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Mike Healy
Mike Healy

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16gb vs 32gb 16GB or 32GB RAM for Web Development?

My 2013 15" MBP will reach the end of its life at some point and I'm looking to replace it with a 16" ARM MBP when they're released.

I do full stack web dev with PHP, and JS/Vue/static site generators on the front end. I also do some visual design, and occasional lightweight video editing (iMovie only).

I'll use the new machine for at least 3 years, and maybe even 5 or 6 years. I'd like to get 32GB of RAM, but it is an expensive upgrade, it's not something I'll add just for the sake of it.

How useful do you think the extra 16GB of RAM will be for this sort of work?

Discussion (69)

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weppami profile image
weppami

If you can afford it, get the 32gb. The macbook will last you at least 5 years and better be ready for new requirements, technology, workflow..
Last macbook I bought (mid 2014) I decided to max it out (ram, ssd and gpu) and believe me I dont regret it even if it was quite hard on my wallet..

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

It seriously depends on your stack and tooling. I see that you've mentioned using php, but there's other things which can eat up a lot of resources such as your database (or other middleware like elasticsearch). There's also a huge difference in resource consumption between intellij and vim. You can still develop on an 8gb machine without issues, it just depends on what you use.

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Gary Bell

It depends on your workflow. My work machine (not a mac) has 32GB RAM, but I use virtual machines to set up the environment to be close to production like.

If you're running all services locally, then 16GB should be just fine

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on3ss profile image
on3ss • Edited

16GB? 32GB? I have only 4gigs....smh

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

That's rough 🙁

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

I can't even run vscode with extensions bruh... 😂

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rsa profile image
Ranieri Althoff

4GB can only run some Electron instances. Pick between Slack or VS Code

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

Nah, sublime and firefox. Take it or leave it.

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zilti profile image
Daniel Ziltener • Edited

Sublime? Rather Emacs. I actually did that my first weekend on the job. We had some miscommunication so I showed up without a laptop. Ended up using a thin client with 4GB of RAM, set up Archlinux with Plasma 5, Emacs, PostgreSQL, PHP and Firefox.

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on3ss profile image
on3ss

Never tried emacs, will give it a go

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan

Same, same, the 4 gig life is rough

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scampiuk profile image
Chris Williams

Have a good look at non-Apple kit. You can run Linux on anything that runs Windows so you don't have to so that, and you don't pay the Apple Tax. You'll not find a better touch-pad than MBP's tho.

If you're doing apple app Dev then you need a MBP, else, you're just buying into the ecosystem.

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stereoplegic profile image
Mike Bybee

Beware the non-Apple laptops following their lead on soldered components, though.

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krishna kakade

Here I go with my minimalistic setup for web-development it works fine for me but not awesome but 16GB ram is sufficient but take care of browsers open and tabs to friends then everything will go smooth like butter 😂💯 and use firefox you can check it out my recent article on dev why firefox is the best browser for web-development .


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maxdevjs profile image
maxdevjs

wow, not so minimalist :)

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hemant profile image
Hemant Joshi 😼

I found your stickers are sticking in my eye as well as my Brain.....

AHHH, soooooo Coooooooooolllll

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activenode profile image
David Lorenz

I have a 2011 Macbook Pro. Since the stuff is not glued I was able to upgrade it to 16Gigs of RAM and 512GB SSD.

For web development it still runs damn fine even though the CPU is like 10 years old.
So if you go with 16GB RAM, the newest ARM CPU and a SSD you should be well prepared for web development for the next years tbh.

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karanR

I also want to get M1 16 in and I am thinking to go for 32 gb. Here's why I had 16 gb hackintosh and it was working all fine until i got a project which has multple internal projects and all dockerized.. When i had to run more than 2 projects the docker alone would take up to 14 gb so I had to add another stick of 8gb.
This was hackintosh .. upgradable .. M1 wont be upgradable and you don't know in 2-3 years what kind of projects you will be working and some time multiple memory eating things running at a same times ! so better go with 32 gb! Hope this helps

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

yeah, the non-upgradability is a thing. I went for 16GB for various reasons, but would err towards 32GB for my next generation.

The Apple Silicon chips are interesting as I believe they are more memory efficient due to their architecture. Having the memory integrated with the chip reduces churn and the need for RAM. Still, VMs and Docker aren't light!

