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How long will this MacBook Pro 16 inch last me? (5600M/16GB/i9)

Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
Hey there folks,

Been lurking around the forums for quite some time now to find out what would be the ideal MacBook Pro 16 inch spec for me. In the end I went with the base model i9 (so 2,3 GHz 8-core, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD) but opted for the high end 5600M graphics because of the MacRumors Forums being flooded with people complaining about heat & noise with the 5300M/5500M when connected to an external monitor. I'm happy to report that there's no such issue with this machine and it is near silent (unless I put it through its paces with some heavier loads of course, but that is regardless of whether it is connected to an external monitor).

Now my previous MacBook was a 2015 13 inch Pro which already had 16 GB RAM. I felt the urge to upgrade because the dual core i5 just wasn't cutting it anymore. In comparison, the 16 inch just flies with whatever I throw at it.
My usage mainly consists of research for my thesis (which can be up to 100ish tabs open in Safari, with Word, Excel, Slack, Spotify, WhatsApp and Messenger open in the background). I edit video from time to time, but not on a professional basis. This would be 4K footage from my iPhone mostly. Also, some photo editing here and there in Lightroom/Photoshop, but mostly stuff shot on an iPhone.

I also like the idea of gaming every now and then on the machine, even though it would really just be a 'nice-to-have'. I don't see myself buying next-gen consoles, so doing everything on one device seems like a nice minimalistic solution.

So, taking these factors into account, would I ever encounter the 16 GB RAM becoming a bottleneck for my usage? I plan on keeping the machine at least 5 years, but I don't expect my workflow to change a lot. Thanks!

UPDATE: Apple is offering a refurbished 2,3GHz i9/32 GB RAM/5500M 8GB/1 TB SSD for a bit less than what I paid for my machine. Should I consider this or am I better off sticking with the 5600M? The 135 pages long thread (https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/16-is-hot-noisy-with-an-external-monitor.2211747/) filled with people's complaints about heat & noise doesn't inspire confidence, but perhaps this a more balanced spec?
 
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casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
5,596
3,423
Horsens, Denmark
Hey there! First off, before we get to anything else; Hope things are going well with your thesis, and good luck with it.

Now; What does Activity Monitor say about Memory Pressure when you currently feel like you might be using a lot of RAM?
Honestly I'm amazed at how well memory is managed sometimes. Just last week, I had the Unity Editor (game engine), Final Cut Pro, Safari, Messages, Music, Mail, Pages, Affinity Photo, Messenger, Discord and a homemade program called HexHelper that I wrote to quickly convert between hex, decimal, binary and octal in the menu bar, all running; As you might've guessed a few of these are rather big programs. While I was compiling a playable prototype of the game I was working on I looked at memory usage expecting that I ought to close Affinity or Final Cut since this laptop also just has 16GB. (I am doing all of this on the macOS 11 Big Sur beta) but you know what? Memory Pressure was still in the green. Not even yellow; Green. And I'd say macOS Big Sur seems to use less memory than Mojave (I have very little experience with Catalina)

In five years' time, I think the memory will be enough on the low side that it'll mean you couldn't do what I just described with Final Cut, Unity and big photos in Affinity all at once anymore without feeling it a little bit, but not enough of a constraint to where you, in your workflow, would really feel hamstrung by it.
But then again, I have no real idea what hundreds of Safari tabs does to memory usage, since I'm not really a tabs person. I don't really like tabs. I make several windows, minimise them or add pages to the reading list instead. But if that becomes a concern there's always the extension Tab Suspender which should pretty much allow you to continue as you are, and tabs that are unused for a while will just "go to sleep" (The extension is made by someone on these forums!)
 
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Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
Hey there! First off, before we get to anything else; Hope things are going well with your thesis, and good luck with it.

