If you’re buying a new MacBook Pro and thinking about getting the 16GB RAM upgrade, it may be wise to think twice about that.
The entry-level MacBook Pro comes with 8GB of RAM, which is new compared to what it used to be. The MacBook Pro used to come with only 4GB of RAM as the standard option for the entry-level model. This is certainly good news for buyers, as they’re getting more for their money and they might even be tempted to get the 16GB MacBook RAM upgrade for the same as what it used to be to upgrade to only 8GB of RAM. It seems like a no-brainer at that point.
However, it might be best to hold off on that upgrade and just go with the stock 8GB of RAM instead, especially if you won’t be doing any intense work on your MacBook.
This is mostly because 8GB of RAM is usually the sweet spot for the best performance. While 4GB of RAM can certainly get the job done for most extra-casual users with laptops, the bump to 8GB of RAM can be quite noticeable, so that’s certainly recommended and it’s something I did myself when I bought my late-2013 MacBook Pro. However, once you go over 8GB of RAM, the average user won’t be able to tell much of a difference in performance.
To test this out, TechSpot did a performance test comparing a system with 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB of RAM. The results were fairly surprising, mostly because while there was a significant jump in performance between 4GB and 8GB of RAM, the difference between 8GB and 16GB of RAM was fairly negligible during most of the tests, including gaming.
Granted, while the tests were run on a Windows 10 desktop machine and not a MacBook, the results can easily be transferred over to OS X. TechSpot ran all sorts of test too, like the classic web browser test where dozens of tabs were open, as well as tests involving Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Dropbox, and even a handful of the latest games.
One thing to note is that when you have enough RAM for all your apps and games to run smoothly, more RAM won’t make it all magically run faster, and most casual users probably have enough RAM anyway, even with 4GB of RAM and definitely with 8GB of RAM.
Even when your system needs 12GB of RAM and you only have 8GB of RAM, the performance hit isn’t huge, as shown in TechSpot‘s performance tests where there was minimal effect during a test that needed 12GB of RAM on a system with only 8GB of it.
So when does the 16GB RAM upgrade actually perform way better than 8GB? Compressing large files mostly, which is something that most casual users will hardly ever do, if ever. So while that’s one thing where users can benefit from 16GB of RAM, it’s something that you probably don’t do anyway.
Essentially, the only reason you’d want to get 16GB of RAM is if you’re a professional running some sort of CAD software or other super-intensive program that requires a lot of performance. Otherwise, a 16GB RAM upgrade is merely just for show and would most likely burn a hole in your pocket, unless you have the money to blow.
In the end, TechSpot says that “for general usage and gaming there is no advantage to be had by using 16GB of RAM.” Especially considering that a RAM upgrade to 16GB costs $200 on Apple’s website, it might be best to save that money for other uses and just be happy with 8GB of RAM.