The $1,599 M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch is Apple’s cheapest MacBook Pro option, featuring a base configuration that includes 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. That’s probably enough for people who are choosing between the 15-inch MacBook Air and the base M3 MacBook Pro. The M3 packs a big performance bump, and the 14-inch model features excellent battery life, a better screen, and several extra ports.
But professionals who routinely use MacBook Pros to increase their productivity will probably want to get more RAM out of the gate. As you’ll see in the following video comparison, 8GB of RAM will turn out to be a big bottleneck when it comes to multitasking — regardless of what Apple says.
Apple has already addressed criticism about its decision to pair the base M3 chip with 8GB of RAM instead of 16GB. The company told a blogger that 8GB RAM on the M3 MacBook Pro is the equivalent of 16GB of memory on a PC. That’s more proof of Apple’s great marketing skills, though I am sure the company isn’t throwing out claims it can’t back up.
Even so, that 8GB of RAM on the cheapest M3 MacBook Pro can only do so much. YouTuber Max Tech compared the 8GB and 16GB versions of the base M3 MacBook Pro using multitasking experiments instead of benchmark tests.
In one instance, the YouTuber used Lightroom Classic to export 50 42-megapixel images on both machines and looked at which version did it faster. That wasn’t the only thing happening on the laptops. The MacBook Pros were also running 5 or 20 tabs inside the browser while exporting those photos.
As you can see above, the 8GB model was really pushed to its limits. When handling 20 tabs and the export, the Mac needed more than 5 minutes to do the job. The 16GB M3 MacBook Pro exported the same photos in just over a minute, regardless of the number of open tabs.
Interestingly, the performance of the 16GB M3 MacBook Pro was on par with the 16GB M2 Pro MacBook Pro.
The video, available at the end of this post, shows other multitasking examples. The conclusions are all the same: 8GB of RAM might not be enough.
The workflows the YouTuber shows off won’t fit every MacBook Pro buyer’s way of doing things. But most people have plenty of tabs open in a browser while they operate other apps, including Adobe’s photo editing tools, video editing software, chat apps, and who knows what else.
The point here is that you’ll need to think carefully about your current and future needs. The 8GB M3 MacBook Pro can still be a great tool for a professional whose needs aren’t too demanding. Or someone who doesn’t mind being slowed down. Because if you don’t want to pay more money for the RAM upgrade, you’ll have to accept that more intensive tasks will take longer.
The 16GB RAM upgrade will cost you $200 extra, and you have to do it when you order the laptop. MacBooks do not let you upgrade the RAM or storage after the fact. But, at $1,799, the 16GB M3 MacBook Pro is approaching the price of the $1,999 M3 Pro MacBook Pro. And that chip model has a default 18GB (not a typo) of RAM.
If you’re still choosing your M3 MacBook Pro model, I’ll remind you of two other key details about the new laptops. First of all, the 14-inch M3 Max models support High Power Mode. Secondly, the 16-inch models support fast charging via USB-C, not just MagSafe.
Finally, be sure to check our M3 Max MacBook Pro 14-inch review. The M3 Max versions will begin shipping later this month.