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M1 MBAir for school: 8GB or 16GB? Must live at least 6 years

OSXphoto

macrumors member
Original poster
Dec 23, 2013
55
3
I read many 8 vs 16GB posts on here. None of those (or not that I found) talk about a 6 year future proofing. I managed to hold out til Xmas to get 2 units for my school kids (12 y/o). I am getting the M1 Air for them. So 8 vs 16GB?

6 years is a long term to make predictions for. I feel like 16GB is the only way to go in this case.

Opinions?

Background info:
I have a late 2013 MacBook Pro w/ 16GB of RAM. When I have about 10 safari pages open, each containing 3-8 tabs (so 50-60 tabs total), Apple Mail, notes, a Pages document and/or a Numbers sheet, memory is filling up rapidly.

If I then also open Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I get 5-8 GB worth of swapfile usage. In this situation, Lightroom runs very sluggishly. When I reboot and only use Lightroom, it runs as smoothly as can be (on a 7 year old machine).

So it turns out that in order to stretch life cycle for this 7 year old MBP, I should have gotten the 32GB upgrade after all.
 

xboxbml

macrumors regular
Sep 15, 2015
149
48
I read many 8 vs 16GB posts on here. None of those (or not that I found) talk about a 6 year future proofing. I managed to hold out til Xmas to get 2 units for my school kids (12 y/o). I am getting the M1 Air for them. So 8 vs 16GB?

6 years is a long term to make predictions for. I feel like 16GB is the only way to go in this case.

Opinions?

Background info:
I have a late 2013 MacBook Pro w/ 16GB of RAM. When I have about 10 safari pages open, each containing 3-8 tabs (so 50-60 tabs total), Apple Mail, notes, a Pages document and/or a Numbers sheet, memory is filling up rapidly.

If I then also open Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I get 5-8 GB worth of swapfile usage. In this situation, Lightroom runs very sluggishly. When I reboot and only use Lightroom, it runs as smoothly as can be (on a 7 year old machine).

So it turns out that in order to stretch life cycle for this 7 year old MBP, I should have gotten the 32GB upgrade after all.
When I buy new, I always get the biggest available at the time. My 128gb iPhone 6s+ is 5 years old. I still have a bit of room left to go another year. So if you're going new, spend the money and get those most memory and storage and processor you can afford. Obviously, nothing is totally "future-proof". Things get better and faster all the time, but I would think get the biggest now and it should last for quite a while, especially in Apple land. I mean they're still supporting MBA 2013 with Big Sur. I'd say currently, if the hardware of that era was adequate for modern OS's, the current new hardware I believe, will be plenty capable of future OS's for years to come. Just don't short yourself on the memory, storage, and processor, if you can afford it. I can't afford it. I bought this 2015 MBA a couple years ago and first put a 512gb Apple SSD in it, and now I've put a 2tb SSD in it. 8gb is ok. I'd rather it be 16gb but u can't upgrade memory in these. Also wish it was an i7, but it works. Big thing for me was storage. Fortunately on these older ones you can remove and upgrade that. Not on the new ones.
 
Last edited:

OSXphoto

macrumors member
Original poster
Dec 23, 2013
55
3
Some sources say the SSD is so fast, you won't really notice swapping that much. But fact is we just don't know how it will perform in 5-6 years time and you can be sure that the 6th year will be the most challenging year for those MacBooks, as the kids will be preparing for exams and they will be using more demanding software than now.

We live in Europe, these are our prices:

Base MB Air: USD 999, Eur 1129 = USD 1338
16GB upgrade: USD 200, Eur 230 = USD 272
Total price:
Base MBAir/16GB: USD 1199, Eur 1359 = USD 1611

We don't know what these kids will do after 6 years of school. They may enter some kind of next school, university or whatever and some of those require new laptops with custom configurations. If after 4-5 years we should need to upgrade the M1 Air (e.g. if by then it slows down like mine because 8 GB RAM is not enough), there is a possibiliy they can only use that new machine for 1-2 years before needing yet another brand or config. And it will set us back another 3000 USD, while now we could pay the 540 extra.

