Is 8GB enough RAM for your MacBook? Not if you want to use the latest Apple AI

MacBook Air 15 M3 lid closed on a slatted wooden table
(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

If you plan to upgrade your MacBook or become a new MacBook owner soon, think twice before choosing Apple's base 8GB models, especially if you intend to use future Apple Intelligence features.

Apple has remained steadfast for years that 8GB of RAM is plenty for its base model devices. However, in an interview from early April 2024 with the China-based IT Home, Evan Buyze, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Apple, asserted that 8GB of RAM was suitable for many tasks. Web browsing, media streaming, light photo and video editing, and casual gaming are all possible with 8GB, reported IT Home, attributing the information to Buyze.

This claim may very well be true; 8GB of RAM is likely plenty for the average user right now, but what about future AI-powered features that demand more?

We've now encountered Apple's first release of a feature requiring 16GB of RAM. According to release notes for the June 10 release of Xcode 16 beta, "Predictive code completion requires a Mac with Apple silicon and 16GB of unified memory, running macOS 15." 

Predictive code completion was announced during Apple's Platform State of the Union at WWCC 2024. It runs locally on your Mac, powered by an LLM specifically trained for Swift and Apple SDKs, and gives you suggestions as you work.

Yes, this is a coding-specific feature that the average user won't miss in an 8GB MacBook, but it's an AI feature, and that calls into question the future of Apple Intelligence features intended for the average user on 8GB Macs. 

Why are 8GB MacBooks even an option anymore?

For many of Apple's products, 8GB of RAM in a base configuration is standard. Entry-level MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, the iMac, and the Mac mini all start with 8GB of RAM, but shouldn't that starting number be 16GB in the modern age?

Ubar Taskbar App displayed on a 13-inch MacBook Air M3 open facing the camera on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future/Ubar)

While 8GB RAM Windows laptops exist, it's more common to see 16GB of RAM as standard. It's a requirement for all of the new Copilot+ PCs. It stands to reason that Microsoft is aware that AI-powered features need the added RAM to go with the NPU capable of 40+ TOPS.

Apple has big plans to bring, if slowly, Apple Intelligence features to MacBooks, but 8GB of RAM may not be enough for every feature. Apple says 8GB of RAM is plenty for basic tasks, but Apple Intelligence features may not classify as 'basic' in the company's eyes.

Even if current Apple Intelligence features run using 8GB of RAM, it's highly likely that 16GB of RAM will become the new minimum as AI features become more advanced and powerful. So, if you want to keep your Mac for multiple years and utilize all the latest AI features as they are released, future-proof your choice and spend a few extra hundred dollars to get at least 16GB of RAM.