MBP 14" M1 Pro vs. MBA 512 GB 8 GB RAM

I have been using a 8 GB MBA with 512 GB SSD for the past several months and have really liked it. I do notice my memory pressure getting yellow when I use it under standard conditions. I’m not sure how that will be over time (e.g., more intense applications requiring more memory years down the line). This computer is a replacement to a 2012 Mac mini which I still have as a backup. I plan to keep this computer at least several years (as long as possible).

I have an opportunity to return my 8 GB MBA and purchase a 14" MBP M1 Pro 16 GB and 512 GB SSD for what would be a difference of about $550. Do you think it would be in my best interest to do this? If it would allow me to function for a few more years with the laptop as my main computer, I think that would be worth it.

My computer uses are slightly above “average user”. I use Photos quite a bit, do some fairly task-intensive web browsing, use apps like MS Office, Obsidian, OCR, and generally have quite a few apps open at one time. I’m not creating 4k videos as a profession, but do feel that I am sometimes already pushing the limits of the MBA 8 GB model.

Any thoughts on the situation? I’m not looking to blow $550 unnecessarily, but maybe some computer longevity would be worth it.

If you do upgrade to the 14" my advice would be to get more memory if you can. I know it’s really expensive with Apple charging a ridiculous amount for memory, but I recently upgraded from a 13" MBP M1 with 16 GB to a 14" MBP M1 Pro with 32 GB and 512 SSD and the difference is very noticeable to me in terms of memory.

I’m a photographer so I do spend a lot of time in Lightroom and Photoshop and I do some light video work in FCP (not 4K). My old 13" M1 would give me out of memory errors all the time, but with the extra memory, I rarely see them anymore.

In my case, I could only afford to pay for more RAM or a bigger SSD so I chose RAM. Hard drive space can be expanded with external drives.

I know this is just anecdotal, but I thought I’d mention it from my real-world experience.



An opportunity to trade in a used $1,300 computer plus $550 to get a $2,000 computer seems pretty good. I’d probably do that.

Looking ahead, there might be a revised MacBook Air this year. If you prefer the minimal portable form factor, you might prefer one of those with 16+ GB to the bulkier 14" MBP.

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The 8gb on the Air is going to be your biggest bottleneck. Until I got my M1 iMac with 16gb I used an older Air with 8gb. All too often my memory pressure was in the yellow with workflows not too different than yours. I would definitely spend the money to get the MBP.

The 16GB is will be more than sufficient for this workflow. I do development work and I’ve never experienced over 50% memory pressure even with multiple Docker containers running. It will be a big improvement over the 8GB Air and will never be affected by low memory. I cannot believe how performant this machine is, everything is instant and apps run without ever slowing down.

This is my memory pressure for the last 7 days, running Docker every day as well as a suite of development tools and office apps and occasional use of Final Cut Pro:



I have a MBA with 8 gb RAM and 512 hard disk space. I selected the hard disk space over the RAM. I am not sure I made the right decision but I couldn’t afford both. So the increase in hard drive space was more for convenience sake. Or was it? My hard drive is already about half full.

That was in July. Had I been able to afford both, I would have. My Mac has never crashed. From the beginning almost, I was getting notices about memory from Clean My Mac, I believe, until I just decided to turn them off.

However, for what I received my Mac was quite inexpensive.

I use Photoshop Elements a lot for digital scrapbooking and it doesn’t always want to open if the machine has been running a while so I just reboot but I think it is more specific to the program having its faults than any lacking in my machine. I haven’t noticed programs running slower or much of anything that would cause me concern or fill me with trepidation for the future.

You know, I haven’t had a Mac in a decade (lots of iPads) and I am thrilled with my MBA. I expect to get another new Mac in a few years anyway as I am having so much fun and getting so much use out of my MacBook Air. I’d probably go for a less fancy iPad if I need to cut corners somewhere and why do I need three of them anyway. (ok… One is running 9.5.1 but Siri tells better jokes!)

I am not a photographer although I am into photography. So I do not have to even see where I might be limited through work or something as I am retired.

Closing unnecessary programs can be more a matter of habit than anything. I usually do it now without putting much thought into at all.

So right now I am thrilled with my MBA. And when I do get another new Mac I’ll likely be quite thrilled with that too. And it will have a nice big engine because sooner or later my enthusiasm will wane just a wee bit! Maybe…


Short answer, yes, that seems like a good deal.