So despite the high prices here, I think paying 270 x 2 will pay off in the long run.

Thanks for your input!

Pete
 
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FuturePilot

macrumors demi-god
Nov 6, 2017
309
624
I read many 8 vs 16GB posts on here. None of those (or not that I found) talk about a 6 year future proofing. I managed to hold out til Xmas to get 2 units for my school kids (12 y/o). I am getting the M1 Air for them. So 8 vs 16GB?

6 years is a long term to make predictions for. I feel like 16GB is the only way to go in this case.

Opinions?

Background info:
I have a late 2013 MacBook Pro w/ 16GB of RAM. When I have about 10 safari pages open, each containing 3-8 tabs (so 50-60 tabs total), Apple Mail, notes, a Pages document and/or a Numbers sheet, memory is filling up rapidly.

If I then also open Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I get 5-8 GB worth of swapfile usage. In this situation, Lightroom runs very sluggishly. When I reboot and only use Lightroom, it runs as smoothly as can be (on a 7 year old machine).

So it turns out that in order to stretch life cycle for this 7 year old MBP, I should have gotten the 32GB upgrade after all.
You absolutely need 16.
 
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mikethebigo

macrumors 68020
May 25, 2009
2,128
563
Some sources say the SSD is so fast, you won't really notice swapping that much. But fact is we just don't know how it will perform in 5-6 years time and you can be sure that the 6th year will be the most challenging year for those MacBooks, as the kids will be preparing for exams and they will be using more demanding software than now.

We live in Europe, these are our prices:

Base MB Air: USD 999, Eur 1129 = USD 1338
16GB upgrade: USD 200, Eur 230 = USD 272
Total price:
Base MBAir/16GB: USD 1199, Eur 1359 = USD 1611

We don't know what these kids will do after 6 years of school. They may enter some kind of next school, university or whatever and some of those require new laptops with custom configurations. If after 4-5 years we should need to upgrade the M1 Air (e.g. if by then it slows down like mine because 8 GB RAM is not enough), there is a possibiliy they can only use that new machine for 1-2 years before needing yet another brand or config. And it will set us back another 3000 USD, while now we could pay the 540 extra.

So despite the high prices here, I think paying 270 x 2 will pay off in the long run.

Thanks for your input!

Pete
If you're looking for longevity more RAM is always better. I think you made the right call. Really the best answer is, 8 will probably be okay, but 16 just means complete ease of mind. You know the M1 is fast, you know you have plenty of RAM, and therefore the system won't have any real theoretical bottlenecks down the line.
 

tillsbury

macrumors 65816
Dec 24, 2007
1,490
431
Not entirely convinced, but it's your choice. I haven't heard much about limitations of the 8Gb as yet. My son has just finished two degrees over the last six years and his 2012 Mac mini with 4Gb RAM has been more than capable of the job.

Now if the subjects were in video editing, the arts or something like that then maybe things would be different.
 
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KPOM

macrumors P6
Oct 23, 2010
15,806
4,356
If it has to be 6 years, then go 16GB for sure. Although I’m not sure I’d bank on 6 years from the 1st gen.
I think 6 years is realistic. These machines are as powerful as the 16" MBP at many CPU and GPU-oriented tasks. Apple will support them for at least 5 years.
 

swarlos

macrumors 6502a
Oct 18, 2015
856
848
I’d say 16Gb for sure!! I’m going on 4 years almost of using my MacBook Pro.

But I just received my M1 MacBook Air yesterday and it’s amazing!!

Battery life is amazing as well. Since unplugging my Air at 1 pm till now I’ve gotten 6 1/2 hours of screen on time and I’m at 66% now.

