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Apple defends selling MacBook Air with only 8GB of RAM

Published Apr 12th, 2024 7:13PM EDT
Apple MacBook Air 15-Inch
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Even ardent Apple fans will be the first to tell you that the company has forever been stingy when it comes to entry-level storage and RAM configurations. As a recent example, many were dismayed, though not surprised, when they saw the specs on Apple’s brand new M3 13-inch MacBook Air announced just last month.

The base-level 13-inch MacBook Air ships with 8GB of Unified Memory. And as you’d expect, users who want 16GB of memory need to fork over an additional $200. As a point of contrast, a Vostro 16 Laptop from Dell retails for $729 and ships with 16GB of RAM.

With this in mind, Apple executives Kate Bergeron and Evan Buyze recently defended Apple’s RAM offerings during an interview with ITHome. Bergeron is Apple’s VP of hardware engineering. Buyze, meanwhile, is a member of Apple’s marketing team.

Addressing the topic, Buyze said that 8GB of memory is more than suitable for most computing tasks. If you’re just browsing the web, doing some mild streaming or light photo editing, Buyze notes that 8GB is perfectly fine. That’s perhaps true, but it’s still frustrating that Apple’s RAM configurations cater to the most basic use-case situations. This is especially annoying given that Apple likes to position its machines for creative professionals.

Apple argues that its 8GB of RAM is equivalent to 16GB

Apple, interestingly enough, has recently made the case that its implementation of 8GB of RAM is more powerful than the specs would have you believe. The company notes that its unified memory architecture optimizes performance in such a way that it’s actually equivalent to PC systems with more RAM.

Not too long ago, Apple marketing executive Bob Borchers emphatically made this point during a YouTube interview with Lin Yi:

Comparing our memory to other system’s memory actually isn’t equivalent. Because of the fact that we have such an efficient use of memory, and we use memory compression. We also have a unified memory architecture. Actually 8GB on an M3 MacBook Pro is probably analogous to 16GB on other systems. We just happen to use it much more efficiently.

And so what I would say is, I would have people come in and try what they want to do on their systems. I think they will see incredible performance. If you look at the raw data and if you look at the raw capabilities of these systems, it really is phenomenal. And this is a place where I think people need to see beyond the specs and actually go and look at the capabilities.

And listen to trusted people like you who actually use the systems and can say that it’s not about if it should be 8 or some other number. And really look at the capabilities. And how efficiently we take advantage of that memory and I think you’ll find that an M3 system is especially capable. And for aspiring pros and many other people, it’s a great system for them to use.

I’m personally of the position that because Apple solders the RAM onto the motherboard — which makes it impossible to upgrade after the fact — it’s worth the extra money to bump up your memory to 16GB. Especially when Macs can last for upwards of 8 years, if not longer, spending an extra $200 to future-proof your machine seems like a worthwhile investment, especially when you spread it across 8 to 10 years.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.