A while ago I benchmarked my new M1 MacBook Pro and was blown away by the performance. It allowed me to easily duplicate my entire book in Sketch and even with 1800 artboards on a single page it was still pretty responsive.
I went with the 16GB/512GB model, but assumed that it would probably work well enough with 8GB of RAM as well — after all my test was very unusual and purposefully “heavy” on the computer.
Real life design work (unless you also do 3D, audio or video) is not that heavy on the computational power. It’s just moving some vector rectangles around — easy stuff.
In my test even a 2014 MacBook Air with an 1.8 i5 and 8GB of RAM did fairly well (it was slow, but it was enough for realistic workflows anyway)
Will 8GB be ok for the M1?
So naturally the most common question under my YouTube video on the M1 performance was:
Can I use an 8GB base model for design? Is it going to be enough if I just work on UX designs?
And for a while my answer was: Yes. But now something has come to light, that may convince you to wait a while before getting the M1, or going with the 16/512 option right from the start.
Swap file paranoia
Apparently with lower-end models, the Mac is using the built-in SSD to create virtual RAM that it needs. It’s called a “swap file” and has existed since the early Windows days. The problem with it, however, is that SSDs downgrade their ability to hold the data, the more data is moved in and out of them.
So if you repeatedly write and read to the drive, erase parts of it and write again, the SSD is losing its lifespan. For most computers it’s expected for an SSD to last at least 10 years of regular use.
But heavy users calculated that in edge cases, your base-model SSD can last for as little as 1 year because of the swap file.
Smart people who started analysing the problem found out that it’s very likely to be a software issue, so hopefully Apple will provide a fix. But I’d hold off that purchase right now, until this is resolved. Follow this thread to find out more:
And whenever you can go for the 16GB model anyway, as you can always plug in an external SSD, but the RAM you buy is the RAM you’ll end up with for the entire lifespan of the machine.
What do you think?
I also made a short video on that: