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grouch

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 20, 2011
280
270
New York
I have a 2013 Mac Pro right now and I've been pretty happy with it for a long time except for the gpu situation. Now that there is an upgrade path for me I'm a bit lost on my next steps.

I'm disappointed by the decisions Apple has made with the Mac Studio however it's the only way to go past 16gb memory in an m1 Apple desktop right now. I've always loved mac minis but I'm a bit concerned about the memory cap and cpu core count.

My question for the community would be is 16gb enough? My IDE, Firefox, iTerm, office apps, and a few other things predictably consume about 30gb memory and having 8 cores (16 threads) is very helpful for the multitasking that I do. The mac pro has 64gb of aftermarket memory because it was cheap but I certainly don't use it all.

So what's the deal, has anyone downgraded from a 64gb or 32gb Intel device to a 16gb m1 Mac? I don't really want to rely on swap memory for that missing 10gb and I don't want to sit on my thumbs for another year, so it's going to be a mini or studio. If I get a mini it could be upgraded in a year since it's cheap, but a studio wouldn't need to be upgraded for several years.
 

SjoukeW

macrumors member
Jun 8, 2020
62
61
Netherlands
RAM is used for active software and data. Having a lot of programs open which are doing absolutely nothing and are 'living' in the swap-file are not a problem.
If those programs on the background are active somehow, they do need RAM.
Apple displays this in the activity monitor tab memory as memory pressure. If the pressure gets yellow or red, it needs to read and write to the swapfile often.
I have seen swap-files of 32gb having a green memory pressure and a red memory pressure with 5gb swap.

So the question if 16GB RAM is enough is hard to answer without knowing the programs in the swap and their behaviour.
My gut feeling would be that 16GB ram is tight however.
 
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Phil-from-Hamburg

macrumors newbie
Dec 21, 2021
17
18
Couldn‘t you open activity monitor and see how much ram you are using now? I personally never downgraded ram though. And if I could decide, I would prefer 32 GB over 16 GB for work. I definetly need 16 right now. And it is tight, due to unoptimized computations that I do. It is cheaper to buy larger ram than to spend time optimizing.
But ram is for me a little bit like buying a „larger“ car. You don‘t need all the space frequently. Only sometimes per year. But if you need, its nice to have.

So as conclusion: if I were you, I would not downgrade, unless I would know that my current device is too much.
 
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grouch

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 20, 2011
280
270
New York
As mentioned I predictably consume about 30gb, give or take. The unknown for me is how it translates between the Intel and M1 platform.
 

SjoukeW

macrumors member
Jun 8, 2020
62
61
Netherlands
16GB RAM is just what it is, the processor using it doesn't matter that much.
Don't forget that it is also used for graphics, so the actual space for programs / data is even less.
 
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MajorFubar

macrumors 68020
Oct 27, 2021
2,127
3,748
Lancashire UK
I'm disappointed by the decisions Apple has made with the Mac Studio however it's the only way to go past 16gb memory in an m1 Apple desktop right now.
Perhaps like me you were hoping for a Studio Pro rather than a Studio Max. I'm pretty confident I don't currently need the power of the thing I've been 'forced' to buy, but equally I do need something better than the basic M1 Mac Mini. Having introduced the Studio Max and Studio Ultra, I'm pretty sure we aren't going to see a beefed-up Mini Pro or a cut-down Studio Pro at least until the M2 chips are launched.
 
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SjoukeW

macrumors member
Jun 8, 2020
62
61
Netherlands
The M1 is meant as a high-end tablet chip and low-end laptop chip. Therefore it does only support 2 displays and only 16gb of memory. That's a lot for a tablet or low-end laptop.
To make the chip as cheap as possible they didn't put all the extra's in the chip for more ram and more displays which isn't needed for 99% of the intended use cases of that chip. If they did put that in it would be more expensive, power-hungry etc. that would also be a negative for that chip.
There are only a few use cases where a machine does need more than 16gb of memory and not more displays or calculation-power.
From that perspective I do get the M1 chip.
But the step from a mini M1 with 16gb to the studio with more memory is quite a expensive one. It would have been very nice if there was something in between.
 