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Pieter Epeüs Wigboldus

You can also reduce memory usage by pick the right software.
Building process with node can consume a lot of memory, so more is better for you.
But i have 16GB (Linux), and don't have moments i have to few memory.
But if you can afford and you don't want to think about memory usage for the next years, you can get the 32GB.

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Scott Sawyer

I have 64gb and don't regret it at all. Chrome can easily eat up 20gb, with all the tabs I keep open (150 - 200), add Gimp, inkscape, Nautilus, 8-10 terminals, and I am often using more than 30gb. I highly recommend using a desktop, switched from laptops about 10 years ago. Not only does it save money, looking at these two 27" BenQ screens and mechanical keyboard beats any laptop. The whole set up is under $2000 USD and completely silent. Just have an old laptop for meetings.

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rsa profile image
Ranieri Althoff

How do you live with this sh*tload of tabs? Do you even remember what the first ones are about or you just keep opening them over and over again?

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scottsawyer profile image
Scott Sawyer
  1. I have two large screens.
  2. Organization.

If I am working on multiple projects at the same time, it can get hairy. Right now I have 11 tabs open to different bitbucket repos, 5 Google sheets 16 documentation tabs, and 64 other tabs. 2 Firefox windows, 4 chrome windows, 7 terminals, 7 images in Gimp, and 2 Inkscape.

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan

Wow I wish. 😻
But how can you keep track of your life?

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siy profile image
Sergiy Yevtushenko • Edited

At the best of my knowledge, ARM64 code is little bit less dense than x86_64. From the other hand, most of RAM space is consumed by data, not the code, so most likely there will be no significant difference. Nevertheless, apps tend to consume more RAM so for hardware which is intended to be used during long term it worth to buy as much RAM as you can afford.

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Szymon Nowicki

You probably already decided on that, but for everyone stumbling upon this post, here you can find my comparison between MBP 16" i9/64G and i7/16G for development that includes docker, some npm scripts and occasional Xcode.

nowicki.io/macbook-pro-16-64g-i9-v...

tldr;
I feel no difference.
When the 16G is idling after start it takes 8GB of RAM (compared to 20GB on the higher version).

When I'm fully in the working mode (IntelliJ open, docker containers running, npm frontend bundlers + chrome tabs with devtools) I always have little spare RAM. Looks like MacOS is just being awesome in the memory management aspects.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

Thanks for this – interesting read.
I wonder too if the fast SSD MBPs have mean that a bit less RAM is even less of an issue?

I'm hoping to hold out until the ARM based 16" are available and maybe the memory offering will be different then. If not 16GB might be enough.

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Michael J. Ryan

I'm currently using WSL 2 with docker, but will go Linux on my next person laptop. I tend to run several database servers and services via Docker in order to do more complete, full stack developent on multiple projects and 16gb often doesn't cut it.

I'm not sure if I'd cut over to arm just yet. And would suggest considering a Linux laptop option. System 76 or Dell.

I've been holding out for a higher end AMD to come out myself.

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Haris Secic • Edited

As previously stated by some people I would also go with "it depends" and right away on "Do you use virtualisation?". Reason is that when I want to build something in Java like simple monolithic service with some web interface, let's say you go ahead and generate JHipster app, you really don't need more than 16GB to run it including IntelliJ, VS Code for front, maybe a simple DB running inside Mongo or PostgreSQL. You can even have DB running in Docker with this kind of setup.

Now I have 48GB, it's funny but I had 16 and added 32 more. Thing is I'm running 1 REST API which is a bit bigger than standard microservice, 2 more APIs, and Mongo, Neo4j, and Apache in docker. Now imagine running 3 APIs written on JVM (Kotlin, Groovy, Java) 2 DBs and 1 messaging system, 3x IntelliJ for that, VS Code, Postman, couple of Notepads and Sublimes, Opera with couple of tabs and Brave also couple of tabs, Slack, sometimes tools like Azure Storage Explorer, MS Teams, node.js apps for administration of these tools running in docker... Yeah, even GNU/Linux would give up at some point and ask for more RAM because you still need GUI running, maybe Spotify, and such. Now you might go with less RAM for all of this but I like my IntelliJ and I like not closing stuff all the time.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

but I like my IntelliJ and I like not closing stuff all the time

ha, fair enough!

