8 GB of RAM in the New Entry-Level iMac is Just Fine

| Editorial

Many observers are whining about how the 8 GB of RAM in Apple's new 2014 entry-level iMac is not upgradable. I think it's a non-issue, and here's my argument.


First, the sensible thing to do is see how much memory Apple specifies as required for Mavericks. Apple's OS X Mavericks specification page says that you need at least of 2 GB of RAM to run OS X 10.9.

If course we all know that numbers like that are on the conservative side. The number is likely based on some very average stress tests on the system and is designed to promote the widest possible adoption of Mavericks.

Instead, let's take a look at a company, Ramjet, that would like to sell you a lot of memory and see what they say. Here's what Ramjet says about Mavericks:

Although Apple's minimum requirement is 2GB, our experience has been that Mavericks is very memory intensive. For this reason, we believe users will see better performance with Mavericks if they upgrade to 4GB of memory at a minimum, with an even better performance with 6GB of memory in the machine.

I believe that reasonable person would agree that extending the above analysis to 8 GB makes perfect sense. Apple, I would say, has selected a reasonable, indeed generous, amount of RAM for the average user.

What about Yosemite? The memory requirements for this OS are exactly the same, 2 GB. And so there's no argument that the new iMac will become obsolete due to the increasing memory requirements of Yosemite.

But What About Us?

The power users will, of course, say that it's a shame that the new iMac can't be upgraded. "The memory is soldered onto the motherboard. Ack! It must be an Apple scam! We cannot recommend this Mac!"

I disagree.

I counter that from my own experience, only a small percentage of Apple customers upgrade the memory in their Macs. If it's working fine, they don't bother. As we've seen above, the memory requirements for OS X aren't rising dramatically.

What's more, via the built in feedback mechanism of the Mac at System Preferences > Security and Privacy > Privacy > Diagnostics & Usage, Apple not only knows how many customers upgrade their memory, but the company also can diagnose how the OS is performing with a given amount of RAM. I'm betting that information was used to select the 8 GB number.  Plus, I've used iMacs for years with 8 GB of RAM and never had a problem.

This entry-level iMac is just that. It's not designed for Adobe product professionals or computer scientists or people running Parallels Desktop. It's designed for the Apple customer who's on a budget and wants a quality Mac for the lowest possible price.

There's no arm twisting, and there are plenty of other iMac configurations to chose from, for more money, going up to 32 GB on a 27-inch iMac for more demanding users.

I am fine with recommending this Mac for beginners, switchers, and customers on a budget. 8 GB of RAM is four times the recommended minimum, and I expect this kind of Mac to be viable for many years to come.

And when it is time to upgrade because 8 GB of RAM isn't enough, the argument for the next step in future technologies, 3-5 years down the road, will make a new Mac very compelling. This 2014 iMac will be handed down or sold, and all will be well.

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Danny Showalter

Most average user don’t really need more than 8MB of Ram


My MacBook Pro runs everything I need with 8GB of RAM. I don’t see a need for more. Doesn’t anyone understand what entry level means?

Constable Odo

It’s the power users who always have some beef about some computer being underpowered or something.  This entry level iMac is not geared for power users.  Apple knows exactly what it’s doing.  They’re not giving away anything for free but they are providing an entry level Mac that will run all of Mavericks and Yosemite’s services without a hitch.  It will be good for those users who have iPads and iPhones and want to use Continuity with ease.

I’ve been using 8 GB on my 24” 3.06 GHz iMac for years and it sips memory without giving any problems.  I don’t run a lot of applications at once and hardly run any applications that require anything close to what I have except for VMWare Fusion.  Soldered RAM seems strange since that’s something that hardly any company does but Apple thinks they can save money and increase reliability then that’s fine for them.  For those who don’t like it, buy a different model, but don’t gripe about Apple cheating consumers.


I can remember when 8GB of RAM was unimaginable, and if you even had a machine that could hold that much, it would cost more than a house. At $50/MB, which was the prevailing rate for a LONG time, it would be over $400,000.


These days I spend most of my computer time on a 2011 MacBook Air with a non-upgradeable 2 GB of RAM. The only time I’ve really felt like that wasn’t enough was when I used it to work on a Logic Pro project, which I usually leave to my 2010 iMac with 12 GB.

I think the worst thing about a fixed-RAM iMac is that—despite the fact that few actually upgrade—there’s still the perception that upgradeability is important, especially to non-Mac users.


In my experience it’s not the RAM but the processor that’s important. I’ve got perfectly good G5 stuck on Leopard. I’ve upgraded the RAM, replaced the two HDDs and optical drive - but It’s still stuck on Leopard.


More RAM than the stock Macbook Air, bigger HD and monitor. Same processor.


It’s a Mac Mini with a screen….

A IPS screen. (I presume Apple still uses IPS displays ?)


The real question here relates to the usefulness of this new machine. The answer is that it’s more than fine. Misplaced focus has been placed on the iMac usually being ‘more’ geared towards power users. This iMac shows consideration for those who don’t need lots of power, do need a large screen, and want an all-in-one computing solution. Us more technically intense folks many times forget that perhaps a vast majority of our counterparts use computers in very casual manners (Facebook, twitter, email, shopping, news, productivity suites, etc…).



As a power user who regularly runs Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and MS Office simultaneously, I know for a fact that 8 GB of RAM is plenty because I’m using a 21.5” late 2012 iMac with just that: 8 GB of RAM. Granted, I have the 2.9 GHz i5 CPU, but as far as memory is concerned, the 8 GB hasn’t been a problem with my work iMac (running 10.8.5 Mountain Lion). And I think my home iMac (still on Snow Leopard to run an earlier version of Adobe CS) only has 4 GB. Could be wrong. Point is, I rarely see the pinwheel of death on either of them.

For an entry-level user running things like iLife, iWork, or MS Office, that entry-level iMac has plenty of RAM. I’ll be interested to see how well the CPU does in everyday life, but if it works just fine an a MacBook Air, I don’t see why it wouldn’t do just fine in the iMac as well.

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