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maccompaq

macrumors 65816
Mar 6, 2007
1,169
24
I have the 16GB M1 Mac Mini, and I frequently run low on memory. My solution was to order the Mac Studio Ultra and the Studio Display. With 64GB, that will serve all my needs.
 
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Andrea Filippini

macrumors 6502
Jun 27, 2020
394
339
Tuscany, Italy
I have a 2013 Mac Pro right now and I've been pretty happy with it for a long time except for the gpu situation. Now that there is an upgrade path for me I'm a bit lost on my next steps.

I'm disappointed by the decisions Apple has made with the Mac Studio however it's the only way to go past 16gb memory in an m1 Apple desktop right now. I've always loved mac minis but I'm a bit concerned about the memory cap and cpu core count.

My question for the community would be is 16gb enough? My IDE, Firefox, iTerm, office apps, and a few other things predictably consume about 30gb memory and having 8 cores (16 threads) is very helpful for the multitasking that I do. The mac pro has 64gb of aftermarket memory because it was cheap but I certainly don't use it all.

So what's the deal, has anyone downgraded from a 64gb or 32gb Intel device to a 16gb m1 Mac? I don't really want to rely on swap memory for that missing 10gb and I don't want to sit on my thumbs for another year, so it's going to be a mini or studio. If I get a mini it could be upgraded in a year since it's cheap, but a studio wouldn't need to be upgraded for several years.
Sincerely I would avoid Apple Silicon due to apps poor compatibility and peripheral third party devices issues (at least for a couple of years).
If you're already using more than 30GB of memory, there is no reason to buy a 16GB M1 Mac.
Memory size is memory size, no way. You need a machine with at least 32 GB of memory to avoid memory pressure and swap.
Personally I would suggest an Intel-based machine, the model depend on your budget and your preferences (iMac, Mac pro, Mac Mini).
iMac 27-Inch i9 3.6 (5K, 2019) can be a good option (8 cores, 16 threads, memory up to 128 GB, upgradable memory and storage).
Or, in alternative, an iMac 27-Inch "Core i9" 3.6 (5K, 2020) (10 cores, 20 threads, memory up to 128 GB but soldered storage).
 
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grouch

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 20, 2011
280
270
New York
I appreciate the first-hand experience on the feasibility downgrading to 16gb, this was really helpful. Initially I believe many were under the impression that the m1 macs needed significantly less memory than their Intel counterparts to do the same tasks. It seems that the efficiency gain isn't as large as my initial impression.

My 2013 mac pro is great, so no real reason to make any changes until there's a device that checks all the boxes.
 
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Andrea Filippini

macrumors 6502
Jun 27, 2020
394
339
Tuscany, Italy
I appreciate the first-hand experience on the feasibility downgrading to 16gb, this was really helpful. Initially I believe many were under the impression that the m1 macs needed significantly less memory than their Intel counterparts to do the same tasks. It seems that the efficiency gain isn't as large as my initial impression.

My 2013 mac pro is great, so no real reason to make any changes until there's a device that checks all the boxes.
2013 Mac Pro 8 cores 3.0 is a solid and powerful machine. Nothing to worry about it.
 
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vddobrev

macrumors 6502a
Oct 28, 2016
962
833
Haskovo, Bulgaria
I am a software developer and my primary machine is a Mac Pro Late 2013 D700 3.5GHz 6-Core 32GB 1TB. I briefly tried an M1 Mac mini. While it does compile code faster than the MP (perhaps due to the faster SSD and CPU), I found these weak points:
  1. Memory pressure. With MP 6,1 I almost never use swap or compressed memory. With M1 mini, I constantly got into memory pressure with usage of swap and compressed memory.
  2. Bluetooth range. M1's bluetooth range is not great. Often the mouse was jumping around, I made a thread about it.
  3. No Bootcamp. I need Windows for part of my job to develop on VB scripting in Excel.
  4. Rosetta. While it does run x-86 apps, it does run it slower and consumes more memory.
  5. Only 2 USB-C ports and 2 USB-A ports.
  6. The power LED stays on even when the M1 mini is sleeping. While this is minor issue, it is irritating. The old mini LED will blink when it sleeps.
 

