Is 8GB RAM Enough for MacBook Pro?

Is 8GB RAM Enough for the MacBook Pro?

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Apple’s 2020 M1-powered MacBook Pro surprised its consumers with a base model having 8GB RAM, sparking debate on its adequacy for a “Pro” device. Despite Apple’s confidence, is 8GB truly enough? Let’s discuss who this works for and for whom it can be an issue.

Key Takeaways:

  • For Most Users: 8GB RAM in MacBook Pro works well for 95% of basic tasks like web browsing and office work.
  • Usage & Processor Matter: Apple Silicon models handle 8GB efficiently, while Intel-based ones may struggle with memory-heavy tasks.
  • Performance Comparison: 16GB outperforms 8GB notably in intensive software, but for everyday tasks, the difference might be negligible.
  • Virtual Memory Management: Modern SSDs and macOS optimization make 8GB viable, yet more intensive tasks may benefit from 16GB to avoid slowdowns.
  • Specific Needs: Video editing, coding, or data-heavy tasks may require 16GB, but general users and students will find 8GB sufficient for most purposes.

Will 8GB RAM be Enough for a MacBook Pro? 

Believe it or not, 8GB of System RAM is actually enough in most cases.

“Enough,” of course, is a relative term, and there are some key factors to consider before deciding if you can live with 8GB.

Firstly, it’s essential to know whether the MacBook Pro features an Apple or Intel processor. Notably, the Apple CPU architecture boasts greater efficiency in utilizing RAM, potentially allowing for satisfactory performance with lower RAM capacity.

Additionally, it’s wise to factor in your upgrade cycle and the device’s resale value. While 8GB of RAM might suffice initially, considering a 16GB configuration could prolong its usability or yield a better price when selling.

Lastly, your intended usage plays a crucial role. Tasks like Video editing and coding might benefit from increased RAM, whereas for the average user, the difference of the additional 8 gigabytes may go unnoticed.

Let’s take a closer look at these considerations.

Apple Silicon Vs. Intel

If you’re considering buying a MacBook Pro with an Intel processor, 8GB is not enough RAM. Can you get by? Probably, but I wouldn’t recommend trying. Opt instead for at least 16GB.

This isn’t even a question if you’re buying a new MacBook Pro, because Apple’s current lineup only features Apple Silicon-powered laptops. But if you’re shopping for a used Intel MacBook Pro, still a perfectly fine option, don’t settle for 8GB of RAM.

What about Apple Silicon MacBook Pros?

For the majority of users, 8GB of RAM is enough. Unless you’re working with huge datasets, playing games on your laptop, rendering high-resolution video, compiling large amounts of code, or engaging in any other memory-intensive tasks, the 8GB M1 (Apple’s first generation Apple Silicon processor) MacBook Pro or the newer M3 MacBook Pro should serve you well.

Why the disparity between Apple Silicon and Intel processors?

Various key elements contribute to the enhanced performance. Apple rebuilt the Macintosh operating system from scratch, tailoring it for Apple Silicon optimization. This fusion of chip and OS ensures seamless hardware-software cohesion.

Unified Memory Architecture (UMA) further boosts efficiency by enabling shared memory between the CPU and GPU, dynamically allocating RAM based on system needs. because the M1 is a system on a chip (SoC), the memory can be accessed in the same place by all components of the system without the latency of passing data back and forth.

Despite critics dismissing UMA as mere hype, evidence from several tests by the Apple-focused YouTube channel Max Tech suggests that M1 Macs utilize RAM more effectively than Intel Macs.

One test involved exporting 8K R3D RAW camera footage to 4K using Final Cut Pro. In the test, the 16GB M1 MacBook Pro finished only 29 seconds slower than an Intel i9 5550M MacBook Pro with twice the RAM.

Of course, this is only one test, but it does provide some hard data to back up Apple’s UMA performance claim.

Should You Get 8GB or 16GB of RAM in Your MacBook Pro?

So you know 8GB is not enough for Intel-based MacBook Pros, but what about Apple Silicon Macs?

Max Tech’s side-by-side comparison of 8GB vs. 16GB M1 Macbook Pros found that the 16GB model was about 10% faster in performing RAM-intensive tasks in software like Adobe Lightroom and XCode.

In the 8K footage export test, the 16GB MacBook Pro 2020 finished in less than half the time it took the 8GB model to perform the same test (14 minutes vs. 6 minutes).

So, the answer to the question boils down to what you plan on using your MacBook Pro for. If you plan on rendering video or compiling code, then you could benefit from 16GB. For almost everyone else, 8GB will suffice.

8GB Is Probably Not Enough RAM, But You Might Never Notice

This might sound contradictory, but in reality, 8GB is not enough RAM for your Mac. Let me explain.

Computers employ virtual memory, using a portion of the hard drive as a page or swap file when physical RAM runs low.