Now; What does Activity Monitor say about Memory Pressure when you currently feel like you might be using a lot of RAM?
Honestly I'm amazed at how well memory is managed sometimes. Just last week, I had the Unity Editor (game engine), Final Cut Pro, Safari, Messages, Music, Mail, Pages, Affinity Photo, Messenger, Discord and a homemade program called HexHelper that I wrote to quickly convert between hex, decimal, binary and octal in the menu bar, all running; As you might've guessed a few of these are rather big programs. While I was compiling a playable prototype of the game I was working on I looked at memory usage expecting that I ought to close Affinity or Final Cut since this laptop also just has 16GB. (I am doing all of this on the macOS 11 Big Sur beta) but you know what? Memory Pressure was still in the green. Not even yellow; Green. And I'd say macOS Big Sur seems to use less memory than Mojave (I have very little experience with Catalina)

In five years' time, I think the memory will be enough on the low side that it'll mean you couldn't do what I just described with Final Cut, Unity and big photos in Affinity all at once anymore without feeling it a little bit, but not enough of a constraint to where you, in your workflow, would really feel hamstrung by it.
But then again, I have no real idea what hundreds of Safari tabs does to memory usage, since I'm not really a tabs person. I don't really like tabs. I make several windows, minimise them or add pages to the reading list instead. But if that becomes a concern there's always the extension Tab Suspender which should pretty much allow you to continue as you are, and tabs that are unused for a while will just "go to sleep" (The extension is made by someone on these forums!)
Thank you for your kind words!
I must say I haven't seen it change to red even once. At the moment, I have a 140 pages Word file, various PDFs and about 50 tabs open in Safari, along with the aforementioned apps chilling in the background. So I guess I'm set for the time being. My only concern would be if RAM requirements for certain apps would go up in the coming years, leaving me stranded with this fixed amount. Secondly, for a bit of gaming, 16 GB seems to be the recommended spec nowadays. With the next-gen consoles confirmed to also have just 16 GB of unified RAM, I suppose that I would be safe playing most titles at 1080p-1440p for the lifetime of the machine?

I'm still within the return window until next Monday, so I could always opt for a lower spec GPU, but I'd rather have a cooler, quiet machine that can handle my workflow just as well of course :) anyway, I suppose the huge increase in speed and zippiness can be mostly attributed to the much faster i9 in comparison to my old 13 inch then.
 
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jamespb78

macrumors member
Apr 18, 2015
68
44
My concern is the 16GB of RAM.

Sure it may be enough for most things today, but how long do you want to get out of the laptop? I'm wanting 5 years.

I went the 5600M route, and more than 16GB of RAM. Don't forget, that the RAM (along with SSD, CPU, dVGA) cant be upgraded later on. At several times, my RAM usage has been over 16GB when in either Final Cut Pro or Lightroom.

If your budget can stretch, I would get the 5600M with at least 32GB of RAM.
 
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casperes1996

macrumors 603
Jan 26, 2014
5,596
3,423
Horsens, Denmark
Thank you for your kind words!
I must say I haven't seen it change to red even once. At the moment, I have a 140 pages Word file, various PDFs and about 50 tabs open in Safari, along with the aforementioned apps chilling in the background. So I guess I'm set for the time being. My only concern would be if RAM requirements for certain apps would go up in the coming years, leaving me stranded with this fixed amount. Secondly, for a bit of gaming, 16 GB seems to be the recommended spec nowadays. With the next-gen consoles confirmed to also have just 16 GB of unified RAM, I suppose that I would be safe playing most titles at 1080p-1440p for the lifetime of the machine?

I'm still within the return window until next Monday, so I could always opt for a lower spec GPU, but I'd rather have a cooler, quiet machine that can handle my workflow just as well of course :) anyway, I suppose the huge increase in speed and zippiness can be mostly attributed to the much faster i9 in comparison to my old 13 inch then.

I think you'll be fine :)

For games the GPU is the most important part anyway and the 16G listing on a lot of games is far above what's actually required most of the time :)
 
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Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
My concern is the 16GB of RAM.

Sure it may be enough for most things today, but how long do you want to get out of the laptop? I'm wanting 5 years.

I went the 5600M route, and more than 16GB of RAM. Don't forget, that the RAM (along with SSD, CPU, dVGA) cant be upgraded later on. At several times, my RAM usage has been over 16GB when in either Final Cut Pro or Lightroom.