 
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Conutz

macrumors 6502
Oct 24, 2014
261
154
Joburg
I think 6 years is realistic. These machines are as powerful as the 16" MBP at many CPU and GPU-oriented tasks. Apple will support them for at least 5 years.
You may very well be right. I’m just worried about 1st gen. On one hand, this is their first computer chip, on the other hand, they’ve been designing ARM chips for many years now. Also, Mac OS would seriously need to grow in leaps and bounds to put the M1 onto its limit. So you’re likely right (I’m sitting this one out though!).
 

chscag

Contributor
Feb 17, 2008
3,956
1,433
Fort Worth, Texas
I read many 8 vs 16GB posts on here. None of those (or not that I found) talk about a 6 year future proofing. I managed to hold out til Xmas to get 2 units for my school kids (12 y/o). I am getting the M1 Air for them. So 8 vs 16GB?

You don't have a choice between 8GB and 16GB if you choose the M1 MacBook Air, it only comes with 8GB installed. You would need to buy the 13" M1 MacBook Pro which does come with 16GB.
 

OSXphoto

macrumors member
Original poster
Dec 23, 2013
55
3
You may very well be right. I’m just worried about 1st gen. On one hand, this is their first computer chip, on the other hand, they’ve been designing ARM chips for many years now. Also, Mac OS would seriously need to grow in leaps and bounds to put the M1 onto its limit. So you’re likely right (I’m sitting this one out though!).
Well I also have some first gen concerns, but I have to buy now because my kids need it now.

my kids went to this school in september and i had already purchased 2 intel macbook pros with 16GB RAM (the USD 1799 model with 2.0GHz CPU). Because, well, as a father you need to give them what they need, right? Even those machines were blowing their fans during video calls, so I very relunctantly agreed to this purchase.

Then I was able to borrow two laptops from school temporarily. I immediately wrapped the intel MBP's and sent them back to apple within my 14 day return period. As it turns out, august 2020 was the worst time ever to buy an intel MacBook (pro).

But those loaners need to go back in December. So now I have no more options to delay the purchase. It has to be the M1.
 

OSXphoto

macrumors member
Original poster
Dec 23, 2013
55
3
You don't have a choice between 8GB and 16GB if you choose the M1 MacBook Air, it only comes with 8GB installed. You would need to buy the 13" M1 MacBook Pro which does come with 16GB.
I can configure a 16GB option on apple's web site. Maybe in your region it is different. Where are you based?
 

KPOM

macrumors P6
Oct 23, 2010
15,806
4,356
You may very well be right. I’m just worried about 1st gen. On one hand, this is their first computer chip, on the other hand, they’ve been designing ARM chips for many years now. Also, Mac OS would seriously need to grow in leaps and bounds to put the M1 onto its limit. So you’re likely right (I’m sitting this one out though!).
The one possible concern is that the M1 implements the ARMv8 instruction set. ARMv9 is coming next year. Eventually (probably quickly) Apple will incorporate that into its designs. Eventually there will be a cutoff of support for ARMv8-based chips both for iOS/iPadOS and MacOS. If we look back to the Intel transition, the first generation was 32-bit, which was last supported by Snow Leopard, which was replaced by Lion in 2011. So the first Intel Macs ran the latest available MacOS versions for about 5 years, though they did get security updates for another 2 years.
 

mikethebigo

macrumors 68020
May 25, 2009
2,128
563
The one possible concern is that the M1 implements the ARMv8 instruction set. ARMv9 is coming next year. Eventually (probably quickly) Apple will incorporate that into its designs. Eventually there will be a cutoff of support for ARMv8-based chips both for iOS/iPadOS and MacOS. If we look back to the Intel transition, the first generation was 32-bit, which was last supported by Snow Leopard, which was replaced by Lion in 2011. So the first Intel Macs ran the latest available MacOS versions for about 5 years, though they did get security updates for another 2 years.
One sidenote about this point is that we have almost no evidence ARMv9 is coming in 2021. There have been leaked roadmaps some time ago, but nothing formal is announced and searching for info about it is very spotty (people are using things like LinkedIn posts as evidence).
 

gxbg

macrumors newbie
Nov 22, 2020
4
2
Absolutely get 16! You should actually get 32, but unfortunately it is not offered. But 16 is definitely fine. And it is the bare minimum!