phrehdd

macrumors 601
Oct 25, 2008
4,373
1,360
I wonder if anyone here remembers the early days of DOS and having to use memory managers. The point was that it allowed some limited control of extended memory. There is no reason today that Apple cannot do some better memory management or allow configurations when using Safari that are more granular.
 

InuNacho

macrumors 68000
Apr 24, 2008
1,999
1,249
In that one place
I have a 2013 Mac Pro right now and I've been pretty happy with it for a long time except for the gpu situation. Now that there is an upgrade path for me I'm a bit lost on my next steps.
What GPU issues are you having exactly? If gaming or heavy 3D isn't in the cards, you can go eGPU with Thunderbolt 2 and be good for a while longer.
I used to run an eGPU on my 2012 cMBP for about 2 years using an OWC Thunderbolt 1 - PCIe adapter. Granted the weak 512MB GT650 pales in comparison to anything in the 2013 Mac Pro, pretty much any more modern card should give you a nice boost in CPU power.
For my eGPU I used a OWC Helios AMD WX4100 which has 4GB of vram and it was miles faster than the onboard card. Due to the lower power consumption of the card, it worked perfectly with the Helios. Just note that any PCIe adapter can work as a eGPU even if it says it can't on the box. As long as you can supply enough power to the card, thats all that matters.
 

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saintmac

macrumors member
Jul 1, 2020
76
120
I will give you a couple of (contradictory) data points that may or may not help you.

1. I use daily an 8-cores i9 64gb intel macbook pro doing web dev (docker compose, etc) and productivity work. My RAM usage is usually between 16 and 32gb.
I tried a m1 pro (8 cores, 16gb) macbook pro for a week, plugged to a 5k display. I did not push it but installed everything on it and worked a bit with docker, productivity, etc and never went over 8gb of RAM. I have a 64gb m1 max on the way that I'm planning on using as a daily driver and I'm curious to see how much RAM I'll use and if I've wasted money on the upgrades.

2. Sounds like you are waiting for a m1 pro 32gb mac mini or mac studio. I have zero information on whether apple will release one and have zero insight from their marketing team. However I've spent way too much time playing with the pricing on their config pages and I'm almost sure that if they release such a machine it would only be about $200-$250 cheaper than a 32gb 24 gpu cores m1 max mac studio.
So if you want to upgrade to an Apple Silicon desktop mac with 32gb of RAM and are afraid to overspend, I think the risk is just about $200.
 
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grouch

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 20, 2011
280
270
New York
2013 Mac Pro 8 cores 3.0 is a solid and powerful machine. Nothing to worry about it.
I installed that particular cpu because it is the strongest desktop xeon that's compatible with this socket.
The question:
"Is 16gb Enough?"

The answer:
It depends on what you do with the computer.
I'm glad you're here to bless me with this wisdom.
What GPU issues are you having exactly? If gaming or heavy 3D isn't in the cards, you can go eGPU with Thunderbolt 2 and be good for a while longer.
I used to run an eGPU on my 2012 cMBP for about 2 years using an OWC Thunderbolt 1 - PCIe adapter. Granted the weak 512MB GT650 pales in comparison to anything in the 2013 Mac Pro, pretty much any more modern card should give you a nice boost in CPU power.
For my eGPU I used a OWC Helios AMD WX4100 which has 4GB of vram and it was miles faster than the onboard card. Due to the lower power consumption of the card, it worked perfectly with the Helios. Just note that any PCIe adapter can work as a eGPU even if it says it can't on the box. As long as you can supply enough power to the card, thats all that matters.
I have the d700s which are fine but are obviously not upgradable and one is completely unused unless you're using software that can utilize it for compute. At this point if I wanted to spend money on an eGPU I'd just get a Mac Studio instead.
I will give you a couple of (contradictory) data points that may or may not help you.