If your budget can stretch, I would get the 5600M with at least 32GB of RAM.
Thanks! So is mine, that's why I created this thread haha. 32GB and 5600M is really out of the question, already seriously pushing my budget with this config. A downgrade to the 5500M would be possible, but I don't want the machine to turn into a toaster when I work from an external monitor (my setup consists of a 27 inch 4K via USB-C with the laptop screen as a 'secondary' monitor on a stand) But I suppose I'll be fine, I don't work with really a lot of heavy files, the most taxing would probably be 4K/60fps footage from my iPhone, which FCP should have no problem with I suppose? If I have to close a few apps to do this, fine. And for my daily research workflow it seems like I'll never come in yellow/red memory pressure territory anyways - I can hardly imagine this'll suddenly be insufficient in the coming years if I'm not doing a 180° career switch or something. After all, aren't the base models the ones Apple sells the most of?

May I ask, what kind of files are you working with when your RAM usage exceeds 16 GB? Again, thank you for your advice, it is greatly appreciated!
 
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Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
I think you'll be fine :)

For games the GPU is the most important part anyway and the 16G listing on a lot of games is far above what's actually required most of the time :)
Unless I wanted to play Flight Simulator 2020 on Ultra 4K settings it seems ;) but there's no way the 5600M would be up to that task, so I suppose I'm safe in the sense that one wouldn't bottleneck the other, in terms of gaming that is. Thanks again!
 
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jamespb78

macrumors member
Apr 18, 2015
68
44
May I ask, what kind of files are you working with when your RAM usage exceeds 16 GB? Again, thank you for your advice, it is greatly appreciated!

In Lightroom, I'm loading RAW files (approx 60Mb each file) from a Nikon DSLR. In Final Cut Pro, 4K footage. In saying that, my previous MBP was a 2015 Core i7 with only 16GB of RAM - and it still coped.

If I could only choose one option, I think I'd probably go the 5600M with 16GB of RAM. The fan noise/heat was also a big concern for me. I actually ordered the 5500M 3 days before the 5600M option got announced. I returned that machine, and re-ordered it with the 5600M.
 
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Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
In Lightroom, I'm loading RAW files (approx 60Mb each file) from a Nikon DSLR. In Final Cut Pro, 4K footage. In saying that, my previous MBP was a 2015 Core i7 with only 16GB of RAM - and it still coped.

If I could only choose one option, I think I'd probably go the 5600M with 16GB of RAM. The fan noise/heat was also a big concern for me. I actually ordered the 5500M 3 days before the 5600M option got announced. I returned that machine, and re-ordered it with the 5600M.
Alright this settles it for me! I'm sticking with this one, probably will be on the lookout for an ARM Mac in 5ish years anyway. Cheers man!
 
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mobi-logic

macrumors newbie
May 6, 2014
23
13
I am going for base 16GB model. The reason being, that I need the laptop now, my existing 2013 MBP has given up. I am not sure if this new laptop I will keep for 5-6 years, since transition to ARM processor will happen in next 1 year and who knows how the landscape of x86 applications will look like or if the developers will update or create new apps for ARM processor only for MacOS.

And hence I am going for the base 16 inch and will not be putting more money to future proof it.
 
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Navigator98

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2011
25
3
I am going for base 16GB model. The reason being, that I need the laptop now, my existing 2013 MBP has given up. I am not sure if this new laptop I will keep for 5-6 years, since transition to ARM processor will happen in next 1 year and who knows how the landscape of x86 applications will look like or if the developers will update or create new apps for ARM processor only for MacOS.

And hence I am going for the base 16 inch and will not be putting more money to future proof it.
Your decision makes sense! My initial plan was also to go for the base model, but then I read about the heat/noise issues with an external display on the base model 5300M so I opted for the 5600M to be on the safe side. Of course the resale value in 5ish years is never gonna make up for the extra money I spent, but I just wanted to be on the safe side and have a machine that's guaranteed to work properly for my use case. However, not everyone may use a second monitor with their laptop, so it's not all that important and you probably won't notice unless that's something you do a lot.
 
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