I don't use VMs that heavily now, but I possibly will more in the future. I think I will go with 32GB because of the longevity it'll add to the machine. Being non-upgradable I think 16GB will shorten its useful life.

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tominekan profile image
Tomi Adenekan • Edited

Being honest, I use 4 gigs of RAM, 16 gigs of eMMC storage, and Intel Celeron 😓 and I have little problems running Microsoft Edge, Zoom, and VSCode, (and I am developing an electron app) all at once. Except for when the computer just crashes and I have to replace the operating system and wipe my storage. :)

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Drew Knab

There's no pressing reason to upgrade to 32GB based on your usecase, but there no reason not to either other than expense.

I still do some development on a thinkpad from 2011 with 8GB and an i5. Mostly with .NET or node.

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fasani profile image
Michael Fasani

I recently changed job, and they dropped a new Mac on me with 32gb. I never paid much attention before, but it seems I am often using around 16-17gb without trying. I think 16 does the trick and 32 is perhaps a luxury or for running a lot of electron apps lol.

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crichmond-clark • Edited

It makes me feel sick thinking about it. I use mac because that what I was provided with at work but if I were to get my own laptop I would get an xps or carbon x1 and run Linux\win10 hands down. My macbook has 16gb and when running 6 containers at once it sounds like a aeroplane. Honestly I wish I could use my desktop pc. I get macs are reliable but I just hate using them. If you use containers and want to run a bunch of browsers tabs as well then it's worth the upgrade even if they charge stupid prices for the crappy specs they offer.

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alaindet profile image
Alain D'Ettorre

16 Gb is more than you'll ever need for web development unless you start dockerizing the hell out of an application, in my opinion. I work on a 8 Gb and it's perfectly fine too for a similar stack. Also, consider that 16 Gb is double than 8 Gb, it's not a little more.

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0x12b profile image
Simme

As RAM is soldered in MacBooks, I'd definitely opt for the 32GB, or more if available.

You never know when your workflow might change, and dishing out another 3 grand for a new MacBook with that upgrade if/when that happens will likely feel orders of magnitude worse.

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aravindk profile image
Aravind Kothandaraman

I am sure you must be looking for i7 or later. I am currently on 16gb with intel core i5 and it sucks. I am getting my work laptop replaced with i7 16gb. I hope that'll work out a lot better. If using node, vs-code, or any such heavy lifting apps, I'd suggest go with 32gb as a long term investment.

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Dmitry Boichev

It depends on your workflow. If you need to run VMs and/or docker for Mac with containers such as solr search (which alone can eat 16gb), databases, etc. you may want to consider 32GB. But for most cases 16GB is enough. For your use case you’ll be good with 16GB.

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turningpro profile image
turningpro

You get some very performant ram. I'd probably go with the i9 16gb 1tb version.
Or base model with 32gb.

If you do a lot of virtualization with docker or vagrant you may get more use out of the 32gb ram.

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juanicolas profile image
JuaNicolas

Can't you upgrade urself the ram in the new mbp? If that's the case, buy the cheaper ram, but with better storage

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gamerlv profile image
Levi Voorintholt

Ram, disk and battery are all soldered to the motherboard on all current, and probably future mac books. The only way to 'upgrade' them is to buy a new system.

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juanicolas profile image
JuaNicolas • Edited

Oh f.....what about getting one which you can upgrade then? Cause its a nonsense the cost for more RAM.
I use a mini 2012 with 8gb ram, I don't do graphic design, but I use emulators for mobile, I barely run 3 iOs + Android on the same time, so....I would say 16 must be fine?

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

No, they're usually non-upgradable. You have to decide when you buy how much RAM to get.

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stanbright profile image
Stan Bright

I've never seen a person that regretted getting more RAM. You should go with min 32GB or 64GB if that's into your budget. I'd definitely go with 64GB if the plan is to use the machine for 5-6 years.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

Thanks,
64GB is definitely not in my budget. $600AUD for the 32GB upgrade is plenty... : )

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_garybell profile image
Gary Bell

Just checked your profile, and you're a contract developer. Can you go for one of the upgrades and use it as a tax write off? I have no idea of Australian tax laws.

It might be a depreciating asset over time, so possibly can be a bit of a tax write off each year.

