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Snippet: In Defense of Being in Defense of Modest RAM ☇

Shared on November 3, 2023

Jason Koebler for 404 Media:

I’m not here to argue that the M-series chips aren’t good. I think that they are. But I also think that people have been far too quick to dismiss the importance of RAM for anyone who runs multiple programs at once or opens any meaningful number of tabs. Using swap on Apple silicon might be better than on other computers, but it still isn’t ideal, and you are still likely to suffer performance problems at times.

I can’t disagree that more RAM = better and Apple should start most of the lineup at 16GB instead—at the very least any MacBook Pro. However, even with a handful of Safari tabs open, Mail, Messages, NetNewsWire, Ivory, Pixelmator Pro, and a few little tools here and there, I’m only showing 6.5GB of 8GB in use on my M2 MacBook Air. In the year or so that I’ve had this computer, I haven’t thrown anything at it that it couldn’t handle. I’d suspect most people buying things like the Mac mini or M1 MacBook Air are in a similar boat.

As I mentioned, I use my computer like a monster, and currently have 95 Chrome tabs open, as well as Slack, Discord, Adobe Premiere, Spotify, Adobe Audition, 23 instances of TextEdit, Signal, Apple Podcasts, Pages, and iMessage open. I am currently using 46 GB of the 64 GB of RAM that I have on this computer. Several of my Chrome tabs are using more than a GB of RAM each, while the vast majority of them are using a few hundred MB each. This is not a problem, because my computer is new, and it is incredibly good, and I’m currently very happy with it. I sleep soundly at night knowing that I can open up as many tabs and programs as I want and will not make my computer freak out.

Seeing Koebler’s use case, one isn’t surprised that 8GB RAM probably isn’t going to cut it for him—and that’s absolutely fine. While it seems somewhat common, I really don’t understand the need to leave almost a hundred browser tabs open, with some consuming an absurd amount of memory when idle. This is also part of the reason why I swore off Chrome on all platforms. While Koebler’s computer can handle it, it is a problem with tools that are terrible with resources. Google and Adobe are massive offenders in this regard and I really wish these companies would get more public shame on the matter.

Additionally, as someone who has done troubleshooting with all sorts of BYOD devices at my current and former job, the bigger issue with older Macs has always been storage—I have users with 8GB RAM on 2015 MacBook Airs that are running fine except they can’t install updates or load large software packages because the 128GB SSD is full. Even older Macs with 4GB RAM seem to handle high RAM usage rather gracefully, so I’m not quite sure what “freaking out” exactly means.

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