1. I use daily an 8-cores i9 64gb intel macbook pro doing web dev (docker compose, etc) and productivity work. My RAM usage is usually between 16 and 32gb.
I tried a m1 pro (8 cores, 16gb) macbook pro for a week, plugged to a 5k display. I did not push it but installed everything on it and worked a bit with docker, productivity, etc and never went over 8gb of RAM. I have a 64gb m1 max on the way that I'm planning on using as a daily driver and I'm curious to see how much RAM I'll use and if I've wasted money on the upgrades.

2. Sounds like you are waiting for a m1 pro 32gb mac mini or mac studio. I have zero information on whether apple will release one and have zero insight from their marketing team. However I've spent way too much time playing with the pricing on their config pages and I'm almost sure that if they release such a machine it would only be about $200-$250 cheaper than a 32gb 24 gpu cores m1 max mac studio.
So if you want to upgrade to an Apple Silicon desktop mac with 32gb of RAM and are afraid to overspend, I think the risk is just about $200.
I'd love to hear your memory experience with the larger m1 memory pool in comparison to your Intel desktop. I don't have a huge need for memory since I do the majority of my work on remote hosts.

I'm more or less waiting on a mini with 32gb memory, yes. Ports are not an issue, I don't have many components and have a usb hub in my monitor anyway.
 
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saintmac

macrumors member
Jul 1, 2020
76
120
I'm more or less waiting on a mini with 32gb memory, yes. Ports are not an issue, I don't have many components and have a usb hub in my monitor anyway.

So let’s assume you want at least 512gb of ssd. Then ssd upgrades would cost the same for a mini or studio


In that case the max studio with m1 max 24 cores and 32gb is 2000$
Apple pricing mostly works with chunks of 200$
Based on the MacBook Pro pricing a hypothetical max studio m1 pro 16 cores 32gb would cost 1800$.

Now what about a mac mini ?
A 16gb 512gb max mini costs 1100$
Apple would charge 400$ for the upgrade to 32gb
So 1500$
They would charge 200 or 400 to upgrade to an m1 pro.
So 1700 to 1900$

So there you have it: buy now a Mac studio with better cooling, GPU and ports or wait to maybe save 200$
 
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ctjack

macrumors 65816
Mar 8, 2020
1,401
1,434
As mentioned I predictably consume about 30gb, give or take. The unknown for me is how it translates between the Intel and M1 platform.
If you consume 30GB, give or take on Intel, you will consume the same 30GB on M1 if not more. I used 10-12GB on Windows (16GB) machine, and using now M1 Mac(8GB) I am using the same 10-12Gb of RAM but as 8GB of RAM + 2-4GB of swap any given time.

Overall swap do hurt the productivity - right now yellow pressure/15 tabs open/Safari with 1 google sheet is lagging. I know that restart will help but have no time to lose all my data to restore back.
 

grouch

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 20, 2011
280
270
New York
So let’s assume you want at least 512gb of ssd. Then ssd upgrades would cost the same for a mini or studio


In that case the max studio with m1 max 24 cores and 32gb is 2000$
Apple pricing mostly works with chunks of 200$
Based on the MacBook Pro pricing a hypothetical max studio m1 pro 16 cores 32gb would cost 1800$.

Now what about a mac mini ?
A 16gb 512gb max mini costs 1100$
Apple would charge 400$ for the upgrade to 32gb
So 1500$
They would charge 200 or 400 to upgrade to an m1 pro.
So 1700 to 1900$

So there you have it: buy now a Mac studio with better cooling, GPU and ports or wait to maybe save 200$
M1 mini and studio are on their first generation, since the mini is inadequate and the studio is just leaving a bad taste in my mouth so far I think I'll sit tight.
If you consume 30GB, give or take on Intel, you will consume the same 30GB on M1 if not more. I used 10-12GB on Windows (16GB) machine, and using now M1 Mac(8GB) I am using the same 10-12Gb of RAM but as 8GB of RAM + 2-4GB of swap any given time.

