M1 MacBook Air: 8GB vs 16GB RAM

Though Apple’s 13-inch M1 MacBook Air has been out for quite some time now, fans are still struggling to choose between the 8GB or 16GB RAM model. Of course this decision will affect your computer performance and may cost an extra $200 USD in order get better results when editing photos etc! But is it worth spending more money if they’re not THAT much different? We put these two versions side by side so you can see what kinds of differences there actually were…

Differences Between 8GB and 16GB MacBook Air

Macbook Air 8GB vs 16GB RAM

The M1 8GB Air is not a direct competitor to the 16 version. However, these two cards have many similarities and if you compare them side by side there are some noticeable differences that may surprise you!

Geekbench 5

8GB MacBook Air test result

The 8GB model reached 7582 points on multi-core compared to 7586 points of the 16GB. Meanwhile, in the single-core, the 8GB scored 1728 points compared to 1733 points for the 16GB.

16GB MacBook Air test result

So, despite the RAM difference, the results on both devices are basically the same here. Let’s move on to the next one!

Overload Tests

As you’ve seen in the Geekbench scores, the RAM advantage doesn’t make a difference in the actual raw processing power of the 16GB M1 MacBook Air. However, when it comes to multitasking, that is where 16GB RAM really shines.

In our first overload test, we tried to push the Mac to its limit to find out at what point the M1 MacBook Air would slow down. So, 12 apps were opened at once here, but there was still no sign of slowing down in both models. Then, we added 2 x86 apps, which were emulated with Rosetta 2. However, the condition on both MacBooks stayed the same.

The familiar rainbow spinning wheel of death finally appeared when we opened more than 20 Safari tabs, 6 Safari windows (each playing videos at 2160p), and Spotify in the background. Surprisingly, it did take more load to slow down the base 8GB model than we expected.

When we closed more tabs, both devices went back to their normal state with everything running very smoothly.

4K Editing

With the powerful M1 chip, our MacBook Air can easily run through 4K editing using Final Cut Pro X. And, the results on both models were very similar with around 30 minutes for rendering and 15 minutes for exporting a 25 minutes 5.4 K DJI Mavic Air 2s Drone Footage.

With this result, both versions of the M1 MacBook Air seem to be a good fit for anyone who plans to use their Mac for video or photo editing.

Using External Display

Before this, we received many questions about how the MacBook Air would perform with an external display attached to it. And, once again, we tried to push it to the limit and see what it could handle.

In this test, both models didn’t even bother going beyond having 13 apps open and running in the dock with 7 full-screen YouTube videos playing at full resolution.

As you can see, we were still able to flick between the full-screen videos on the external monitor without dropping any frames.

As for the GPU, we all know that the 8GB MacBook Air only has 7-cores instead of 8-cores like the 16GB version. Honestly, we think it’s going to be just fine for most people because that 7-cores can still play multiple YouTube videos without dropping any frames. Also, we assume that the extra GPU core is targeted at slightly more graphics and/or ML intensive tasks.

Related article: 8GB vs 16GB Apple M1 MacBook Pro: Which One is Right for You?

Is 8GB Ram Enough on M1 MacBook Air?

We think the clear answer is that, for most people, even for those who do lots of multitasking at the same time, having just 8GB of RAM is going to be just fine. Honestly, it’s quite difficult to get the base model of the M1 MacBook Air to slow down in most tests.

Synthetic Benchmarks results of M1 MacBook Air (8GB RAM)

The point is that for most people, a MacBook Air is about web browsing and light work. So, the MacBook Air with 8GB RAM is powerful enough that the extra $200 to upgrade to 16GB of RAM is probably not worth it.

The Reasons You Should Choose the 8GB RAM version

  • $200 cheaper.
  • Enough for daily use like browsing, media playback, etc.
  • Basic designing and coding apps can run quite smoothly.
  • Can handle some basic photo or video editing if needed.

The Reasons You Should Choose the 16GB RAM version

  • Future-proof because you can not upgrade the hardware when required.
  • All software suites run perfectly.
  • Video editing and rendering are possible.
  • Enough memory to run even more apps and multiple tasks.
  • Better resale value after years of usage.

The Bottom Line

The M1 MacBook Air really helps challenge people’s preconceptions about the Air lineup that it is all about web browsing and lightweight work. The M1 chip brings a performance boost to the system, especially when it comes to video editing and rendering.

However, choosing between the 8GB and 16GB model really comes down to your personal preferences. Overall, an 8GB MacBook Air is enough for basic tasks and office work. On the other hand, we would recommend you to go for the 16GB RAM model if you need a Mac that can handle more programs simultaneously.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!


Photo by Arnav Singhal on Unsplash

Was this article helpful?
Categories Mac
About John Temple

4 thoughts on “M1 MacBook Air: 8GB vs 16GB RAM”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.