suddenly I’m seeing a dramatic lengthening of battery life.

        Looking forward to real world user experience data.

        • There is a lot of reviews out now, so no one has to take Apple’s word for it. Things people have noticed, starting an upgrade and putting it on a bed, which is usually a no no, did not buildup a noticeable amount of heat. Not dropping frames when editing high resoulution videos. Speed is tested to be faster in most cases than the Intel MacBooks, even the high end. People say it is like magic with being able to do more with less amount of memory. That being, if you need 1.5TB memory, you are not going to preform your work on these versions.

        • Mick, PLEASE go to YouTube and look up ‘M1 Mac Reviews’. There must be more than 30, and collectively, they’ve answered most of the fears and questions folks have had about RAM, battery life, performance, and more. The reports by Rene Ritchie, iJustine, Twit TV, MaxTech and MaxYuryev, Luke Miani, and many others are very useful. You can get the geek speak, or the simple consumer wow, and everything in between. The geekerati have outdone themselves.

          • Yes, I’m sure you’re right, Bill. I think what I’m looking for is that cadence you’re describing. But I’m also wanting to get my hands on one of my own and will see what I can see in my local AppleStore next week. There’s nobody who can really tell you what you want to know…but you.

            I think I resist YouTube as a reliable source of information because there is no easy way to vet all of the sources. Some are outstanding, some are not. [I loved “The Verge’s” review which I’d seen before this thread began]

            I prefer seeing what more familiar channels are saying like this site, 9-5Mac, MacWorld, Engadget, Wired, PC Mag, Mac Rumors, Apple Insider, or major newspapers like the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, etc… Walt Mossberg, David Pogue, and Guy Kawasaki were all net pals of sorts the past few decades and I trusted their take on things.

            The problem for me is that videos just take so long to get through.

            Scrolling through the dozens upon dozens of M1 Mac YouTube reviews I note they range from 10-30 minutes. I simply don’t have that kind of time. I just want the raw data and to hear a Rotten Tomatoes rating from verified techs who truly know what they’re talking about, have spent more than 5 years in the Apple ecosystem (I’ve got 30 under my shrinking belt), and not just people who want to be entertaining YouTube stars. Not dinging YouTube stars, but sometimes they take 15 minutes to share 4-5 minutes of data. But like I mentioned above, I did enjoy the two guys on “The Verge,” even though I have no idea who they are.

            My wife’s always asking me to listen to podcasts and I’m asking for transcripts so I can digest the information quicker. I like to see the words on the page and I can’t do anything else when the “radio” is on. It’s GREAT for driving, that’s all I want to do is listen to news and interviews. But when I’m in my home office, all I want to do is read and write. Video is my cocktail late at night and lately involves anything that the English actress Nicola Walker is in. I have an addiction to English Detective series that shows no sign of abating….

            Thanks for your encouragement. I’ve always gotten excited about paradigm shifts in technology. I’m wondering if that’s exactly what has just happened here.

            ~

    • I have to agree. I was in the G5 to Intel migration and that was painful in HW and SW that went away in a year or so. Be nice if they left Rosetta run a version or two longer but one OS version was the limit. This time with 5 Macs in my house, I have had enough and for my Main machine I built a Ryzen Machine with Linux. I am voting with my feet. All the hardware and software updates that I have had to do over the years have not been cheep. Dropping 32 bit binaries support lost me several packages I am not ready to replace. I am so done! I like that it just WORKS but I have my limit on the crap I will put up with. If and M1 shows up in my home it is because someone gave it to me or I got it dirt cheep out of a dumpster or at a yard sale.

  • Hmm… This is a great and extremely relevant topic, but (to be honest) I was hoping for a little more info from Chris and Tim. There are GeekBenchmarks, of course, but this idea that less is more, and other improvements in the SoC have actually made these “low-end” consumer MacBooks actually faster than their Intel counterparts? I’m surprised we still don’t seem to have clarity on this.

    Of course, the more these get out in the wild, and the more we hear from actual users as to performance, the more we’ll know. I’m very excited about the M series and where it might lead us. If we can have fan-less, cooler laptops that don’t make my thighs sweat in the lazy boy, I’m all in!

    I’m just wondering how much faster they really are. If I haven’t fallen into my own echo tunnel, Rosetta 2 is getting freakishly good reviews. The proverbial “they” are saying emulated applications on the M1 are faster than their native implementation on similarly configured MacBooks. That could make one giddy.

    It’s the first time I’ve ever considered selling my MBP and getting an Air. Mostly all I do is write and keep 100 browser tabs open for reading and reference. My late 2014 mac mini desktop setup is more for the heavier lifting and when that finally dies, I might replace it with an M2 iMac whenever those are released.

    Any users out there with new M1 machines yet?

    What’s your early take on speed, battery life, and heat?

