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My current laptop runs an i7 with 16GB RAM. However, I'm looking to upgrade for compatibility with macOS Ventura in the fall. New M1 Macs being expensive, I'm looking to slim down the cost while still having necessary performance. Would 8GB + M1/M2 work better or at least the same as / comparable to i7 + 16GB?

EDIT: My computer's processor is "MF843LL/A 3.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor", early 2015. Does that give more information?

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  • Check out performance comparison software sites. Or you could buy both and sell the worst. And then give the results on here.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 12 at 21:31
  • That isn't precise information. Your actual processor is i7-5557U. MF843LL/A is Macbook's model number. By the way, can you tell us what you're doing on your Mac? Since, if you're doing video/photo editing, music compose, then you'd need RAMs no matter the processor. If you're just browsing or something, then you'd be fine with M1/M2 8GB.
    – Skye-AT
    Jun 13 at 2:06
  • Are 16 4" apples more powerful than 8 8" grapefruit? RAM and processing speed are two different dimensions of the problem. You generally cannot substitute one for the other. Jun 13 at 2:54
  • What kind of work do you do? Audio production? DTP? Video work? Browsing and email? Some workflows benefit from the extra RAM; others not so much. Also would you need extra storage from the base 256 Gb?
    – benwiggy
    Jun 13 at 6:47
  • I have enough storage between external hard drives and whatnot, my current machine only uses ~100 out of 512 GB. I do Photoshop, Xcode, and Android Studio, as well as normal everyday things like have apple default apps open (messages, mail, etc)) Jun 14 at 2:42

2 Answers 2

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Just upgraded my intel based systems to M1 too, so did quite a lot of benchmarking over the weekend. Tested quite a few old macbooks and even old top spec trashcan MacPro.

It is subjective and I am sticking my neck out there, yes, M1 based MacBook Air or Pro, even at the lowest spec of 8GB RAM can easily outperform the top of class 2015 MacBook. (Geekbench on CPU is clear, I have attached the results below too.)

Your concern about RAM usage efficiency, it depends on your use case. If you handle lots of large videos or photos, you probably would be struggling on the 16GB intel a bit anyway, talking about opening many files of hundreds of MB or a few GB loaded in RAM like photos/videos/Database/etc.

Try not to just focus on CPU/RAM. The overall system is much faster with latest architecture. SSD read/write is much faster than the 2015 system. T2 features embedded are often overlooked too, it is much faster for some "niche" sec to encode/decode videos/images or just for better FaceTime quality with it.

(Consider spending the extra 200 bucks to get to 16GB RAM and your new upgrade will be every bit/byte better, it will help your new mac to last for another 5-7 years. And with better resell value at the end.) :)

To share a couple more things from my recent upgrade:

  1. Make sure you check the Activity Monitor, look for all Intel apps that are running, go and hunt down the M1 ready version. Running Intel apps will slow it down a lot and eats up a lot of resources. Use this site too, https://isapplesiliconready.com/, they have listed many M1 ready apps. Over 70% of apps are M1 ready.
  2. SSD and other IO speed is much better than older Macbooks. Thunderbolt cables are not cheap, but very fast, I was running Migration Assistant at 1800 MB/Sec, that's crazy (I only had TB3 cable between 2 M1 macs, wish I had TB4 cable).
  3. M1 can't easily use Intel based virtual machines, like VirtualBox, etc.
  4. Universal Control with newer Macs and iPads is very cool.
  5. Some iPhone and iPad apps can run on your M1 Mac, great for developers to port apps to desktop.

https://browser.geekbench.com/v5/cpu/compare/15420735?baseline=14662136

enter image description here

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It is impossible to say with the information you have given. There's more than a factor of 10 difference in performance between the slowest i7 processors and the fastest i7 processors. Knowing exactly the specific models you're comparing is vital here.

The question of "RAM-efficiency" really hasn't got much to do with the CPU itself. As the i7 CPUs and the Apple Silicon CPUs are all 64-bit processors, there's not much about the CPU that determines "RAM-efficiency" - that is almost entirely down to the operating system and your applications.

There are minor advantages to modern CPUs in terms of having a performance surplus that allows you to enable better memory compression than you would on a really old system - and there are some benefits of having multiple page sizes, etc. However, that usually does not make any practical difference when comparing a fairly recent i7 to the Apple Silicon CPUs.

UPDATE

You have now specified that you're comparing with an i7-5557U processor. That's a CPU from 2015. In terms of generic benchmarking, you would expect even the slowest M1 CPU to be 4-5 times faster than your old CPU. However, remember that's benchmarking and doesn't apply 1:1 to your actual work-flow. Especially make note that there's a big difference between single-threaded performance and multi-threaded performance on modern CPUs.

Also note that this type of benchmarking only relates to the compute-performance of the CPU - not to the entire system that makes up the computer. The difference in RAM size (8 GB vs 16 GB) can make a huge difference for your particular work-flow. I.e. if you mainly use your computer for things that take up 16 GB of RAM, but really does not use the CPU - then that is probably going to run less smooth on an 8 GB system.

To sum it up, noting that it is highly subjective and really dependent on your particular work-flow, then in general most users would expect and find that a new M1 system performs vastly better than an i7 2015 MacBook Pro.

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  • I added the kind of processor Jun 12 at 21:35

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