M1 MacBooks limits to 16Gb for now?

Am I missing something - or are the new M1 MacBooks limited to 13" and 16Gb for now?

That seems like a huge disappointment.

would this be a limitation of the M1 chipset?

We don’t know how exactly those machines will perform under load. Comparing them to the Intel landmarks probably has little sense in real use cases, in the same way that we don’t much think of the RAM in iPads Pros.


It seems like Apple has only equipped the M1 SOC for 16GB RAM and 2 Thunderbolt ports. I suspect the vast majority of M1 based systems will be MacBook Airs, so this probably makes sense from their perspective. We’ll probably get another SOC (M2?) for the 16" MBPs and perhaps the iMac.


super fair point, I tend to do a lot of virtualisation, so my thought is always “as much ram as possible”

but that might not be a valid view point anymore, exciting times


Or Apple is going for mainstream and really letting down its power users - which would not be exciting at all

In any event - no 16" M1 at all now? Why not?

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Oh, come on. The sky is not falling and all signs point to the contrary.

  • Apple has shown for the past five years they very much want to keep the Mac alive, and they keep positioning it as a powerful creation machine
  • To do so, they have just spent who knows how many dollars of R&D developing the M1 which blows everything out of the water – have you seen the specs on that thing? It beats a current i9, I don’t know how much pro that can get (have you got the part where it says it plays ProRes RAW in real time as well as 8k streams, things that were previously Mac Pro with Afterburner card territory?)
  • They have spent how who knows how many dollars of R&D developing a very recent Mac Pro with top workllows and very, very niche products (the Afterburner cards, the MPX modules)
  • After having done a very rare mea culpa and recognizing they have let pro users down with the trashcan
  • They have repeatedly insisted they will transition ALL Macs, read: ALL, ALL means Mac Pros
  • There is a very insistent rumor that already says there is an Apple Silicon Mac Pro in the works and I can’t help but feel it hasn’t leaked by accident

I don’t know how much more eloquent that can be; it would be utterly absurd and inconsistent to let the pro market down NOW after all these efforts and taking so much pains to conquer them again.

Why no 16’ MBP now? Because they can’t do everything at once and they very possibly have a bigger redesign in store for next year; because they possibly have a more powerful desktop chip for the iMac and that this will go into a 16’ MBP.


I’m guessing the 13-inch Mac laptops sell better during the holiday shopping season than the 15-/16-inch ones…


Hey, just wait for the M2! If you think the M1 is fast…


OK I see your point on all else - if the 16" and the larger RAM laptops come out a few months later, so be it.

I am curious about your point about the Mac Pros however - as that is my main desktop computer. I thought I read that there may be some newer features of the operating system only available on the newer Silicon chips - most notably the ability to run iOS apps on a desktop when that is introduced. True? False?

Also I do not recall reading that it will be possible to upgrade the Intel processor in a Mac Pro to new silicon chips. That’s important because the Mac Pro was basically sold as the ultimate upgradable future-proof computer; for people to have invested heavily in a Mac Pro and then be missing major hardware and software features in the Apple ecosystem is surely a credible disappointment.

Yes. Apple announced at WWDC that the ability to run unmodified (non-Catalyst) iOS and iPadOS apps will only be possible on Apple Silicon Macs.

People assumed a lot of things about the Mac Pro’s upgradability, but Apple has a specific list of upgrades they support. Note that the list doesn’t even include upgrading the CPU to a different Intel Xeon, much less a totally different CPU architecture.


So the current state of affairs is (or seems to be):

  • Yes, iOS apps run natively on Apple Silicon running Big Sur (fact), provided the devs agree to it (some have opted out such as Facebook - good riddance)
  • I’d be very surprised if you could switch the CPU from Intel to Apple Silicon in a Mac Pro, that seems wildly different from an architectural standpoint
  • Rumor has it the Apple Silicon Mac Pro will keep the form factor but be smaller in size (half as big, apparently) and it’s certainly going to be the last Mac to transition (time frame: 2 years)
  • The current Mac Pros, as all Intel Macs, will be maintained for a very, very long time (Apple knows it’s an investment and they won’t leave the users dead in the water especially for a 2-year old machine)
  • They were sold as expandable, yes, but we are talking about an architectural change, that’s a completely different thing (they still are expandable and with many PC parts). There’s never a thing an « end-all, be all computer », tech always moves on. But you will still be able to get a long, long life out of your machine.
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Agreed. My point is I do not think I am the only one who bought a new Mac Pro, only to find out less than a year later that a key Mac operating system feature will be unavailable on the computer. I think it is quite fair to question Apple’s commitment to the Pro community.

I am afraid that here I must disagree. It may not be a typical use case but there are things that I do on “regular” computers (as opposed to the iPad) that consume large amounts of RAM in predictable ways and that easily exceed 16GB, regardless of the efficiency of the OS. Being suitable for those kinds of use cases is one of the main distinguishing features of the Mac from the iPad.

Also, Mac software has never been placed under the RAM limitations imposed by i(Pad)OS and on a Mac I expect running software to stay running rather than being killed off in the background when resources get tight.

That being said, 16GB is really pretty good for the class of machine that Apple announced today. I strongly suspect that the next CPU will support much more.


Is the requirement for Apple Silicon a technical limitation which would be unrealistic to overcome, or is it a marketing limitation to encourage hardware upgrades?

I think either explanation is possible - we do not know enough about performance yet.

The key question I would have is how fast virtual memory works (using the SSD to effectively extend RAM). If the architecture were such that the SSD on an M1 computer works as fast for “RAM” as true RAM on an Intel computer, then RAM specs as we know them would become irrelevant.

I have no clue whether this will or will not turn out to be reality.

The more I read about this, the more I am very disappointed with the Mac releases today - I think they really put a power-user in a tough spot - buy top of the line hardware that will soon become obsolete and not able to use all operating system features or buy entry level hardware without sufficient RAM or “unified memory” for multiple monitors and multiple simultaneous apps. No good choices currently.

Obviously Apple Silicon uses a different instruction set than Intel, so running the ARM code on an Intel would basically require building a virtualization engine, with all the potential work and bugginess that entails.

That’s not my area of expertise, but I kind of intuitively feel like that would be a ton of work to do well. They already wrote one such engine to go the other direction (Rosetta 2), but it’s pretty clear that even Rosetta 2 is considered a very temporary stopgap, and that devs should really (currently, anyway) dual-compile their apps for the new architecture.

This is the big thing for me, too. To your point, iPads don’t do intensive multitasking. A couple apps at a time, perhaps - but not the dozen or so apps even very average users might be running simultaneously.

It doesn’t matter how fast the CPU is if the bottleneck for an app is RAM.

I think they’ll get that sorted at some point in the future, but a Mac that can’t do more than 16 GB is a complete non-starter for me as a primary machine.

That said, I have been eyeing the possibility of adding a laptop to my collection, and one of those new Airs might be the ticket. :slight_smile:

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The conventional numbers I’ve seen are that actual RAM is 5-10x faster than something like virtual RAM on an SSD.