I had a laptop with 8GB RAM from 2011 and I used it fine until 2019 when I couldn't any more. My RAM usage was always ca 11GB and the computer was struggling like crazy. I also have a Macbook Pro Retina from 2012, again 8GB RAM, and it's unusable for the past 1-2 years. Back when I was studying I was regularly occupying 10GB RAM just opening browser tabs and pdf files. When I boot up the computer I already use 5GB RAM, leaving me just 3GB to do actual work. If you get a 16GB version, you get 11GB left to do actual work! You don't double the RAM, you actually go to 3.6x of usable capacity. Your workflow will always have some base RAM usage, thus doubling the RAM will always net you way more than 2x of usable RAM.

Recently I found myself always requiring 11-14GB, just using the computer normally.
 

chscag

Contributor
Feb 17, 2008
3,956
1,433
Fort Worth, Texas
I can configure a 16GB option on apple's web site. Maybe in your region it is different. Where are you based?

You are correct. I see that they added an option to choose 16GB. I would definitely recommend buying the 16GB version and any additional storage you can afford.
 

IngerMan

macrumors 68000
Feb 21, 2011
1,856
734
Michigan
With all these Youtube reviews testing Video, photography and benchmarks with 8GB of Ram. This machine is crushing the previous Mac laptops and closing in and beating several Desktop versions using the M1 yes 8GB of Ram.

If you made your coin doing video and photography then you will probably wait for the upgraded MBP with 4 ports, multiple monitors.

If you're considering buying the Air, you probably don't make coin in video or photography. This 8GB model is mind blowing how good it is and I would not blame anybody for saving a few hundred bucks for the next upgrade.

 
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teecuptech

Contributor
Jul 18, 2020
727
427
Atlanta, GA
To me, based on your statistics from your current usage, 16GB is the way to go.
And, if you can afford it, I certainly suggest 16GB memory. Even more so, in 6 years, who knows what memory hungry apps will be available that one will want to install...
 
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G5isAlive

macrumors 65816
Aug 28, 2003
1,098
1,654
If you really think you have to keep the machines for 6 years, sure, no one is going to say 8 gb. 16 for sure.

But I think you are asking the wrong question, or thinking about this the wrong way. The idea of future proofing is a joke. This is a gen 1 device.. No one really knows how its going to last. What we do know is it will rapidly be replaced. Not just with the M2, but a new screen design etc. And then there is the idea of future proofing for a 12 year old. Your kids are going to change a lot in the next few years and their computer requirements along with it.

Me, i would be thinking about what is the bare minimum I need to get them through the next couple of years with the goal of changing course in 2 or 3 years when the design has matured. In that case, 8 gb is fine.
 

jerryk

macrumors 603
Nov 3, 2011
6,240
3,192
SF Bay Area
Just me, but if I wanted to ensure longer usefulness I would spend more on SSD space instead of memory. The only exception would be if you had a NAS or other large storage device.
 

Robbosan

macrumors 6502a
Aug 21, 2020
945
759
Ordered the 8gb/256gb with Ac for my daughter for xmas, going to uni next year, should be a big upgrade from her Late 2012 13" 128gb mbpr that got her through high school, still works good but slow.
 
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IngerMan

macrumors 68000
Feb 21, 2011
1,856
734
Michigan
The only test they did that finally showed a benefit for 16GB to 8GB of ram was exporting 8K R3D Raw to 4k export. So I guess if your dealing with 8K video often you might consider 16GB of ram, especially if time is $$$
 
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