Fully Loaded or Base Model? When purchasing a MacBook

I’m looking to purchase a Macbook for completing an MA, my aging 2013 MacBook Air is beginning to have hardware failure issues.

In the past the strategy I’ve used is to buy as much hard disk space and RAM as I could, but that invariably increased the cost significantly.

With rapid changes in technology, is it better to buy a base model and and have a shorter device replacement cycle or to buy a fully loaded model in the hope it’ll last longer?

I tend to buy what I think I’ll need for the next two or three years. I’ve never needed more than a base model Mac, but I tell others to get 16gb of RAM.

256GB of storage is usually more than enough for an average user. The cloud and an external SSD can be your backup if you guess wrong.


Fully loaded even if budget busted.

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I bet you get Christmas cards from Tim Cook. :grinning:


I do! How did you know!? :wink:

[without knowing apps used or planned, disk space used now and planned, willingness to put up with added complexity of adding USB drives, size of screen wanted and/or needed, …. advice stands especially as spending will of course be limited by practicality and bank balance and not technology advice given here. i am quite pleased that i bought 16gb memory and 1 TB disk 5 years ago. i expect another 5 years or more or until macOS no longer updates. ]

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It really depends on what you’re going to do with it. For relatively non-stressing work I’d get no less than 16GB and double the storage space that I’m currently using. If the machine is going to be pushed hard then I usually max out the CPU and RAM.

Edit to clarify my answer to what was actually being asked:

Non-stressing work => Base model with (possibly) a couple of upgrades
Stressing work => Maxed out except for SSD

I, for myself, always buy the fully loaded model, and use it until EOL.
If the budget is looking for a cheaper solution, I would consider what you want to do within the next, lets say five years, with the machine!
A MA is normally related to writing, so you need only a base model for that, but what will be your business thereafter?
Or maybe a hobby, you want to be active with in the next years?

If you have to decide between RAM and SSD/HDD I would always tend to max out the RAM, as it is much easier to add additional Storage via Thunderbolt or USB-C.


How much storage and ram do you need? Use Activity Monitor and find out, then get the required amount. Check current amount of storage used, double it. And you’ll be good.

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It might be worth, to have also a look onto this

I used to always recommend people max out RAM before storage. I don’t have an M1 machine, but given all that I’ve read about their power – and given how photos and videos have grown in size and number! – I’m guessing these days it’s better to get a bigger SSD first, unless you’re doing computing-intensive work.

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You can add “external” storage without any serious problem, and in most cases, it will not be necessary to keep all your stuff on the Main-SSD.
But you can’t add any RAM after the purchase. And while you can add an external GPU, this is (could be) on one side pretty expensive, compared with the storage, and on the other side only a good solution for specific needs, not a general “replacement” for missing RAM under all circumstances.


eGPUs aren’t supported on Apple Silicon AFAICT.

For me maxing out an MBP it’s way over the top these days.
32GB RAM, 2 GB SSD and whatever Apple Silicon CPU is needed to get that, then that’s an amazing machine already.

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Depends on what your expected use is. I went from a MBP (16gb) to an Air (8gb) I would occasionally run into memory constraints on the Air. When I got my M1 iMac I went for 16gb because I plan to keep it for 5+ years.

As to disk space cloud storage can help if you always have good internet access. When I travel I often have no or limited internet so I want all my files on the Air. Look at what your current disk usage and extrapolate to find your expected needs. Photos and video can be huge space hogs.

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That would mean getting a macbook pro as air’s don’t have the SD port?

That might be right, but development is going on…

There is, of course, a SD-Card Reader available for USB-C that can be used with the MB.

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Just more stuff to carry about, but yes a possibility.

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If I had the choice, to pay 45€ for that small dongle, or 920€ for the internal SSD-Upgrade, my choice would be clear, if I don‘t had the money for the later!


Snap. I probably don’t need more than 16GB RAM, and most of my data does fit within 1TB, but I splashed for 32GB/2TB.

My reasoning is that if I’m spending this amount on a laptop I want it to last a long time. I maxed out my 2014 13” with 16GB and 1TB SSD at the time, and I was glad I did - it lasted 7 years (and is still perfectly good for many tasks, though it doesn’t run Monterey). I don’t know whether the current one will last so long but I don’t want to be bumping up against RAM or storage space limitations after 4-5 years.