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

You're correct, it's tax deductible, but I still have to pay for it minus my marginal tax rate 🙂

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imr707 profile image
Muhamad Rizal Bin Mat Ali • Edited

For me, I like doing my work using remote desktop. Just bought a Thinkcentre Tiny with 32GB RAM and 6 Core CPU and use Google Remote Desktop to do work on it. Using it for PHP, MySQL and Flutter development on Windows slong with Go + AWS CLI on Ubuntu VM, I don't have to worry about power anymore on my laptop. Just to have to use a laptop that has a nice keyboard, battery life and a nice internet connection.

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hugovelias profile image
Hugo V. Elías

16Gb is generally good, but in my case running a bunch of docker containers, two browsers with tons of tabs, slack, terminal, zoom, and a hungry ide starts to take a toll on my ram and the computer, so I'd expend as much as possible on that.

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manishfoodtechs profile image
manish srivastava

Physical machine? Try virtual machine. RDP it.

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aravindk profile image
Aravind Kothandaraman

I dont think so it may help. I have used VM from Citrix, and that too, at work. Believe me, you'd feel a lot better and personal hand touch with physical device, running apps than on VMs. The allocation of RAM is always or mostly dynamic even though we can set a max value. It's to my experience and knowledge, based on availability. I'd say, 16 or 32 is ideal based on what I have experienced but definitely i7 or later. I am currently on 16 gb with i5, and I feel it really sucks. I am getting my work device replaced with 16gb, i7. Hoping to see benefits. Btw, I am a windows developer/user.

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manishfoodtechs profile image
manish srivastava

Kernel level machines have issues compared to machines crafted out from OS level.
Also, you looking for windows which is resource hungry. Windows does not have lighter DEs like xfce. Anyways, look at this thread may it help you in talking decision

quora.com/Does-the-number-of-cores...

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aravindk profile image
Aravind Kothandaraman • Edited

Hmm . Sure thing. Thanks.

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Mike Talbot

32 for VMs on a Mac I think, at work, we have both 16 and 32GB models and the 16s really struggle (we are however running 5 docker containers with things like MySQL and Redis for local development).

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Shannon Crabill

What is the cost difference between the 16gb or 32gb?

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

$600 AUD where I live (~$420 USD)
Given that I just built a desktop Windows PC and the whole 32GB RAM was < $300, it's a lot : )

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scrabill profile image
Shannon Crabill

Yikes. That is a lot.

Someone made a point the other day that since you cannot upgrade RAM after the after with the newer Macbooks, putting the money in now, for more RAM will give you a long life with that machine.

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turningpro profile image
turningpro

16gb is fine as it's quite performant ram.

32gb gives you piece of mind though. If you have to compile code or cable with ML, docker etc. you'll like to have more.

I'd probably go with 16gb for now, but the better processor and 1tb hard drive. Should be easier to sell in a few years. Also get Apple care.

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ksorv profile image
Saurav Khdoolia

Just get Gitpod or codesandbox, I'll tell you it gets sooooo better. Almost unlimited power that too on any machine, synced without any cost or problems.

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hemant profile image
Hemant Joshi 😼

Did anyone say I got a PC with 8GB ram?

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abhishek sharma • Edited

I got mine with 8gb but later upgraded to 16 and it feels heaven now.
I think time came when we should invest in 16gb

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spiritbro1 profile image
spiritbro1

why not 64?

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mike_hasarms profile image
Mike Healy Author

If I'm doubtful that spending the money for 32GB is worth it then doubling that cost again for 64GB is definitely not.

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rezmed profile image
rezmed

web dev ! not ios developer so dont buy a mac
buy somthing like thinkpad x1 carbon and switch to linux you ll feel the change in your mind ! 🧠
from a Vim user .

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delta456 profile image
Swastik Baranwal

128 GB of RAM

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ferdelvalle profile image
Fernando Del Valle

I have 32gb. .. To run arch, i3, few terminals, ssh and vim, rarely use more than 2gb.(RoR dev) so it largely depends, on your workflow, I guess

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louisefindlay23 profile image
Louise

16GB would be enough for your use case. If you're planning on using VMs or heavy video editing then upgrade to the 32GB.

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Ashiq Dey

M happy with 8GB 😂

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Nathan Archer

Depends on your needs. If you use a lot of chrome windows then 32 GB might be the choice. But for a daily work even 4 GB of RAM is enough. The average choice is 8 GB or 12 GB