M1 Mac Decision: To Buy or Not to Buy?

M1 Mac Decision

Amidst the major architectural change of Macs from Intel to Apple’s own Silicon, the M1, the big question is how soon to jump in. It’s the M1 Mac Decision.

Prior to November 10, my thinking was conservative. That is, if one needed a new Mac, it would be wiser to buy an Intel Mac, with a lot of confidence and ride out Apple’s two year transition. In two years Apple would have ironed out the (likely minor) kinks with Rosetta 2 and shipped the M2.

I don’t think that anymore.

It’s not just the November 10 event. Of course, Apple puts an incredibly positive spin on everything in one of its events. It’s also what I’m hearing.

I am also mindful that Apple has done transitions like this before. And so, while there will always be some gotchas [consider early macOS Catalina] I also expect Apple to benefit from the many years of preparation for this latest transition. After all, there is much at stake.

RAM Considerations

That all said, there is one thing that is giving us all pause. And that’s the limit of 16 GB RAM on the three new Macs just announced. No one knows why as of this writing.

If I were to speculate, I’d guess that the M1 is a very close cousin to the A14. And because no iPad, with iOS or iPadOS, has ever needed more than 6 GB of RAM, Apple engineers rolled with the current address bus size. That, in turn, dictated which Macs would be rolled out first.

So while macOS Big Sur and typical apps would surely run nicely in 16 GB of RAM, if one needed to work with massive image or data files in RAM, one might think about an Intel iMac—into which one can put 128 GB. Or an iMac Pro with 256 GB RAM.

As time goes on in this transition, some users are going to want an Apple Silicon iMac with a lot more than 16 GB. Maybe Apple’s M2 chip will be ready for the new, big desktops.

Again, just speculation.

Mission Critical

If you have some offbeat but mission critical app that hasn’t been converted to a Universal Binary, you’ll need to do some research to make sure it runs acceptably in Rosetta 2.

Final Thoughts

If the two caveats above are not a concern, then I think one can seriously think about one of these new M1 Macs. As these machines percolate into the wild, we’ll know a lot more. Early, thorough reviews will be plentiful, so if time is not of the essence, wait a few weeks.

This transition is going to be fun and interesting. We’ll keep you informed.

One thought on “M1 Mac Decision: To Buy or Not to Buy?

  • The 16MB limit (vs. 64GB in the old Mac mini for example) is annoying.

    But the fact that a MacBook Air with no fan achieves better performance and battery life (not to mention heat dissipation) for some workloads than a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro? Things are definitely getting interesting.

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