M1 or Core i7, 32GB MacBook Pro

My work Mac is too long in the tooth and I have requested for a replacement. I am given two options: standard MacBook 13" Air M1 or a used 2020 13" MacBook Pro Core i7 (instead of the standard Core i5) with 32GB RAM and 512GB SSD. I believe that the used MacBook Pro is the mid-2020 model, the only 13" which can be upgraded to 32GB memory, so technically, it is not THAT old.

This is a difficult decision to make. M1 beats intel CPU by far BUT the used MacBook has a souped up processor and, most important to me, 32 GB RAM! I have not owned a 32GB RAM any-Mac before.

Assuming I am mostly going to be deskbound in the next 2-3 years, I don’t think I care about the battery life… but in terms of the joy of using a Mac, which is better?

Have anyone tried a Core i7, 32GB Mac? Does it flyyyyy???

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I’ve got a 2018 MacBook Pro that is an i9 and 32GB Ram and it does fly.
Downsides are it can be (very) noisy and gets hot in the lap.

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Ugh… that can be a deal breaker for me. One of the reasons I initiated a change was that my current MacBook Air’s fan has been blowing non-stop from morning till evening. I am surprise to hear that having more memory does not help keep the CPU cool. The M1 is attractive in this manner. Zero fan. Super quiet! Ah, decisions, decisons.

I just checked the price at apple.com - wow, that 32GB MacBook Pro is almost 2.5X the price of the M1 MacBook Air!

I’m not quite in the same situation to compare, but I have an M1 Air (16GB RAM) and a 16" MBP (i9, 64GB RAM). If it were me making the decision then it would be the M1 Mac, if and only if you can live with the limitations (16GB RAM, 1 external display). If you really need it, there’s no substitute for RAM.

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More memory means more heat, but not on the scale of the CPU. Anyway, expect to hear the fans.
On the other hand, if you don’t need/use 32GB of RAM, you won’t notice the difference.

As for pricing, the M1 is ridiculously good value in the current ecosystem (assuming its limitations don’t affect you), whereas up-speccing anything at Apple is the polar opposite.

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The M1 is powerful, silent, does not run hot and is lightweight. With a proper USB or Thunderbolt hub at home and work the ideal workstation.

If you are deskbound, the Intel Mac runs very hot and loud in clamshell mode (if connected to an external screen).

I would choose the M1 in a heartbeat. See if they can provide the 16Gb ram version.


Good to know about this.

I am also not aware that the M1 is limited to one external display. Ah, not an easy decision to me but I think I am now swinging towards the M1. Loud fan is really going to annoy me more than anything.

Thanks for all your feedback.

You know what? I have used a MacBook for almost 10 years and I don’t remember fan blowing until in the last 2-3 years. Have macOS (and apps) became so resource hungry that it requires so much CPU? I wish we can just have the old macOS. Sigh.

I have both an Intel and M1 and I would choose the M1 without any doubt. The only time the Intel shines is connected to an eGPU which makes it silent. Otherwise, it’s like a jet engine, especially in clamshell mode.

With the external GPU, it does have substantially more raw power than the M1 for things like rendering, gaming, and data analysis.

I have 3 4k screens connected to the M1 Mini, using a DisplayLink adapter to power the 3rd. Have a look on Youtube as I am sure 2 screens on M1 MBA are possible with a DisplayLink adapter.

Again, I would combine the M1 with a Thunderbolt dock to enable flex I/O

if you are using an external monitor, this is fixed in monterrey witth the low power mode.

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I have a MacBook Air M1 that is one awesomely perfect machine. Of course, I should have gone for the 16 GB of RAM. I get messages from Clean My Mac and I just quit applications that I should have quit already. So my machine has never crashed.

I CERTAINLY can recommend this unbelievably fast miracle of technology!

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Replaced a 2018 i7 MacBook Pro 16GB/1TB with a new M1 MacBook Air 16GB/1TB and consider it an immense upgrade!


Certainly seems like M1 gets A LOT of support here. I will talk to IT and see if I can get a 16GB machine, instead of the puny 8GB. Here’s hoping for some good news.

Depending on what you’re doing with your Mac, 8GB could be plenty.

But, as others have said here many times, more memory never hurts. :slightly_smiling_face:

I had a bit of a similar situation in April and needed to consider which 13“ Macbook Pro to choose and I finally ended up opting for the Intel Mac. For me the main reason was that some apps still were not optimized for Apple Silicon (and some still aren’t to this day I believe) and as a Microsoft Consultant I simply could not rule out the possibility of needing to run Windows software at any point (in my case Power-Bi is and probably will never be available for Mac). So I went for the „safe“ option for now.
So far I’m very happy with my „legacy architecture“ Mac and I feel good that just in case I could very simply run a VM with Windows (Server, 10, 11).

All that is to say: hardware wise I would have opted for the M1 version, but for software compatibility I chose the Intel version.

Just some food of thought maybe?

My daughter has a 2020 16” pro (16gb) that she uses to record music. She’s a vocalist and needs to stop recording “often” waiting for the fans to stop howling.
She wants to move to an M1.

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At this point, the RAM doesn’t seem to matter much. But in the future- I don’t know.

Assuming you don’t need 32GB for your work applications or else the 8 wouldn’t have been offered? I agree you should try to get a 16GB M1.

I wouldn’t consider the Intel without dedicated graphics—the SoC GPU is way better than Intel Iris, in my opinion.

It’s too bad the choice is being offered now when a potential next gen Apple Silicon device may be close to release, but since you’re being offered a repurposed 2020, maybe you can swap out again in 2022.

When I am having Webex all day long and using a wired headset, I can hear the hiss of the fan in my teleconference. It’s like a background noise that gets on my nerves, especially when I am in a stressful call. I had to order a wireless, over-the-ear headset. That way, I don’t hear the fan even though it is still blasting away.

One time, I connected the Mac to an external monitor via USB-C port (which also charged it) and piped in Spotify music into the monitor’s built-in speakers. After 10 minutes of playing soothing music, the monitor started to blast out a loud whine and white noise! I thought my speakers finally gave in and broke, only to realize that it was the noise from the fan, amplified 10X by the speakers. I am not sure technically how the fan noise got piped through the USB-port into the speakers in the monitor. It’s as though the port got sorted or the fan noise “leaked” into the port.

All this is to say that the fan is definitely a deal breaker for me. While the Pro’s Core i7, 32GB and 512G storage sounds like an end-game machine in paper, I am afraid I have to agree with you guys.

I asked IT if there is a M1 with 16GB available and he said yes but I have to wait a week. Sure, I can wait. It is with heavy heart that I have to bid the Pro good bye (btw, IT said that the Pro is new in box, not used!) even though we never met :slight_smile:

I will update over here my experience with the M1. Thanks for sharing, everyone. It was a good discussion!

Reading back what @Gruber said, this is very true, for me, at this moment:

To acknowledge how good they are — and I am here to tell you they are astonishingly good — you must acknowledge that certain longstanding assumptions about how computers should be designed, about what makes a better computer better, about what good computers need, are wrong.

Some people will remain in denial about what Apple has accomplished here for years. That’s how it goes.