Longer answer, my personal, subjective opinion is that memory pressure is worried about more than it should be. Being low on memory and swapping out to an Apple/crazy-fast) SSD is a whole different ball game from in the past. I’d even go as far as to suggest that a well-specified machine should be showing signs of higher memory pressure, as that shows it is well balanced (not too much RAM). For some people with some workflows it might be an issue; for the average person I doubt it is particularly noticeable most the time. It depends massively on your workflow.

I also think the out-of-memory problem people are seeing is a software bug that may or may not get fixed. Having more available memory will likely help, but I personally expect the bug to be fixed and the lower memory options to be fine. That’s my personal opinion based on possibly limited knowledge, and I’m sticking to it…


I know that some people would disagree, but personally I consider any computer that does not have 16GB of RAM to be obsolete.

In my observations, memory usage by software grew a lot between 2012 and 2018, but this growth seems to have slowed down by now. I’m sure a fast 16GB machine will still be OK in 3-4 years.


A brand new M1 is hardly obsolete. I’d dare say any new Mac… what will 8 more gb of RAM actually do for you? Who needs a machine that goes 120 mph when you can get one with 90mph?

Just how difficult is it to occasionally reboot?

I agree that you should go for the 14". It will definitely age more gracefully and judging by the fact that you still have a 2012 mini you seem to keep your machines for a long time. It may not be apparent now but that 8 GB will start to get cramped rather fast, particularly since you describe yourself as ever so slightly above the average.

And don’t forget that it’s not just extra 8 GB of memory – you get more ports, a display that’s in another league (you say you work with in Photos and web quite a bit, that true 2x Retina and other parameters will show), better webcam, Face ID, better speakers (doesn’t matter until it does). Even the keyboard is nicer (big function keys).

I disagree. It feels like a poor comparison to me. I would say that buying an 8 GB machine is like getting a 3-door hatchback instead of 5-door. It might work well in some scenarios (you’re single or just with your significant other) but is incredibly inconvenient if you need to transport 4 or 5 people regularly.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your Mac. If you are doing fine with it, that’s all that matters. Apple has been selling 8GB machines for a long time and they work well for a great many people. Apple does a great job with memory management.


By that logic, surely that means 8 GB is fine? I think that the demands that software places on hardware has slowed its growth greatly. And the apps that mcdoma mentioned are not particularly demanding.

8 GB was fine for everything except running Xcode, Graphic and image manipulation software concurrently for me a few years back. It was smooth as silk if I only had two of those intensive apps open. Apple’s machines are much more capable and better engineered now, and for swapping, current SSDs are at least 10x faster than back in 2011 (I know, that’s a long time ago, but still…it’s a nice number).

So, I bought 16 GB because I want to run all sorts of things at once (“Pro” apps) and I spend more than I need to on computers. But I fully believe that 8 GB is not even close to obsolete. These computers are running rings round everything on the market as far as I am aware, for general use.


Thanks ever so much, Karl! I just love it and can’t stop learning, working, creating and playing! I do use it for graphics a lot, but strictly non-professional. I am never going to be without a Mac again! I believe my MBA will meet my needs for a number of years.

And she’s a speed demon!

But it does fine for EVERYTHING I have tried to do. It doesn’t crash. This is a high performing machine.

So I close apps I am not using. That is a habit I have always had. It takes mere seconds, at most a few minutes.

(I’d rather the Camaro than the Mercedes any day. Yep, my analogy I spent little time on it. LOL! But you got the idea. You just disagreed).

I use various graphics software (Photoshop Elements that is quirky but it is the app itself). It is just a squirrelly app. It only occasionally doesn’t want to open so I reboot. No big deal. And it doesn’t quit when I am using the app.

This machine is fast, faster than anything I have ever encountered.

I certainly would have wanted more RAM, so if I occasionally need to go 120 in the future, but I could not afford it and instead bought more hard disk space as I know how I am.

If I need a faster one, I’ll just save up and get a faster machine. I am certainly getting my money’s worth. I plan on getting a newer machine in a few years.

But I love this Mac! As is! And I really don’t find myself lusting after other machines. I love a small laptop. I am strange in that I do not need a big screen. (I’m like that with tvs too).

So why worry about something that hasn’t happened and may not occur for several years???

This lil M1 is a power machine deserving of a great deal of respect, IMHO!


My brother was a most gifted graphic design artist. Poor guy use to go crazy as he kept running out of RAM when working from home. Now most apps will automatically save for you. It didn’t use to be like that.

You REQUIRE that amount of RAM, I’d think.

But I imagine although you can use external hard drives (which I use too) additional hard drive space would be very useful for you too.