Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro - How much RAM? The answer may surprise you!

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"You can never have too much RAM": advice I've always followed maxing out any Mac I've ever had. I fancy a 14" MacBook Pro M1 so naturally I'd order 32GB of RAM (at an extra £400). But... here's a video which tests the 32GB against the 16GB - and uses a lot of Lightroom and Photoshop along the way. I'm always skeptical of YouTubers, but this bloke says, save your cash.
Any obvious errors/failures when it come to Lightroom? Any reason he's wrong?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqiYSt4nAFs
(FWIW, I've seen other test saying photographers don't need the Max version and also that the 14" and 16" when spec'd alike have the exact same performance.)
 
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Selwin

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Hi David, thank you for sharing. I think there are some subtleties on this subject that I'd like to point out:
As I am in the market for a new Macbook I am exploring the benefits of having more RAM so I went looking for information on this subject. On this very forum I found this topic which mentioned https://youtu.be/5ESZDAeZ9vo. After watching this video I conclude that for specific use cases it seems quite prudent actually to keep on the ample RAM side of things. I believe you did very well choosing 32GB over 16GB.
The author of the video even mentions large file handling such as stitching pano's or editing ultra res files (up to many gigabytes for one file) as an area of photo editing that can benefit not only from more RAM but also faster RAM-to-CPU/GPU bandwith with up to 400GB/s as featured by the M1 Max line. Photo editors that perform these tasks will know who they are, I am not one of them.
There is, however, another consideration: maximum life span. When I purchased my current Late 2013 MacBook Pro I made two bad (insufficient) configuration choices: 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM. I am still using this machine to date because it provides sufficient performance for all but one area of computing: photo (and video) editing. Therefore I am about to replace a machine that is still working 100% fine, which I consider (1) a waste of earthly resources and (2) budget.
So in order to maximise the life span of my next macbook pro I want to tweak the configuration so that no component other than the CPU/GPU will eventually cause it to retire. In that respect I believe I should get at least:
  1. at least 1TB SSD, maybe 2TB
  2. All the internal bandwith I can get -> M1 Max
  3. at least 32GB of RAM, I'll probably get 64GB just to be sure
Yes this will become a costly purchase, but considering the life cycle costing aspect I believe the added investment for SSD, M1 Max and RAM will pay off eventually. Having used my current macbook pro for over 8 years, I know I have regretted the SSD size after about a couple of months and the RAM after a couple of years. Therefore, the added benefit of tweaking these components is that I will have a happier use experience even right from the start.
YMMV.
 
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I got an M1 24" iMac. It only comes with a max of 16gb of RAM. The M1 chip uses RAM differently from the Intel machines (MacOS and Windows). I was skeptical go being limited to 16GB. But usage with LrC has proved my fears were for naught. First LrC was speedier on the M1 than on the now retired 21" 32GB iMac.

So now for a question back. How many of you MBP users really need a laptop as opposed to a desktop with a larger screen that never moves from your office desk? FWIW, I also have a 12.9" M1 iPadPro for running Lightroom as a front end to LrC when I really need mobility.
 
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I decided to get the 16” MBP with M1 Max and 32 GB RAM, to replace both my old MBP as well as my Mac Mini desktop computer. When I am at home, the MBP is connected to the two 4K screens I used with my desktop computer, so there is not much difference (except for the huge speed increase). When I am on the road in my RV, which will be about six months per year, the 16” screen and my iPad as secondary screen ensures that I can enjoy using Lightroom Classic to the full extent as well. I would not want to be forced to use Lightroom Mobile half of the time.
 

Colin Grant

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Like Clee01 I went with the 24" M1 with 16 gig ram and a 1 tb ssd. It runs absolutely perfectly. I have no complaints whatsoever.
 
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I got 32GB RAM of unified memory for my M1 Pro MacBook Pro, but not just for Lightroom Classic. I also want to run other applications simultaneously that can use a lot of memory, such as Photoshop and After Effects. And maybe a virtual machine in the future, if Windows support improves. But many photographers could get away with 16GB, and most probably can’t justify 64GB.

(FWIW, I've seen other test saying photographers don't need the Max version and also that the 14" and 16" when spec'd alike have the exact same performance.)
Most photographers won’t need the Max because its additional power mostly benefits things like video editing and 3D. The reason the Max doesn't help photographers much is that in a lot of photo software, especially from Adobe, the level of support for graphics acceleration and large numbers of cores is quite limited compared to video and 3D applications. Many photography applications, especially Photoshop, would benefit more from higher single-core performance…but the single-core performance of the M1 Max and M1 Pro is about the same as the original base M1. For photographers to get the most out of the Max, Adobe and other developers need to greatly increase the number of features that benefit from the three things the Max adds: More CPU cores, more GPU cores, and more hardware video encoders/decoders.

We should keep in mind that unified memory means it’s also used to support the GPU, so if apps by Adobe and other companies start making better use of the additional GPU cores in the M1 Pro and Max, 32GB unified memory might become a better idea so that graphics has access to more memory. Like in a case where you would have picked up a graphics card with 8GB VRAM for an Intel computer, on an M1 that 8GB needs to be available as part of the unified memory above what the applications need to just run.
 
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