    • Yeah, it was fun to talk about something that didn’t amount to much. But it does open up a lot of other questions as to what the future is going to look like. In reality, we don’t know what we don’t know at this point.

      One of our engineers just messaged me with his speculation…

      “ARM is gonna mean less options, but longer hardware cycle and better overall integration. I would put my money on the following educated guess. Apple will enhance their apple silicon with software and hardware-accelerated SOCs for the pro-market. Need a render unit? Add one. Need more high-speed cache, add it. And so on.”

      Regardless, M1 is going to be a much talked about topic for quite some time!

      • Will you and/or others there have one soon to play around with? I think real world, even anecdotal use will be the thing that ultimately decides the issue.

        Between you and me, I’m terribly tempted to test Apple’s 14-day return policy and just buy one to put through the hoops. I replaced a 2019 MBP with butterflies, with a 2020 with scissors because I just loathed that horrible keyboard that felt like typing on glass. Dare I do that again for quieter, cooler, faster and test pilot an MBAir?… Hmm…

        I need to have a talk with my inner child about delayed gratification again…

        • I don’t personally plan on purchasing one anytime soon. We do have our development machines in-house (but of course, most of us aren’t in-house at the moment). If/when Apple releases a 16″ M1 MBP, I may make the leap. But hopefully they will have upped their RAM options by then.

          If you do give an MBA a test run, let us know what you think!

          • Will do! Looks like I can’t easily get one till next month even if I bring a bag of cash to the Apple store, but I’ll see what happens. I’ll want a 2TB HD for the long haul and definitely the 16GB RAM, but I’m wondering if maybe I should just grab whatever the best config is off the shelf and test it for kicks.

            I write in Pages (which is really an awesome and simple––non-bloated writing tool!), but have to export to Word, the industry standard.

            I use Chrome for browsing and sometimes watch some video on it, but otherwise, it’s really like a reading (Kindle.app) and writing machine, with limited watching (unless I’m traveling and streaming a TV series).

            What if you guys were to put out a call to everyone on staff who might have an M1 at home and ask for their real-world experiences around it? Speed, heat, compatibility/Rosetta 2.0, and battery life? I mean, don’t be shy about editing a Slack conversation (editors are allowed to do this), but even that might be interesting, especially when combined with other anecdotal reviews around the country.

            I could be wrong, but I have a feeling Apple’s going to sell a lot of these Airs!

      • @Mick… With 100 + browser tabs, I would be cautiously optimistic. Browsers are memory hungry…. And webpages are continually becoming more RAM hungry. I know, I keep over 800 tabs open (don’t ask) so I am well aware of RAM requirements.

        Sure, the speed gains of current SoC design paired with SSD will make things more smooth but I would rather go on a trial run before committing to such a RAM limitation.

        • ““ARM is gonna mean less options, but longer hardware cycle…”

          That may be true from a physical perspective BUT Apple has a habit of abandoning support for hardware around the 7th year and macOS updates limited to about 3 years … so upgrade compatibility (e.g. macOS) will likely follow suit even with M1, etc

          I still have a 27″ 2010 iMac i7 with 20GB RAM and it has been long in the tooth for a while (I do have a 2019 iMac i9 too…). Though still quite functional, it cannot be upgraded past macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

            • So you’re at about 5 of the 7. And the clock is running.

              My trusty late 2012 MacMini is at EOL as far as MacOS is concerned. With 16GB of RAM and an SSD, it boots up Catalina in 11-15 seconds. Like, gnarly, but it’s not making the trip to Big Sur. I figure I’ve got a couple of years of support for Creative Cloud and maybe three for MSOffice, unless those folks throw a longer lifeline at marooned Intel Mac users. Then it becomes the office jukebox.

              My question is whether it’s worth it Right Now to buy the last Intel MacMini or plunge into Silicon for future-proofing, at questionable performance gain compared to a jacked 2018 Intel MacMini.

              Would 32GB or RAM show an improvement over M1? How about 64GB? That’s what I’d like to know.

            • @Jazz1 the 2010 iMac cannot be upgraded past 10.13 …

              without possible a hack to replace the video card with a Metal compatible one…

        • Fair enough about browser tabs, but I just found an extension for Chrome that seems to be making a huge difference! Fingers crossed!

          I only just discovered it today because the browser drag as been annoying, but it seems to be working! Have you heard of:

          The Great Suspender–Make your computer run smoothly by suspending the tabs you aren’t using?

          If it works as advertised, this is exactly what I need. I don’t need these things to do anything until I click on them, and am happy to see them refresh when I do.

          • With 800+ Tabs, I too have learned to to those types of extensions… For Chrome I use The Great Suspender and for Firefox I use Auto tab Discard.

            They help but even suspended tabs still use memory, and browsers are notorious for memory leaks or “growth” such that the amount of RAM needed when you first launch the browser with the same number of tabs grows over time (eventually reaching a “max” needed), e.g. I start with about 30GB and after several hours it can grow to about 55GB.

            • The only thing I miss since selling my Apple support and repair company is being on the cutting edge and flow information like this. I wish I’d know about these suspenders years ago! Right now, with about 150-200 tabs open, my Mac mini CPU is at 8%! That gives me hope that you’re using The Great Suspender too! Honestly, it’s exactly what I’ve needed for far too long!

              Has OWC ever thought of hosting a Tech support board, like the Apple discussions? Or is that too much work? Just wondering. Apple’s boards have become less and less helpful in this regard and I miss a place where tech-savvy people can share support solutions and ideas.

              Just curious…

              • Interesting idea! This forum can certainly accommodate some of this type of discussion, but we can certainly evaluate adding an open discussion board.

                • Awesome! I think it would benefit OWC and it’s patrons. It would be nice to be able to give a thumbs up or even a Reddit upvote for comments you just wanted to echo/appreciate, but not have to write something.

                  Thanks for the consideration. There are some sharp pencils here and the hive mind can be really helpful even for retired techies.

                  • Certainly! The more expertise we can muster from our community, the better! I’d love for us to be able to more effectively tap that resource. :-)

              • When doing genealogy research I often have about 75 tabs open in about a dozen Safari windows at the same time on my 2012 Mini with 16GB RAM.

                I never dreamed of having 200 tabs open!

                Periodically, I save the links to a text file and close all but 4 and then go through the text file to thin out the links after making sure I have all my sources document and no longer need the link active.

        • I will never understand those who use browser tabs at ALL.

          I have three, maybe four single page browser WINDOWS open.

          I just don’t get it.

          • I typically have five or six windows open, with each having five to twenty tabs. On my work computer, I organize my windows based upon my workflow; one for Rocket Yard stuff, one to manage our OWC RADiO and Leaders & Game Changers Podcasts, one for reading/research, one for analytics, one for internal OWC tools and docs, etc. Each window has tabs specific to that functional area. I have many of these tabs already bookmarked or on my reading list, but I am so visual (and a little bit ADD) that having things right in front of my face is beneficial because I’m always jumping from one thing to another. I do something similar with my personal setup as well.

            But to each their own. I’m a big proponent of “whatever works for you, use it!”

          • Yeah, what Mark said for me too.

            As a writer (and a Grad student working on my MFA in Creative Writing), I have endless essays to read, boundless book reviews to parse, research for the book I’m writing, the University’s “BlackBoard” system where all work gets posted and interactions between instructors and colleagues take place… and then simply all of the purely social or interesting stuff as well. From FaceBook to stocks, to News to Tech talk, to Amazon to eBay, to sports (Niner/Warriors fan), to film/TV reviews, to the local weather, local newspapers, national news outlets, my bank, my son’s High School portal to check his grades, solar panel and Tesla PowerWall data reporting sites, the new smart water meter we just installed, the catering place we got our deep fried (in peanut oil) turkey for ThanksGiving (where I learned they also do a TurDucken!), and that’s just what I can remember right now.

            I think in my case, since other than our paper copy of the LA Times every day, I don’t read anything paper anymore. It’s all digital. So the multitude of open tabs (which now I’ve learned to how to hibernate!) is serving that insatiable hunger I have to for reading and writing (and a touch of ‘rithmetic)

            But like Mark said, there is no accounting for taste or workflows. [There are people who like Michael Bolton and Kenny G…]

            My wife’s desk (and the inside of her car) looks like the aftermath of of a category 3 or 4 hurricane (I felt like a “5” would be exaggerating), but she’s one of the most organized people I’ve ever met in my life. My desk and car are braggingly beautiful and reasonably well organized and I can barely get 3 things in a day done.

            Well, you did sort of ask. ;-)

  • I just bought an M1 MacBook Air (8 core CPU/8 Core GPU flavor) with 8 GB RAM and went through a photo procession session with Affinity Photo (M1), Adobe Bridge 2021 (Intel) as a manager, and DxO PhotoLab 4 (Intel) for RAW processing. The session was a little over an hour and went quite smoothly and without any beach balling and processing was at least twice as fast for the Intel apps that it was on my late 2013 27″ iMac (admittedly a bit long in tooth these days). With the iMac (has an SSD), 8 GB would have choked severely and even 16 GB was only OK (much worse if you did the same session with the Adobe memory pigs Photoshop and Lightroom).

    It seems like the tightly integrated RAM and the SoC RAM management along with the blazing SSD speed with the custom SoC controller making super fast swaps makes things hum.

    Granted, if one needed to work with 3-4 GB file sizes, 8 GB would certainly not be enough.

  • Well, good to know – assuming video and image users will still ned 32GB+ of RAM it would seem that the previously touted super-speed of the M1 Macs will be moot.

    On the other hand, I guess if the new architecture can keep Premiere Pro or Photoshop, etc. running at higher speeds perhaps the RAM number itself will be essentially mooted.