Overall swap do hurt the productivity - right now yellow pressure/15 tabs open/Safari with 1 google sheet is lagging. I know that restart will help but have no time to lose all my data to restore back.
That's exactly what I came here to find out, I think some people are just too optimistic.
 

pshufd

macrumors G4
Oct 24, 2013
10,011
14,484
New Hampshire
I bought an M1 mini 16/512 July 2021 to kick the tires and found that 16 GB of RAM wasn't enough so I got an M1 Pro MacBook Pro 16 with 32/1 and it has enough RAM but the CPU is overpowered for what I use it for, at least at this time. I wanted the larger display and other niceties but what I really wanted was a 16 inch MacBook Air.

Something that you might consider is partitioning your workload to run some of it on the M1 mini and some on your Mac Pro and then tie the systems together with Synergy (KM) or Universal Control if it's supported on your Mac Pro. Then put your most CPU-intensive stuff on the M1 mini. This would also give you more flexibility with the number of monitors that you could run. I'm actually doing this on the desktop right now. I have an M1 mini driving 4k and 2K monitors, a 2014 iMac 27, and a 2010 iMac 27 driving a QHD external display. I just spread the programs out on the three systems and five monitors.

A Mac Studio would be a more elegant solution but the one I have was ridiculously inexpensive.
 
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chikorita157

macrumors 6502
Mar 8, 2019
284
439
Germantown, MD
I eventually relegated my 16 GB/512 GB M1 Mac mini into a sever replacing the 2014 Mac mini. I don't think 16 GB is enough for my use cases as there are times where the memory pressure goes up to 50% or more. I also use the Mac mini for development and have a lot of apps running and I leave the computer running 24/7.

Of course, my M1 Pro MacBook Pro 16 with 32 GB of memory never had memory issues nor external display issues unlike the M1 Mac mini. Plus, the screen that is hooked up via HDMI (setup consists of two Dell Ultrasharp 2415 24" monitors) randomly loses signal, which is annoying. On the Mac Studio Max, I haven't encountered any issues with the same monitors. I guess M1 GPU is picky with monitors or it can't support two displays, particularly the Mac mini. This is the motivator just to make the M1 Mac mini into a server and retiring the Intel one, which rid myself of all Intel Macs from active use besides my 2018 MacBook Pro 15", which is backup.
 
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macdogpro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 22, 2020
656
494
Just barely for me.
Currently running 5 Safari tabs, on Google Meet meeting, PowerPoint, Word, Twitter app, Discord, Whatsapp, Message, Notes, Reminder.
Also some app open on idle state: Spotify, Final Cut Pro.
My usage already hitting 12gb.

But even when adding Photoshop, Illustrator and other smaller apps, I reach 14gb at most.

What I feel lacking is the M1 performance it self not the RAM capacity.
Especially when editing video with 200-300gb worth of footage.
 

phrehdd

macrumors 601
Oct 25, 2008
4,373
1,360
Just barely for me.
Currently running 5 Safari tabs, on Google Meet meeting, PowerPoint, Word, Twitter app, Discord, Whatsapp, Message, Notes, Reminder.
Also some app open on idle state: Spotify, Final Cut Pro.
My usage already hitting 12gb.

But even when adding Photoshop, Illustrator and other smaller apps, I reach 14gb at most.

What I feel lacking is the M1 performance it self not the RAM capacity.
Especially when editing video with 200-300gb worth of footage.
Video and RAM share "Unified Memory" so yes, they are correlated with the M chips. More RAM potentially means more video memory allocated (if Apple does this, I would be curious if it is a percentage or simply what is available or...).
 
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