In this process, inactive programs are shifted to the hard drive to free up RAM. When needed, the operating system swaps these programs back into memory for user access.

In the days of mechanical hard drives, this swapping process was very slow, and switching between applications could bog down your computer.

Today, computers come with much faster solid-state hard drives (or SSDs for short), which minimizes the impact of the swap file. Nevertheless, physical RAM is still faster than SSDs.

Yet Apple seems to have optimized the swap process to the point where it’s barely noticeable.

In reality, medium to heavy users will use up 8GB of RAM pretty quickly, but Apple’s SSDs and SoC are so efficient at creating and using virtual memory that you probably won’t even notice when you run out of RAM.

This efficiency has led to fears that the SSD will wear out because it is being called upon to serve as virtual RAM more often.

In my opinion, these fears are overblown because SSD technology has become more robust every year, but there’s no denying that macOS hits the hard drive pretty hard. Why? Because it can.

If this is a major concern for you, opt for 16GB of RAM. Keep in mind, though, that your Mac will still use the SSD for swap, and you have no control over the system’s methodology. In theory, you’ll need less virtual RAM with 16GB of physical RAM.

How much RAM do you need for gaming and multitasking?

How much RAM do you need for gaming and multitasking?

If you play games very rarely or casually, 8GB of RAM is sufficient. Similarly, for light multitasking, 8GB of RAM is adequate. However, moderate gaming or multitasking may require a greater RAM capacity of up to 16GB.

If you are involved in heavy multitasking, such as high-end gaming, video editing, or other demanding tasks, it is advisable to use 16GB or 32GB of RAM for optimal performance. Assess your usage and budget to choose the right RAM configuration for your MacBook Pro.


Here are some other questions you might have about your MacBook’s RAM.

Is 8GB enough RAM for the MacBook Air?

For the most part all of the advice in this article also applies to the MacBook Air. Airs with the M1 chip will run just fine with 8GB of RAM for most users.

Will more RAM speed up my Mac?

Not necessarily.
Although RAM is an important factor in the speed of a computer, the new MacBook Pros are so efficient at using virtual RAM thanks to their SoC and super speedy SSDs that you likely won’t notice a difference.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for college students?

Yes. If you major in data science, digital cinema, or other data-heavy curriculum, you might consider bumping up to 16GB. Otherwise, 8GB on the M1 MacBook Pro is plenty of RAM.
By the way, Apple offers modest discounts on MacBook Pros for college students.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for developers /coding/ programming?

Yes. Programmers who compile large amounts of code or perform 3D rendering might want to opt for 16GB of memory, but except for these use cases, 8GB on the M1 MacBook Pro is enough.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for video editing?

Probably not. You likely won’t get bogged down as much in the actual editing process as you will with encoding and exporting tasks.
Keep in mind that this applies to professional-level editing using high-resolution footage. If you only occasionally edit video using iMovie or other consumer video editing software, 8GB of RAM is plenty.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for macOS?

Yes, absolutely. Apple wouldn’t sell devices with only 8GB of RAM if its OS required more memory.

That doesn’t mean computers with 8GB of RAM running macOS will never bog down, but Apple has designed the operating system to run with plenty of overhead for loading multiple programs into memory at the same time.

Conclusion: 8GB Is Enough, but 16GB Might Still Be Worth the Extra Cost

8GB is enough RAM for the vast majority of users, but there are still instances in which it might make sense to opt for 16GB.

One consideration is your upgrade cycle. Do you replace your MacBook Pro every couple of years, or do you wait until the device is obsolete? If the latter, 16GB might serve you well.

Keep in mind resale value too if you plan to sell the MacBook down the road. It’s hard to predict future value, but you’ll definitely fetch more for a Mac with twice the RAM.

Check out sites like Swappa to see what 2-3 year-old MacBook Pros are selling for now, and the difference in price among Macs with various RAM configurations. You might find the extra RAM is worth the upfront cost.

Do you own a MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM? Is it enough to meet your needs?

About Andrew Gilmore
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Based in Norman, Oklahoma, Andrew is an ex-certified Apple technician with over fifteen years of experience in the IT world specializing in macOS and iOS. When he's not writing, he enjoys video games, reading, and really bad movies.

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  • Lexx

    No, 8 GB RAM is not enough, not even for the M1. And the swap is nowhere as fast as stated. It’s enough to have a memory hungry Safari or Chrome tab, or have more tabs open, or do some simple Excel of Office tasks and you’ll.get pretty close to that limit and often pass it. And you’ll realise immediately what it means. I suggest you get the 16 GB RAM version.

    • Andrew Gilmore

      Thanks for the comment Lexx. Do you (or did you) have an 8GB M1 MacBook Pro? When did you notice your MacBook Pro slowing down?

      From my personal experience, plus all of the research and professional reviews I’ve seen suggest it takes quite a bit to tax the 8GB M1 MBP, so I’m curious to know what your experience has been like.