Should Pro Users Care About the 16GB RAM Limit on the 2016 MacBook Pro?


Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist, has released a blog post detailing his findings regarding the new MacBook Pro’s 16GB RAM limit. In the post, he tries to figure out if this limit should make professionals switch to another machine.

The new MacBook Pro is clearly designed for professionals, like photographers, videographers, editors, engineers, and producers. Zdziarski decided to fire up a bunch of applications that would be used by professionals in various fields to see if the 16GB memory limit would ever be a bottleneck.

Here is a list of applications he ran:

  • VMwarei Fusion: Two running virtual machines (Windows 10, macOS Sierra)
  • Adobe Photoshop CC: Four 1+gb 36 MP professional, multi-layer photos
  • Adobe InDesign CC: A 22 page photography-intensive project
  • Xcode: Four production Objective-C projects, all cleaned and rebuilt
  • Microsoft PowerPoint: A slide deck presentation
  • Microsoft Word: A 20+ page document with graphics
  • MachOView: Analyzing a daemon binary
  • Mozilla FireFox: Viewing a website
  • Safari: viewing a different website
  • Preview: Three PDF books
  • Hopper Disassembler: Performing an analysis on a binary
  • WireShark: Performing a live network capture as I do all of this
  • IDA Pro 64-bit: Analyzing a 64-bit intel binary
  • Apple Mail: Viewing four mailboxes
  • Tweetbot: Reading all the flames and trolls in my mentions
  • iBooks: Currently viewing an ebook I paid for
  • Skype: Logged in and idling
  • Terminal: A few sessions idling
  • iTunes
  • Little Flocker
  • Little Snitch
  • OverSight
  • Finder
  • Messages
  • Veracrypt
  • Activity Monitor
  • Path Finder
  • Console
  • Probably a lot I’ve missed

His result was that he actually ran out of applications to launch before he ran out of RAM, making it to a total of 14.5GB used. However, before he had a chance to max out the RAM, the system started paging out. This means that macOS did the right thing and stopped the user from launching more applications before the hard RAM limit was reached.

Chrome and Slack are two apps that Zdziarski did not run because they are known to be memory hogs. If you run these poorly written applications, then there’s a chance that you may run out of memory, however, we must keep in mind that this is not Apple’s fault. Many users who might make use of more than 16GB of RAM typically have a lot of unnecessary crapware running at startup.

While there are definitely real professionals in the market that need more than 16GB of RAM, the vast majority of users do not.

As Zdziarski demonstrated, the new 2016 MacBook Pro is more than capable of running a large number of professional apps at the same time without crossing the limit. With this, Zdziarski pushes back on the idea that these “pro” users need more than 16GB of RAM.

[via Daring Fireball]

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