After Apple debuted the new M3 series of MacBook Pro’s last week, there was quite an uproar about the entry-level MacBook Pro. Apple got rid of the 13-inch model and moved it into the 14-inch model which brings in that stunning display and the redesigned body. But what caught everyone’s is that at $1,599, Apple is giving you 8GB of RAM (or unified memory) on the M3 MacBook Pro. Naturally, that made quite a few people upset.
Selling a “pro” laptop in 2023 with only 8GB of unified memory to start is not a good idea. Sure it might be enough for a lot of things, but “pros” are usually those doing some video editing, maybe some coding, and such, and 8GB of unified memory is not enough.
Apple, however, disagrees that it is not enough. In an interview spotted by MacRumors, the company’s product marketing lead Bob Borchers argued that 8GB of unified memory is equivalent to a 16GB RAM Windows PC.
Comparing our memory to other system’s memory actually isn’t equivalent, because of the fact that we have such an efficient use of memory, and we use memory compression, and we have a unified memory architecture.
Actually, 8GB on an M3 MacBook Pro is probably analogous to 16GB on other systems. We just happen to be able to use it much more efficiently.
While macOS is a lot more optimized compared to Windows, and Apple does use it a lot more efficiently, let’s remember that this is unified memory and not just RAM. Meaning it is used for more than just the CPU.
What is unified memory on a Mac?
In talking about Apple’s laptops and desktops, you’ll notice that the term “RAM” is not mentioned much. In fact, Apple uses “unified memory” because that is a more appropriate name for what this is. With the new M-series of chipsets that Apple debuted in 2020, they have essentially a pool of memory that is used for the CPU and GPU. So when you see a maxxed out MacBook Pro that has 128GB of unified memory and think that’s way to much, remember the GPU is also using that memory.
Unified memory is also soldered to the chipset, which makes it faster, as it has less to do. That does also mean that you can’t upgrade your system after the fact, however. Which is not great for repairability, nor the environment. Two things that Apple are big on these days. But the trade-offs do seem to be worth it.