There’s one question that has propelled the Mark Ellis Reviews brand into semi-stardom within the Apple space: which M1 Mac should one buy – the 8GB or 16GB version?
My original guide on this topic is the top performing blog post on my website; it generates tens of thousands of views every month. The corresponding video I made has surpassed 260,000 views on YouTube.
Even my podcast is named after the 8GB vs 16GB unified memory debate.
So, with rumours suggesting that we’ll be able to pre-order the shiny new M2 MacBook Air in mid-July, I’m obviously going to jump on the trend bandwagon again and attempt to gain as many clicks and views as possible.
This time, though, there’s three options to choose from.
Let’s work it out.
8GB is for: Most M2 MacBook owners
A big statement, right? I know – but bear with me.
I’m fully aware that I sound like a broken record with this, but I’d like to repeat it, anyway: my 8GB base model M1 MacBook Air is the best computer I’ve ever owned. I’ve never seen an out of memory error message, nor do I worry about swap file usage eventually destroying my SSD.
If you’re concerned about either of those things, or have received the mysterious ‘out of memory’ message on an M1 Mac, the 8GB version isn’t for you.
This also means that you probably don’t sit within the category of most MacBook Air owners. I have absolutely no statistics or research to back this up, but it is a hunch I’m willing to lean on to help influence your buying decision – and probably save you a fair amount of money in the process.
Most MacBook Air users aren’t using these machines to undertake big video edits, complex audio productions, or write millions of lines of code. They’re buying a MacBook Air because it is the perfect everyday laptop.
If that’s you, the 8GB model is for you. Ignore anyone who rambles on about swap file usage and disregard any suggestion that 8GB “isn’t enough memory for 2022”. It really, really is.
Seriously – stop worrying, set aside the money now, and wait for that pre-order date.
16GB is for: More adventurous users
I’m not suggesting you’re unadventurous if you opt for the 8GB M2 MacBook Air. Far from it, in fact; you clearly have an eye for taste, and want a computer that will deliver oodles of value for your normal work and plenty of headroom if you want to get a bit fruity.
But that isn’t enough for some people. I know this, because every single week, I receive questions from my audience like this:
“I’m SO stuck between the 8GB and 16GB MacBook – HELP!”
“I keep thinking about going for the 8GB version, but I’m worried it won’t handle my video editing… What would you do?”
“I’m studying software development. I can afford the 16GB M1 MacBook Air, but don’t know if I should just get the 8GB version. What should I do?”
They arrive almost daily. And my replies have turned into cookie cutter responses, to be honest: if you can afford the 16GB version and you’re worried about buyer’s remorse with the 8GB version, do yourself a favour and buy the former.
It’s as simple as that. If you intend to undertake some form of work on your M2 MacBook Air that you think will push it, and you have the budget for the 16GB version, and you’ve been spending ages agonising over the two, just get the 16GB version.
To confirm, the equation goes like this:
Assumed adventurous workload + confirmed budget for 16GB version + concern about buyer’s remorse = buy the 16GB M2 MacBook Air
Remember, if you’re comparing the pricing against the storage upgrades – you can always add additional external storage. You can’t add more unified memory in the future.
24GB is for: anyone who doesn’t want a MacBook Pro
For some of my audience, even 16GB of unified memory wasn’t enough when the M1 chip was launched in 2020. They wanted more. Exactly why they needed more, I genuinely don’t know (I barely touch the 32GB of memory in my 16-inch MacBook Pro) but that isn’t for me to analyse – they just wanted more and that’s the end of it.
When the new MacBook Pros arrived last October, we got just that – more unified memory. The only problem was that they were vastly more expensive machines and included a bunch of features and heavyweight graphical capabilities that many of the memory hungry crowd had little interest in.
They just wanted a MacBook Air with lots of unified memory.
If you sit within that crowd, you now have that option. The M2 MacBook Air can be configured with 24GB of unified memory. This will be perfect for two types of buyer:
- those who have a specific requirement for more than 16GB of unified memory; and
- those who just want more than 16GB for peace of mind.
Neither camp is a bad place to be – particularly if you have the budget. I’m not of the opinion that more unified memory equals better resale value down the line, but there is an argument to say that it’ll enjoy longer staying power, and if that’s also of primary concern, the 24GB is probably a good punt.
This is, without doubt, an option for the minority of M2 MacBook Air buyers, but Apple’s decision to insert a higher-tier memory configuration will satisfy anyone who wants the thinnest MacBook around without opting for a Pro model.
If you’re considering the M2 MacBook Air, there’s a strong chance you sit within the majority of buyers. I call these people ‘normal users’ – a term which is anything but derogatory.
When it comes to the MacBook Air, I’m a normal user myself. I use it for email, writing, research, and faffing about with spreadsheets. As a result, it has quickly turned into the best laptop – no, computer – I’ve ever owned, simply because it gets the job done without ever failing on me.
If you’re in this lovely little camp, the 8GB M2 MacBook Air is the machine for you. It’s the one I’ll be preordering next month, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
As I’ve always said. If you need more unified memory – you know you need more unified memory, and you’ll have the budget set aside for it already.
You know what you need to do.
So… which one are you going to get?